today I’m reviewing three old detective stories, written by three masters of the genre: Edgar Wallace, Anna Katherine Green and Eden Phillpotts. I was familiar only with Wallace’s works, which I think are nicely-plotted and well-written, but his book turned out to be the one I liked less! Instead, I don’t think I’ve read the best works by Phillpotts ad Green. Their books were just ok but still left me curious to read more of their works. So, what books did I read?
The Grey Room by Eden Phillpotts
The story takes place in England, at the manor house on Dartmoor, the ancestral home of Sir Walter Lennox, in the 1920s. At a dinner party, the guests start talking about the Grey Room, a bedroom in which several people have died. These deaths seem all natural but Sir Lennox doesn’t allow anyone to sleep there just in case. His son-in-law, though, thinks this is all silly superstition and decides to sleep in the room to prove to the others that there’s nothing wrong with it. The next day, he’s found dead. He was young and healthy and his death is inexplicable. And he won’t be the only one to die before the detective called to investigate will solve the mystery. What’s in the Grey Room that causes the death of so many people over the course of decades? It was this mystery that kept me reading the book until the end. In fact, even though the writing style is pleasant, it is also verbose at times and the characters are quite boring. The plot, which has a nice historical twist, is the only interesting thing about the book. Still, I think it will be a nice and quick read for fans of the genre.
Available at: Project Gutenberg
The Avenger by Edgar Wallace
The avenger has killed twelve victims in seven years. He decapitates them and then sends a note to the police to tell them where they can find their heads. All his victims have something in common: they had all committed some crimes. When the head of a certain Elmer is found, Michael Brixan is called to investigate and he starts by interrogating the victim’s niece, the young actress Adele Leamington. Brixan follows her around on the set for several days, without an apparent good reason to do so, but he’s actually investigating. Will he discover the culprit? Personally, I didn’t enjoy this book much. The characters were really boring and one of them, a very intelligent monkey capable of doing stuff that you wouldn’t think possible for an animal to do, is very creepy, and just added an unrealistic touch to the story imo. The story too wasn’t that engrossing and honestly, I didn’t even care much to find out who the avenger was (although that wasn’t too hard to guess). I guess that’s because I find it really hard to get into a story if I don’t like any of the characters much. The only interesting part was a brief reference to the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette (well, I am a history geek after all). I would recommend this book only to fans of Edgar Wallace but frankly, he has written much better books.
Available at: Abe Books
The Step On The Stair by Anna Katherine Green
Edgar Quenton Bartholomew, an American millionaire, has decided to nominate his nephew, named Edgar Quenton Bartolomew after him, his heir. But shortly before he dies, another nephew, who’s name is also Edgar Quenton Bartolomew, arrives from England to meet him and his daughter. Around the same time, the old man finds out something about his first, beloved nephew that makes him doubt his choice of leaving everything to him. He rewrites his will but, after his death, no one can find it. It has disappeared. Where is this will? Who will benefit from it? And who killed the old Lord Bartholomew? I was afraid, when I picked up this book, that the story, which is well-plotted and interesting, would be hard to follow due to the fact that three men share the same exact name, but luckily my fears were unfounded. It is always clear to what Edgar the author is referring to, something made easier by the fact that the story is narrated by the English Edgar. However, the pace is quite slow, especially at the beginning, and I’ve found the writing style quite boring at times. Still, the mystery was intriguing enough for me to want to keep reading to find out who the culprit was. Again, another nice read for fans of the genre.
Available at: Amazon
Have you read these books? What do you think of them?