Thursday, February 9, 2017

All For the Love of a Lady: Review

All for the Love of a Lady (1943/44) by Leslie Ford. My particular editions each list 1943 as the original publication date. My good friend John over at Pretty Sinister Books [who reviewed this on back in July] has let me know that the 1943 comes from the story being serialized in The Saturday Evening Post beginning in December 1943, but was first published in book form in 1944. Once again I will be throwing myself on the mercy of Rich's court over at Past Offences to see if he will allow me to sneak this one in for his 1943 Crimes of the Century meme. Since I've already been given an honorable mention for one entry this year (and John used Ford's book for the 1944 round of the meme), I may be pushing my luck.

The original publication date isn't the only confusing thing about my editions--most particularly, the Popular Library edition (right). The back cover gives the following synopsis:

Something Old,
Something New,
Something Borrowed--
Something Dead

It was the wedding of the season. The bride was society's most beautiful darling. The groom was one of the richest men on the Eastern seaboard. To be invited was an honor; to be overlooked was social death. A few eager status seekers tried to sneak in--but there were all sent away in disgrace. Except for one uninvited guest, with a vital function to perform: MURDER.

Which would naturally lead the reader to expect the murder mystery to revolve around a murderous wedding. Nope. All the weddings even remotely connected to the story have taken place quite a while ago. And...that cover. I'll give you the black cat. That's important (not that any women are wearing a black cats as a chapeau...) but don't ask me where the spider and the mouse fit in because I have no clue (other than I'm totally claiming the spider for my scavenger hunt item). might very well ask...what is the story about? have Cass Crane who has been traveling all over the Far East looking for sources for rubber and other necessities for the American war effort. Cass seems to know a little too much about some things...and not enough about others. D. J. Durbin is a wealthy business man whose business may be a little on the shady side. He thinks he's going to get Cass to help him with his shady dealings. But death comes calling for him before he can really find out. Durbin's wife Courtney married the businessman for his money and a little short-term security. But she still holds a burning torch for her old flame Cass and will do just about anything to get him back--even though they're both married. To other people. Molly Crane, Cass's wife, is lonely and miserable and afraid. But is her only fear that she'll lose her husband to the wiles of the beautifil Courtney? Then there's Randy Fleming, a man who has always loved Molly and who may be counting on all the turmoil as his chance to swoop in and save her from her erring husband. And there's Horace Blodgett and his wife who host an all-too convenient dinner party at just the right time....And finally, there are the two mysterious business associates of Durbin's...who travel under assumed names and the equally mysterious Duleep Singh, who some call a mystic and who openly admits to Grace that he is a charlatan.

Cass comes home from abroad--but the only person who seems to know is the lovely Courtney. He didn't bother to call his wife. Molly is understandably hurt--but she still cares for her fellow and leaves him a bottle of his favorite alcoholic beverage as a "welcome home" present...then promptly goes to spend the night at Grace Latham's house (Grace is one of our recurring protagonists--widow and wanna-be amateur sleuth). Next day we find out that Durbin's chauffeur has been found dead in the house next door to the Crane's--from nicotine poisoning. Nicotine from a bottle of Scotch. Just like what was left for Cass. 

Initially, Colonel Primrose and the police believe that the chauffeur intercepted poison meant for Cass--possibly put there by a jealous Durbin who has seen Cass hanging about his beautiful wife once too often. But when Durbin is next on the list, they have to rethink their position. Were man and master killed by the same hand or is there more than one murderer at large? Colonel Primrose, despite Grace Latham's best interfering intentions, will ultimately get to the bottom of it once he determines who "had to murder All for the Love of a Lady."

The least misleading part of the book pictured above and the edition to the left is, indeed, the title. Because once you figure out which lady it refers to you can piece together who killed Durbin...and possibly his chauffeur. Is the lady Courtney? Did Cass Crane murder Durbin to free Courtney, and incidentally a large amount of cash, for another marriage? Did Randy Fleming set Cass up as chief murderer to pave the way to Molly's heart? Or are there other ladies who might be worth murdering for? Leslie Ford designs a plot that keeps the reader guessing and provides a fairly solid mystery to enjoy. ★★

This counts for the "Spider" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card and--if Rich is lenient--for the 1943 Crimes of the Century.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Bev, a tother brand new author for me and I like the sound of the solid plot. Thanks chum.

Anonymous said...

I've always liked these books as good soft examples of what I call the "brownstone" mystery. Grace Latham is just smart enough to be useful to the books and just dumb enough to not give away the ending before Colonel Primrose gets there. Precursors of the modern cozy, I think. I expect you know that this author is also "David Frome" who wrote the Mr. Pinkerton series? She had two completely different writing styles, which is always interesting.

Bev Hankins said...

Sergio: These are nice comfortable mysteries (I've reviewed a couple of others here on the Block).

Noah: Yes, I know about the David Frome books. In fact, I picked up several over the past couple years--I just haven't gotten around to them yet.