The Black Curl

“‘[Your father] was always right, as you are too, dear. A man can sometimes get away with it, but a woman, never. I haven’t been able to.'”

Technically I started at the wrong spot with the Constance and Gwenyth Little, as The Black Curl is their final mystery and not considered one of their best according to the introduction. It does, however, have all the apparent hallmarks of a Little sisters book, including “black” in the title and a zany plot.

image from Amazon

Our very sympathetic narrator is Bill, a strait-laced hard worker trying to carry on the family business despite the lack of effort from his charming playboy cousin Eliot. One evening he notices a strange old woman in a cherry hat loitering on the street, and she shows up again the next day when his housekeeper suddenly quits. Then his stepmother Irene shows up with her daughter Madeleine, claiming to be in trouble and demanding to stay t the house. Nothing seems too unusual until his cowlick is cut off in the middle of the night–and then there’s that body in the icebox…

I can’t recall the last mystery I read that was so much fun; “madcap” is the best way to describe it. The characters are delightfully witty and surprisingly down to earth (at least the main ones). By the end the plot seemed to have gone off the rails somewhat, but I was enjoying the ride too much to mind. For me it just hinted at how good the books from their prime must be.

I’m very grateful that Rue Morgue Press is reprinting all their books, in addition to many other vintage mysteries. The originals from the forties seem hard to come by. Hopefully the profit will allow them to hire a decent editor; I can’t even count how may typos  there were! An equally annoyed previous reader penciled in several corrections in the library copy, and even he or she didn’t catch them all. Based on the content of the Rue Morgue Press catalog, however, I’ll probably have to forgive them.

The library does have a few other books by the Little sisters, and  I can’t wait to read them. For more information, check out Diana Killian’s guide at her website.

One question if anyone else has actually read this: what’s the deal with Madeleine’s age? She and her mother claim it to be 22, while Bill swears she’s two years younger than his own 31. I thought this would turn out to be important but it’s never mentioned again. Any thoughts?

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Published in: on February 21, 2010 at 9:41 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] The Black Curl, by Constance and Gwyneth Little […]

  2. […] the book she mentions not just current best-selling authors but past pens often neglected, like the Little sisters, or Leslie Ford, or the Lockridges. It’s an aficionado’s […]


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