Santosh Iyer's Reviews > The Strange Case of the Barrington Hills Vampire

The Strange Case of the Barrington Hills Vampire by James Scott Byrnside
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really liked it

This is the third book by the author and like the preceding two books, it involves impossible crimes.
Thomas Browning, one of the richest men in Chicago and owner of Browning Rail, has settled in his mansion at Barrington Hills (a little town north of Chicago) since six months back with his new wife Madelaine, 34 years younger than him. The other persons living with him are Dr. Sinclair, a psychiatrist kept to look after his wife who sleep-walks, Howard, his biographer, and Belby the butler. His daughter Gertrude from the previous marriage who lived in Atlanta has also joined him recently on his advice.
Thomas has been running a sawmill for the past 22 years in Barrington in partnership with Hadd Mades who owns half the land. Now Thomas wants to sell the sawmill and convert Barrington Hills into a resort town. But Hadd is opposed to this since he has been influenced by a psychic Madame Kuchla into believing that if the land is built upon, then a former resident Ottro Savore, believed to be a vampire will rise from his grave and cause deaths. Forty years ago, according to legend, he terrorized Barrington Hills, feasting on the locals and leaving their mutilated corpses as evidence.
Thomas invites Rowan Manory who heads a detective agency to visit his house and attend a séance at night to be managed by Madame Kuchla. He wants Manory to debunk the séance and explain the phenomena rationally to Hadd so that he is drawn away from spiritualism. Manory along with his assistant Walter Williams visit the house.
Before the séance, several photographs of various rooms of the house are taken first by Hadd and then Thomas with the same camera. Hadd plans to take the film roll to his house for developing them.
Besides Kuchla, eight persons attend the séance: Mr and Mrs Browning, Gertrude, Howard, Dr Sinclair, Hadd, Rowan and Walter. Various mysterious phenomena take place during the seance including the appearance of Otto Savore the vampire who speaks and whose face appears on the ceiling. After the séance, though Rowan is able to explain most of the phenomena, there are some things that he is not able to explain fully. Also, the psychic Kuchla seemed genuinely frightened after the séance.
Next day morning, Hadd comes rushing to the house frightened and shows the developed photos. One of the photos which was of the landing with Madelaine in it shows the vampire Otto Savore looking into the camera through the balcony glass door !
There are further mysterious and crazy events including two murders , both in impossible circumstances. In both cases, in addition to other injuries there are two equally-sized punctures oozing blood on the neck appearing to be teeth marks. (I am not revealing most of the details here)
Rowan Manory is finally able to solve the case and explain all the impossibilities.
The plot is engrossing and intriguing. After a slow start, it becomes highly suspenseful and virtually unputdownable. It is also well clued. There is an Ellery Queen type challenge to the reader at the end before the solution is announced. The solutions of the two impossible crime murders as well as the explanation for the appearance of the vampire on the photo are quite clever. There is also a lot of humour especially the repartee between Rowan and Walter.
Considering the above factors, I have no hesitation in highly recommending this book.
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Reading Progress

October 15, 2020 – Started Reading
October 15, 2020 – Shelved
October 18, 2020 – Finished Reading

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Juan Carlos If you follow the order of events, however it was published the last, this is the first mystery for Rowan Manory and his mate.

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