Theodore Ichabod Terhune (Tommy) was a simple bookseller who finds himself thrust into a bizarre puzzle. Stepping in to prevent some thugs from attacking Helena Armstrong, the secretary to Lady Kylstone, he duly finds himself knocked unconscious, waking up in Helena’s bedroom (as the thugs were scared off and she decided to look after him).
His curiousity is piqued by the fact that there seems to be, on the face of it, no reason for Helena to be attacked. Something must be going on – but what? With the backing of Lady Kylstone, Terhune finds himself investigating… something. As the clues mount up, can he manage to pull them together to find out exactly what crime he is investigating?
This is the first of eight Terhune mysteries by Bruce Graeme, all of them bibliomysteries, one of the first of this subgenre. As such we meet some of the supporting characters who will go on to become regulars in the series, as per the introduction from John Norris (one note – do be careful if you want to be unspoiled with regard to Terhune’s personal life in future books, as he has two unresolved love interests in this book, but you’ll know who he ends up with if you read the intro.)
It’s an innovative structure, with the book divided into eight sections, First Clue, Second Clue, …, Seventh Clue and The Crime. It’s a witty book with something interesting on every page – I wonder, was it originally serialised. as, notably in the earlier sections, there tends to be a recap of what has just happened. I did enjoy in particular the visit to New York City – I’ve been lucky enough to go there myself a couple of times, and Graeme does a great job of conveying the wonder and sheer enjoyment of just walking around the city.
It’s not perfect – there were times towards the end when I had to flick back to remind myself who was who. Perhaps that’s because I read one of the bigger chapters before going to sleep and promptly forgetting most of it, but because a lot of the characters are in absentia, this poor old reader did get a bit confused at the end.
I think I’ll be back for more – I certainly enjoyed Graeme’s prose and the lead character is a charming sort. The series is being reprinted by Moonstone Press and it’s a good choice, with some funky covers too. For another (more glowing) review, do take a look at Cross Examining Crime.
1941 and all that:
One of the reasons I looked at this one is that I’m starting/reviving an ill-defined project on books written in the UK when the outcome of the second World War was uncertain – hence I’m picking books published in 1941, as this one is. Not just those books that use the war as a setting, but also those that choose to ignore it.
This one is interesting as it refers to the current time as “the end of the immediate postwar period of reconstruction”. This is a very odd phrase, unless Graeme was convinced that the war was a foregone conclusion, or he was choosing to ignore it. I suppose he is possibly referring to the Great War, but the phrase “immediate” would seem to counter that argument. So he is going for the optimistic approach, and rather than ignore the conflict, he is setting these books after it. Interesting.