The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934) by Ellery Queen

The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“I find homicides quite stimulating.”

Not even Ellery Queen has ever encountered a crime scene quite like this one. Everything about the murder is topsy-turvy—quite literally. The dead man’s clothes are on backwards, furniture and paintings have been turned to face the wall, and a pair of African spears have been thrust up the victim’s trouser legs. The only other clue is a discarded tangerine peel. Ellery and Inspector Queen will have to turn themselves inside out if they hope to stamp out this killer.

The Chinese Orange Mystery pairs a snappy, well-paced narrative with a mystifying crime. The solution, though complicated from a logistical standpoint (honestly, I still don’t understand the mechanics of it) is psychologically sound. Everything about the crime fits perfectly with the personality of the murderer, lending a satisfying air of just-rightness to the conclusion. And while none of the characters are especially deep, all of the suspects are at least human enough to make the reader care about the outcome.

The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery QueenThe opening chapter is almost cinematic. Miss Diversey, the nurse who attends Donald Kirk’s father, is kicked out of the Kirk apartment by her irascible patient and makes the rounds of the Chancellor Hotel. Her journey introduces most of the major players, as well as explaining the layout of the setting. Donald Kirk has taken over for his father in running the Mandarin Press. However, he finds it convenient to keep an office near the family’s suite at the Chancellor for business related to his stamp and jewel collections. As Miss Diversey wanders the hotel corridors she runs into Donald Kirk’s two love interests, glamorous Irene Llewes and down-to-earth author Jo Temple. Unfortunately, the nurse’s real goal, to flirt with Kirk’s secretary Osborne, is derailed by interruptions. A stranger drops by to see the absent Kirk. Glenn Macgowan (Kirk’s best friend and fiancé of his sister Marcella) turns up as well. Forty-five minutes later, one of these people will be dead.

This sequence provides a lot of exposition with the greatest of ease. It makes the layout of the crime scene clear. All of the suspects and their relationships are introduced organically, leaving just enough mystery to tantalize. There is also something eerie about Miss Diversey’s lonely wanderings through the hotel, past a sea of closed doors that could be hiding anything. Every encounter is fraught with tension, hinting at the violence to come.

It seems providential that Donald Kirk has invited Ellery Queen to dinner on the evening of the murder—Ellery is actually on hand when the body is discovered. Once the corpse is revealed, however, everyone clams up, refusing to tell Ellery why he was summoned. While Inspector Queen marshals all the forces of the NYPD to identify the victim, Ellery is focused on the inverted crime scene. “It’s not crazy; it’s clever. It has meaning.”

Experience has taught me that rarely does a criminal do something positive—as opposed to an unconscious act—without purpose. This was a positive, a conscious act. It required hard work and the expenditure of precious time in the accomplishment. I was justified in saying at once, therefore, that there was reason behind it; that while its manifestations seemed insane its purpose, at the least, must have been rational.

Conveniently, nearly all of the suspects live in the hotel, but that also means they have easy access to the waiting room. The one who does not, who is careful to keep himself out of the inner circle, is Kirk’s business partner Felix Berne. The inner circle is probably relieved. Berne is completely unbearable, beyond any level of normal human behavior (though it is pretty funny when he refers to Inspector Queen as a “vest-pocket Lucifer”). With Ellery, he is even more direct: “I dislike you intensely. I don’t know when I’ve disliked a fellow creature more. Go to hell.” Irene Llewes makes for a much more enjoyable foil, a femme fatale who knows how to play the game without ever taking it too seriously.

Several of the major players have ties to China: Jo Temple grew up there and has written a book about her experiences, while Kirk and Macgowan both collect Chinese postage stamps. Ellery is quick to note that Chinese writing is “backwards,” and many of China’s customs are polar opposites of American ways. I was braced for the worst when this topic arose, but it’s handled fairly sensitively. Jo fiercely defends her birthplace, while explaining the reasons behind some of its traditions. Ellery acknowledges that “backwardness” is relative, “purely a matter of perspective.”

“The greatest revenge your enemy can wreak on your head is to kill himself on your doorstep…”

“Indeed?” said Ellery gently. “That’s most interesting, Miss Temple. Good of you to recall it. And what’s the brilliant notion behind that little ceremony, may I ask?”

