The Clue

I’ve been going strong with my downloads from Google Books! They are perfect for when I’m on my laptop while being an “adult presence” at the club I help out with. Next up was The Clue, my first of Carolyn Wells’ adult mysteries.

Apparently all of her mysteries feature Fleming Stone, but in this one he doesn’t show up until nearly the end of the book. I first learned about these on Redeeming Qualities.

(Did you know you can capture and embed text or images from Google Books? This is an awesome feature!)

Lovely but haughty Madeleine Van Norman is having a party on the eve of her wedding to Schuyler Carleton, a match that means she will inherit her uncle’s vast fortune instead of her charming cousin Tom. After the party, however, she is found dead in the study, stabbed with a letter opener, in what is either suicide or close to a locked room mystery.

I very much liked the book, both characterizations and the plot. My one complaint was that the beginning of the book actually starts more from Maddie’s perspective, and over the next few chapters jumps around to who it focuses on. I really had no idea who was supposed to be the hero or heroine for the reader to identify with. Was it Maddie or Tom? Maddie’s maid Cecily? Doctor Hill, the “alert-looking young man” who is called when the body is found? (My money was very much on the last when he first made his appearance. Are there any mysteries that feature a doctor or coroner in a main role, besides someone like Dr. Watson?) The viewpoint finally settles on bridesmaid Kitty French and best man Rob Fessendon.

The pair make pleasant investigators, and are well-suited to the task because of their respective friendships with the deceased and the main suspect. Kitty is especially endearing. I identified with her in that she believes a murder occurred, and enjoys the mental puzzle of trying to figure it out, but loathes the idea of discovering that one of their circle is a murderer. The romance that blossoms between Kitty and Rob is also sweet.

Another consequence of the inconclusive “narrator” in the beginning is that the reader has a chance to identify and sympathize with Maddie, who is troubled as of late and is flirting with Tom to make Carleton jealous, though Tom loves her madly and has already proposed twice. I was convinced that Carleton would be the murder victim, and that the investigation would bring Tom and Maddie back together. It does make Maddie’s death more meaningful, however.

I definitely plan on reading more of these. I had looked for physical copies on eBay a while ago, but none were at the condition/price intersection I was looking for; I may need to check again.

Fun tidbit: The majestic Van Norman mansion in New Jersey is said to be more than half a century old. That doesn’t necessarily boggle the imagination, for the houses my parents grew up in would easily fit that description, though it’s less common nowadays. Since this book was written in 1909, however, the mansion featured in this book actually predates the Civil War!

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Published in: on March 3, 2012 at 8:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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