Monday, May 22, 2017

Deadly Nightshade: Review

Deadly Nightshade (1940) by Elizabeth Daly is the second in her Henry Gamadge series. Gamadge is a bibliophile and consultant on old books, autographs, and inks. He lives on the East Side of New York, but is willing to roam afield to investigate a suspicious signature....or an untimely death. This second adventure finds him returning to Maine (site of his first recorded case) at the behest of Detective Mitchell. Three children have been poisoned with nightshade berries with two recoveries and one fatality--and one more little girl is missing. The locals want to blame it on the gypsies camping in the woods.They're willing to accept that the berries may have been given out by mistake, but they want a scapegoat and are hankering to run the gypsies out of town.

Mitchell isn't sold on the idea, but he also can't find any other explanation. So, he calls upon Gamadge who has proven able in the past to see solutions that others miss. He soon discovers that a mysterious woman visited the homes of the children before they took ill. Was she a gypsy in disguise? Was she a harmless representative of a magazine as she claimed? Or did her disguise hide someone more closely associated with one or more of the families? A state trooper also died during that time period in what was determined to be an accident. But Gamadge wonders if that death is part of the same puzzle. Mitchell takes him around to meet the various families involved and slowly the bibliophile begins to see the pattern behind the poisonings. 

This is a rather intricate story that was, at times, a little hard to follow. I ascribe part of that to the fact this particular edition is abridged--not my preference for reading (especially mysteries), but thus far this is the only edition I've been able to find in my used bookstore/booksale ramblings. Fortunately, Gamadge is as engaging as ever and the supporting characters are interesting as well. The plot is a bit convoluted, but with a hint of belief suspension it does make sense in the end. I'd be interested to know if I'd figure it out when reading the unabridged version. Good solid fare and an enjoyable read. ★★

[Finished on 5/19/17]
This fulfills the "Mask" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

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