The Hollow Chest

This blog is in danger of becoming the Stupid Mystery blog.  I’ve just finished The Hollow Chest by Phoebe Atwood Taylor.   How did I find this book?   I don’t recall.  But I like to carry a paperback with me and it was a paperback and annoying as it was, I still wanted to find out whodunnit.  But really, you shouldn’t bother.  For one thing, it’s trying to be funny.  It’s best moments were when Mary would pick up on Witherall’s line of thought and back him up without coaching.  Other than that, the main character, Leonidas Witherall, is an idiot.   He apparently fails to recognize one of the villains, even though he’s the librarian at the school Witherall owns.   He sits talking on a curb with Mary until they’re garotted.  After which they’re perfectly capable of speech.  Hastings is one of the few capable and intelligent characters.  Why she used the name Hastings when there’s a much more famous Hastings out there, I’m not sure.  I could take it as satire, that Witherall is what Poirot would be like if he were a moron and Hastings being the genius crime solver, except that she didn’t do that.   After being smart and useful Hastings is nearly written out of the story.  The cops are boneheads.  Except for the one murder, this is essentially trying to be a loopy, Wodehousian mystery full of stray horses, mistaken identities, absurd chases, hiding from the authorities, very nearly pure goofiness which sounds like it ought to be right up my alley, but it’s just so contrived and unamusing.  Contrived, of course, is not necessarily a problem.   Wodehouse’s books are all contrived and usually delightful.  It’s the trying to be funny and failing I find so painful.  And Witherall’s always saying “m’yes” annoyed the heck out of me.


Sadly, while I’ve read a bit of other books, none has grabbed me and I set each of them aside in search of new and better pastures.   Hopefully this will change and I will be back with recommendations for things to read, not things to avoid.

It was published in 1941 though which makes it eligible for my Golden Age Mystery Bingo card.   I think I’ll go with L6 – features a mode of transportation.   Much of the book is about getting from one place to another by car, bus and taxi, but the big scene includes a horsecar, which I gather was a preliminary to the trolley that included a horse.


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