Sunday, March 4, 2018

Odor of Violets: Review

Odor of Violets (1940) by Baynard Kendrick is the third in the Captain Duncan Maclain series. Maclain is a private detective who lost his sight due to gassing in the First World War. He has gone through extensive training to help him enhance his other senses--especially hearing and smell. He also depends on two German Shepherd dogs--one acting as his guide dog in unfamiliar settings and the other serving as protection, having been trained to attack at the sight of weapons or threatening movements on the part of others.

This book finds Maclain working for the US Secret Service in the early days of WWII prior to America's entry into the war. Germany isn't taking the American neutrality for granted and has spies at work preparing to sabotage vital cities. They just need to get their hands on vital information about vulnerable points (the location of the city's power shut-off points, for example)--information that has been delivered to Maclain in a coded Braille message. But that's not all! Nazi spies are also trying to get information on a brand-new bomb sight that has been developed by Gilbert Tredwell. Life gets interesting when an actor-turned Secret Serviceman is killed with a poker (a man who just happened to have been the ex-husband of Mrs. Tredwell); Barbara Tredwell (daughter of the house) disappears--possibly kidnapped; and Bella Slater, the Tredwell's upstairs maid who isn't exactly what she seems, is killed with a very sharp battle axe. Maclain will have to follow the scent of violets if he is going to find the spies responsible for the deaths and who are behind the plot against America's cities.

Loved this mystery thriller starring a blind private eye. His heightened abilities (other senses) are much more believable than those of Max Carrados (a blind detective who first appeared in 1914). Where Carrados's ability to smell spirit gum and to read newsprint by touch seem more like parlor tricks, Maclain's abilities are explained through careful training. The book is an interesting combination of spy thriller and classic mystery. There are definitely clues to be followed and the sharp reader will spot those that identify the killer. Unlike many classic detective stories, the motive is never an issue--the motive is simply spycraft. The spies are Nazis and out to do their worst. 

I definitely enjoyed Maclain as the hero and will be on the look-out for more in the series. ★★

[Finished on 2/27/18]


TomCat said...

I read a whole slew of Captain Duncan Maclain mysteries years ago and greatly enjoyed them. They're pulpy in some regards, like the Batcave-style basement where Maclain trains, but the plots tend to be good. I can highly recommend The Whistling Hangman.

A note for the curious: Captain Duncan Maclain was reputedly the inspiration for the Marvel superhero Daredevil.

Jee Jay said...

There are at least two Hollywood movies from the 1940s with the Maclain character. One of them, "Eyes In The Night" is on YouTube.

I've seen it. Not good.

Bev Hankins said...

TomCat: If The Whistling Hangman comes my way, I will definitely keep your recommendation in mind.