The Woman in the Woods by (Charity) Lee Blackstock is another one of those inverted mysteries. I've said before that I'm not a big fan of this kind ofThe Woman in the Woods by (Charity) Lee Blackstock is another one of those inverted mysteries. I've said before that I'm not a big fan of this kind of mystery. I enjoy pitting my wits against those of the detective in the story to see if I can figure out who did it. I'm not so much into sitting on the edge of my chair and waiting to see if the killer (who I know already) is going to get caught. This one does have an advantage over The Chocolate Cobweb, though. The characters talk sensibly and the story line is a good one.
This story revolves around a skeleton discovered by two schoolboys who have been playing truant. When it becomes apparent who the victim was, the next question is why would anyone want to kill her? She seemed like such a nice woman...friendly with everyone. Of course, the reader already knows who did it. The clues to her identity and to that of her killer are glowing neon signs...except to the people in the book.
Over all, Blackstock tells a good tale. It's a decent story and I found most of the characters to be engaging and believable. I would have enjoyed it a lot more if she had told it as a straight mystery story, though. I wonder if she had removed the telling paragraphs where the killer was revealed in the beginning chapters if I would have spotted him/her? Three stars out of five.
The Eye of Osiris (1911) by R. Austin Freeman is the tantalizing tale of a missing world-renowned archaeologist. John Bellingham returned from a tripThe Eye of Osiris (1911) by R. Austin Freeman is the tantalizing tale of a missing world-renowned archaeologist. John Bellingham returned from a trip to Egypt only to immediately disappear from his cousin's home. Or did he? When the story appears in the newspaper, Dr. Thorndyke, the medical/legal detecting wizard, points out to his medical jurisprudence students that, should the question of proving Bellingham's death ever arise, much will depend on when officials can fix the last moment he was alive. From the newspaper account, it would appear that Bellingham was last alive at his cousin's house. But the article also mentions that a scarab which was a recognized ornament on the archeologist's watch-chain had been found on the grounds belonging to the missing man's brother Godfrey. IF the scarab was noticed on the watch-chain by anyone at the cousin's house, then there would be reason to assume that Bellingham had gone to his brother's afterwards. If the absence of the scarab had been noted, then it would be safe to assume that the housemaid at Mr. Hurst's home (the cousin) was the last person to see him alive. At this point, it is all an intellectual puzzle to Thorndyke.
Fast-forward two years. Dr. Paul Berkeley, one of the students in the medical jurisprudence class, is filling in for an older doctor who has taken a much-needed vacation. He arrives at the home of Godfrey Bellingham, who has moved to London for unknown reasons, and circumstances bring him into Bellingham's confidence over the matter of John Bellingham's will. You see, Bellingham was never heard from again after he apparently walked out of his cousin's house, and now Hurst and the family lawyer, Mr. Jellicoe, want Godfrey to allow them to have him declared deceased and put the will forward for probate. But the will is a legal nightmare. It would seem that John Bellingham wanted his brother Godfrey to inherit, but then set conditions that made it virtually impossible for him to do so--which means that Hurst will inherit instead. Hurst offers Godfrey a deal--agree to petition for the will to be probated, Hurst will inherit, and will guarantee Godfrey and his daughter a stipend of 400 pounds a year. And, Godfrey must agree that those provisions will stand even if John or his body is found and the terms of the will (allowing Godfrey to inherit) can be met. Godfrey steadfastly refuses.
Berkeley has taken a fancy to Godfrey's daughter Ruth and he convinces the Bellinghams to allow him to give Dr. Thorndyke all information on the case. Thorndyke is thoroughly intrigued and begins to form theories about the whereabouts of John Bellingham.Then bits of a man's skeleton begin popping up in various places--bits that might belong to John Bellingham. But none of the bits include portions of the body that contain elements that might actually identify the bones as Bellingham's. Thorndyke becomes even more intrigued and sets out to prove his theory about the mystery. There are several things to prove: Is John Bellingham dead--and, if so, was he murdered? If he was murdered, who did it and why? And, finally, where is John Bellingham (or his body) now?
This is another fine intellectual puzzle by Freeman. Thorndyke is perhaps a little long-winded in his scientific lectures, but all is forgiven when the reader gets to enjoy the comic scenes in the coroner's inquest (where it is to be decided if the bones are Bellingham and, if so, how he met his death) and the probate court. Mr. Pope, one of the members of the coroner's jury is priceless--subjecting every witness to his stolid questions and disbelief of anything but the most obvious of proofs. He plays merry hell with Mr. Jellicoe's and Mr. Hurst's plan to get the bones identified as Bellingham's by raising enough doubt that the inquest is adjourned.
It has been a lot of fun getting reacquainted with Freeman's work this year (I just recently read The Silent Witness as well). My last excursion was with The Red Thumb Mark long ago and far away (before I ever started writing up reviews) and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed that one. I'll be looking forward to reading the other Thorndyke books I have sitting on the TBR pile and I highly recommend him, especially to those who enjoy the Holmes stories.
