Whatever I thought of this book, I was committed to reading more of Dorothy Blair and Evelyn Page’s Roger Scarlett mysteries as I had already bought volume 2 of the Coachwhip reissues — comprising the novels Cat’s Paw (1931) and Murder Among the Angells (1932). Impetuous? I prefer optimistic: the promise on display in their debut augured well for their future, and I believed remuneration would be found somewhere in these pages. So it’s either my own foresight or my stubborn inability to admit a mistake that sees me having a hugely enjoyable time with this one…I shall leave it to the reader to choose.
The classic GAD puzzle plot being the complex and obstreperous beast it is, we should not be surprised that sometimes it took two brains to wrestle in into readable shape (under a single name so as to simplify things) — Ellery Queen, Francis Beeding, Kelley Roos, Patrick Quentin, etc. Now, thanks to the work of Coachwhip and Curtis Evans, we can all add another collaborative nom de plume to our libraries with Dorothy Blair and Evelyn Page’s Roger Scarlett and their Boston-set country house conundra. And, as with their distinguished kin, they prove to have an equally troublesome first swing at this while also showing a huge amount of promise.
Fellow GAD blogger Noah Stewart has in the past talked about intertextuality in detective fiction, part of which is how each mystery’s solution feeds into a general awareness of all other mysteries and their solutions. Essentially, reading detective fiction is then a game: has the author been able to mislead you about the solution? And the more you read, the harder this game becomes for these authors, especially as many of them wrote their books close to a century ago and so don’t really get the right of response where later developments in the field are concerned. The best GAD plots stand up to all subsequent attempts to innovate, and remain surprising.