Part of the fun of this blogging collective with its focus primarily on classic style mysteries is seeing the individual enthusiasms of bloggers and commenters alike assert themselves. To pick just three, I’ve turned into quite the most unexpected fan of Freeman Wills Crofts, Puzzle Doctor is soon to convert us all to the joys of Brian Flynn, and TomCat has derived great pleasure from the works of John Russell Fearn. And it’s nice to share in a joy with someone, so through an uncertain combination of runic alchemy and liturgical dance, I ended up at the conclusion that Death in Silhouette (1950) would be the next Fearn for me to try, and here we are.
This is the fifth and, I believe, final book in this short series featuring Fearn’s crime-solving headmistress ‘Black Maria’, and it was written at a time when the puzzle novel was starting to decline and the first seeds of crime fiction were taking root. As such, it’s something of a transitional novel, with a foot in each camp, and manages to do most things reasonably well until an ending that sort of comes out of nowhere and lets down both its GAD forebears and the descendants it would have in the latter genre.
The plot can be handily summed up by simple expedient of the following quote:
“I still don’t understand it. Why should any young man suddenly decide to hang himself in the middle of celebrating his engagement? No reason! No motive!”