She murmured: “It bares to all the world the secret of your enemy’s culpability, and marks him eternally with public shame.”

“But you’re—uh—dead?”

“But you’re dead, yes.”

Everything moves along at a sprightly pace, at least until the Challenge to the Reader. Ellery has a unique plan for confirming his suspicions. He is probably right to do a dress rehearsal prior to the denouement, given how elaborate the scheme is, but this does not require a full, rather lengthy (and necessarily unrevealing) chapter all to itself. When I see a Challenge to the Reader, I expect a solution more or less imminently. If Ellery needs to faff around, he can do it before the Challenge.

The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery QueenOnce the solution finally arrives, however, the reasoning behind it is wonderfully straightforward. To a certain extent, Ellery doesn’t even need to stage his demonstration. All he needs is a single fact. The moment he shares it, the reader knows, just on the basis of the suspects’ situations and personalities, exactly who the guilty party is. It’s one of those electric moments when everyone realizes the truth in the same second, and the reader is a part of it. (Mind you, this single fact isn’t one that would have occurred to me unprompted, but the moment Ellery says it, you instantly know who the culprit is, so the seeds of the solution have certainly been planted.)

The Chinese Orange Mystery is a slightly shallow but marvelously entertaining detective story with a solid mystery at its core. There are many goofy subplots and red herrings, all which I thoroughly enjoyed. While some aspects of the solution come across as window dressing, added to make the mystery seem more complicated than it really is, the psychology behind the crime and its staging makes perfect sense. As a mystery reader, it’s worth a lot to have that one moment when a single sentence from the detective makes everything clear. The Chinese Orange Mystery delivers that, and it’s an instant of pure joy.

Second Opinions

Countdown John’s Christie Journal

So was the hook worth it? Did it justify buying six books in one go? Definitely, yes! 

In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

Maybe I’m being too picky – for 90% of the book, it’s great, but I thought the ending was disappointing. It’s entirely possible that you won’t/didn’t.

The Invisible Event

Mark this down as an overall success, in spite of its flaws.

Only Detect

 If almost anyone else had written Chinese Orange, it would stand as a fine example of classic detective plotting. But within the canon of early Queen works (a canon that features such masterpieces as The Egyptian Cross Mystery and The Tragedy of Y), it qualifies as only a modest achievement.

Vintage Pop Fictions

The Chinese Orange Mystery is for my money one of the most completely successful of the early Ellery Queen mysteries. Very highly recommended.

Availability

The Chinese Orange Mystery is available as an ebook from the Mysterious Press in paperback from American Mystery Classics.

It was filmed in 1936 under the title The Mandarin Mystery; this film is now in the public domain and can be viewed at the American Mystery Classics link.

Reprint of the Year Nomination 1: Beat Back the Tide

Footsteps in the Night and Beat Back the Tide by Dolores Hitchens

“It’s terrible when you fasten all your life to a mirage…The worst of it all is when you begin to see the truth—not the truth as the other might have revealed it, but finding it scrap by scrap, little by little. All the time you’re clinging to what you thought was there, and the change, the corruption, is eating it away, and finally there is nothing at all and you think it would be better to die.”

California is a place to reinvent yourself, but what happens when that doesn’t work? When you don’t find what you’re looking for and there’s nowhere left to go? That’s why California noir is the most hopeless. For the characters in Dolores Hitchens’ 1954 novel Beat Back the Tide, California is the end of the line. The gulf between its dazzling promises and what it actually delivers is profound. Everyone has a past they are trying to forget, but, like the tide, it just keeps roaring back.

Beat Back the Tide, reissued this year by Stark House, is a haunting meditation on identity and loss. All of its characters, except one, are trying to become someone else, desperate to escape the failures of other lives in other places. The exception is Francesca Warne, who returns to the scene of her greatest failure by coming to work as a nanny in the house where her husband was murdered several years ago. Francesca is the one person who is always herself, who never lies (though she does hold back a great deal). As a result, she appears contradictory and inscrutable to those around her. 

Under her words, under everything she had said since they had come outside, lay something else—something Glazer couldn’t put his finger on but which nonetheless made him faintly uneasy…Mrs. Warne, though she seemed to be saying quite simple things, had other meanings in her head. The thing she wasn’t saying peeped through the tones of her queer, breathless voice and looked from her eyes […] He wondered briefly, standing there near her, watching the black hair glitter in the sun, if the thing that was the matter with her could be fear.

