Monday, March 3, 2014

The Darker the Night: Review

So, apparently the theme for this year's mysteries is...hypnotism. The Darker the Night by Herbert Brean is the third book I've read this year to employ hypnotism as a major plot point. We've had hypnotism to provide an alibi; we've had an entire household hypnotized and creating red herrings all over the place with their odd behavior. This round we have one of the suspects, self-proclaimed hypnotist Gary Price, declaring that men and women he hypnotizes "will obey me without question. I can turn honest men into thieves and virtuous women into wantons. I can, by suggestion, make a man kill himself or another man...." And that is the crux of the matter.  Can he? And, more importantly, did he? 

Freelance photojournalist Reynold Frame (who was introduced to mystery readers in Wilders Walk Away) has just finished a hefty assignment in New York City and is looking for a little rest and relaxation during the Thanksgiving holiday before heading to Massachusetts to marry the girl of his dreams, Constance Wilder). While at loose ends, he notices an article in the paper that reports the mysterious death of the uncle of a girl he'd known in college. The police are calling it either an accident or a suicide, but when Reynold discovers that the lawyer had been in contact with Gary Price and his crowd he begins to wonder about the power of suggestion. Then another member of the group takes a plunge off her own balcony...and Reynold suspects that Lee Ballantyne (the niece) may be next on the list if somebody doesn't do something. Despite having sworn off detecting, he decides that "somebody" must be him.

If you're looking for a twisty, Golden Age brainteaser, then this isn't it. But if you want a fast-paced mystery that is lots of fun, easy on the brain, and a quick read for that Vintage Bingo Challenge, then this may be what you're looking for. And--Brean is the first of the three to use hypnotism without making it too cheesy and unbelievable. The hypnotism actually works into the plot without solving all of the problems for our hero. The crime itself isn't quite as mystifying as Wilders Walk Away, but still a nice satisfying read.  Three and a half stars.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

I have been hypnotized once in therapy. There was no mystery behind it though. :-)
Great review, sounds like a fun read.