Saturday, December 15, 2012

Joseph Jefferson Farjeon : Seven Dead, 1939

Let's start by saying that "La Casa dei Sette Cadaveri" (Seven Dead, 1939), which is shown on the inside front cover flap, such as "new", it is not: Aldo Martello Publisher, Milan, in the 50s,  published in his series of paperbacks, entitled "The Mystery of the Dawn Treader", several Farjeon, and among them, "La palla da cricket" (The cricket ball), the date of which is indicated print December 12, 1951, marked by the number series "26" and Translation of Raffaella Lotteri. It is a different title, but the novel .. it was the same.
The novel begins with a fireworks display that would leave portend a novel crackling in Benwick, a petty thief tries to make a shot in a house and there is, in a sealed room from the outside (not a room closed) seven bodies : six men and one woman.

In the room nothing special except the shutters nailed and the chimney blocked by the old newspapers to prevent the draft of air, and an old cricket ball over the mantel, with a mysterious note written in code behind. In addition, a portrait of little girl pierced by a bullet.
Now, the reader might expect a tight investigation, at least one post-mortem examination that revealed the cause of the massacre, and yet there is nothing. Instead, the investigation moves quite unusually in France, Boulogne, where the homeowner and his nephew (the family Fenner) are fixed on the day of the massacre: it would therefore be assumed that they could be involved in something, the more so in a room above, in the house of the massacre, are a pair of shoes were found at the center of the floor and a dress dropped to the floor on the carpet, a sign of a sudden departure
Then it is legitimate for the police transmitted an alarm to Interpol or otherwise through diplomatic channels you would put in contact with the French police to stop the two. Instead .. nothing.
A journalist happened in that neighborhood, Hazeldean, conducts the investigations ( that would have to be up to a cop) and goes to Boulogne.
And even in this there is a certain hint of improbability. But if we add to this that the journalist finds at the Pension of Madame Paula in Boulogne Fenner with his niece, on the basis of a postcard view on the mantelpiece of their house next to the cricket ball, and that from the beginning of the his arrival, without knowing anything, he considers the girl completely unaware of what happened, and afraid even to reveal her the massacre that took place in her house, well then at this point it makes us laugh: Farjeon is dated, but dated to the great ! To him, women are holy, incapable of committing a crime, and even so fragile that they can be affected by the detection of a crime. And so they are not liable to suspicion. Farjeon had never read Agatha Christie, for example?
In short, if the crime presaged survey lockout, there is not this: there is instead an investigation of this journalist , that even for the police carries out his investigations, so as to force the inspector Kendall to stuff the ribs just a man, an investigation which leads to reveal the board undergrowth of subterfuge, reticence, silence, the use by criminals, that would have been better placed in serial stories of the early '900. But beyond the conventional, the speech goes on in a maze of assumptions (which may suggest only that the master of the house, the husband of Madame Paula, died in suspicious circumstances; that such a Pierre, is a stinker as well as swindler; the maid Marie is a poor frightened by Pierre; Madame Paula, in love with Fenner, does not want a stranger in the house nosy and tries to move him. Meanwhile, there is an equally unlikely peddler of thirst  who checks on all sides (he is a disguised cop.) All in one hundred pages, on p. 54 to 154; pages, without doing a disservice to those who fight for grains translations, would have reduced heavily without them felt the material need.
Pooh, after a hundred pages of dialogue dull and sometimes unnecessary (also in French), here reappears Kendall (and the action response to Benwick) and investigating with his sergeant, he arrives at the surprising conclusions: the murderer escaped, first with a bicycle, then with an airplane (and this can be understood from the clues); how he can instead identify the means by which it is served to the seven to reach the house, and assign it to a boat that are towing then and there before his eyes, it's all a say : he imagines all seven in the boat, and then fixed and it is the used medium: he comes to a conclusion not with a reasoning but with a precognition.
And only now it turns out the cause of death: gas. Kendall finds an underground room, a laboratory, perhaps a former bunker in the garden around the house,  two dead cats and something left behind including an old tube that looks like (and he will compare it after successfully) adapt well to lock of the locked room in which are found the bodies. Kendall also reconstructs the dramatic sequences and he explains how the framework has been pierced by a bullet. At this point it feels finally the need to track Fenner, uncle and niece.So Kendall goes to France. Well, to be honest, Farjeon not immediately says the cause of death, because so he "may lengthen the stock."
In the famous pension are the seller of thirst, killed, the Fenner’s niece, locked in a room, the reporter knocked out previously, the waitress disappeared along with Fenner, and then the murderer (one of two murderers), who was arrested.
Here the action stops. It takes presumably after the time when Kendall takes stock of the investigations: Kendall tells everything that has been discovered in the course of the past weeks: Fenner in love with Madame Paula killed her husband whom she hated; Fenner had taken the dowry of his niece to finance studies on the gas he discovered and to pay the Madame Paula husband from which was blackmailed, Pierre had killed the seller of thirst, and then the ried to get rid of Marie who instead was saved by the police.
Everything was connected to a shipwreck: Fenner was found clinging to a raft at sea and rescued by another ship, where they were the future husband of Madame Paula, Dr. Jones (the ship's doctor) and Pierre who was a steward. And from here, all was started. But it did not explain the seven corpses. Kendall analyzes then the odd ticket with the number and he assumes it is the latitude and longitude of a place, which comes found south of the Atlantic Ocean.
The process of the story, the explanation of what happened before, reveals how Farjeon was an author of the old school. Also in two Conan Doyle’s novels with Sherlock Holmes, there’s a narrative procedure similar: A Study in Scarlet and The Valley of Fear. In which after the first part, there is another that explains all. It's as if Farjeon had lived in another time and in another space. All the great writers from the '20s to the late '30s were established, and they had brought the considerable contributions to the detective novel, it is as if they had never existed (in his opinion).

With the assessment of the data of latitude and longitude, Kendall finds a small island in the South Atlantic: the wreck of which he had been the victim Fenner had happened there. And so the inspector, the journalist, the niece of Fenner and other people find evidence that the castaways have landed and lived there. They find even the diary of one of them and so they reconstruct the story of that shipwreck which is the basis of everything.
Not tell you how it goes. Only the final reads well, and the reversals that bring a little 'suspense in the novel, which otherwise it would be, in my opinion, predictable.
All in all a nice novel, weighed down by too many pages (I would seem to many superfluous dialogues), not a masterpiece but with rollovers end, lowering the whole and allow you to finish the novel with a final revelation that changes the cards on the table, and with a tragic ending, very very cinematographic.

 Pietro De Palma

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