Sunday, July 3, 2011

Vintage Mystery Sunday: The Mystery of Hunting's End

It's Vintage Mystery Sunday and time to step into my vault of classic mysteries and choose one to feature that I read and loved before blogging took over my life and I began reviewing everything I read. This week's featured book takes me back again to my early days of vintage reading. The Mystery of Hunting's End by Mignon Eberhart showed up in a boxful of books that my Grandma had decided to send to her eager reader granddaughter. I'm not certain if the books were hers or if she had just found them at a garage sale and thought of me. Either way, I was already deep enough in my bibliomania that I wasn't going to look a gift book in the covers (or some odd mangling of a proverb). Among the other books were a couple of Man From U.N.C.L.E. adaptations, the book version of the Hayley Mills film The Parent Trap, and several others that I can't recall.

By far, the favorite was the mystery. It was a Crime Club hardback with the man with the gun logo. I reread it I don't know how many times. And then, sometime between junior high and marriage, it disappeared. It's the only book I used to own that went astray and I have no idea what happened. A few have gone missing when borrowed....but Hunting's End? That one's a real mystery. It then became my mission in life to hunt up another copy. A few years ago I got my hands on a paperback copy, but I'm still on the lookout for a replacement Crime Club edition.

I think one of the reasons I liked Hunting's End so much was that it was my first locked room mystery. I also enjoyed the atmosphere--one of Eberhart's strong suits. Set in the rolling and desolate landscape of the Sand Hills of Nebraska, where Mignon G. Eberhart lived as a newlywed, this 1930 mystery revolves around a weekend party at Hunting’s End, a lodge owned by the rich Kingery family. Matil Kingery has invited a strange collection of guests to join her on the outing—the same people who were at the lodge when her father died of “heart failure” exactly five years ago. She has come to believe that her father was murdered and intends to find out which of the guests is the guilty party.

Among the guests is the dapper young detective Lance O’Leary who is posing as an acquaintance of Matil's. At his recommendation Matil has also engaged Nurse Sarah Keate to take care of Aunt Lucy while they're at the lodge—a fairly unpleasant assignment, as it turns out. Aunt Lucy is a crotchety old woman with a tongue as sharp as Nurse Keate's and who seems to know more than is good for her. In the course of the weekend, a November snowstorm hits the area and the group is stranded. The atmosphere is not made any cheerier by a jittery collie named Jericho and a stray cat who seems to able to herald new, clearly unnatural deaths. As the storm continues, nerves get frayed,the cook starts drinking heavily, secrets start leaking out, and the death toll continues to rise.
Nurse Keate is the same eagle-eyed, sharp-tongued, strong-stomached angel of mercy and sleuth who was introduced to mystery lovers in The Patient in Room 18. Her popularity helped establish Mignon G. Eberhart as a mainstay of the golden age of detective fiction. The Mystery of Hunting's End, her third novel, received the $5000 Scotland Yard Prize in 1931 and by the end of the 1930s, Eberhart was one of the leading American detective novelists. In 1971, she received the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. She was also a past president of the Mystery Writers of America.

1 comment:

Louis A. Willis said...

I have never read any of Eberhart's novels, but reading your review jogged my memory. I found on my bookshelf "Woman on the Roof," which I bought at one of my local library's book sales. After reading your review, I plan to read the novel.