Sometimes quality and taste do not overlap. For instance, I have every reason to believe that The White Cockatoo (1934) by Mignon G. Eberhart is a very good book, but given that it veers far more heavily into the suspense/HIBK/EIRF schools of writing rather than anything qualifing as detection it’s not especially to my taste. It’s well- (if perhaps a little over-) written, has some good atmosphere, and introduces in the eponymous bird Pucci an unusual twist that enlivens the eventual resolution…but amidst all the mysterious happenings — sinister hotelier, sinister guests, sinister wind, sinister banging shutters, sinister everything — it’s just a bit too bland for my palate.
The essential setup sees engineer James Sundean, having travelled the world as part of his job and now due to relax with a friend in Spain, stopping off en route in an unnamed French tourist trap in the antithesis of tourist season. Staying at a large but under-populated hotel — in which “[t]he handful of guests must rattle around like so many peanuts”, an absolutely gorgeous phrase — he’s confronted with a chilly local wind, the aforementioned hotelier who may be up to some shenanigans from the first chapter, and, as if I need mention it, a beautiful woman who needs his help. Get used to that wind, by the way, because Eberhart really wants you to know that it’s windy:
The wind was steadily rising, murmuring and sighing and creaking windows and shutters, and it waved the dense vines and shrubs in the corners of the court so that they made black-blue shadows which fled anxiously across the white blocks of light.
Given that the peanuts in that hotel number a full four guests, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Eberhart wants to make a character of these gusts:
The night had increased in violence while I sat at dinner, and it seemed to me that the rambling old house had become, strangely, a part of the tumultuous night and was sharing its violence. It shook and rattled and swept bitter draughts through the corridors, and when at length I opened the door that led into the window-lined corridor of the north wing, the cold rush of air swooped upon me like some frightened creature let loose.