Needless to say, I loved this book. Each and every story has some sort of gut punch, sometimes quiet, sometimes full force. And while every story in this book is beyond excellent, my favorite is "Miss Thing and the Surrealist." Like many of the other tales in this collection, the true horror in that one sneaks up on you only at the end as you brace yourself from the start, knowing that something's going to happen, but you just don't know what that something's going to be. You might think you know, but then everything changes in an instant. The stories here all feature some sort of tragic figure, adding a touch of poignancy to their situations, but then things begin to turn toward the horrific as you come to realize the sense of doom that engulfs them. It's like Cross has looked into a variety of human souls and has brought forth the darkest or most tragic among them. The eerieness of this book is so finely crafted that it will keep you on the edge and on edge the entire time.
Once again, my thanks to Valancourt for bringing this book back into print....more
Seriously, when I got to the end of this book, my first reaction was "that's it?" To say I was disappointed is an understatement. As it turns out, The Clue (1909) is the first of a long lineup of books to feature Detective Fleming Stone. In this particular story, Stone comes in towards the end and triumphs in solving the case, a feat that neither the police detective nor an attorney/amateur detective has managed to pull off before his arrival. Hmmm.
While I'm happy to have read this book because it was written by a woman whose work seems to have faded into obscurity, I have to say that it would likely be more at home in the library of a cozy reader -- the romance keeps it light in tone as does the amateur detecting going on. And even though all is put right once again in this house, the ending is a bit over-the-top melodramatic, actually causing a true eyeroll on my part. But it does have its moments, for example, in an interchange between two characters who make fun of detective stories; ironically that discussion ends up with talk of a "Mr. Smarty-Cat Detective," who "deduces the whole story." I say ironically because that is precisely what happens here, with the arrival of Fleming Stone. He is like the living deus ex machina who comes in, takes a look around and solves the entire case in a short time. I'd try another one just to see if this is his pattern, just out of pure interest. I suppose, like many mystery novels, the fun is in the getting there, complete with a host of suspects with motive, a few red herrings, and a crime that borders on the impossible.
It's crime light, to be sure. I don't know that I'd recommend it for any other reason than it appeared on the Haycraft-Queen Definitive Library of Detective, Crime, and Mystery Fiction, and, as I said, it was written by a woman author who was once very popular but whose works have long gone by the wayside into obscurity. ...more
I needed something a bit tame so I rummaged through my shelves and chose this book, which blends mystery, humor, dark atmospheric moments and romance in the telling and ends up being a satisfying read, meaning I never guessed the "who" at any point in time although my inner armchair-detective self made several attempts. Actually, mine is not the paperback edition, but a genuine (albeit pretty banged up) first, complete with onionskin paper over the frontispiece and the lovely illustrations done by Howard Chandler Christy. In this story, a young attorney named Lawrence Blakely recounts the "queer freak of the demons of chance" that set him off on the "most remarkable period" of his life, when a routine trip turns into a set of events that could find an innocent Blakely doing prison time for murder.
My personal favorite of Rinehart's books is The Album (1933) which I read as a kid and never, ever forgot because of the whole axe-murderer thing (I'm a sucker for a good axe murder) and the mystery leading up to the identity of the killer. Since then I've probably read it about three times. While I didn't find The Man in Lower Ten to be nearly as exciting and polished as that one (which is no surprise given it's her earliest book-length work), it was still a lot of fun. The romance isn't too in your face, although I must say that Blakely spends a lot of time worrying about how to shield the reputation of the woman in the case -- how very Victorian we still are after the turn of the century here in America! I also noticed right away that there are several places where we see this country on the edge between old and modern, for instance, in the use of automobiles vs. horse carts and hansom cabs. One word of warning -- in 1905 our modern sensibilities about race were, of course, not in play, and I did get a bit of a jolt coming across words like "darky" and "Jap."
All in all, it's a fun read, and had this been my first introduction to Rinehart's work, I'd probably go on to read more. As it is, I've read several of her books so in my opinion, while the stories may seem a bit thin to modern readers, she's an American mystery novelist worth exploring....more