Sunday, August 28, 2011

Vintage Mystery Sunday: Death Lights a Candle

It's Vintage Mystery Sunday and time to spotlight another classic mystery that I read and loved before I began blogging and reviewing every book I read. A lot of these books come from a time when I was a reader....period. No journaling, no notes. I kept a list of what I read and assigned a rating, but that's it. So quite a bit of my comments will be based on what my rapidly-aging, sieve-like memory will produce for me...that and the little jolts I give it by reading descriptions from the back of the books, the library website, Amazon, etc. I just want to take a moment each weekend and introduce you to some vintage mysteries that you may not know....or, perhaps, remind you of some golden oldies you may have read in the past.

This week I am highlighting Death Lights a Candle by Phoebe Atwood Taylor (1932). I had the great pleasure of borrowing the Pocket Book edition of Asey Mayo's second mystery outing from my good friend Richard. I was sorely tempted to run off with it....regular readers will remember how much I love those pocket-sized editions of classic mysteries. I was good and resisted temptation. But the story would have been enjoyable no matter what form the book came in. I have fondness for the "Codfish Sherlock," as Asey has sometimes been called. His down-to-earth detective work generally satisfies. And I remember it doing so in this case.
Prudence Whitsby and Asey Mayo team up once again to get to the bottom of a murder on Cape Cod. And there is no shortage of trouble around that March. Prudence accepts an invitation from Rowena Kible to the Cape in order to give her a break from Boston. They are then summoned to join a house-warming party across the street--a new mansion owned by Adelbert Stires. The party no more than gets started when some serious snow begins to fall. And where is their host? The small group of guests, their servants, and local handyman, Asey Mayo, are all trapped by the snowstorm--cut off from the world outside. But then Bert Stires manages to show up on foot. He is wet and cold and more than 24 hours overdue from when he left Boston, but no one thinks to ask where he's been or what happened to him. They will have missed their chance, because the next morning he is discovered in his locked bedroom, dead. The doctor proclaims death by poisoning, probably arsenic. But almost everyone is found to have arsenic among his or her possessions. And there are just about as many people with reasons to want Stires dead.

It's then that Asey takes charge of the investigation. Since his first outing in The Cape Cod Mystery, Asey has been elected as sheriff and he now has a badge to give him more authority in his labors. The snow piles up deeper and deeper and so do the questions. How was the arsenic administered? And by whose hand? As the book's title would suggest, there is a candle involved and Asey must decide how that light figures into the mystery before he can bring the crime home to culprit.

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