#794: The Eye in the Museum (1929) by J.J. Connington

Eye in the Museum

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Having recently discussed with Martin Edwards the efforts writers can go to in order to keep things fresh, I can understand how, after five books in three years featuring Sir Clinton Driffield as sleuth, J.J. Connington would fancy a change. This might be unfair to Driffield, however, for the simple fact that the plot Connington cooked up for The Eye in the Museum (1929) is about the dullest thing anyone would put on paper in that decade. With interview after interview after interview after interview, we’re not Dragging the Marsh (© Brad Friedman) so much as dying inside. No, that’s not clever; this book has left me unable to care.

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#767: Nemesis at Raynham Parva, a.k.a. Grim Vengeance (1929) by J.J. Connington

Raynham Parve

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When recently retired Chief Constable Sir Clinton Driffield heads to the village of Raynham Parva to spend some time with his widowed sister and her two children, he is met by surprises on all sides.  On the drive down he encounters what appears to be the shattering of an Eternal Triangle, then he discovers that his beloved niece Elsie has embarked on a nostrum of a mariage to Vincente Francia, an Argentinian gentleman no-one had ever heard of before. Driffield barely has time to tut disapprovingly before one member of that Triangle turns up dead in suspicious circumstances and, despite his questionable official status, he is called in to consult.

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#737: Murder in the Maze (1927) by J.J. Connington

Murder in the Maze

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If ever a classic-era mystery delivered promise after promise in the opening chapter it was Murder in the Maze (1927), the third criminous novel by Alfred Walter Stewart under his J.J. Connington nom de plume. You get near-identical twins, one of who is the lynchpin barrister in an on-going high-profile trial, their wastrel and haphazard younger brother, their mentally-inflicted nephew, their plans to each sit in a different part of their country house’s hedge maze for some peace and quiet, a bunch of house-guests coming and going to odd places, and a suspicious valet. If all this didn’t presage a murder, you’d want your money back.

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#734: The Wailing Rock Murders (1932) by Clifford Orr

Dartmouth Wailing Rock Murders

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Let the record state that The Wailing Rock Murders (1932) is the seventh title I’ve read from the Roland Lacourbe-curated Locked Room Library list to not actually contain an impossible crime. Others of this distinction have run the gamut from wonderful to utterly forgettable, so an absence of impossibility is not to be held against it, and Clifford Orr’s second and final novel undeniably contains plenty of locked rooms…but they’re the ‘locked from the outside’ variety, whose very nature should not be confused with the sort of thing we (are meant to) mean when throwing a term like ‘locked room mystery’ about.

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#699: Jack-in-the-Box (1944) by J.J. Connington

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The devastation wrought by the First World War in the sheer quantity of life lost saw an upsurge in the popularity of spirit mediums, to the extent that no less an authority on the rational than Arthur Conan Doyle fell under their spell.  Given that this rise in open chicanery coincided with the birth of the detective novel, it surprises me that The Psychic Killer took such a long time to appear in GAD, perhaps owing to its intersection with the impossible crime and the associated difficulties of explaining away the tricks on the page — The Reader is Warned (1939) by Carter Dickson being easily the best example of a very, very small subset.

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#682: In Whose Dim Shadow, a.k.a. The Tau Cross Mystery (1935) by J.J. Connington

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In the comments of my review of The Sweepstake Murders (1931) by J.J. Connington, TomCat pointed out that the author’s sole impossible crime novel was among my recently-acquired bundle, and here we are.  In Whose Dim Shadow, a.k.a. The Tau Cross Mystery (1935), however, begins with a shooting in an unlocked room in an unlocked flat that also has a set of footprints leading away from the open French windows and which forms the basis of the majority of the narrative.  And a very entertaining narrative it is, too, only falling down when Connington shanghais pace for exposition, and struggling in the final straight due, in all likelihood, to external concerns.

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#652: The Sweepstake Murders (1931) by J.J. Connington

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You may have missed the subtle hint I put up recently about buying some J.J. Connington books, but, with 18 to choose from, where to start?  Well, if there’s a GAD touchstone I enjoy almost as much as a “no footprints” murder it’s a tontine, so The Sweepstake Murders (1931), which sees nine associates win £241,920 (or £16 million in today’s money) to be divided among them is a great place to reattempt Mt. Connington.  Because £241,920 spilt nine ways is less each than when it’s split eight ways, which would be less than splitting it seven ways, which would be less than splitting it six ways…you can see how someone starts to think, can’t you?

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#602: In the First Degree (1933) by Roger Scarlett

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It’s been a fun ride with Dorothy Blair and Evelyn Page, but now we reach the end.  A mere five books came from these two ladies under their Roger Scarlett nom de plume, and it’s thanks to the tireless work of the folk at Coachwhip publications — and GAD’s own Curtis Evans — that these hugely enjoyable novels have been made available again.  Because enjoy them I have, and my feelings about this final volume are amplified by having read all that preceded it; without that context, I (and possibly you — be forewarned) would not have gotten quite as much out of this last hurrah.  As it is, and as you can clearly see above, I loved it to bits.

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#596: The Dartmouth Murders (1929) by Clifford Orr

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The name Clifford Orr first came to my attention on account of the Roland Lacourbe-curated ‘100 Books for a Locked Room Library’ list featuring Orr’s second and final novel, The Wailing Rock Murders (1932).  So when that title cropped up in this twofer of Orr’s complete output, I snapped it up and just had to wait for sufficient snow to clear from the peak of Mount TBR.  And, as it happens, I’m posting this review of his debut novel The Dartmouth Murders (1929) a mere two days after what would have been Orr’s 120th birthday — entirely by accident, as anyone who has met me in real life will be able to attest.  Such organisation is not one of my strong points.

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