by Elizabeth Daly
Series: Henry Gamadge #5
Publication Date: December 15, 1943
Project: a century of women
In mid-1943, and up to his elbows in war work, Henry Gamadge is longing for a quiet weekend. But when a half-forgotten classmate requests assistance, Gamadge is unable to refuse the tug of an old school tie. The problem, says Sylvanus, concerns his Aunt Florence—a giddy socialite terrified of Nazi bombs. Florence has moved her extensive household of hangers-on to the family mansion in upstate New York. But menace seems to have followed them, in the form of threatening messages inserted into the manuscript of Florence’s painfully bad novel in progress. Several members of the household are convinced the messages are emanating from Another World, but the politely pragmatic Gamadge suspects a culprit closer to home.
I stumbled across these Henry Gamadge mystery reissues by Elizabeth Daly on Goodreads, and when I started researching them, I realized that my local library has most, if not all, of the series available for digital checkout. I just picked one sort of randomly – about half of them were available and the other half had holds, so I just went with one that I could download immediately.
I really enjoyed this book – it reminded me a bit of a Patricia Wentworth Miss Silver mystery. The set up of the mystery is basically that Henry Gamadge, who is apparently known as a bit of an amateur sleuth, runs into an old friend while he is out at his club. When they begin catching up, the friend, Sylvanus, convinces him that there is a mystery afoot that he needs some help with. Henry agrees to accompany him to Underhill, a country house in upstate New York, to see what he can find out.
Once Henry arrives, he is immediately concerned about the safety of Aunt Florence, whose death will benefit quite a large number of the young people living in her house. It feels very Poirot-like, all of the mutterings about what appear at first blush to be pranks being much more serious than that (see, e.g., Hickory Dickory Dock). There is a lot of activity around Aunt Florence’s Will, and which of her young hangers-on will be receiving legacies, and which will not.
The solution itself is convoluted, but still clever. There’s a lot of fairly skilled misdirection, although I had some pretty good inklings about whodunit, she did a good job concealing the motive.
It’s always fantastic to find a new vintage mystery series to enjoy, and when the series is also available from my local library for free, that is extra-fantastic. I will definitely be reading more from Elizabeth Daly.