Her boss Glazer (whose first name is never revealed) becomes suspicious of Francesca after several strange events shatter the peace of his house on the cliff. Glazer is introduced as a successful building contractor, a grieving widower who just wants to protect his child. He’s even managed to cultivate a garden in the sparse, sandy soil of the clifftop. However, as he becomes more and more obsessed with the mystery of Francesca’s past, it becomes clear that Glazer’s own past is much darker than his current lifestyle would suggest.

Beat Back the Tide by Dolores HitchensEven the sunny yellow flowers spilling merrily over the cliff take on a more sinister aspect. “It had been after Rheba’s death, and after he had begun to feel some disappointment about Jamie, that he had begun to put so much effort into the garden. And he had conquered here, he thought with a kind of shock, though his wife had escaped him by dying and Jamie evaded his guidance in a way he couldn’t analyze.” He often comes across as almost cruel to his son, Jamie. The boy’s sweet and timid nature hits him like a betrayal. Glazer has decorated Jamie’s room in a heavy, masculine Wild West theme, with pistols and snarling animals hanging on the wall, as if to harden the child to meet the demands of a tough world. Having reinvented himself, Glazer cannot be content with his son as he really is. He must reinvent Jamie as well. Glazer may be the protagonist of Beat Back the Tide, but he’s far from being a hero. The more of his character that is revealed, the more unsettling it is.

Glazer’s quest to solve Adam Warne’s murder is a way of understanding, and thereby controlling, Francesca. His investigation brings him into contact with people who are terrified he will discover the truth behind their carefully crafted new personas. Some of these secret identities seem harmless, like the drugstore clerk turned pampered housewife. Others are more dangerous. Dolores Hitchens conjures up these desperate lives with just a few telling details (“It was not a warm, experienced smile. Probably he did not smile often enough to quite get the hang of it”). Several of the secrets are pathetically small, but this only makes them seem more shameful under Glazer’s withering eye. Even the town of Seaview itself is not what it seems. The community masquerades as a picturesque artists’ colony, but it hasn’t really been that for many years. Instead, Seaview exploits its bohemian past to draw in the tourists and wealthy retirees its economy depends upon. It offers these rootless people the illusion of authenticity, the rough edges they still crave after having smoothed off their own.

The late Adam Warne stirred up these people simply by being his own authentic self, awful as that self was. Since Adam denied himself no impulse, everyone he met knew at once exactly how he saw them. For some, he reflected themselves as they would like to be: talented, beloved. For others, he represented their worst fears. Hitchens is not unkind to her characters, not even the shiftless, alcoholic Adam, who is remembered fondly by a few friends.

If you’ve been talking to people here in town, you’ve got an impression he was lower than dirt […] But you can’t add up a man that way. You can’t just say he was like this and he was rotten, because none of us are just one thing or even one kind of human being. We’re a lot of creatures rolled into a skin and penned up, imprisoned, for the time we have to live. And Adam Warne was a man who never did find out which creature he was meant to be. He experimented. He tried to discover himself.

Beat Back the Tide ends on a disquieting note, with brief surveys of the human wreckage left behind. The astonishing thing is how resilient these characters are after all they have been through. One after another, they all insist that everything is going to work out now. It will be different this time. They will be different this time. And maybe they will. Maybe, for a few, their dreams of California really will come true.

I can attest that Beat Back the Tide is a worthy candidate for Reprint of the Year because I have been thinking about it throughout the entire year. I first read this book back in March, and it’s stayed with me ever since. Its painfully honest but optimistic tone makes this a book for 2020. One is left with the sense of having passed through an ordeal and come out the other side a little battered, but also a little stronger and maybe just a little wiser. Beat Back the Tide takes place in a ruined yet hopeful world where facing the truth, however harsh it may be, is the first step to living “a happy and useful life.” Maybe not the life you’ve always dreamed of, but the life that really belongs to you. “What did you want out of life?” Glazer asks himself, before providing his own answer. “It doesn’t matter. This is what you’ve got.”

Nominations for Reprint of the Year are posted at Crossexamining Crime

 

The White Priory Murders (1934) by Carter Dickson

The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“This is your own home, isn’t it? Nothing to be afraid of in your own home.”

