Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blood Upon the Snow; Review

Blood Upon the Snow by Hilda Lawrence is an almost kind of book. The plot almost reeled me in. The mystery almost had me hooked. I almost liked the detective and the other characters. I almost cared what happened next. But I never really did. Lawrence never did provide the final spark that caught fire to make this story blaze for me.

On the face of it, it seemed like it would be a pretty interesting little vintage mystery. Written in 1944 and set on the snowbound East Coast, it had the makings of a good story. Private detective Mark East is hired by Joseph Stoneman to come to the elegant Crestwood estate. When he arrives, Stoneman tells him that all he wants him for is to act as his private secretary, but Stoneman's manner and nervous hands tell the detective another story. Then East learns of his employer's tumble down the cellar stairs. In the days that follow East's arrival, the cook dies in a mysterious fire and a housemaid disappears. Two more deaths follow and a snowstorm makes it quite plain that no one from the outside can be responsible for the mysterious events at Crestwood. As I said, all the makings of a good little classic mystery.

But Lawrence never quite gets all pulled together. There are no scenes or descriptions that allow the reader to form any sympathies with any of the central characters... or for that matter to form any definite dislikes and suspicions. The clues are odd and misplaced except for the whereabouts of the final corpse--I managed to guess that one! The wrap-up scene was confusing and once the final details were revealed I'm willing to agree that the culprit was a wrong-un, but I had no way of really determining that prior to that scene. East says "we" should have guessed when the rock went through the window, but I just don't see how.

The only character I really liked was Beulah Pond. She makes a nice counter-part to Mark East and is very brave in offering her services to help wrap-up the mystery. An intelligent, useful woman who doesn't flinch at danger instead of the shy, retiring or fainting young girl in need of male assistance.

Overall: Two and a half stars (the extra half goes to Miss Pond)

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