Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Fate of the Immodest Blonde

The Fate of the Immodest Blonde (aka Puzzle for Pilgrims; 1947) by Patrick Quentin [Hugh Wheeler & Richard Webb]

Peter Duluth's wife Iris has left him after things went sour when he returned from the war. She's run off to Mexico and fallen for a golden boy, genius writer by the name of Martin Haven. Of course, not only is Iris still married to Peter but Martin is married to a rich blonde by the name of Sally. And Sally doesn't want to let him go. She's threatening all sorts of things. So Iris asks Peter come and stand by in case she needs him to file for divorce or any other little thing--like getting her and the boyfriend and the boyfriend's sister out of a muddle that involves a sleazy private detective.

You see, Sally winds up dead. And Jake (the detective) fixes it so the police don't suspect foul play but that he can also blackmail Martin, Marietta (the sister), and Iris--because one of them must have killed Sally. He says that all he wants is a measly little $50,000 out of the cool two million that Martin will inherit...but who ever heard of a blackmailer stopping with one payoff? Jake winds up dead too and Peter is stuck with clean-up. 

What a squalid, sordid little story. I could just leave it at that, but I won't. I have yet to find a book written under the Patrick Quentin pseudonym that I can wholeheartedly endorse. Now granted, I haven't exactly read scads of them (only two others: Puzzle for Fools and  Black Widow), but each of those caused me to believe that the Peter Duluth series just might not be my cup of tea. And affection for those pocket-size editions of mysteries keeps bringing more of them into my house, so I give him another try. And, guess what? He's still not my cup of tea.

The plot isn't even as straight-forward as I've implied with the synopsis above. Peter winds up involved with Marietta. Marietta has a more-than-sisterly love for her brother. But she also wants to get away from his influence. On top of that, she has a thing for dirty, brawny men (like Jake). But she says she loves Peter because he's not like Martin or the dirty, brawny men. Sally is vindictive--but then she says she's not. Iris is going to run away with Martin and then she's not but now she's not fit to wipe Peter's shoes. Jake killed Sally to get away from the vindictive little blonde and to open up a gold mine of blackmail. No--wait, Martin killed Sally and Jake. No--wait, Marietta killed Sally and Jake. No--wait.... Geez, what a nasty little merry-go-round.

The best thing I can say about this is that Webb and Wheeler do a good job with psychology of these characters. They get the ins and outs of obsessive love and deflection and self-absorption down pat. But that doesn't mean you're going to like any of these people. None of them--not even Peter, our protagonist--elicit an ounce of sympathy, but it's because we do understand them so well. Unfortunately. The plot is twisted tighter than a corkscrew, so there's that as well. Plot is decently well-done. ★★ for plot and psychology.

Vintage Golden: Where--Capital City
Calendar of Crime: March (author DOB: Hugh Wheeler)
Deaths = two (poisoned--although one looks a fall from a height)


Kate said...

Only read one novel by QP and I felt a bit lukewarm(ish) about it. But then I read reviews by others for different books which make him seem great. So it's interesting to read your review. I can see elements which wouldn't appeal to me either, so I don't think this would be my next QP read.

Bev Hankins said...

There are several of my friends in the blogging world who think this series is terrific--but I just can't get into it.

J.G. said...

Ew. This sounds pretty awful. Dare I ask what this all has to do with bullfighting?

Bev Hankins said...

Well...our protagonist meets the "immodest blonde" at a bullfight. But that's all really. Not an incredibly good connection.