The good news is that I can add Annie Haynes as a Golden Age Mystery writer that I enjoy. I’m sure I’ll be back for more of her work.
The less good news is that I just don’t have the energy to finish this book. I read for pleasure and I think I’ve wrung as much enjoyment out of this book as I’m going to get, so I’m moving on.
I really enjoyed the opening of the book. It was gloriously gothic: a lone woman, running from trouble; a deserted railway station, spooky moorland, isolated mist-cloaked farmhouse first encountered in darkness and a mercurial, handsome-but-untrustworthy man offering an unfriendly welcome.
It’s beautifully done: heavy on atmosphere and full of foreboding.
My problem with the book is that I’m a lot more cynical than the audience that would have been reading this book back in 1924. I’m like those kids in modern horror novels who won’t go into the basement alone when they hear a strange noise because they’ve seen all the horror movies showing what a dumb idea that is. I look at the man our heroine meets in the cottage and my first thought was: ‘What is he hiding?’ A few chapters later and, although our heroine remains clueless, I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on. I mean, there was the stuff the parrot was saying. And the strange behaviour of the dog. And the blood. Where did she think that came from?
About a quarter of the way through the book, there’s a scene where our heroine is finally allowed to meet her cousin, Lady Hannah, who she travelled a long way to see but who has apparently been too ill to meet with her. As the scene unfolded all I could think of was Red Ridinghood meeting the wolf.
I wonder how it was received in its day? Did readers immediately know the trick that was being played and take it as confirmation of Lady Hannah’s death as I did or where they taken in? Is our heroine shown as so weak and timid so that this ruse can be given some plausibility or are we all supposed to be yelling at her to wake up?
From that point on, I was kept wondering how long it was going to take for our heroine to get her act together and move out of victim mode. One of the reasons that I don’t have the motivation to finish the book is that I think our heroine was born a victim and it’s never going to change. She’s not bright, not brave and not that interesting. Her main talent seems to be her ability to blush.
In my interior dialogue, I tell myself that I should be making allowances for her. She’s a woman of her times. She has her own troubles. And anyway, what’s wrong with being meek? They’re going to inherit that Earth you know. At least, they will after everyone else is done with it.
I couldn’t keep my attention on the story. Instead, I imagined modern remake in which, when the truth becomes clear, our heroine unleashes anger she didn’t know she had, executes the two miscreants with a carving knife and leaves with the dog and the parrot. The parrot gets the final line of the book – ‘Poor Hannah’.
Anyway, I’ve set this aside but I’ll be back at some point to read ‘The Bungalow Mystery’.