Friday, September 14, 2018

The Invisible Thief: Review

The Invisible Thief (1978) is the first of Thomas Brace Haughey's Christian-themed pastiche of the Sherlock Holmes style. Geoffrey Weston is the grandson of Mycroft Holmes and, like his great-uncle Sherlock, has set himself up as a consulting detective in Baker Street (not at 221B, however). His side-kick John Taylor is more of a true partner in detecting than John Watson was. He may be admiring of Weston's abilities, but Taylor is just as capable--performing laboratory tests, developing photos, and helping Weston look for clues at the crime scenes. The Christian themes are very strong--Weston and Taylor pray before setting out on a case and Weston challenges several of suspect's philosophies and counters with lessons from the gospel.

Dr. Arthur Heath, the Director of Pinehurst Laboratory comes to Weston when vital documents disappear from his safe in a room with only one entrance, no windows, and no secret passages. The thief managed to get into the laboratory without being seen on any of the cameras which guard the top-secret establishment and was able to get into the safe without breaking in--even though no one else knows the combination. Weston believes the security guards when they swear that the camera feed was never left unmonitored all night. But after examining the hallway and finding curious scratches along the wall and an oddly-shaped glass bead as well as noticing a few interesting glimmers on the security tape, Weston begins to see how the deed was done. The question that remains is why? What exactly is in  the secret papers that no one wants to admit--even if it would help the detective find them? 

Then Dr. Heath is found dead from a gunshot wound. Despite the fact that everything points to suicide, Weston is convinced that there is an evil mind orchestrating events. And he's absolutely certain when he foils another attempt to drive another Pinehurst scientist to shoot himself. Weston uses logic and his faith to expose the guilty one.

I loved these novels when I read them from the youth library when I was young (and liked them so much, I bought them to add to my collection). I was still working my way from Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie to other mystery authors and was intrigued when I saw the connections to Holmes in the blurb. The mystery plot is quite nicely done in this series that was sold from the young adult section but carries some very heavy themes. It was definitely a new-to-me (at the time) solution to the "locked room" (or in this case "locked laboratory building") scenario. I've since read other stories with similar solutions, so it wasn't quite the surprise during my reread. I had a general memory of the basic idea, but couldn't remember the finer details. There is also a slightly mystic Christian portion that one will either accept or not--but it works with the way Haughey presents his characters. I gave it ★★★★ when I read it 30ish years ago and I won't argue with that now.

[Finished 9/5/18]


TomCat said...

Believe it or not, but you found a locked room novel I had been completely unaware of. So thanks for that. Always nice to have an excuse to add them to the never-ending wish list.

Anyway, the combination of an impossible crime plot with Christian themes sounds like Kel Richards could have written.

Bev Hankins said...

TomCat: If you get hold of it, I'll be interested to see what you think of the solution. The solution to the locked room theft is fair (as in not a cheat), I think. But the solution to the death and the attempted suicide takes a buy-in to certain beliefs. That's all I'll say for fear of spoiling it.