Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Ticking Clock: Review

The Ticking Clock (1962) is one of Frances & Richard Lockridge's stand-alone mysteries. It is a suspense-driven novel that doesn't bring in any of their series characters, even peripherally. I find these novels to be the least appealing of the Lockridge efforts. I'm less inclined to the suspense thriller anyway, but it helps when they bring in Captain Heimrich or Lt. Shapiro or Bernie Simmons for at least part of the investigation or the wrap-up. Another weakness in this novel is the lack of interaction and dialogue. Nearly all of the "conversation" (if that's what we want to call it) is an inner dialogue that Constance Dale, our heroine, has with herself. One of the strengths of the Lockridge books is in the conversations. The dialogue is always vibrant and very real and it adds a depth to the books that is sadly lacking here.

Constance Dale has come East from California to investigate her inheritance. As the nearest relative to dear old Great-Aunt Adelaide, she has been saddled with a gigantic white elephant of a house. Her house agent has tried diligently to sell the thirty-some room mansion for two years, but with no luck. So, Constance finally decides to look things over for herself and see if, at the very least, she might be able to sell some of the furniture to cover the taxes and upkeep. Then she'll head to New York City, conduct some business for her West Coast company, have a bit of a vacation, and head home.

But the best laid plans...

When Constance looks over the house, there is evidence that someone has been there. The grandfather clock is ticking away...and it's set to the right time. At first she ascribes the clock to the couple who looked over the house shortly before she arrived. Maybe they just wanted to see if it still worked. But then she comes back later that evening to see a light on in one of the rooms. A light that clicks off as soon as her car's headlights hit the house. And there's the feeling that someone is watching her during the night. And finally there's the cry that sounds an awful lot like a child. In addition to the odd happenings around the house, there is her nearest neighbor and distant cousin Jonathan who keeps popping up at the strangest times and who seems be suspicious of her. When she discovers a kidnapped child being held captive in her house, she doesn't know whom she can trust.

Most of the suspense in this story is built up through that inner conversation that Constance has. We follow her thoughts and her fears. It's not quite in the "Had I But Known" category, because Constance doesn't spend any time at all foreshadowing events like that. It's more like a more coherent stream-of-consciousness where we know all about what she's thinking the whole time. The saving grace of the book is the few conversations that are had--between Constance and Jonathan, between the kidnappers and the father of the child, between the kidnappers themselves, and the brief glimpses we get of the policemen involved (even though they aren't any of our usual Lockridge friends). I think Constance could have been just as engaging as other Lockridge heroines, but since she's so much on her own in this one we're just not given the chance to find out. ★★

This counts for the "Clock" category on the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card--it replaces Dead Against My Principles (which will now count for "Dead Body.")


fredamans said...

I wonder if being a first time read of this author, it might be different for me having not familiarity to his characters? It just sounds so good to me.

Bev Hankins said...

Freda--that is a good point. It certainly might appeal to you, especially if you like more suspense-driven books.