The is the final part of my review for the latest Holding reprint by the Stark House Press and it sees a return to the 1920s.
‘When James arrives in New York he doesn’t know a soul. But before he can leave the ship, he receives a message from an Amy Solway, claiming to be his cousin and asking for his help in posing as her new chauffeur. The first thing he discovers when he is ushered into the house is a dead body under the sofa. He decides to hold his tongue and meet Amy before saying anything, but finds that Amy has been expecting a different James Ross. Since no one has acknowledged the dead man, and Amy is clearly in need of his help, he decides to stay. But will Ross’s will be enough to see him through this most perplexing situation?’
Whilst many suspense writers stuck to female leads, Holding quite frequently opted for their counterparts instead. Like Lexy in The Thing beyond Reason (1926) Holding sets up a competent, all together male protagonist called James Ross, who is confident he can face whatever life throws at him – and then Holding certainly takes him at his own estimation! James Ross very much believes the antithesis of the adage, ‘no man is an island’ and the narration also says of him that he ‘was not what you might call impulsively sympathetic.’ In keeping with the other two tales in the collection, James transpires to be another less than heroic male lead and conversely James surprisingly falls into the heroine in jeopardy role.
The reveal of the dead body has a cinematic quality to it and the understated response of the others gives his experience a surreal hue and his own reaction to this and subsequent events are also somewhat boggling. Initially he is kept hostage, unsure of what he has got himself in to and no one knows where he is. However, once the physical restraints are released and he takes on the role of the new chauffeur there is nothing to keep him there but himself, and I guess that is what troubles me. James puts himself through a great deal and loses even more, all for a woman who might be a killer and who even if she isn’t, is an incredibly spoilt and unpleasant woman, who demands help, yet will provide no information. The woman is very much like Daisy from The Great Gatsby and as such I didn’t get on with her and her incredibly irresponsible behaviour. Yet it is probably James I grew more frustrated with, as Holding does not manage to make his bonkers decisions convincing.
This story operates more as a thriller suspense plot rather than as a more conventional mystery, but that should not surprise regular readers of Holding’s work.
Source: Review Copy (Stark House Press)