Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Shadow in the House by Sinclair Gluck (1929)


Heritage Auctions

About the author: Sinclair Gluck (1887-1956) was born Jasper Sinclair Gluck in Buffalo, New York. Gluck was a prolific writer for the pulps, with works by him appearing in, for example, Argosy, Detective Fiction Weekly, even Black Mask. At least half of his published novels, including The Man Who Never Blundered, were originally serialized in pulps. (Goodreads)

The Bernards:

  • Paul Bernard, experienced detective
  • Marion Bernard, his wife
  • Elsa --, their niece
  • Landis ---, Elsa's newlywed husband, a rookie detective
The Harrisons and guests:
  • Mason Rees Harrison, a millionaire widower, dead by an arrow
  • Isabelle Harrison, his daughter
  • Anita Harrison, his daughter
  • Joel Harrison, his ?autistic? brother
  • Miss Mount, the housekeeper
  • Stimson, their butler
  • Susan Duckworth, housemaid #1
  • Helen Stokes, housemaid #2
  • James Harley, chauffeur
  • Mabel Harley, cook, James' wife
  • Ray Graham, a lawyer
  • Ethel Graham, his wife
  • Hobart Russell, fiancĂ© of Isabelle, a house guest
  • Frederick Allen, a house guest, boyfriend of Anita
  • Hiram Cuddy, an old Long Island farmer

Locale: suburban New York City

Synopsis: Newlywed Landis -- is a rookie detective. He is called out to a murder scene at the Harrison mansion, and brings his new father-in-law, Paul Bernard, an experienced detective, along.

At the Harrisons, they find millionaire Mason Rees Harrison dead from an arrow shot in the back. Archery is the family's passion, with a practice range on the third floor. All famly members know how to shoot arrows, which are made by Mason's brother Joel Harrison in his workshop. Joel is a quiet, introverted, dreamy sort (autistic?) who enjoys being alone, working on the arrows and stamp collection. 

Housekeeper Miss Mount gives Landis and Bernard a tour of the mansion and fills them in on all family matters. Butler Stimson is always at hand and is called upon for assistance often. The family and house guests are all questioned, while the body of Harrison remains on the floor. Later on, attorney Ray Graham - also a house guest - is shot with an arrow in the same manner, while standing in the same spot, but only incurs a minor arm injury. Graham's wife, Ethel, becomes a focus of the investigators when a strange old farmer, Hiram Cuddy, appears looking for her, and her past history becomes suspect.


The entire middle section of the book consists of the rather tedious questioning of the family and house guests. While repetitive and plodding, I realized that this is the essence of an investigation - gather the witnesses and ask the same questions, over and over and over. In that aspect, it is a realistic account, and in the format we today call a police procedural.

The detectives (and the reader) gradually learn clues which slowly unravel the mystery.

Paul Bernard and Landis form the typical good cop (Landis) / bad cop (Bernard) pair. Bernard is abrupt and domineering, Landis quiet and respectful. They put those qualities to good use.

I was wondering where brother Joel Harrison was. He is discussed throughout but does not actually appear until halfway through the book.

The butler Stimson is a very enjoyable character. It is fun to watch him switch between his submissive servant side and his human side. Susan Duckworth, housemaid #1, is also enjoyable as she is a flirty little thing who has some fun with the handsome detective Landis.

It was surprising to me that the body of Harrison was allowed to remain on the floor all during the day and evening of questioning, and even overnight - noting the coroner would return in the morning the collect it. It seemed a bit gruesome and unrealistic.

Several solutions were proposed and discarded before the truth is revealed. Overall, a solid, long, repetitive investigation and a good read by a hard-to-find author. 

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