Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Five Passengers from Lisbon by Mignon Eberhart (1946)

About the author: (from Goodreads): Mignon Good (1899-1996) was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. In 1929 her first crime novel was published featuring 'Sarah Keate', a nurse and 'Lance O'Leary', a police detective. This couple appeared in another four novels. Over the next forty years she wrote a novel nearly every year. In 1971 she won the Grand Master award from the Mystery Writers of America. 

Major characters:

The five passengers on the lifeboat:
  • Marcia Colfax, our protagonist
  • Mickey Banet, a.k.a. André Messac, a concert pianist; her fiancé
  • Luther Cates
  • Daisy Belle Cates, his wife
  • Gili Duvrey
Crew of the Lerida on the lifeboat:
  • Alfred Castiogne, doomed
  • Manuel Para
  • José Urdiola
Crew on the hospital ship S. S. Magnolia:
  • Captain Lars Svendsen
  • Colonel Josh Morgan, a patient
  • Colonel Wells, a doctor

Locale: on the Atlantic Ocean

Synopsis: WWII has just ended in Europe. Five people in Lisbon, Portugal are anxious to get out of Europe the fastest way possible, and book passage on the freighter Lerida, bound for Buenos Aires - rather than have a long wait for passage direct to the US. They are Marcia Colfax and her fiancé Mickey Banet (who is travelling under the name/passport of Frenchman André Messac for an undisclosed reason), wealthy Luther and Daisy Belle Cates, and beauty Gili Duvrey. The Lerida runs into trouble in a storm, and goes down. The five passengers and three of the crew take to a lifeboat.

Mickey was a concert pianist before the war, but the Nazis injured his fingers while he was in a concentration camp.* Marcia and Mickey try to keep his true identity (Mickey Banet) a secret from Captain Svendsen just to keep things simple.

One of the crewmen, Alfred Castiogne, collapses just as the lifeboat is intercepted by the hospital ship Magnolia. When they get him aboard, he is already dead - stabbed in the back. The murderer had to have been one of them in the lifeboat, and now they are all on the hospital ship. Captain Svendsen tries to find the murderer, but the murderer is not done yet. 


Atmosphere. A ship creeping across the Atlantic in a thick fog with a murderer aboard. There is a small pool of suspects - just the five passengers rescued from a lifeboat  - and one of them must be the murderer. I had the opportunity to read this while sitting on a Maine beach with ships visible on the horizon, a perfect setting for a mystery read. Of course, it was daytime, no fog, and I was quite safe on land.

The book features the usual Eberhart love triangle - the innocent protagonist (Marcia Colfax), the fiancé who is all wrong for her (Mickey Banet), and a newcomer who is perfect for her (Josh Morgan). 

John Morgan is the character who is a bit puzzling - he is a patient yet he has the run of the ship and the ear of the officers. I expected him to turn out to be something else, but he remained a patient.

The mystery patient walking around, unable to speak, head swathed in bandages with only his eyes showing, seemed a bit typecast at first but did develop into a believable person.

A great read - but not one to take on a cruise.

* For other mysteries which involve a concert pianist who has suffered a hand injury and is unable to play again, see Deep Lay The Dead by Frederick C. Davis (1942) and The Man Who Didn't Mind Hanging by Nancy Barr Mavity (1932).

Also see this review by Bev Hankins on My Reader's Block.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you had a chance to read this one (all safe and sound on land!).