Sunday, March 3, 2013

J.J.Connington: Tragedy at Raventhorpe, 1927

J.J. Connington was better known by the pseudonym which Alfred Walter Stewart, born in 1880 and Professor of Chemistry and Radioactivity, first in Belfast and then in Glasgow, wrote several novels, publishing since the early '20s until his death in 1947.
Tragedy at Raventhorpe, tells about the tragedy that occurred in the Castle.
Sir Clinton Driffield, County Superintendent of Police, has been invited to the Castle of Raventhorpe, to visit the art collections there contained, among which 3 medallions attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. Owner of the castle and the estate is Maurice Chacewater. He opposed the brothers Attilio and Johanna intends to sell the medallions. For this reason, the castle is also an American mediator, JBFoss (with butler and chauffeur), in addition to Johanna's boyfriend, Michael Clifton, a cousin of Chancewater, Ida in Rainhill, and a friend of theirs, Faustus Polegate. One day, Maurice organizes a party at his castle in the mask, during which the most valuable pieces of the collection will be exhibited to the public of those present. Sir Clinton tries in every way to convince him of the extreme danger of this event, as anyone could enter the castle, protected by a mask. But Maurice is adamant. And so, on the evening of the festival, the unthinkable happens: the medallions are stolen. But not the originals but the three copies that were made since the original. It is quite strange because the thief, admitting that he did not know what were the originals and copies them, did not steal all six pieces and not just three, the copies? But the most striking thing, and that Driffield has to discover, is where the thief is over, given that in the confusion after the coup, was chased in the moonlit night, but arrived on the terrace which is overlooking the lake, between the benches and statues the pursuers do not find the thief in another way: he has vanished.

It’s possible the thud they have heard, corresponded to the thief who dived into the lake? Sir Clinton does not believe. The lake is full of sharp rocks: why risk crashing?
Meanwhile, it transpires that the theft was actually committed by Attilio and Faustus Polegate, opposed the sale of the piece of art. What a surprise when one sees that the fake theft has superimposed a real steal! In practice, the thief, disguised as Pierrot, has come a little before two, stole the three copies, leaving the originals, which were then attached below the bottom of the case, the conspirators, to simulate the disappearance.
It’s a coincidence that the two thefts are occurring simultaneously? The fact is that if the thief is not found, it is also true that the landlord comes found holed up in one of the many houses of Fate, salient feature of the estate, and would return if you do not find their homes, a curse would fall on belonging to the head of the family that owned the castle. And so the fairy houses, still exist, scattered in the woods around the castle. Why was Maurice in one of them, with a haggard expression?
Sir Clinton wants to see clearly, the hostility of his hosts: because, even though by now knows the fake theft, wants to continue to investigate? The reason is that the Superintendent of Police suspects that someone else, quite rightly, is interested in three pieces. It’s dredged the lake and it’s found the costume of Pierrot.
Foss offers Chancewater to duplicate parts, with technology that is with him, but he is assassinated shortly thereafter, with a Japanese sword, stored in another showcase of the museum. He was with Maurice: witness Thomas Marden, butler of Foss, who says Maurice is the murderer. It just says that those two were together, then he came, he saw his master in the blood, breaking a window and slid his hand seriously injured, but said he did not see Maurice go away: another disappearance.
Now there's a murder, on which Sir Clinton
has to have its say.

