Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Bronze Hand by Carolyn Wells (1925)

About the author: Carolyn Wells (1862-1942) was married to Hadwin Houghton, the heir of the Houghton-Mifflin publishing empire. Like Mary Roberts Rinehart, being in a publishing family created an easy pipeline for getting her works into print. She wrote a total of more than 170 books, including 61 Fleming Stone detective stories. See this Wikipedia article.

Carolyn Wells

Major characters:

  • "Oily" Oscar Cox, oil magnate
  • Hudder, his odd butler
  • Max Trent, writer of detective stories, the reluctant investigator
  • "Polly" Pollard Nash, the reluctant Watson
  • Maisie Forman, the reclusive I-want-to-be-alone "princess"
  • Harold "Hal" Mallory
  • Sherman Mason, lawyer, reprobate, old friend of Maisie's father
  • Owen Camper
  • Amy Camper, hs wife
  • Lily Gibbs
  • Captain Van Winkle
  • Stanhope, the quiet one
  • Fleming Stone, detective

Locale: aboard the S.S. Pinnacle, en route from New York to Liverpool

Synopsis: A handful of well-to-do embark on the liner Pinnacle bound for England. The most remarkable man is "Oily" Oscar Cox, wealthy oil magnate; and Maisie Forman, a reclusive pretty little thing who just wants to be left alone. Cox shows off his prized possession, a life size bronze casting of a hand, which he regards as his lucky charm. The next morning of the voyage, Cox is found murdered on deck, bludgeoned by the bronze hand. The apparent motive is theft of jewelry for his new wife, whom no one can track down, not even knowing if the marriage has happened yet.

Captain Van Winkle is at a loss what to do next, and appoints Max Trent to investigate - being the most qualified by virtue of being a writer of detective stories. Trent enlists the aid of friend Pollard Nash and they proceed to investigate.

Meanwhile Sherman Mason is making moves on Maisie, who is disgusted and because she and Max Trent are now a thing.

Review: Oh, the virtues and complexity of 1920's etiquette! Say person A and person B wish to converse, they must not do so until they are Properly Introduced by a mutual acquaintance C; otherwise all they can do is raise their eyebrow and sniff "Are we acquainted?". If you have no mutual acquaintance, you are out of luck. Since all the passengers are unknown to each other at the beginning of the voyage, this raises an immediate Dilemma and many pages go by before they gradually become Properly Introduced and can Function as a Society by Speaking to Each Other.

Series detective Fleming Stone finally shows up for a cameo appearance on page 270. Where has he been? Didn't people buy this book to read about him and here we are only 50 pages from the end? It is revealed, but I won't spoil it. Good book to bring on your next sea cruise and enjoy in your deck chair.

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