This is my second foray into the world of Jerry and Pamela North this year and this time they are on a cruise holiday to the West Indies. The book begins with an opening which given its focus on clothes, would appeal very much to my fellow blogger and clothes expert Moira (writer of the suitably named Clothes in Books blog):
‘Pamela North stepped out into the passageway and encountered a man wearing a sword. The sword was long, and its hilt was gold-encrusted. The man wore, also, a red tunic, belted and criss-crossed with white webbing, and blue trousers, stripped with the red of the tunic. He wore a peaked white cap, banded in red. This was not at all what Pamela North had expected to see; she had rather hoped to see Jerry.’
It soon turns out that on the cruise is an organisation called the Ancient and Respectable Rifleman, who are off for their annual encampment. Of course their ceremonial sword soon disappears, reappearing in grizzly circumstances: namely the death of a private investigator. Handily, for the ship’s Captain at any rate, the Norths are taking their holiday with their friends, Bill and Dorian Weigand, the former of which is a New York homicide detective. This is a case which relies a lot on uncovering the pasts of various fellow passengers including a drunken and overbearing mother and her less than golden daughter. Missing jewellery also comes into the picture. Equally like the Major in Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery (1964), the investigator, before being killed, is seen to pause mid conversation on seeing one leave the room. Does this connect to their untimely death or is it a red herring?
In short, this read was not as good as the one I read last time: The Judge is Reversed (1960). Pam is somewhat more tiresome and her IQ seems to have dropped a few points. She is mostly there as an appendage of Jerry and the only real role she has in the book is wearing rather minimal swim wear (which Lockridge is at pains to repeat over and over, just in case we might have forgotten) and buying a crocodile handbag. Though in fairness Jerry does even less. This is definitely a case where the Norths are not pulling their weight. Then again Bill, being a policeman, has an advantage over them and the readers, receiving lots of background information on the witnesses via the ship’s radio. Not all of this is revealed to the reader and the general lack of overt clues means the solution is somewhat of a surprise and not necessarily in a good way. Given the difficulties being on a boat has on a police investigation some more clues would have been nice. However, the ship milieu is well-created and there is some good character work. Ship passenger mentality is also captured vividly. So in the main I think this book starts off very well but then gets very bogged down in the middle, my attention flagged a lot, and as a consequence the ending was a bit dissatisfying. Don’t think I would recommend this book unless you’re a Lockridge completest.
Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt Item (Gold Card): Full Skeleton