Genesee, Colorado was a town dependent on the coal that came from Haunted Mine, so when a fire raged through the tunnels, it was a local disaster. With seventeen miners trapped, Tony Sheridan, a member of the family that owns the mine, descends heroically into the depths. No one else goes into or out of the mine, but Tony never returns.
Five weeks later, the fire is finally out and the mine is re-entered to finally find the bodies. The seventeen men are found dead behind a barricade – clearly Tony’s mission was doomed before he set off. Tony’s body is found at the foot of the main shaft – but it wasn’t fire that killed him. Tony had been shot in the back – but nobody could have been there to shoot him!
A quick plug for Kate’s Coffee and Crime subscription by which means I received this handsome Coachwhip reprint of Tyline Perry’s 1930 novel. She only wrote two crime novels (for certain), this and The Never Summer Mystery from 1932. On the basis of this tale, that’s a damn shame as it’s a highly entertaining read, one of the most enjoyable novels from the Golden Age that I’ve encountered for a good while.
It’s told in the first person by “Cappy”, one of Tony’s brother. After the opening disaster at the mine, we scroll back in time a little to set up the protagonists of the events, before, once the disaster happens, diving into a twist-filled rollercoaster of a novel.
OK, the twists aren’t exactly massively surprising and the “locked mine” problem isn’t as airtight as it could be. But Perry doesn’t let the reader sit still, with short chapters, almost all of which involve the plot moving forward in some sense. And, despite all the threads, everything ties up rather beautifully at the end.
I think the reader is being invited to figure out what is going on, but it’s more a sense of what fits the facts, rather than being overtly clued. I figured out a chunk of it – I did think the narration danced around one aspect, although quite understandably – but I missed the big reveal at the end, despite it being obvious in hindsight. Which, of course, is the sign of a great mystery…