A mysterious disappearance that’s just got to be a case of murder is at the center of Poisoned Pen’s latest British reprint, first published in 1937.
Shortly after waving away a telephone request from a persistent caller named Debrette, Bruce Attleton, a novelist with a promising past, leaves his home in Regent’s Park for Paris. He never arrives, but his suitcase turns up in a sculptor’s studio slated for renovation. After Attleton’s friend Neil Rockingham, a considerably more successful dramatist, takes his concerns to DCI Macdonald, Macdonald soon discovers a corpse secreted in the studio. Unfortunately, the absence of a head or hands makes it hard to tell whether Debrette killed Attleton, Attleton killed Debrette, or some unrelated parties got involved. Since actress Sybille Attleton had long lost any feelings for her philandering husband, journalist Robert Grenville was frustrated by Attleton’s refusal to grant him the hand of his ward, Elizabeth Leigh, and everyone agrees that wealthy stockbroker Thomas Burroughs is a generally unpleasant person, the possibilities seem endless, and that’s just if the body is really Attleton’s. Lorac, in the manner of her contemporaries A.A. Milne and Georgette Heyer, manages the cascade of ever increasing complications with a sure hand even though the solution, when it finally arrives, lacks the power of Agatha Christie’s high-concept endings.
The mystery is so complex, in fact, that Lorac, the pseudonym of Edith Caroline Rivett (1894-1958), requires the services of some aggressively facetious suspects, a low-key lead detective who’s a welcome change of pace, and an army of nondescript and interchangeable satellite police officers. Ah, those were the days.