Centuries ago, the king’s mistress would wait for him in the Queen’s Mirror, a white marble folly surrounded by water on the estate of White Priory. Now, movie queen Marcia Tait awaits her lover there on Christmas Eve. And it’s there that her body is found on Christmas morning, her beautiful face smashed in. But with only one set of footprints in the snow, how did her killer escape? Though murder is the last thing Sir Henry Merrivale wants for Christmas, he is the only one who can solve this impossible crime.

The White Priory Murders has one of the most brilliant and satisfying solutions I’ve ever read. Merrivale effortlessly bats away theories of the murder, some of them quite plausible, before dropping a bombshell so perfect he could have stopped after one sentence and still left the reader convinced. Nearly every fact established early on holds up, yet within that framework, John Dickson Carr (writing as Carter Dickson) is constantly adding new information that changes the meaning and significance of each piece of evidence. White Priory as a whole is not as perfect as its solution, with stodgy pacing and fractious suspects slowing the story down early on. However, these issues fade into insignificance next to the pure delight of the denouement.

The White Priory Murders by Carter DicksonBefore heading down to White Priory for the holidays, James Bennett consults his uncle Sir Henry Merrivale. (Sadly, after this brief appearance, Merrivale will disappear from the story for quite some time.) Bennett has fond memories of meeting Marcia Tait and her circle of admirers during their visit to the United States, but back in England, the dynamic has changed. Despite her Hollywood success, Marcia hasn’t forgotten the humiliation of an early theatrical flop. She is determined to conquer the West End no matter what. She has even convinced newspaper tycoon Lord Canifest to invest in the show, though his interest in Marcia is more personal than professional. Fledgling producer John Bohun is also in love with Marcia. He plans to star her in a play by his scholarly brother Maurice, much to the disgust of film executive Rainger, who is threatening to cancel Marcia’s contract. All of these people are invited to the Christmas festivities, along with John and Maurice’s niece Katherine and Lord Canifest’s emotionally unstable daughter Louise.

Bennett has already witnessed one attempt on Marcia’s life. He is worried that bringing this volatile group to the Bohuns’ ancestral home may lead to something even worse. “You can’t describe an atmosphere,” Bennett tells his uncle, “any more than you can describe a sultry day. And it’s atmosphere that Tait carries with her.” Marcia’s costar Jervis Willard is even more explicit: “She inspired devilishness wherever she went. If you didn’t love her, she was just as willing to have you–or anybody else–hate her.”

Bennett’s premonition is correct. Following a drunken and exhausted pre-dawn drive to White Priory, he arrives just as John Bohun discovers Marcia’s body in the Queen’s Mirror. The silent white house is completely surrounded by “thin ice and unbroken snow.” The only footsteps visible are the ones John has just made. Police determine that Marcia was killed after the snowfall. What they can’t explain is how this was done without leaving tracks behind. Scotland Yard Inspector Humphrey Masters is on hand to play Santa Claus for the local children, but the group of hung-over, argumentative suspects at White Priory all wind up on his naughty list.

In desperation, he summons Sir Henry Merrivale. This is what readers have been waiting for, especially as it comes rather late in the book. Thanks to “his weird, childlike, deadly brain,” Merrivale has “an unholy reputation of being able to see through a brick wall.” Before his trip overseas, Bennett’s father warns him what to expect from his legendary uncle.

“Don’t, under any circumstances, use any ceremony with him. He wouldn’t understand it. He has frequently got into trouble at political meetings by making speeches in which he absent-mindedly refers to their Home Secretary as Boko and their Premier as Horse face. You will probably find him asleep, although he will pretend he is very busy. His favorite delusion is that he is being persecuted, and that nobody appreciates him. His baronetcy is two or three hundred years old, and he is also a fighting Socialist. He is a qualified barrister and physician, and he speaks the world’s most slovenly grammar. His mind is scurrilous; he shocks lady typists, wears white socks, and appears in public without his necktie. Don’t be deceived by his looks; he likes to think he is as expressionless as a Buddha and as sour-faced as Scrooge. I might add,” said the elder Bennett, “that at criminal investigation he is a good deal of a genius.”

