This week we'll take a look at The Scarab Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine. Van Dine was the pen name of art critic and author Willard Huntington White. While this is not the first book in the Philo Vance mystery series, it was my first introduction to the "American Peter Wimsey." Vance would seem to be so named based on his affected accent (droppin' the "g" from so many words among other verbal habits), his stylish (sometimes foppish) dress--monocle included--and intellectual attributes. Like Wimsey, he seems to have an aptitude for a great many surprising subjects from horses to archery; classical music to classic crime; Renaissance art to the appreciation of fine cuisine and wine.
In The Scarab Murder Case, the murder investigation takes Philo Vance to a private home that also serves as a museum of Egyptology. The victim is philanthropist Benjamin Kyle who is found at the feet of a statue of Anubis, god of the underworld, and apparently bludgeoned to death with a figurine of the goddess Sakhmet. There are suggestions by Egyptian servants that the death is divine retribution for disturbing ancient burial places and bringing objects to the museum. Vance becomes involved because his former college friend Donald Scarlett discovered the body and wants his help. The detective uses his knowledge of Egyptian history and customs as well his ability to interpret the evidence and clues left behind.
This is another book that I discovered at that small library with its treasure trove of vintage mysteries. I remember being fascinated with Vance and that the mystery was good enough to make me put the Van Dine novels on my TBO list. I thoroughly enjoy reading the Vance novels--even those that aren't quite as good just for the flavor and amusement. As it stands, I have read (and own) all but two. I look forward to owning the final books.