Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Eye in Attendance by Valentine Williams (1923)

About the author: Valentine Williams (1883–1946) was an English journalist and writer of popular fiction. Williams was awarded the Military Cross as a soldier and wrote two autobiographical books about his war-time experiences. In the aftermath of war, he travelled widely as a reporter.  It was during this period that he began writing thrillers and around 1926 he gave up his post at the Daily Mail to pursue a full-time career as an author. (Wikipedia)

Major characters:

Residents of Node House:

  • Sir Harry and Lady Ethel Fubsy, owners
  • Ned Fubsy, their son .. in Brazil at the moment
  • Alix Barleston, Lady Fusby's niece
  • Major Frankie Barleston, (Alix's husband), over his head in debt
  • Captain Ronald "Ronnie" Dene, Alix's lover
  • Isobel "Freckles" Dalgleish, Alix's sister
  • Gerrard "Gerry" Leese, an American diplomatic secretary
  • Curtiss Vrogue, an author (apparently)
  • Cantle, the butler
  • Vance, the maid

Basil Stanismore. M.P. (Member of Parliament), wealthy financier
Keene Kavanagh, one of Frankie's creditors

Superintendent Nolling, local police
Inspector George Manderton, Scotland Yard

Locale: Isle of Wight, off the coast of England

Synopsis: Beautiful Alix Barleston has too many men in her life. There is her estranged debt-ridden no-good gambling husband, Frankie Barleston. There is her secret lover, Ronnie Dene. Now enter wealthy financier Basil Stanismore, who has bought up Frankie's debt; and makes an astounding offer to Frankie: Stanismore will forgive his debts and set him up with a fresh start and a job somewhere distant; if he will just look the other way as Stanismore takes Alix as his mistress.

Sir Harry and Lady Ethel Fubsy own Node House on the coast. Alix and Ronnie are staying as guests (separate rooms, of course). There is a creepy tower on the property which has a room which was the Fubsy's only daughter who has died, and it is kept intact. Stanismore meets Alix in the tower, and begs Alix to be his mistress; which she rebuffs. Returning to her room, Frankie appears at her room and begs to remain there all night.

American Gerry Leese and Alix's sister, Isobel "Freckles" Dalgleish are returning from a date by boat, and when landing at Node House, discover a body on the beach - later identified as Basil Stanismore. He had been murdered.

Pretty much everyone has a motive, but all keep quiet when Inspector Manderton arrives; as no one wants to finger anyone else.

Review: This is a nice tight self contained page-turner, and not one of the Clubfoot series. 
I wish/hope Williams had authored more of these - perhaps he has since I have not read them all. 
I will have to refer to the bibliography. That said, a good country house mystery set on an island. 
There are six servants stated, but we only meet two. One aspect which I thought would lead 
elsewhere was the mysterious tower room once occupied by the only daughter who died, 
but it only serves as a tryst location. The final chase scene as the perpetrator escapes by boat is
very well done.

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