Sunday, November 3, 2013

Maid to Murder: Review

Maid to Murder by Roy Vickers (1950)

"It would be grand to help you find poor old Velfrage. Pretty obvious that something has happened to him. I mean - well, he may have been murdered, mayn't he?"

Mr. Velfrage is a solicitor charged with the care of the famously cursed Rabethorpe diamond. Bruce Habershon is a mild-mannered, respectable businessman who is sent home sick by his motherly secretary.  On the way home, Haberson quaffs too much quinine (trying to bring that dratted fever down), picks up Velfrage (whose car has broken down) and delivers him to his destination, promptly loses Velfrage altogether, and wakes up in hospital after suffering from quinine-induced delusions and running his car into a lamppost. He finds a glittery, peacock feathered woman's bag about his person and takes it to the local police department.  The bag winds up in the hands of Inspector Kyle of Scotland Yard after the infamous Rabethorpe diamond is found in the lining.

When Kyle questions Habershon about the bag, Habershon tells a tale full of disappearing solicitors,  Disney dwarves, red-headed maids, gangs of nefarious criminals, open safes, and bodies wrapped in carpets.  As Kyle and Habershon try to sift the facts from quinine delusions, Habershon is prompted by two beautiful women who are just as deeply involved in the mystery as he is. Two murders and an attempt later, Kyle gathers everyone concerned--Habershon; the four "gang" members; a real-live, small-time burglar; the two lovelies; and a dotty old woman who may or may not be the Rabethorpe heir--in the house where Velfrage disappeared.  Using the classic Golden Age methods, he'll reveal all in the final scene.

Reading this one was like sitting down for one of those old, black & white, B-movie, mysteries that used to get shown on Saturday and Sunday afternoons (back in the dark ages when there weren't hundreds of channels--before AMC and any others dedicated to classic movies).  Madcap mystery! Hero hiding out from the law and trying to clear his name!  Beautiful dames!  Rotten crooks!  A bit of amnesia!  Cursed jewels!  Lots of mysterious goings on and a big reveal at the end.  There really isn't much of a surprise when the crooks are fingered--but it's so much fun getting there that you really don't mind.  A rollicking good time with a wonderful protagonist--it's great fun watching to see how Habershon's going to prove his innocence.  Four stars.

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