Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The House of Sudden Sleep: Review

The House of Sudden Sleep (1930) by John Hawk gives Assistant District Attorney, Rodney Colt, the chance he's been waiting for--the opportunity that he can take on a big murder mystery and solve it like a pro. His boss is away on vacation when David Ribblesdale is found dead at his desk. Ribblesdale appears to have just lain his head down for a little nap and, quite literally, slept himself to death. Was it natural causes? Suicide? Or maybe even murder? Ribblesdale's partner (and Colt's friend), Jimmy Armstrong is convinced that murder has been done and he is the one who brings Colt into the case. Two more members of the household also die under similar circumstances and the killer makes an attempt on one more before Colt gets his man/woman.

Hawk makes an effort to give this fairly straight forward detective novel a sinister atmosphere. Somehow Colt (and the readers) are supposed to believe that the house is having some kind of odd effect on its inhabitants. An effect that makes them sleep themselves to death. But our observant hero notices little clues here and there that cause him to know there is a human agent behind the deaths. As he investigates, various suspects emerge.

There are rumors of infidelity--but did David cheat on his wife or did Suzanne cheat on him? Had his wife tired of his philandering? Or did she just get tired of him? The rumors include Suzanne's half-sister Dorcas. It seems that she and David were fond of one another. Just how fond? Did she kill him because she couldn't have him? Or perhaps he wanted her more than she wanted him and she killed out of frustration. Of course, there's also Jimmy. When it's revealed that he and Dorcas are deeply attached, Colt has to wonder if his friend eliminated the unwanted competition. And then...letters from Cynthia appear. Who is this mysterious woman and why was she threatening David? And if she did kill him, how did she get in the house and why did she feel the need to kill others?

Hawk does a good job of providing several suspects in a rather limited field (especially once the deaths start piling up). The atmosphere is good--though just a tad overdone in the beginning--and Rodney Colt is a likable protagonist. We're definitely rooting for him to solve the murders before his boss gets back in town. The ending was a bit perplexing--not in solution (which makes perfect sense) but in the way the climax was handled. It seemed to me that it was contrived to make the denouement exciting--even though it made little sense that certain precautions were not taken to prevent a final near-murder. [sorry--can't be more specific without spoilers] Overall a very entertaining read and I would be interested to know if Hawk wrote any other mysteries starring Rodney Colt. ★★ and 1/2.

Spoiler info in apparent empty space (just highlight with mouse if interested): So--the doctor, who believes he knows who the murderer is, sends Dorcas away for safety because he suspects she's next on the list. He sends her to his cottage in the country with a trusted man to protect her. But he doesn't warn the man not to let the suspected killer anywhere near her! So, up toddles the murderer, is welcomed with open arms, and nearly polishes off a fourth victim. All in the name of exciting ending...

Rick Mills over at Reading the Mystery League has also read The House of Sudden Sleep (and nearly all the Mystery League books). Check out his blog at the link.

[Finished on 9/30/18]


Carol said...

I do love the older mysteries, but I'm not convinced I need to give this one a try.

Kate said...

Love the cover of this one. I like the idea of a house that kills you with sleep but not sure a) I am ever likely to find a copy or b) whether the rest of the book would live up to expectations. But it is great to read about a new author and book nevertheless.