12 November 2008

Not Blue's Clues

The Clue of the Forgotten Murder
Erle Stanley Gardner

When I say I read almost everything I mean it.

I saw this forlorn, poor, partly-eaten (by termites, that is) copy of Erle Stanley Gardner's crime story a couple of weeks ago. It was my mom's copy, probably given to her fifty years ago. It even has her name on it. I've read my mom's copies of books both by Gardner and Agatha Christie when I found her stash of mystery and/or crime books years and years ago. Goodness, this book (physically) is older than me! And this Cardinal publication is fifty years ago while the story was originally published in 1935. I'm holding history in my hands.

It's also a crime story judging by the title. And while this isn't one of Perry Mason's many sleuthing activities it's pretty much a tightly written story of a juicy scoop gone wrong.

The story stars with a reporter named Charles Morden doing the police beat, so to speak. He stumbled upon a drunken arrest purportedly of an upstanding citizen named Frank B. Cathay picked up with a comely hitchhiker. Upon publishing the scoop, imagine Morden's surprise when the real Frank B. Cathay shows up in newspaper office and threatened libel. But when Morden digs deeper into the situation he winds up dead. Cathay as well, apparently of poison. So what now?

Enter Sidney Griff, a criminologist. Hired by Dan Bleeker of the paper to solve the mystery surrounding Morden's death, Griff is this book's Sherlock Holmes out to uncover the truth that started with the untimely arrest of the man impersonating Frank B. Cathay. And the truth is far more complicated that everyone imagined.
"Observe, Bleeker," he said, "what an interesting thing the truth is. Falsehoods may be built up which seem to have the appearance of truth, but they have no foundation to back them. They are like mirages, like the fronts of structures which are used in motion picture sets; things that look all right when viewed from one angle, but have nothing back of them, if one will but take pains to view them from all sides."

So I finally finished another book though I can't say I'm out of my slump. It's been languishing beside my pillows for days now and it's only early this morning where I had the need (hahaha) to follow through Morden's death. Not that it wasn't well-written. It's just that I haven't been used to reading fast-paced crime fiction that it takes a bit of getting used to following all the clues, traps and what-nots peppered into the story. And believe me there are lots of it.

It's pretty much an enjoyable read save that I had to be very careful turning the pages lest I end up with powdery crumbs to read. That's the problem with reading partly-eaten books. The termites probably skipped this one because it was too old to digest. While it's enjoyable enough as it is, I find the Perry Mason novels more complex and intriguing. It's also fun to discover what it was like in the 1930's, how people solve crimes and all. Forensics was barely mentioned save for fingerprints and the poison thing.

Gee, what else would turn up in the house?


  1. There's something so special about reading an older and well-loved copy of a book sometimes, isn't there? Even if it was well-loved by termites :P

    I actually hadn't thought of that before, but I bet the way the advance of technology changed crime fiction is really noticeable! Well, it changed fiction in general, of course, but these books are particularly connected with what can and cannot be done to discover things.

  2. It's special indeed. Too bad I can't ask the termites what they think of the book :P

    It changes alright. A good old whodunit is probably easier to solve now with all the advancements. I like reading old crime and/or mysteries though. Most of them are character-driven and it's always a pleasure to have that lightbulb moment at the end when everything is explained logically.



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