Saturday, August 17, 2019

Family Affair: Review

Family Affair (1941) by Ione Sandberg Shriber

Polly Drake is sent by her employer Mr. Henry Gregory to Beacon Hill, country estate of the Troy family who own the Beacon Machine Tool Company. Gregory works for the company and has some important papers for Godfrey Beacon, head of the firm, but an attack of gout has laid him up at home. So, he asks his secretary to take the envelope of papers with the instructions that she is to given them to no one but Godfrey Beacon.

Polly is excited by her mission--she's heard so much about the estate and about the extended Beacon family, but she's never had a chance (or a reason) to visit the house. She's also just a little bit in awe of and attracted to Clay Beacon, one of Godfrey's sons. But from the moment she sets foot in the house, she feels unwelcome. Dinah, Godfrey's only daughter, makes it quite plain that she wished Polly had never come and refuses to let her see the elderly man. She claims that her father is too ill to see anyone--especially non-family--and insists that Polly hand the papers over to her. But Polly knows her duty and, despite her position, declares that she must do as Mr. Gregory told her and is willing to wait as long as necessary for Mr. Beacon to be well enough.

Unfortunately, he never is well enough. He dies one evening...apparently from the severe asthma that has plagued him. But Dinah's beau, who just happens to be a doctor, isn't satisfied and Lieutenant Grady is sent to discover whether there has been any foul play. Family solidarity and a blizzard outside complicates his investigation. Then the nurse who had attended Godfrey Beacon disappears and he becomes sure that there has been a bit of dirty work. Polly discovers that the papers she was sent to deliver have been stolen and is even attacked herself before Grady manages to run the villain to earth. 

This is to my mind a fairly average 1940s mystery. Has a lot of standard plot points: female narrator in a suspenseful old house setting; a family full of suspicious-acting people; a blizzard to strand them all together; and a bit of romance (on two fronts) to liven things up. Grady is a fairly well-drawn detective, but I get the feeling this isn't his best outing (Kirkus Reviews tells me this is so). The murderer does use a rather ingenious method to "smother" his victim. Overall, a nice, quick read. ★★

Finished 8/6/19
Calendar = February ("F" word in title)
Deaths = 2 (one hit on head; one smothered)

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