Monday, September 13, 2021

The Bass Derby Murder by Kathleen Moore Knight (1949)


photo: AbeBooks

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 booklist 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:

Lucius Amsdon, powerful Wall Street bully 
Lucy Amsdon, his high-fashion daughter

The seven on Amsdon's they-want-to-kill-me list:
  1. Larry Amsdon, his nephew
  2. Henry Thorpe, his embezzling secretary
  3. John Forrest, his fired junior partner and next-door neighbor
  4. Les Scotland, mystery man from New York
  5. Sam Jennings, spiteful neighbor on the other side
  6. Whit Belcher, his source for a stolen prize winning bass
  7. Will Beardsley, whose daughter he humiliated
Polly Ann Beardsley, Will's daughter
Doug Weatherbee, Polly Ann's boyfriend 
Bart Morrison, sports reporter for the NY Herald
Elisha Macomber, chair of the Board of Selectmen

Locale: Penberthy Island, off Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Synopsis: Bully Lucius Amsdon likes to throw his weight around. He built a mansion summer home on Penberthy Island, and gave an adjoining lot to his junior partner, John Forrest, for a modest home. On the other side is Sam Jenning's property. The only land access to Amsdon's place is through Jenning's woods. Jennings has refused to sell him a right-of-way for access, and tensions escalated from there. The island residents all resent Amsdon.

Several little incidents lead Amsdon to believe he is being targeted for persecution and harassment. He comes to Selectman Elisha Macomber with a list of seven people (1-4 off-islanders, 5-7 islanders) who he claims want to see him dead (see list above).

The annual Bass Derby is getting underway. Contestants arrive, including a mysterious Les Scotland, who obviously is a novice at fishing. Reporters arrive, including Bart Morrison, who has a role organizing Macomber's notes of the affair. Amsdon cooks up his own party to steal the limelight away from local Polly Ann Beardsley, expected winner of Queen of the Derby Ball; and focus the cameras instead upon his own daughter, Lucy Amsdon.

As everyone expects, Amsdon is found dead on his beach.

Review: The sequence of the story is interesting, well explained, and effective. It starts out with Amsdon's body being found, then is told in retrospect. Elisha tasks reporter Bart Morrison with organizing his notes in a Watson-like manner; which is a tool to make the story work out.

The list of seven suspects is alluded to throughout, yet the reader never gets to see the list. The list in the synopsis above is my own. I kept track and got 6 of the 7 easily, I missed Les Scotland.

The book could have benefitted from a sketch map of the Amsdon/Jennings/Forrest places. 

Overall, a nice Elisha Macomber tale from an excellent series.

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