Monday, January 1, 2018

The White Cottage Mystery: Review

In this case there doesn't seem to be any proof except that everyone is innocent...Everyone wanted to kill Crowther--everyone admitted they entertained the idea--everyone had an opportunity, and yet nobody did it. It's an incredible situation.
~Detective Chief Inspector W. T. Challanor

The White Cottage was first published by Margery Allingham in serialized form in The Daily Express (1927). It was later edited by her sister, Joyce, to remove the repetitions found so often in serializations and published in book form after Margery's death.

It opens with Jerry Challanor motoring along country roads when he spies a pretty young woman deposited along the road by a bus. She is struggling with a basket and he offers her a lift. She seems oddly unwilling to allow him to carry the basket into White Cottage for her and he is intrigued--both by her manner and her beauty. He dawdles a bit down by the gate--smoking a cigarette and and passing the time of day with the local constable when a shot rings out and a cry of murder goes up. Mr. Eric Crowther, the nearest neighbor to the cottage has been shot to death in the dining room. Jerry announces himself as the son of Chief Detective Inspector W. T. Challanor of Scotland Yard and soon his dad is on the case.

It doesn't take long for the Yard Inspector to discover that Crowther was a thoroughly unlikeable fellow. He took great delight in finding out secrets about anyone and everyone and then serving up unhealthy doses of mental blackmail. Crowther didn't want money...his only payment was the thrill he got from watching his victims' torment. Mental anguish was the coin of his realm...and it seemed that he had a hold over nearly everyone connected with the case from Mrs. Christensen of the Cottage to her sister (the pretty young Norah who had caught Jerry's eye) to his own manservant and the mysterious (and missing!) Italian who had been at his home. 

Challanor's search for the truth takes him to France where two documents will seem to give him the proof he needs. But every time he's sure the evidence is pointing towards a particular person, he finds that they couldn't possibly have done it. Until he's left with no one. But it is obvious that someone must have pulled the trigger. A single sentence finally puts him on the right track...but will justice really be served?

I have to admit to being thoroughly bamboozled by the plot twist. I thought for sure I had seen my way around one of the difficulties...only to be proved wrong. I do think the ending is a bit of a cheat, but it is still a thoroughly enjoyable light and breezy example of the early detective novel. It has just that hint of romance in it--that doesn't overpower the mystery plot. A short, quick read that was just right to kick off the new year. ★★ and a 1/2.

This checks off the "Color in the Title" category under "What" in the Golden Just the Facts Notebook. Also counts for the Winter Respite Readathon.

1 comment:

Timdani said...

Congrats on your first Monthly Keyword Challenge being done. I just finished mine too. I'm so glad that you are hosting it this year. I was sad to see it gone last year. Thanks!