Friday, March 29, 2013

The Mystery of Hunting's End

The Mystery of Hunting's End by Mignon Eberhart is a reread for me.  I love this book.  I'm not sure how many times I've read it, but it doesn't matter and it doesn't matter that I already know the secret of the locked room.  If Nancy Drew was my gateway to mysteries, then Hunting's End was the book that made me fall in love with them.  There are several reasons why I have such a great fondness for this book.  One is that my grandma sent it to me when I was about 8 or 9.  It showed up one year in a boxful of books that 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 Eberhart's 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 was still on the lookout for a replacement Crime Club edition.  Thanks to John from Pretty Sinister Books I was able to get my hands on a copy this past October and I promptly put it on the list to reread and fulfill various challenges that allow (or demand) rereads.

Another reason I like Hunting's End so much is 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 knows that her father was murdered and intends to find out which of the guests is the guilty party.  She has to find out....she's in love with one of the young men and wants his name cleared.

Added to the guest list 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. 

This reread was like greeting an old friend.  I found myself nodding over familiar passages and anticipating others I remembered.  No matter how many other Eberhart books I've read since my first acquaintance with her, Hunting's End has remained my favorite.  The Patient in Room 18 is on deck for this will be interesting to see how it measures up.  Four and a half stars.


annieb said...

Boy, this post takes me back. My mother was a mystery lover and passed the gene on to me. I can't remember whether I have read The Mystery of Hunting's End, but I plan to look it up. I do remember reading Eberhart, Mabel Seeley, Emma Lathen, Josephine Tey, and, of course, Agatha Christie. There was no shortage of mysteries in my mother's house. Good, old-fashioned mysteries are still my favorite genre.

Bev Hankins said...

Yes, I started with mysteries (Nancy Drew), had a love affair with science fiction from about 12 through just after college, and have gone back to mysteries as my main favorite.

Debbie Rodgers said...

I just finished my first Eberhart a couple of days ago (Hasty Wedding). I eager to try more.

Although Hunting's End isn't one of the half-dozen more of hers that I have on my shelves, I'm going to be sure to be on the lookout for it!

TracyK said...

I enjoyed this post, both the history of why (and when) you read the book and the review. Thanks for this review.

Ryan said...

I've only read one of her books so far, and is was a nurse Keate book. I think this one would be something I would really enjoy.