Saturday, March 3, 2012
The Greenwell Mystery: Review
First published in 1932, The Greenwell Mystery is E. C. R. Lorac's third novel starring Inspector Robert MacDonald. Lorac is one of two pen names for Edith Caroline Rivett, a British mystery writer and member of the Detection Club. Rivett wrote a total of 71 detective novels--48 under the Lorac moniker and another 23 under the name Carol Carnac. Her novels are primarily police procedurals following the investigations of Chief Inspector MacDonald (or Inspectors Ryvet and Rivers in the Carnac books).
The Greenwell Mystery takes the reader into the realm of the scientific thriller. Ian Campbell, a brilliant young research chemist employed by Science Incoporated (in Greenwell), was on the brink of revealing the secrets of a valuable oil hydrogenization process to his employer and mentor, Sir Samuel Blakely, when he disappears. Has he, as circumstances seem to suggest, faked his disappearance and taken his process to a higher bidder? Or has he really been kidnapped by one of Blakely's competitors--hoping to steal the process and make millions? Blakely has complete confidence in his protege's innocence and loyalty and he asks Scotland Yard to allow Chief Detective Inspector MacDonald to investigate for him. The hunt will take MacDonald to a deserted house (and an interesting meeting with a black cat), on a wild plane ride, and a hunt through the foggy country side before making the final capture.
This story is a little more high-speed than previous Lorac books that I have read, but still thoroughly enjoyable. MacDonald is pain-staking in his investigations--but never plodding--and a very likeable detective. But the best part of the story? A very intelligent young woman. Miss Lois Brendon is the daughter of Campbell's landlady and very fond of Campbell. When a young man approaches her, wearing the appropriate school tie, claiming to have been at university with Campbell and telling her that the young scientist has stumbled to his doorstep--and is even now laying hurt and wanting to see her, she--unlike so many of her kind in early thrillers--does not go rushing off with him to an unknown destination. No. She manages to make the first capture of the whole show. (You've got to read it--it's a delightful passage).
There are plenty of adventures to suit the fan of the thriller. Rivet had a real gift for dialogue and her characterization is very solid. I lean more towards classic mysteries rather than espionage, but this one is a winner. Three and a half stars--verging on four.
Favorite quote (right after the above-mentioned episode with Miss Brendon):
"That's the beauty of it," replied Worsley happily. "Life's usually all humdrum, trivial round and common task, you know, but it doesn't furnish all I've got to ask, by a long chalk. The only thing I'm sorry about is that you should have been worried by this tripe merchant, otherwise, I've enjoyed it all no end. If you only knew how I've been thanking my lucky stars that I decided to cut Metallurgy today, so that we all synchronized on the bridge."
*This also counts for the A-Z Book Challenge--not enough room in the label area for all the challenges.