And he must to find out if the murderer is really Maurice, and where he is going to end. At the same time spreads the rumor that a mysterious Black Man has appeared in the wood on the evening of the theft. In short, things people can lose his mind. Meanwhile the gamekeeper warning them that he heard a gunshot near the ruins of the ancient tower, in the woods, a bit 'after the assassination of Foss. But he has found and seen none.
Sir Raventhorpe Clinton knows that there are secret passageways: one that can be opened in its own room in the museum? It caters to Attilio, but that is outside. It must therefore be expected to arrive by train, the next day, to gain access to the secret passage, which actually opens in a niche in the museum. From the gut, in the dungeons of the castle, arriving to a cell, where they find a blood stain. Attilio said to be arrived a little earlier, but the Inspector Armadale who knows but that did not take any train, accuses him of lying. It’s Attilio involved?
Here is the second corpse! Maurice is found in the woods behind the old tower, with his head crushed by a gunshot fired at point blank range. The absence of blood stains and hypostatic, give rise to the suspicion that the body has stiffened elsewhere.
Meanwhile we learn knowing from Marden he was appointed by the owner to send a mysterious package, which then turns out to contain a clock entirely new; also on the box are not fingerprints. And also that Foss was about to leave the castle without anyone knowing, including him: he had seen the driver stopped the car waiting.
But then someone puts into question the words of Marden. Driffield and the Inspector Armadale, his contender in this case, are discovering a mysterious device, called "Otofono Marconi": what it was? Turns out to be an amplifier of sound.
And they are discovering also that Foss was not a mediator but a magician and trickster.
Sir Clinton tends a trap the killer, and after a further drain on the terrace, will be able to catch him, to be chosen, after they have once again tried to fade between the benches and statues of the lakeside terrace.
Let's say that the novel is one of those who Connington longer remains fixed in memory: the reason lies in the great atmosphere. Connington it was an unrivaled master. And the tension is such that two hundred pages are read with a pleasure and a rare tenacity. Then, from this point of view, nothing to say. Furthermore, the novel is one of those in which the author sees at once the tendency to use all the newfangled inventions and that in those years, science and technology could generate: it will be seen for example in the description and use of 'Otofono Marconi. The same gimmick, combined scientific acumen in the investigation, very close Connington to Conan Doyle and at the same Freeman, so that Sir Clinton Driffield in some way can be also compared to Dr. Thorndyke: the see for example in the investigation on the drops of blood found, and the explanation that they can make, whether they are round or elongated, whether they are abundant and they are sprayed, and the explanation of the hypostatic stains. Details as in other novels by other authors, were explained by members of the Scientific Police, or by Medical Examiners. And here the investigator concludes everything. Like .. Sherlock Holmes.
The main thing that I feel to say about its gothic atmospheres, is that in addition to secret passages in the novel I jumped in the eyes the chase scene at night, by moonlight: these night scenes are a bit peculiar to Connington and they are found in some of his novels: for example if there is another in The Case with Nine Solutions (car ride with the fog, at night). Because I believe the case to put them out? Because Carr, in The Grandest Game in the World, essay of 1946, admitted that he was greatly tax and admirer of Connington.
Do you remember the scene in It Walks By Night, in which, after a walk in the park, on a night lit by the glow of the moon, is it discovered Vautrelle murdered? Well, the scene for me is very, very similar to Connington: Carr surely must have been influenced by him, in his first novel. And if it seems like this scene, there are other, always at night, by moonlight, in other atmospheric Carr’s novels, such as Death-Watch or The Crooked Hinge. And the statues on the terrace? To me that scene is reminiscent of Carr’s The Corpse in the Waxworks.
So many awards, but also flawed.
First, the novel is akin to that series in the twenties and before that, he spoke in crime, gangs of criminals, burglaries, where offenders are not members of the aristocracy or upper middle class (which will happen in the '30s) but criminals, or just organized. So, the modus agendi identified, and the explanation of "Quis, quid, ubi, quibus Auxiliis, cur, quomodo, quando" it will be easier than expected to identify the culprit, because, to those who were not able to locate it, are given to understand who he is before the conclusion of the novel.
However, the main and fundamental flaw of this novel, is the relief of the figure of Maurice Chacewater and death: Maurice was assassinated, but not suicidal. Because he has murdered Foss? No, because he was seized with neuralgia, by an illness, or an attack of agoraphobia!
The paradoxical thing is that this crisis that originated in his suicide, is in the hall of the museum, just as it is in the company of Foss which showed the three original jellyfish, and even more ironic is that he feels the need to enter secret passage in just a moment before, but just a moment before, that Foss is killed. And the secret passage, rather than wait until the crisis is over as other times (he knows nothing of what goes on behind the museum room), incidentally, decides to end it, killing himself. So are put in place mechanisms that only in a novel appendage could be realized. And then take away spontaneity and "truth" to the action. Moreover, the characterization of the character is significantly incomplete: this agoraphobia, could have been better faceted.
The predilection of Connington for psychosis, it is indeed a fact: sleepwalking, agoraphobia, kleptomania. Who else of great, manifest preference for psychosis? Ellery Queen. Possible that in addition to Carr, Connington had come to affect Ellery Queen?
Can say, indeed .. quite possible.
Kleptomania that appears in a Queen’s novel is incontrovertible evidence. Like the rest of left-handedness, present before in Connington and then in Queen.

Pietro De Palma

No comments:

Post a Comment