Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tuesday Night Bloggers: Murder in Any Language

It doesn't matter if you call it moord (Dutch) or assassiner (French), crimă (Romanian) or cinayet(Turkish), it all translates as the murder of the apparently charming, but oh-so-despicable blackmailing Spanish teacher Gerald Stewart in Murder in Any Language (1948) by Kelley Roos. Haila Troy has no idea that a few weeks worth of free Spanish lessons will land her and her husband Jeff in the middle of yet another murder mystery. After all, who would expect her charming instructor to be found stabbed to death at the very respectable Randall School of Languages? 

That's what happens after Haila receives a phone call from the ebullient Mary Connors. Miss Connors asks Haila if she would mind switching lesson days and times--just this once--so Miss Connor can brush up on a funny story in Spanish to share with her date that evening. Haila is happy to oblige and help the cause of true love...

Mary Connors would be forever happy because I had given her the opportunity to take that last crucial lesson. I was Mrs. Santa Clause. I was Dan Cupid's little helper.

But Haila has to go to the school anyway. Jeff was supposed to meet her there after her lesson and she is unable to get hold of him by telephone to call it off (isn't it amazing how cell phones have changed things?) She arrives early--just in time to be on hand when the body of Gerald Stewart is found with a knife in his chest (unlike the illustration on the cover of the book...). It looks like Mary Connors wanted that lesson time slot for more than just a brush-up on her Spanish. But who is Mary Connors? And did she even really exist? Jeff and Haila will track down several clues in an effort to help Lieutenant Hankins get to the bottom of the mystery--from the diamond and emerald pin that appears and disappears at regular intervals to the dead man's closet chock-full of negligees and stockings...and a very special hunter green and gold embroidered jacket. Other clues include two sets of hairpins, a torn up photograph, a bandaged foot, the need for $5,000 which ceases to exist once Stewart is dead, and a railway time table.

Jeff and Haila Troy are another edition of the husband and wife detective team that includes such examples as Pam & Jerry North; Nick & Nora Charles; and Pat & Jean Abbott, among others. The story is told from Haila's point of view and we get quite a bit of her insights and here inner monologue--which is quite funny. In my recent readings, I find that I enjoy the couple's wit and interactions a great deal more than the Abbots. Haila notices Jeff noticing other women, but she doesn't have the same insecurities and jealousies that Jean Abbott does. The couple make a good team and Haila often spots little clues that help move the plot along.

As the Tuesday Night Bloggers focus on academic mysteries this month, I particularly noticed the theme of respectability. In so many of these academically-inclined books, the headmaster or dean or university president or what-have-you seems more concerned with the school's reputation than the fact that someone has been killed. We must save the good name of the school at all costs! Leonard Randall is the head of the language school. He's 40% businessman and 60% Puritan...and 100% certain that there mustn't be a whisper of scandal in connection with the school's good name. Lieutenant Hankins soon teaches him a thing or two about the course of justice. 

It was a very pleasant reading experience to combine my favorite mystery sub-genre (academic mysteries) with the entertaining adventures of the Troys. ★★ and 3/4. 

This counts for the "Knife" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.


Brad (ahsweetmystery) said...

Sounds like fun, Bev! And I have my first Jeff and Haila Troy mystery coming up in a few weeks!

Kate said...

Not a Roo novel I am familiar with, so thanks for the review.

fredamans said...

This sounds like a great read.