Carr often uses his characters to expound on philosophies of detection. Here, Merrivale is delighted to have a real impossible crime to sink his teeth into. He describes the three possible reasons for staging such a crime. The first two, a false suicide and a “ghost-fake” with supernatural elements, are obviously not applicable in the Tait murder. The third option is the most intriguing, that of an accidental impossible crime, “the murderer who creates an impossible situation despite himself, without wantin’ to.” Merrivale uses his observations of both victim and suspects to reconstruct the psychology behind the crime. If the impossible circumstances are not the premeditated plot of a criminal mastermind, then there must be some other reason why the murder turned out this way.

This is a slight problem because the suspects are reluctant to expose themselves to either Merrivale or the reader. Despite Bennett’s lengthy explanations of all the relationships, once the murder actually takes place, it’s difficult to keep everyone straight. In part, this is because a surprising number of suspects manage to avoid engaging with Masters or Merrivale in the first place due to illness, inebriation, or just plain orneriness. One major suspect never even appears at White Priory, another belatedly turns up after we’d forgotten their existence, yet another takes to their room and refuses to emerge until the end. The ones who do deign to be questioned don’t actually want to answer questions themselves; they only wish to share their own theories of the crime. Even Bennett hides information from his uncle because he’s sweet on one of the suspects. Merrivale is surprisingly tolerant of all this bad behavior, but it doesn’t make things easy for the reader.

The White Priory Murders is not a perfect novel, but it does have a perfect ending. This isn’t a cozy country-house mystery. It’s a bleak and cold one, with characters who are too wrapped up in their own concerns to worry about the murder. For a long time, it sort of plods along, feeling like no progress is being made with the case at all. It’s not until Merrivale makes his full entrance halfway in that the story picks up, leading to a spectacularly eerie finish that fits exactly with the personalities of the victim and the killer. There’s nothing better than being fooled by a master. In The White Priory Murders John Dickson Carr pulls off some truly astonishing sleight of hand, all of it in plain sight.

Second Opinions

ahsweetmysteryblog

I’ll admit to feeling a bit disappointed with this one. But even if The Bowstring Murders was a snappier read, White Priory feels richer, both in its set-up and its mystery. You can feel all of Dickson’s cylinders clicking with this one.

Crossexamining Crime

Overall, I think the material in this book had a lot of potential but was not fully developed or utilised, in particular the characters and their relationship dynamics at the White Priory.

The Green Capsule

I don’t know whether everyone will experience this sudden click, but I have to think so.  Merrivale, of course, goes on to explain exactly what happened in depth, but I suspect that most readers will comprehend the core solution in reading that one perfect sentence.  That moment alone seals this story as one of Carr’s greatest accomplishments.

In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

Now this is how you plot a mystery – there are a multitude of clues littering the story, some of which, when you examine them in hindsight are really obvious – but I’d be impressed with anyone who spots the murderer. The killer is remarkably, but fairly, well hidden but you’ll be kicking yourself that you didn’t spot who it was. None of the clues are particularly obscure (except for the one that needs a page reference – points off for that!) which is the charm. You feel after reading this one that you’ve been hoodwinked by a master.

The Reader Is Warned

It felt to me that each scene made sense being there, characters or dialogue didn’t seem superfluous, and even with the extended page count, each piece fitted together in a gorgeous plot with simple but shocking turns over the chapters that it kept me going at high pace. 

Availability

The White Priory Murders is out of print, with used copies available. It was reprinted in the early 1990s by International Polygonics.

 

Epitaph for a Nurse (1958) by Anne Hocking

Epitaph for a Nurse by Anne Hocking

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“It’s a terrible thought. To murder anyone. You must have to hate them intensely, and there’s someone going round hating like that. It frightens me.

Nurse Jessica Biggs is the backbone of the small rural hospital where she works. Her colleagues value her skill and efficiency as a nurse, yet her harsh manner has won her no friends either inside or outside the hospital. Plain, poorly educated, and aging, Sister Biggs knows that she cannot rely on anyone else to secure her future. Her position offers her access to sensitive information, things that her patients would not want anyone else to know. Sister Biggs knows how to keep a secret…for a price. Continue reading “Epitaph for a Nurse (1958) by Anne Hocking”

Fer-de-Lance (1934) by Rex Stout

Fer de Lance by Rex Stout

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“Be seated,” Wolfe said. “You must pardon me; for engineering reasons I arise only for emergencies.”

“This is an emergency,” she said.

