Friday, March 15, 2019

The Ginger Cat Mystery by Robin Forsythe (1935)

(also published as Murder at Marston Manor)

Note: All five of Forsythe's Algernon Vereker mysteries are currently in print, available from Amazon and other sources.

MAR 17: Please check back. Currently reading, I fill this out as I go along. RM

About the author: Robin Forsythe (1879-1937) was born in Sialkot, in modern day Pakistan. He went to school in Glasgow and Northern Ireland. In his teens he had short stories and poetry published and went to London wanting to be a writer. In 1929 Robin Forsythe published his debut, Missing or Murdered. It introduced Anthony ‘Algernon’ Vereker, an eccentric artist with an extraordinary flair for detective work. It was followed by four more detective novels in the Vereker series, ending with The Spirit Murder Mystery in 1936. All the novels are characterized by the sharp plotting and witty dialogue which epitomize the more effervescent side of golden age crime fiction. (from Dean St Publishers Website)

Major characters:

At Marston Manor:
  • John Cornell, the patriarch
  • Josephine Rivron, his young, sophisticated wife
  • Frank Cornell, John's son
  • Roland Carstairs, Frank's old school chum
  • George Tapp, valet
At a nearby cottage on the grounds:
  • David Cornell, John's brother, who is blind
  • Stella Cornell, his daughter
  • Mary Lister, maid and caregiver to David Cornell
Mrs. --- Mayo
Miss Valerie Mayo, her daughter, Frank's fiancée

The authorities:

  • Anthony "Algernon" Verecker, news correspondent and investigator
  • Inspector Heather, Scotland Yard
  • Sergeant Goss, Scotland Yard

Locale: Marston-le-Willows, England

Synopsis: Aging widower John Cornell surprises everyone by marrying young, sophisticated Josephine Rivron - whom everyone thought would marry his son, Frank. The locals consider her a gold-digger. John dies and is buried. Several months later, David Cornell (John's brother) announces he suspects that John had been poisoned, and calls for an exhumation and autopsy. It is done, but no poison is found.

Then Frank Cornell is found shot to death in the manor. He has been shot in the eye, and fell outside the door to a mysterious "music room" which is always kept locked. There a rumors of a lady ghost who plays the piano within, while wearing her wedding dress.

The authorities arrive: Inspector Heather and Sergeant Goss of Scotland Yard, along with Anthony "Algernon" Verecker, a news correspondent who also serves as an investigator.

The investigation is complicated by several competing love interests. Clues include a bit of fur from a ginger tabby cat.


I thought I had it beat - having figured out the murder method and culprit early in the book. I was half right, I had the method, but not the murderer. That was a surprise to me in the last pages, a surprising and satisfying turn of events.

The reviews of Forsythe's works always mention the witty dialogue, and that is so. The repartee sparkles throughout and is a pleasure to read.
  • "You mustn't confuse the thriller with the detective story. The latter amuses people by making them think they're thinking, the thriller by doing its damnedest to prevent them thinking at all."
  • "Do you believe in spirits, Crawley?" asked Verecker as he looked around the gloomy, low-ceilinged room. "If they're good, a drop now and then don't do you no harm, but there's nothing to compare with good wine, sir.""I mean ghosts, Crawley."
An odd aspect is the paragraph structure. I am reading the 2016 paperback reprint, so not sure if it was written this way - but there are no paragraph breaks anywhere except when a new speaker chimes in; so you must work your way through some page-long paragraphs.

This book features the obligatory "well-oiled lock", which is discussed often. The ginger tabby, does not, alas, make an appearance - only a bit of her fur.

I am glad his works are back in print, and will seek out the others.

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