Monday, June 21, 2021

The Silent Partner by Kathleen Moore Knight (1950)
About the author: Surprising little is known about Kathleen Moore Knight (1890-1984), at least online. She is not listed in Wikipedia nor the more popular mystery fiction directories; her bibliography is on Fantastic Fiction. My count is 34 mystery novels, all published by the Crime Club; a few under the pseudonym of Alan Amos. See this 1946 interview.

Major characters:

  • Tevan Larrimore Jones, our protagonist, a war widow
  • Julia Mandeval Lanning
  • Craig Lanning, her no-good husband
  • Jeffery and Lorna Duncan, and their daughter Sylvia
  • Bill Bagley, Sylvia's boyfriend
  • Ralston (attorney) and Zilpha Thayer
  • John Parr (banker)
  • Philippe LeBrun, a natty man rumored to be with Silver Sands
  • Ben Crandall, police chief
  • Grady Slemp, employee of Silver Sands

Locale: Florida

Synopsis: Lerida, Florida has seen better days. Old gracious estates are being bought up by the Silver Sands Development Company, who put in tacky tourist traps, amusement parks, and cheap motels. The disgusted locals have a hard time organizing against them, as the company is run by a "silent partner", whose identity is unknown.

Three estates remain on the shore:

  • Gray Grove. the old Mandeval estate, occupied by Julia Mandeval Lanning and her irresponsible husband, Craig Lanning.
  • Oak Lawn, The Larrimers - and Tevan Larrimore Jones' - former home, now owned by Jeffery and Lorna Duncan, and their daughter Sylvia. The Duncans have renovated the estate into a showplace.
  • Riverside, the rundown "Old Bromley" place, former home of the Bromleys, now owned by natty Philippe LeBrun; rumored to be a big wheel in Silver Sands.

Tevan Larrimore Jones, a war widow now living in Wales, has an invitation from old friend and neighbor Julia Mandeval Lanning, to come visit Gray Grove. Tevan arrives to find Julia married to a questionable sort, Craig. 

Craig calls out from the terrace. Julia and Tevan come out to find an injured man staggering over from Riverside, next door. He collapses in front of them, his last words being "Silver Sands". He is later identified as Grady Slemp, an employee of Silver Sands.

Circumstantial evidence points to Craig as being the murderer. Julia and Tevan try to find out who is being Silver Sands, until they are attacked as well.

Review: This is the first Knight novel I have come across set in Florida (the others are mostly Cape Cod or Central America). The setting of the town being developed away is done well, and the three adjoining estates are a great setting. It looks like the head of Silver Sands is the culprit, and suspicion falls on several townspeople in turn. 

There are a few surprises in store on one of the estates, and the developments there are numerous and creepy. Knight always does the heroine foolishly going out into the overgrown estate at night, but it is always entertaining and fresh. This is another great well-rounded offering from an underrated writer. I continue to add to my collection of her writings, still available if you search around a bit.

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