Monday, June 2, 2014

Invisible Green: Review

For years up till World War II the Seven Unravellers, a loosely-knit club of mystery fans and crime hounds, had lived for the perfect crime. Each of them had their favorite type of mystery from the military man who dabbled in espionage to the policeman who preferred his detectives hard-boiled to the lawyer who was primarily interested in the facts of the case to the only female member who had a liking for the fairly-clued, but suitably obscure, sometimes filled with witty play on words classic crime. But each secretly thought they could solve one with the best of them if just given the chance. The club has long been defunct when they finally get their opportunity--but it may not be as amusing as they imagined. Because the victims in their personal mystery are the Unravellers themselves.

Dorothea Pharoah has decided after thirty years that it may be time for a reunion of the group. She has no sooner mailed the invitations than Major Stokes contacts her to say that he mustn't attend--the spies are on to him and  their leader, the mysterious Mr. Green, is out to eliminate him at any moment. She doesn't take him seriously as regards the spies, but she does sense that he is genuinely frightened so she asked Thackery Phin, a rather flamboyant private detective, to look into the matter. Phin settles down to keep an eye on the Major and his house...and the old boy dies right under his nose. The police are happy to call it natural causes--but Phin is not convinced. And when the other members start receiving strange clues in a spectrum of colors and then two more are killed, Phin is convinced that there is a conspiracy of sorts behind it--not international spies, but someone out to permanently unravel the Unravellers.

Invisible Green is an interesting take on the locked room or impossible crime novel. As our intrepid private detective, Thackery Phin tells us in his grand wrap-up scene, we have not one...not two...but three variations of the impossible crime.  The first is pretty standard--Major Stokes is found dead from apparent natural causes in a house that is locked up tighter than the crown jewels. The only access to the man was through a vary small window that would allow admittance to no one. Next up is a man who is murdered while all the suspects are milling about outside his home--but one door is locked and all other doors and windows are under observation. And, as a twist on the locked room/house, our last victim is killed while all the suspects are virtually "locked up in another house, miles away at the time of the crime."
It's a shame that John Sladek thought he needed to abandon the mystery genre for science fiction. In addition to this novel, he wrote only one other (The Black Aura) and two short stories before changing genres.  This was an entertaining tribute to the Golden Age that managed to pull off the classic crime feel in the 1970s. The wrap-up at the end is a bit long and convoluted--but overall a fun read and Sladek makes a decent effort at John Dickson Carr's locked room territory.  ★★★ and 1/2.

For more insight into Sladek's novel, be sure to visit Tipping My Fedora--Sergio reviewed this one as well back in 2012. 

This fulfills the Locked Room square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card.


fredamans said...

Sounds like an interesting read. I like the idea of a locked room mystery. :-) Great review!

John said...

I prefer BLACK AURA to this one. So much more bizarre and involving. If you haven't read that one I highly recommend it. Very much in line with the best of Carr.

Bev Hankins said...

John: Will have to look for it...

Ryan said...

I never know with they type of books if they are a love letter to the past, or a send up of the style.

Bev Hankins said...


I really think this one is in appreciation of the Golden Age style.