Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Death Dines Out: Review

Death Dines Out by Theodora Du Bois (1939) features medical investigator Jeffrey McNeill and is narrated by his lovely young wife Anne. Jeffrey and Anne are invited to a dinner party at the home of one of their wealthy neighbors, Clancy Harrison. All the ingredients for a lovely evening are on hand--from the usually delightful guests to the fine food and drink always found a party planned by Clancy's wife Mary. But tension rather than laughter fills the air around the table. Earlier that day, Harrison had words with his nephew and his nephew's fiancee regarding the former's failure of an important medical exam. Harrison has threatened to cut off his nephew's allowance--which would force Bill Frick to leave medical school. Anne is also the focus of negative emotions. David Proust has been flirting with and openly pursuing her and David's wife Nona believes Anne to be seducing her husband.

When Anne is stricken with odd breathing and muscular symptoms during dinner--resulting in a need for her husband's professional skills--and then when that excitement dies down their host is found dead beneath the dining room table, it is unclear if Anne or Clancy was the intended target. The police are ready to fasten on Bill and/or Jane-Lee (fiancee), especially when they learn that Harrison had talked of changing his will to cut his nephew out. Anne is quite sure that their young friends are innocent and Jeffrey will have to use all his investigative skills to find the clues that will prove whether she's right.

Jeffrey is a very active medical investigator. Not only does he doing the scientific bits to narrow down the cause of Anne's symptom's and Harrison's death, but he also dons a disguise so he can make off with the garbage cans of various suspects. He roots around through garbage heaps, catches frogs to use as guinea pigs, and interviews possible murders. 

It took me a while to warm up to Jeffrey and Anne. In the beginning chapter, he seems very dismissive towards her--even chastising her over burnt toast--and Anne seems more than unusually scatterbrained. But as the story progresses their relationship settles down to one of affection and verbal banter. This isn't the first of the McNeill series, but that false-start makes it seem like it.

However, the mystery itself is a good one. Clues are laid on early and the astute reader has ample opportunity to figure out the killer even before Jeffrey does. I managed the who and how, but the clues as to motive managed to slide by me and kept me wondering until the end. Overall, a very solid and enjoyable read. ★★ and a half.

For more information on Theodora Du Bois and her series, please check out The Passing Tramp for a guest post by Lisa Kucharski. Lisa has done her detective work and provides a good summary of Du Bois and her work.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

The dynamic between husband and wife would probably irk me. It was normal for that time I'd imagine though. Great review!