Thursday, October 28, 2010

Death in Clairvoyance

As I mentioned in my WWW Wednesdays post, Death in Clairvoyance by Josephine Bell is a late Golden Age mystery featuring doctor and amateur detective David Wintringham. I've read several mysteries by Bell, but haven't come across the good doctor before. The book reads as though he is a recurring character--to my mind, not a bad thing. I like the doctor's approach to mysteries and his four children are charming as small sleuths-in-training.

In this story, Wintringham and his wife attend a costume ball at a local hotel in the town where they are on holiday. Wintringham dresses as clown in a green and white white suite with white frills at the wrists and neck. A black skull cap and black half mask complete the costume. Later, he finds that five other men have appeared in the same costume. During the course of the evening Odette Hamilton, a clairvoyant, "sees" an encounter between two of the clowns that leaves one dead. It becomes apparent to her and her friend that she has had a vision of future events (because there is no body where it should be....yet). And they decide to try and keep track of all the either warn or prevent. But six clowns prove too much for the two ladies and eventually events run their course in exactly the manner Mrs. Hamilton has foreseen. What she hadn't foreseen was that the murdered man was her estranged husband.

The rest of the novel has Wintringham and Inspecter Redbourne trying to track the movements of the other four clowns. Why did Hamilton come down to the vacation town? Who had a motive to kill? Is Mrs. Hamilton the clairvoyant she claims or is she trying to distract from her own motive? All of these questions face the detectives as they try to sort out the mysteries of the disappearing and reappearing clowns.

This novel is a charming, vintage mystery. Typical of the time period with a set number of suspects confined to a certain area and plenty of red herrings drawn across the path. A very enjoyable that would have gone much quicker if I hadn't taken time out to watch Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window with my son last night. The supporting characters are finely drawn and more life-like than some of the era's cardboard cut-outs. It also sports an exciting ending that begins with Wintringham's children in danger...but not too much danger for this soft-hearted reader (I don't like intense kid-in-danger stories) and ends with a seance to flush out the guilty party. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the mysteries of this period. A good solid three stars out of five.

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