Saturday, February 20, 2021

Bait for Murder by Kathleen Moore Knight (1948)

Major characters:

Andrea Philbrick, mystery writer and our narrator

Pleasure crew of The Cormorant:
Ives Berrien, a plagiarist
Charlotte Quentin, his wife
Miles Granby, his agent

Pleasure crew of Xiphias:
Dick Eaton, author
Guy Philbrick, publisher, Andrea's husband
Dan Warner, writer's agent

Commercial crew of The Rover:
Tony Matarellis
Matt Matarellis

Commercial crew of The Three Sisters:
Olaf Magnusson
Seth Benton

Alice Chilton, wealthy cougar

Elisha Macomber

Locale: Penberthy Island, off Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Synopsis: Two pleasure swordfishing crews arrive on Penberthy Island. Guy Philbrick and the crew of Xiphias, from a publishing company; and the crew of The Cormorant, headed by Ives Berrien. Bad blood exists between them - Berrien has plagiarized and published work by Dick Eaton. Guy brings his wife, Andrea, along; but she prefers to remain on the island and work on her mystery story.

Berrien and crew quickly antagonize the commercial crew with their dishonest work. Twice they attempt to take swordfish which other crews are fishing. They collide with The Three Sisters, seriously injuring Olaf Magnusson. Berrien continues to make enemies among the locals, and as expected, turns up dead on his boat. The locals are surprised to find that Charlotte Quentin is married to him. Wealthy Alice Chilton shows up in her speedboat, she is after Berrien himself and is also quite annoyed to find him married. Alice looks like the prime suspect, but then she is killed as her speedboat runs up on the rocks.

Review: An excellent Knight, told from the unusual third-person aspect of a mystery writer, observer, and narrator Andrea Philbrick. The tensions between the pleasure fishermen and the locals is tangible and realistic. The same tensions exist here in Maine between locals and fishermen from away.

Berrien is a first rate cad and no one is sad to see him go. A couple more deaths pile up and may not be accidents. 

The story takes a surprising Agatha Christie-style turn at the end when the murderer is revealed. The solution skirts with fair play a bit, as some aspects were not revealed to the reader as they occurred. The end is eye-opening, however, and the ultimate ending a bit sad.

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