Saturday, December 15, 2012


Pages: 171
Date: 15/12/2012
Grade: 4+
Details: Received from Vintage
              Through Nudge

The body of a young woman is found in the doorway of an elegant New York apartment. The woman’s face has been blown away by a shotgun but since the apartment belongs to Laura Hunt who lived there alone, the body is soon identified as being hers. Mark McPherson, a detective working for the New York Police Department doesn’t usually investigate murders but has been assigned this case anyway. And it isn’t long before he finds himself intrigued by the woman who was Laura Hunt; an independent career woman in an age in which those were rare and not quite accepted yet; a woman who was proud of her ability to look after herself but still wanted and needed that big love in her life.  And the men closest to Laura are fascinating McPherson too. The vaguely familiar fiance the detective can’t quite place and the suave and self-obsessed friend, Waldo Lydecker who seems as eager to praise the dead girl to the heavens as he is to show up her limitations. Laura was a woman who inspired passions in those who knew her and much to his amazement, McPherson finds himself falling for the deceased woman he has never met while alive. When he returns to Laura’s apartment one stormy night, McPherson makes a shocking discovery; one that will turn his case on its head and cause new suspicions to arise as well as new threats to emerge.

This was a fascinating mystery, quite unlike anything I’ve read in the recent past. Originally published in 1943 this book is probably very much a product of its time and in many ways it is a classic mystery; a gruesome murder described in little detail with a limited cast of suspects. One of the things that makes this book extra-ordinary is that the book is narrated by three different characters in turn and in several different formats. With that many narrators there is always the risk of giving away too much information, of the solution to the mystery becoming obvious long before the end of the story. It is due to the cleverness of the author that this wasn’t the case in this book. Although I did zoom into the guilty party fairly early on in the book that had nothing to do with what that particular character said or wrote; it was pure instinct. Giving several characters the opportunity to write or tell their story in their own words does require some suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader though. If you had committed a murder and were writing about that and subsequent events you would mention the fact that you had committed the murder. After all, your papers or journal would be private to you so there would be no reason to be secretive. Of course no such revelations are to be found in the papers our investigator has at his disposal, which, while it does mean the mystery stays unresolved until the very end, does make the story less realistic.

On the other hand, the author has to be applauded for the way in which she manages to give the various characters in this story their own, unique voice. Laura sounds nothing like the McPherson and nobody could ever sound like Waldo Lydecker. Another thing Mrs. Capari did very well was convey the atmosphere and environment in which the story takes place without indulging in lengthy descriptions. The hints the reader gets about the characters and their surroundings are subtle, clever and very revealing. They paint a vivid picture of the true natures of the characaters and of the world they inhabit.

I would call this a literary mystery. This book is as much about the writing, about style and about the quirks of people as it is about the mystery of who killed the beautiful young woman. It is also a book with a sense of humour; Waldo Lydecker, who narrates the first part of the book, doesn’t like mysteries yet is writing about the murder of his friend, Laura, with a certain amount of glee.

Despite the book only having 171 pages this is not a quick read. The writing requires attention and concentration from the reader and I found myself taking short periods of time out of my reading in order to visualize something which had just been described.

I would call this a clever and literary mystery. A good book for anyone who enjoys beautiful writing with their bloodshed.

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