Maria Maffei is worried about her brother Carlo, who has vanished after accepting a mysterious new job. When police don’t take her concerns seriously, Maria turns to the famed private detective Nero Wolfe, who is larger than life in more ways than one.

Wolfe discovers that Carlo Maffei was taking an unusual interest in the death of university president Peter Oliver Barstow. What is the connection between the seemingly natural death of a blue-blooded academic and the disappearance of an immigrant metalworker? Wolfe and his legman Archie Goodwin are about to learn that the two men are bound by a secret more sinister than they could have imagined. Continue reading “Fer-de-Lance (1934) by Rex Stout”

Crossed Skis (1952) by Carol Carnac

Crossed Skis by Carol Carnac

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“We all set out feeling supremely confident. Everybody liked everybody else. We didn’t all know one another, but everybody was vouched for by somebody. So and so’s friend, he’s O.K. Now we feel we’ve got a snake in the grass and we don’t know who the snake is.”

As assorted Londoners stumble through a dark and cloudy New Year’s Day, some of them have reason to be grateful they are about to depart on a ski holiday to Austria. Sunny skies and bright, clean snow await them. Others are not so fortunate. Inspector Rivers and Sergeant Lancing are stuck back in London, investigating a fatal house fire. The cheerful skiing party seems a thousand miles away from a murder in London, but as the investigation progresses, Rivers wonders just how far murder can reach. Continue reading “Crossed Skis (1952) by Carol Carnac”

The Siamese Twin Mystery (1933) by Ellery Queen

The Siamese Twin Mystery by Ellery Queen

9 Stars (9/10 stars)

“The case,” he said slowly, “far from being solved, has just begun.”

Racing up Arrow Mountain in a desperate attempt to escape the forest fire that has cut off the road behind them, Inspector Richard Queen and his son Ellery are relieved to discover a house at the top of the mountain. Their refuge is short-lived, however. Something strange is going on at the Xavier mansion, a situation that can only end in murder. As the flames creep higher and higher up the mountain, the entire group is facing certain death. What they don’t know is how that death will come—from the fire, or at the hands of a human killer. Continue reading “The Siamese Twin Mystery (1933) by Ellery Queen”

Murder Rides the Campaign Train (1952) by the Gordons

Murder Rides the Campaign Train by The Gordons

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“I want to win this election as much as you do, but I don’t want to arrive at the White House with a corpse.”

Governor Wallace X. Martin knows his presidential campaign won’t win over every voter. Still, he never expects one of them to take a shot at him during a speech. Even worse, however, is the discovery that the shot was fired from his own campaign train. As election day draws nearer, the Martin train speeds across the country, carrying the Governor’s family, campaign staff, supporters, press…and at least one killer. Continue reading “Murder Rides the Campaign Train (1952) by the Gordons”

Common or Garden Crime (1945) by Sheila Pim

Common or Garden Crime by Sheila Pim

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“Whatever might be said against gossip on general principles, if Lucy Bex had not taken an interest in her neighbors, the wrong person might have been hanged when a murder was committed in Clonmeen.”

New faces always cause a stir in the Irish village of Clonmeen, so the arrival of Lady Madeleine Osmund and her family is even more exciting than the annual garden show.

It turns out there’s a bigger surprise in store. Lucy Bex is shocked when her new neighbor Lady Madeleine dies by eating poisonous aconite, the monkshood plant. The coroner declares it a regrettable accident—someone in the kitchen simply confused aconite with horseradish. But Lucy is an avid gardener. She knows that only one garden in Clonmeen contains monkshood. She knows that vandals have been stealing plants from that garden. And ever since the thefts, Lucy has been spotting monkshood all over the village. This can mean only one thing: murder. Continue reading “Common or Garden Crime (1945) by Sheila Pim”

The Port of London Murders (1938) by Josephine Bell

The Port of London Murders by Josephine Bell

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“There were a lot of dangers on this river; that was the fascination of it.”

A drug addict commits suicide by drinking Lysol in her bleak tenement room. A barge full of cargo goes missing in a storm. An old lady holes up in an empty building scheduled for demolition, determined to stay in her home until the last possible moment. These are all typical scenes from London’s Docklands. Sergeant Chandler comes to suspect that these incidents are all related, but he may be out of his depth. Continue reading “The Port of London Murders (1938) by Josephine Bell”