Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings co-hosted a fun event – read a book from 1924 and report on it. Piece of cake, right? Well, apparently not for me. I started off with The Green Hat by Michael Arlen. What is it even about? I don’t know. I only read the first few chapters in which a woman named Iris Storm tries to visit her brother around midnight. Her brother is too drunk to receiver her. The neighbor below lets her in and is clearly fascinated with her. They chat until sunrise – a sort of boring, precious talk of Bright Young Things of 1924. I didn’t understand half their conversation. I also didn’t understand why, if he was moving, he sent all the bookcases ahead and left the books all over the floor. Surely this was odd behavior even in 1924?
So, I could tell I wasn’t going to finish that in time so I switched to So Big by Edna Ferber. It won the Pulitzer for 1924 and I loved Saratoga Trunk, so I thought this will go better. And it did at first. It is much more readable. The daughter of a gambler goes to a good girls’ school, they eat well when he’s in funds and struggle when he’s not, but I enjoyed this first part. Then she’s on her own and apparently spends the next 10 years or something becoming a bedraggled farmer’s wife. Well, I might keep reading it, but bedraggled farmer’s wives aren’t my thing at all. Plus it was still long to try to finish in the time left so I found on my Kindle A. Fielding’s the Eames-Erskine Case.
A. Fielding or A.E. is an almost completely forgotten mystery writer from around 1924 for about 20 years. She wrote 25 mysteries according to The Passing Tramp which also includes an entertaining hypothesis that A. Fielding was a pseudonym for A. Christie trying out a different sort of writing. There are some similarities especially to her adventure books – a plucky heroine investigating and getting herself in trouble (she doesn’t show up until halfway through) and a marked respect for the police and their abilities. The story is strange and rambling and overly complicated. It opens with a man finding a body in his hotel room wardrobe. The young man inside was supposed to have gone to the country for the weekend, but instead apparently took a large dose of morphia. There are many issues with this right off the bat. For one thing, he apparently unscrewed panels from the back of the wardrobe, but how did he put them back? He can’t have, of course. And then, there’s no sign of the morphia or anything to drink it from. Very sloppy work, murderer. If you want to kill someone and make it look like a suicide, you leave the means of suicide with the body. If you can get past these peculiarities and many more, it is not a bad read. Chief Inspector Pointer is a good character, although his roommate whom he talks things over with is fairly useless. He goes off to France for reasons we don’t know until he reveals them at the end, which is annoying. It’s the sort of book that can entertain if you’re a forgiving reader and annoy the heck out of you if you’re not. I probably will try another Fielding at some point. This is either her first or possibly second book, so she probably got better.
Spoileriffic addendum: Nope, the more I think about it the more senseless it gets. If you’re in a hotel and the wardrobe won’t open, don’t you call the manager or housekeeping? And if you do unscrew the back and then replace it, where do the extra screws come from which are later discovered in a suspect’s trunk? There shouldn’t be any extra screws. And I seriously doubt you can replace someone’s cough syrup with morphia, then put the cough syrup back and there are no traces of morphia in the bottle? This book is terrible. And yet not. Oh, someone else read this and let me know what you think.