Reviewed by DASHIELL HAMMETT
THE HOUSE OF SIN. By ALLEN UPWARD. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co. 1927. $2.
ALL AT SEA. By CAROLYN WELLS. The same.
THE GIRL IN BLACK. By VICTOR BRIDGES. The same.
THE TATTOO MYSTERY. By WILLIAM LEQUEUX. New York: The Macaulay Co. 1927. $2.
THE VICTORY MURDERS. By FOSTER JOHNS. New York: John Day Co. 1927. $2.
IN "The House of Sin" the quick-acting poison is brought, for a change, from Nigeria instead of South America. Dr. Tarleton, medical adviser to the Criminal Investigation Department, is called to the residence of the Duke of Altringham to examine the body of a handsome young man who has been found dead—murdered, of course—in the Duke's conservatory. All hands lie to the doctor, very industriously. A great mound of trickery, intrigue, and the rest of it, is erected, with a fresh crime thrown on top every now and then. Tarleton, with his experience as physician and police official, should have hit on the truth fairly early in the story. The chances are you will find the solution—if not all its details—before the doctor does, but I recommend the experiment. "The House of Sin" is—except for the weakness mentioned—well and intelligently done.
Garrett Folsom was knifed as he stood in a group of friends in the surf at a New Jersey resort, and the first detective immediately pronounced it "the most mysterious case I have ever heard of." You'll spot the murderer on sight. Any policeman would have had him or her (this vagueness is rather over-ethical in the circumstances) jailed within the hour. Suspicion is thrown at (not on, because you're credulous indeed if any of it fools you) this one and that one. The chief suspect puts himself to an enormous amount of trouble to endanger his neck. Toward the last Fleming Stone is brought in. He's as useless as the other detectives. On page 339 the murderer confesses, for no reason at all except that it's time to end the story. The final explanation is unduly preposterous.
"The Tattoo Mystery" is another mimeographed affair. Lovely Lady Erica Thurston is held in horrible bondage by a most fearsome gang of international thieves, "The Money Spiders," who mark their victims with a terrible tattoo, the first warning of their doom. (If you think I composed that sentence with intent to sneer at the book, you're mistaken: I copied it from the jacket.) The lady talks like this: "I must be taken away from you by a cruel destiny," she said, interrupting me. "Have I not told you that we must never meet again, Mr. Remington? I mean what I say alas! even though it distresses me to repeat those words." People stand aghast and it's all very funny if you're in a mood for burlesque. If your desire is for excitement, pass on