Monday, August 10, 2015

The Cases of Susan Dare: Review

The Cases of Susan Dare (1934) by Mignon G. Eberhart is a short story collection starring one of the earliest female amateur detectives who also happens to be a mystery writer. Susan Dare, young and pretty, small but fearless, appears on the scene long before Jessica Fletcher ever stumbled across a corpse in Cabot Cove. With the aid of her trusty friend, Jim Bryne (top-notch reporter and bringer of the cavalry on many occasion), Susan doesn't just devise fiendish plots--she solves them as well. Susan relies a lot on her feelings--the feeling that something isn't right, that something doesn't add up, that she saw/heard/sensed something at some point in the ordeal and if she could just remember it then she would know who the culprit is OR, if she already knows but has no proof, then she would have the proof she needs OR she would know why it all happened. But then she also operates a bit like Sherlock Holmes--noticing clues that aren't revealed to the reader until she explains all in the wrap-up scene. And yet...there is something appealing about these stories. They aren't the best examples of fair play mysteries, but they are interesting and attention-grabbing all the same. A fair collection and the characters of Susan and Jim are well-drawn. One does want to know at the end of the Susan and Jim wind up with a happily ever after together? One thinks they should.  ★★ for a decent mystery collection.

Here is a run-down of the stories:

"Introducing Susan Dare": Susan's first case. She has been enjoying a holiday at her friend Christabel's in the Carolina hills when murder visits the Southern mansion with Christabel's former love as the victim. Susan gets involved when the evidence seems to point to her friend and she has to prove when red isn't red.

"Spider": Jim Bryne asks Susan to help Caroline Wray discover what's behind the evil she feels overshadowing her family's home. When Caroline's adopted sister is shot, it looks like only Caroline could have done. Susan once again steps in to prove how someone who wasn't there did the deed.

"Easter Devil": Susan comes to another evil-ridden mansion--this time undercover as a nurse. Felicia Denistry is convinced that an Easter Island idol is the source of all the accidents happening to the people and things she cares for. Susan knows that there is a human agent behind the superstition.

"The Claret Stick": This one finds Susan and Jim in the theatre world. Where the leading man has just landed the role of murder victim. But where is the weapon? And how did the murderer get past the man in the front office?

"The Man Who Was Missing": Susan takes up residence in a rooming house to discover how a ballerina's fiance could disappear from a locked house.

"The Calico Dog": A woman who knows Christabel (from the first story) asks Susan to help her decide between two men who claim to be her long-lost son. Derek Lasher disappeared when he was four years old--apparently kidnapped by his nursemaid. Now that Idabelle Lasher's husband has died leaving behind 30 million dollars, Dixon and Duane have each arrived with plausible stories and memories that only Derek could have. Will the real Derek Lasher please stand up? Murder and theft take place before Susan can get to the bottom of it.


Anonymous said...

Only read a few books by her in my life and never really took off in my mind, to be honest. Should try again, it's been ages!

fredamans said...

Sounds like a great collection of shorts. I'm fully intrigued by, The Man Who Was Missing. Great review!