The young Dr. Humphrey Jardine is making his way home after a long night of studying for his final qualifying exam. He takes his favorite path, a pretThe young Dr. Humphrey Jardine is making his way home after a long night of studying for his final qualifying exam. He takes his favorite path, a pretty winding lane that meanders from Lower Highgate to the heights of Hampstead and pauses in the lamplight to draw out his pipe. He notices what he takes to be a tree root jutting out from a corner that looks quite like a human foot. When he can't recall ever noticing such a thing before he steps closer to inspect this curiosity--only to discover that it really is a human foot...attached to a very dead body.
He hastens off to find a constable, but when they get back to the spot, the dead man has disappeared. Jardine gives a detailed description of the man and the circumstances and the police promise to investigate. Jardine knows full well that they think he's been exaggerating and that the man recovered and walked off under his own power. He also knows that the man wasn't going anywhere all by himself. But Jardine gets wrapped up in starting as a newly-minted doctor at the hospital and forgets about his experience in the lane.
Until he has another odd experience. This time he is covering the practice of an older doctor and is summoned to attend an emergency case at a local factory. When he gets there, he is greeted by a man whom he never really sees properly, guided into a room, has the door locked on him, and carbonic acid "snow" starts pumping through a vent in the wall. He has a multi-tool pocket knife on him and manages to gouge out a breathing hole in the door which allows him to survive until help can arrive. Fortunately for him, his mentor Dr. Thorndyke does arrive on the scene and gets him out just in time. Two more attempts are made on Jardine's life...but he has no known enemies and can think of no reason why anyone should wish to harm him. Once Dr. Thorndyke hears Jardine's full story of the last several weeks, he begins to see a pattern and a trail that leads to the laboratory and an examination of the ashes of dead man.
The Silent Witness (1914) is the fourth book in R. Austin Freeman's series starring Dr. Thorndyke. Thorndyke is a medical/legal forensic investigator in the Holmes model. He keeps his observations close to his chest--telling Jardine and his own assistant Jervis that they have all the facts and should be able to reason out the solution themselves, but I don't see how they can in the detail that he does. Yes, they did have the rudimentary clues--but Thorndyke follows up on these rudiments and doesn't share those results. However, this doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the story any more than Homes's secretive behavior would detract from his adventures (which is to say--not at all for me). I do enjoy Thorndyke and his interactions with both Jardine and Jervis. Jardine is a little bit exasperating, though. When it comes to walking blindly into danger, the ladies in gothic suspense have nothing on Jardine. Even when warned explicitly by Thorndyke NOT to go wandering around all by his lonesome with an unknown enemy dogging his heels, he still insists on loitering around a deserted bridge oblivious to his surroundings--which is mighty convenient for attempt number two on his life.
Overall, this is an interesting mystery with just a hint of romance. The complete plot is somewhat intricate, but it's not so complex that readers won't be able to work out the solution even if they don't know every detail that Thorndyke does. Some of the narrative carries on a little longer than necessary, but the story comes at the tail-end of a more verbose age. An intriguing and very enjoyable read.
The New Year holiday finds Lord Peter and Bunter traveling to the fen country to stay with friends of his lordship. On the way, the Daimler has a misuThe New Year holiday finds Lord Peter and Bunter traveling to the fen country to stay with friends of his lordship. On the way, the Daimler has a misunderstanding with a narrow, hump-backed bridge and the pair find themselves nose down in a ditch. They make for Fenchurch St. Paul and soon become acquainted with most of the main characters in the upcoming mystery. A bout of influenza has also arrived in Fenchurch St. Paul and the Rector finds himself one man short for the bell-ringing scheduled to bring in the New Year. Fortunately, Lord Peter has rung a bell or two in his time and he gallantly offers to fill the gap. This gives him the opportunity to befriend and exchange gossip with most of the central actors.
A couple of months later finds a grave being opened to bury Sir Henry Thorpe with his wife (who had succumbed to the 'flu over New Year's). The gravediggers are surprised to find an unexpected corpse--the body of an unknown man, with features disfigured, and no coffin. The Rector decides to call in Lord Peter and he assists Inspector Blundell in the unraveling of the this very complicated case. Who is the man in the grave? How and when did he get there? Does it have anything do with the emeralds that were stolen at Sir Henry's wedding many years ago?
When I took off for a three-hour trip to visit my parents last weekend, I took along Lord Peter Wimsey, Mr. Bunter and the rest of the folks that we meet at Fenchurch St. Paul. Or rather the remarkable talents of Ian Carmichael who brought them all to life. I thoroughly enjoyed Carmichael as Wimsey in the visual adaptations and only wish that things had worked out when the project was first broached so Carmichael could have played him when younger. Ideally, of course, they would have started at the beginning and been able to go all the way through to Busman's Honeymoon (if only those dratted rights could be wrestled away from MGM). Carmichael did a splendid job voicing the multitude of male characters--from Wimsey and Bunter to the Rector and all the bell-ringers to Cranton, the jewel thief. The female voices were bit tougher for him, but he still managed to produce distinctive tones for Mrs. Venables, Hilary Thorpe, and the others. Since the story is so very familiar to me (I can't tell you how many times I've read it), I was able to lose myself in the storytelling and the miles just flew by on my journey there and back. A thoroughly enjoyable audio novel--with a story from one of the Queens of crime.