Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Puzzle of the Blue Banderilla

 The Puzzle of the Blue Banderilla (1937) by Stuart Palmer

Inspector Oscar Piper is headed to Mexico for a well-deserved vacation. Sure, he has to be an "official presence" on guard for the Democratic contingent headed south of the border to celebrate the new Mexico-US highway, but once those duties are done, he'll be free to enjoy some time off in the Mexican capital city. Well, maybe. On the train ride following the ribbon-cutting ceremonies, a customs inspector dies after he sniffs a perfume bottle in the luggage of Alderman Francis X. Mabie's wife Adele. Adele swears the bottle wasn't even hers. Was the customs agent the intended victim or does someone have it in for Adele Mabie? When someone provides Adele with a "cute little baby lizard" that is in reality a deadly poisonous snake, it becomes clear that her life is in danger. But then another passenger on that train is found stabbed to death at the bullfight. He had been sitting front of Adele. Is this another botched attempt on the Alderman's wife or is there more going on than meets the eye? Piper tries to investigate even though he's way out of his jurisdiction, but gets put in jail for his trouble. Fortunately, he has been in telegraphic communication with his old friend Hildegarde Withers and Miss Withers arrives just in time to spring him from his cell. Between the two of them, they manage to unravel the mystery surrounding Adele and the party on the train--just in time to prevent another death.

As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions of Miss Withers and Inspector Piper. She definitely gets to one-up him in this round, solving the mystery before him and recognizing who certain people are when he hasn't a clue. She also has an interesting go-round with self-proclaimed amateur sleuth, Julio Mendez who seems to be on the spot every time something happens and whose English seems to be straight out of central casting for cheesy Mexicans trying to speak English. But in general the mystery is underwelming. I just don't buy the motive for the murders--it seems pretty weak. I honestly can't believe the murderer would have taken the risk with the snake that Miss Withers says they did. One could not be certain that there would be someone available to take the necessary action. [I can't say more without spoiling it.] The setting is great; the mystery could have been stronger. ★★ and 1/2

First line: A small and excited wire terrier answered the doorbell, paws sliding on waxed floors, whiskers flying.

Last line: "About twenty years, Oscar," the schoolteacher told him sadly.

Deaths =2 (one poisoned; one stabbed)

1 comment:

Simon T - StuckinaBook said...

The one-upping Miss Withers sounds wonderful!