Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Pattern by Mignon G. Eberhart (1937)

About the author: (from Goodreads): Mignon Good (1899-1996) was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. In 1929 her first crime novel was published featuring 'Sarah Keate', a nurse and 'Lance O'Leary', a police detective. This couple appeared in another four novels. Over the next forty years she wrote a novel nearly every year. In 1971 she won the Grand Master award from the Mystery Writers of America. 

Major characters:
  • Nan Bayne, our protagonist
  • Reginald Preedy, a lawyer, Nan's host
  • Maud Preedy, Reginald's wife
  • Olga, the Preedy maid
  • Alec, the Preedy boatman
  • Freida Tredinick, Nan's aunt
  • Ted Tredinick, Freida's son?
  • Jerome Cable, Nan's former fiancĂ©
  • Celia Cable, Jerome's wife
  • Marietta Beauparle, Celia's French maid
  • John McHenry, sheriff
  • Jacob Wait, detective on vacation
Locale: Tredinick Island and adjacent Haven Island, on a lake near Chicago

Synopsis: There are two adjacent islands on a lake, Tredinick Island and Haven Island. Tredinick Island is home to the Preedys and the Tredinicks. Haven Island is home to the Cables.

Nan Bayne, a niece to the Tredinicks, is visiting the island and staying with Reginald and Maud Preedy. This is her first return to the island in three years - since she had left when fiancé Jerome Cable suddenly dumped her and married Celia.

Jerome meets Nan on the beach and he explains that he still loves her, and that the broken engagement was the result of a deception by Celia. Jerome insists he will get a divorce in order to marry Nan. Celia refuses to give him the divorce, and mentions something vague about her "pattern". Nan goes to Haven Island that night to confront Celia about her deception but cannot find her. On her way back to Tredinick Island, her rowboat bumps into a drifting canoe. Later the canoe is found to contain the body of Celia, shot to death.

The authorities want to arrest Jerome. Meanwhile, Nan has several encounters with black widow spiders, and since one is found in a closed jar, it appears someone is planting them near her.

Review: This has an interesting setup with two islands, and the body found in between. This has the usual Eberhart plot line of lovers wrongly accused. The setting is well done, with much activity occurring an night on the two islands -  and in between. 

The leave-me-alone-I'm-on-vacation detective, Jacob Wait, is just annoying. He lurks in the background for most of the book while people get his name wrong (Mr. Mate) and when finally he does speak up, he wants to hurry everyone and get it over with; sort of a gruff version of Carolyn Wells' Fleming Stone. He could have been dropped from the story and Sheriff John McHenry could have handled it on his own easily.

One aspect that was a bit jarring was the introduction of a new character, Frank Duro, near the end of the book. He is an essential part of the murder mystery and it seemed unfair to wait until the end to bring him in.

I thought here could be some loose ends but everything was tied up, including the spiders, the second light by the boathouse, and what the "pattern" is.

Overall, a great book to read in your lake cottage on a rainy weekend.  Watch out for spiders.

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