Man Missing (1953) by Mignon G. Eberhart

The background to today’s read was influenced by the time Eberhart was stationed at a naval base due to her husband’s work, though of course she is keen to stress that none of her characters are based on people she knew. This novel features Eberhart’s series nursing sleuth, Sarah Keates, who is a voluntary civilian working in a military hospital at a naval base near Wanaha City. She has the joys of night shift or rather the nightmares of, as within a matter of hours one of her patients, a good looking but objectionable lieutenant is dead, his throat cut. The case quickly becomes a personal one, as the commanding officer of the unit, a friend and also the husband of her even closer friend Kitty, is rumoured to have had problems with the victim and Kitty is desperately anxious that this situation will imperil her husband’s chances of promotion. This desperation makes her sufficiently eager to find any other likely suspect and she soon latches onto Ensign Sally Wilson, who visited the victim the night he died. Sally is of course that useful type of character who is completely in the middle of things yet due to misguided notions of ethics refuses to say anything helpful and stubbornly refuses to cooperate as Keates and the others try to solve the mystery.

Overall Thoughts

So yes you might have inferred a little irritation on my part for a certain character in this book, (I don’t think my headache helped this), but I think the reader is allowed to feel a little bit peeved if they know that the story basically could have been ended in a matter of paragraphs if one person had done the right thing and said what they knew. This aside though, I would say this was a better read by Eberhart than my last one. In particular I think Eberhart works up the closed set of suspects angle very well, as the setting of a military base means that high security levels prevent the culprit from being an outsider. A piece of information from Keates also suggests an even narrower set of suspects to consider. Additionally the setting provided a more unusual potential motive for the killing, that of combat fatigue, which I found interesting, as it is not one I have come across before in my reading.

I wouldn’t say I am completely won over by Keates as a sleuth just yet. She begins rather ineptly, but then seems to gather a great deal of speed and deductive powers in the final 30-40 pages. I think this does mar the final solution slightly, as does the dissatisfying choice of culprit, but in fairness to Eberhart she comes up with a clever solution to the mystery she poses and does pull the wool over her readers very successfully in one respect.

Rating: 4/5

Just the Facts Ma’am (Silver Card): Set in a hospital

7 comments

  1. Oh, Sally drove me up the wall. I don’t understand how these ingenues always get away with lying to investigators. The details of life on the military base are interesting, and Buffalo Bill is a great character. But the author has to work so hard to obscure the identity of the person they’re pursuing at the end that I found it hard to tell what was going on at times.

    Liked by 1 person

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