Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Body in the Road by Moray Dalton (1930)

About the author: Katherine Dalton Renoir ('Moray Dalton') was born in London in 1881. Her career in crime fiction did not begin until 1924, after which, as Moray Dalton, published twenty-nine mysteries, the last in 1951. The majority of these feature her recurring sleuths, Scotland Yard inspector Hugh Collier and private inquiry agent Hermann Glide. She died in West Sussex, in 1963. (Fantastic Fiction)

Major characters:
  • Linda Merle, pianist, our protagonist
  • Violet Hunter, violinist
  • Annie Coleman, landlady/protector of Violet
  • Lady Agatha Chant, of Spinacres
  • Lord David Haringdon, her nephew
  • Diana Culver, likely future bride of Lord David
  • Dr. Michael Saigon, of Black Ridge
  • Herbert Capper, Dr. Saigon's servant
  • Mr. Smith, has an eye for Violet
Locale: Jessop's Bridge, England

Synopsis: Linda Merle takes a job playing piano in a local café. The other musician is Violet Hunter, a ditzy woman and mediocre violinist. Violet lives under the thumb of landlady Annie Coleman, who has cared for her since she was a child. Annie is quite over-protective. 

Linda finds an out-of-the-way cottage for sale cheap, and buys it with a plan to turn it into a little café. She talks Violet into leaving Annie and going in with her. Annie is not pleased.

Nearby is Spinacres, home of Lady Agatha Chant and her nephew, David Haringdon. His likely future wife is stuck-up Diana Culver. David goes off for a hike and finds a distraught Linda Merle in the road. She and Violet had been walking and found an injured dog outside the closed gates of Black Ridge, home of mysterious Dr. Michael Saigon. Violet had gone off one way for help, leaving Linda to go the other way. Linda appeals to David for help. They return to the spot, but the dog is gone. It turns out Violet is gone, too. 

David returns home and convinces Lady Agatha that she could do a little snooping at Black Ridge, to see what has become of the dog, and maybe Violet. Lady Agatha has a brief visit but learns nothing from Dr. Saigon. Violet cannot be found. David snoops and eventually enlists the help of P.I. Hermann Glide, who has a sketchy reputation.


When halfway through I wrote: "wondering if this is really a murder mystery, as no one is dead yet; and there has been no body in any road. I am a bit anxious about this, as thus far all the characters have been quite likable and I don't wish to see any of them dead. Although stuck-up rich girl Diana Culver is quite annoying."

Soon after that point we do indeed have a murder mystery and some bodies are starting to pile up. 

The book consists of two independent story lines (disappearance of Violet Hunter and mysterious Dr. Saigon), which only touch each other briefly. 

David Harrington gets in over his head and enlists a P.I., Hermann Glide. Glide is an odd one, and resorts to trickery to get to the bottom of everything - in methods the authorities would certainly not condone. The book has a hint of the writer getting too far in and wondering how to wrap everything up. 

As others have noted, the title doesn't match the story. There is no body in the road.

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