Shane is not the easiest of authors to find books by, being a relatively obscure mystery writer. After all I did come across her name first at John’s blog Pretty Sinister, a blog which it is fair to say mostly specialises in reviewing little known and hard to track down authors. Incidentally John has reviewed Shane’s Lady in Danger (1942) and I think he is going to be reviewing today’s read as well at some point. I was quite chuffed that I was able to track down a book by this author at a reasonable price, for under £5 no less. The current lowest price is now just over £30.
Today’s read begins with newspaper editors and reporters speculating over why Roberta Parmelee has refused to claim her $1 million inheritance. Two reporters are sent out to interview various people connected with Roberta including those in her home town and her work place, though most of the focus is given over to her employer and his family. Nothing much happens at this initial time other than some intriguing plot threads beginning to emerge. Yet things certainly kick off when December and New Year’s Eve come round, including a new will claimant and of course murder… Assisting Inspector Redfern in figuring out what is going on, is amateur sleuth and one of Shane’s series detectives, Christopher Saxe.
Re-reading John’s Shane review two elements which I think also appear in this novel are firstly the complex plotting and the secondly her tendency to have a large cast of characters, of whom we don’t tend to get too close to. Yet this latter point is not necessarily a wholly negative thing, as I think Shane gives her readers a very enigmatic female protagonist, whose unconventional depiction doesn’t immediately elicit your sympathies. Equally to slightly contradict myself two characters which get a bit more detailed focus on are Bonnie and Bosh, twelve year old know it alls and twins, who provide an interesting comic element to the work which is very engaging. In regard to the first element I would say that Shane’s intricate plotting couples with her flair for unconventional plot lines, as this story contains murder and inheritances, yet these familiar puzzle pieces and others do not join in the expected pattern. In some ways I think that as well as trying to solve the case, the reader is also trying to more clearly define what the case fully is. Consequently this is not a plot you can easily predict, a facet which has both pros and cons, as my final rating probably reflects.
I’m not sure I’ve seen Shane at her absolute best here, but this read has certainly piqued my interest as her unconventional plotting interests me. Aside from the two titles I have already mentioned there are 3 more Saxe novels: Lady in a Wedding Dress (1943), The Baby in the Ash Can (1944) and Diamonds in the Dumplings (1946) and suffice to say the last two titles definitely sound the most perplexing and intriguing. On a final note I think this is the first story where I have encountered the alibi of being locked into one’s own bathroom by drunk New Year’s Eve revellers.
Just the Facts Ma’am (Silver Card): Number in the title.