Thursday, January 28, 2021

Ladies' Man by Rupert Hughes (1930)

About the author: Rupert Hughes (1872-1956) was the uncle of billionaire Howard Hughes. See this Wikipedia article.

Major characters:
  • Jamie Darricott, catnip to the ladies
  • Mrs. Helena Fendley, his current 'companion'
  • Mr. Horace Fendley, her cuckolded husband
  • Rachel Fendley, their daughter
  • Anthony Fendley, their son
  • Payton Weldon, Rachel's boyfriend
  • Sibyl Page
  • Fanny Blandon, Sibyl's aunt
  • Dr. Emery, a sketchy doctor at best
Locale: New York City

Note: This is a type of inverted detective story. The victim, Jamie Darricott, is killed as the story opens. The rest of the story is told in flashback, in events leading up to his death.

Synopsis: As the story opens, a crowd has gathered at a hotel in Times Square, to seek admittance to a costume gala called The Potiemkin Ball. The crowd sees a man hanging out of an eighth floor window, hanging on by his hands, then another pair of hands pushes him off, to his death.

The dead man is Jamie Darricott, ladie's man, man about town,  gigolo, "catnip to the ladies, who are the cats". He and the Fendleys were to have been the persons-of-honor at the ball. Helena Fendley was his current 'companion' - and she had been paying him for the privilege. 

Flashback - Jamie had accompanied Mrs. Findley to dinner, flaunting their relationship in front of Mr. Horace Fendley. At a nearby table, social climber Fanny Blandon arranges for him to meet her niece, young, alluring adventurer Sibyl Page. Jamie walks away from Mrs. Fendley, and talks Sibyl into spending 24 hours with him touring New York City. Their tour starts off well, but comes to a crashing halt when they encounter a very drunk/ill Rachel Fendley, and take protective custody of her. As Jamie cares for her, Sibyl's opinion of him changes for the better.

Jamie continues to play the field of women, wooing not only Helena Fendley, but also her daughter Rachel; as well as Sybil. This results in all of them -including cuckolded husband Horace - turning against him. The conversations all begin to turn to how to do away with him.

Review: Well, this is different. It is not a detective story, as there is no detective. (The original dust wrapper states 'YOU are the detective). The story opens with the murder (murderer not revealed), then flashes back for a straight-line narration up until the murder, with the murderer revealed as it happens. There is no detection. The characters are concerned with committing the murder and leaving the authorities to suspect persons unknown.

What I liked: A tight story, a small cast of well-developed characters, no red herrings. The method of concealing the murderer's identity was clever and unique.

What I disliked: The entire middle of the book is soap opera, with much jealousy and sniping. It is much too wordy. Whenever the author describes anything, it occurs with a string of three synonyms following - always in the same pattern, as in my example here: The repetition is annoying, grating, vexing, irritating. Every time. No doubt he had his thesaurus at hand, ready, prepared, positoned. The book is much too long, stretched, lengthy, extended, pushing out to 465 pages. An editor was sorely needed. Midway through I transitioned to only reading the first line of each paragraph, for a more concise story - I didn't miss out on anything. 

No comments:

Post a Comment