Sunday, March 5, 2017

Deal Me In Week #10: "P. Moran, Diamond-Hunter"

This is my first year participating in Jay's Deal Me In Challenge . In a nutshell--we line up 52 short stories for the year, we match those stories up to a card in a regular deck of card, and each week we shuffle our deck (of real cards) and draw a card from whatever remains in the deck. We're off and running for another week and this week I drew the two of hearts which corresponds to "P. Moran, Diamond-Hunter" by Percival Wilde (from Murder by Experts edited by Ellery Queen).
image credit
In the intro to this story, Dorothy B. Hughes, a well-known figure in the mystery field, tells us that true humor is "rare not only in the mystery writing but in literature as a whole." Humor is a somewhat individual quality particularly when written. While laughter may be contagious among an audience at a performance, readers are generally a solitary breed and if you don't quite see the humor then there isn't anyone else to jolly you along. Hughes finds this story "wondrously funny." I, on the other hand, found myself smiling a bit here and there--but definitely no lough out loud moments (which, to me, would indicate "wondrously funny"). What I did appreciate, as a die-hard mystery fan--particularly of Golden Age detectives, were the references to many of the classic detectives...from Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot to Lord Peter Wimsey and Ellery Queen. There are obvious references and subtle tips of the hat. There is also a clever mystery woven between the humor and the detective homages.

As the title indicates, P. (Peter) Moran is called upon to find some missing diamonds. A group of collectors have gathered for as club for a kind of monthly "show and tell" meeting. First editions of rare books, unique etchings, interesting paintings, priceless stampst...and eleven rose diamonds are all on display. During a short film (depicting one collector's trip to the Gulf to "collect" some fish), the diamonds disappear. A search of the room by those present does not find them. So Moran (who has been taking a detective correspondence course) is asked to try his hand. None of the collectors want to call in a real detective or the police because they don't want any publicity. Moran, with a little help from a brainy dame, manages to come up with the goods.

Anyone who has read the story should recognize the significance of the card image I chose for this one. 


J F Norris said...

I have the collection P. Moran, Operative and read the first two stories years ago then had to set it aside. Still unfinished! Wilde has a quaint humor that belongs to a long ago time. Couldn't read all of these stories one right after the other because the comedy is too tame and old-fashioned. I need some bite in order to laugh now.

Bev Hankins said...

John: I had the feeling that this was supposed to be some sort of send-up of a private eye crime story, but it just didn't quite make it. Kindof like a stand-up comedian whose timing is just a bit off. As mentioned--I did enjoy the hat tips to various classic detectives.

A non-E-Miss said...

I'm doing synopsis of all the short stories in my collection. I'm really struggling with this story which just isn't my thing so may use your summary. It's purely for my private use so I can refer to a title and see what any story was about instead of just remembering that I read it and it was about...? No Public Domain stuff. I've got this story in Hitchcock's "Spellbinders in Suspense" anthology. I'm more into supernatural and blood-curdling horror stories, but I love anything Hitchcock. But this story's a struggle for me, I'm afraid.

Bev Hankins said...

A non-E-Miss, sure. Thanks for checking with me. :-)