Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Glass Mask: Review

The Glass Mask (1944) by Lenore Glen Offord is the second in a series that features Georgine Wyeth (our point-of-view heroine) and Todd McKinnon (pulp mystery writer and our detecting hero)--who wind up marrying at the end of this one. Georgine is the single mother of Barby who absolutely worships her soon-to-be step-dad. Georgine leads the trio into their first mystery (Skeleton Key), but it is Todd's curiosity that keeps them at Tillsit House, the scene of the action in this adventure.

After taking Barby on an outing for her birthday, the trio are headed home when Todd asks to take a detour to pay a friendly call on a friend of a friend. In fact, the girl friend of Todd's friend Dyke, one of Barby's other heroes...and it Cousin Dyke asked them to stop, well, then, they just have to stop. So they do--and the fifteen minute courtesy call turns into a several day stay because Todd's mystery-gathering antennae come out. 

But back to the beginning. Tillsit House is the home of Nella and Gilbert Peabody. Gilbert has enlisted in the army and left Nella in the big house. Nothing unusual there. Except for the fact that Gilbert's aunt died shortly before he decided to sign up and now there are rumors flying around that he hastened auntie's death so he and Nella could get married. And that he enlisted so people wouldn't be able to think badly of him. The stress of worrying what the townspeople are thinking (but won't say to her face) is driving Nella crazy. When she finds out who Todd is, she begs him to see what he can find out. She doesn't even mind if finds out Gilbert did murder old Miss Tillsit. She just wants to know the truth.

Well, as soon as Todd starts digging, he stirs up a mess of trouble. The townspeople don't take kindly to an outsider nosing about, especially when the spotlight of suspicion lands on some of the prominent citizens. He finds all sorts of clues from a mattress with every inch of its surface pierced by tiny holes to a white mark found on the carpet beside the dying woman to a revolting toupee in an ancient trunk to a broken crystal jar. His main difficulty is proving whether someone else could have poisoned the old woman. The only person seen to enter the house was Gilbert--but Todd is certain the man is innocent. Barby will have to be rescued from a whispering, shadowy villain, Georgine will have a show-down with a judge, and the three will be driven out of town before a rough kind of justice will have been served.

Honestly, I expected more from this one. I had heard good things about Offord's Skeleton Key and Susan Dunlap tells us over at Mystery Files that The Glass Mask is one of Offord's best. But I wasn't too impressed. I think I was distracted by Barby. Not many vintage mysteries feature detectives with children--and even fewer have the children so involved in the story. Todd also didn't impress me much with his detecting skills. He does discover the killer and the motive in the end, but it seemed to be more luck than actual clue-following. I actually like Georgine very much (and she grabs most of the star-value for this read). She's a strong female character and I wish she'd been the detective. Her final scene with judge is quite memorable and enjoyable. ★★ and 1/2.

[Finished 10/21/18]


Jee Jay said...

Completely agree. I was especially unhappy about the daughter. So many stories ratchet up the suspense by putting a child in danger or threatened danger. Which this book did. For me, a deal-breaker right there.

The 'Skeleton Key' was completely different. Set on the West Coast soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor it presented a view of an American "war zone". That's the kind of thing I'd only read about in stories of The Blitz in the UK. There was also a decent plot and lively characters. I was sold on that book.

Now I have 'The Smiling Tiger' in my TBR pile. It will be the tiebreaker for me on Lenore Glen Offord.

Bev Hankins said...

I now have Skeleton Key and I'm glad to hear that you liked that one better. I look forward to reading it.