“Other people die of mumps, or general decay;
Of fever, chills or other ills, but Wilders walk away.”
Reynold Frame is a freelance writer who came to the Vermont town of Wilders Lane to research an article on American history. Just take some photographs of people’s old homes, get a few tales of life in the good old days… and then he meets the Wilder family.
The Wilder family have the oddest history – for members of the family have a habit of walking away and disappearing into thin air, sometimes in impossible circumstances. But when Frame comes across a fresh grave, it seems that members of the Frame family, in the present day, are the target of a cunning murderer.
A classic suspense novel in which each member of the Wilder family seems marked for death until Reynold Frame, a young writer, happens on the scene. – The Mystery Lover’s Companion, Art Bourgeau
Herbert Brean wrote seven mystery novels between 1948 and 1966, four of which, if I’m right, feature Reynold Frame. I received this book from my Secret Santa and have been meaning to get round to it for a while. The premise of people vanishing is an eye-catching one, with the sort of set-up that Carr would revel in.
But I think the quote from Bourgeau above is appropriate – this isn’t really that sort of mystery. The disappearances really only get enough detail to solve them as Frame solves them himself, and one wonders exactly why nobody spotted one or two of the methods when the location was first visited. The footprints mystery is one of the more intriguing ones, but it relies on one of the solutions that tend to be dismissed by the puzzle masters – although there is a romantic subplot that echoes some of the less convincing GAD ones.
However, going into the book as a thriller – there is a whodunit here, by the way – the reader will get a lot out of this. A confidently written debut with a lot of style, this is a very enjoyable read. I look forward to more Brean in the future, if I can find any…
For an alternative reviews, do take a look at The Invisible Event or The Passing Tramp.
I am very pleased but surprised you liked this, because it is on my “to find” list, having been on several lists of best hard boiled private eye novels!
Thanks for your review, which helped put the title on my radar. I have finally read the book. I enjoyed this hybrid between impossible-crime puzzle and suspense thriller very much and agree with your assessment, including the suggestion that readers will enjoy it more expecting a small-town suspense thriller rather than a locked-room puzzler.
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