Monday, May 6, 2013

Jonathan Stagge : Death, My Darling Daughters, 1945

Jonathan Stagge : Death, My Darling Daughters (aka Death and the Dear Girls), 1945

copertine gialli blog 036.jpgJonathan Stagge as Patrick Quentin or Quentin Patrick, was not only pseudonym, but also firm, formed in turn by the union of four pairs of writers, which is signed otherwise: the most prolific was formed by Richard Wilson Webb (1901 - 1966) and Hugh Callingham Wheeler (1912 - 1987), who signed all novels with Jonathan Stagge, from their first novel, Murder Gone to Earth - 1936, Aka The Dogs Do Bark, until the last The Three Fears, 1949. Of the nine novels published under this pseudonym, Death, My Darling Daughters (also Death and the Dear Girls) is the seventh and dates back to 1945.
The war ends and Kenmore, the town where Dr. Westlake is doctor, comes back to life. Especially is reopened the historic residence, where a vice-president of the United States of the century, Benjamin Hilton was staying in the summer
Hilton's daughter, Emily, and her two daughters, Loss and Rosalind, are staying and so they have  invited other relatives and friends: the aim is that the residence of the deceased Benjamin comes back to being the symbol of Kenmore. Among them, the other two sons of Benjamin's: the Emily’s sister, Belle, with her husband, the famous toxicologist Kenton-Oakes, and especially his brother George, scientist, with his wife Janie and his daughter Helen . Then there are friends, including Dr. Stahl, Austrian woman refugee who is studying a series of cyanide-based poisons against mouses, who is working in the barn. the assistant of George Hilton, Vic Roberts, and Dr. Westlake with his daughter Dawn.
Between dinners and concerts, it would seem that life in the residence of Hilton ran placid and smiling, and instead in the ashes the hatred is hatching: the testament of the patriarch ruled by the testament legacies of the two sisters and favored only a son who became heir to the fortune by  Hilton. Only he is rich. If he died, the money would be divided between his wife and daughter, sister and nephews. But without that he would die, if he was a bit more generous, no one would feel hatred for him. But the fact is that George is in love only of his work, of his discoveries: he became famous for his study on the possibilities of synthetic penicillin and other antibiotics. Only no one knows the truth: he was not to make the discovery, but his assistant Vic Roberts, who takes only his crumbs.

George has many people who hate him and want him dead.
It must be said that before he gets in Kenmore, perhaps someone has already in the past tried to eliminate him, mixing crushed glass to starch administered to him after a gastric congestion: only the old Nanny, the housekeeper, realized who he/she was . And it seems she has alerted the subject not to make other attempts: it is no coincidence that the day after Nanny dies, drinking tea corrected with cyanide.
Who may have been? But it was really murder or accident? Yes, because was Nanny who was polishing the silverware in the house, and to do it, used products containing cyanide. It is possible that the teapot, especially on the edge has not been cleaned properly and the residue killed the poor Nanny? Everyone thinks.
But the death of Nanny did not happen by accident: she was murdered. This is proved by the fact that Nanny drinking tea with Belle,  if it was really so, both the women would have fatally intoxicated and the teapot to be an instrument of death of both;  instead Belle was no intoxicated. So the poisoning had been made after, not before: if it was the product to clean the silverware the cause of death of Nanny, the two women should have to die, because Nanny had cleaned the silverware before and no after. So someone, after, he had voluntarily sprinkled the poison on the edge of the teapot in order to kill her. Nanny knew the intentions of the murderer, she knew the starch mixed with glass, and the starch she had not thrown: she always kept it with her, the proof the bomber in the past had tried to suppress George, and it is clear that if Nanny had not told anyone about her suspicions it is because the alleged bomber was one of the family of George, and in that house, the house of the Hilton, the aristocratic house of the Hilton, the scandals were not allowed.

Nanny died, it would seem that the murderess could try to kill George, because if he dies, the others become rich. And so ...
The toxicologist Austrian earns his paltry money by giving private music lessons to his two daughters Emily, and daughter of Westlake, Dawn, promising musician. One day, it organized a concert, a kind of essay in which the three can demonstrate improvements musical actually feel dissonance only to that concert. George, who plays the flute, he tries to give his personal contribution and then he just started to make sounds, that one more strong, distorted is lost in the air when he staggers and collapses on the floor. Dead. Poisoned. With cyanide. It turns out that the mouthpiece of the flute had been impregnated with cyanide. But also had not been cleaned it with the product for the silverware? Misfortune, for the murderer, Westlake realizes incongruity of the story of the poisoning of Nanny and as Belle should have died, if indeed the hypothesis of product for the silverware murderer was true. So when they are faced with the truth, also they understand a murderer, one by family, killed the two persons.

But where he/she get the cyanide? The fact is that there is one tide, available in the barn, to study the reactions in mouses, and then if someone took a bit no one can say, because precautions to ensure that the removal was prevented, were not put in place.
So Dr.Westlake will trap the evil murderer, not before he/she struck again, simulating a murder to suicide and blaming the suicide about the murder of his victims. The fact is that the murderer will die suicide, for cyanide, in a tragic and memorable ending.
A massacre, this!

The idea of ​​the family where they hatch hatred, jealousy and envy, when the brothers hate each other, where there is hatred behind the money, and a testament geezer by an equally quirky patriarch, are not new : S.S.Van Dine more than fifteen years before, he had sown well the seeds of hatred family in his masterpiece about the murders in the Greene family!
Stagge, however, takes the towel already developed by Van Dine and varies with great skill, playing on the psychology of the characters, highlighting the details that will be discovered, however, in their light left at the end, concealing and highlighting, in a proud of obviousness and subterfuge, more driving, along with loves lost and found, for lovers scoundrels: Vic has an extramarital relationship with Janie, he is loved by Helen and together by Dr. Stahl. George knew nothing until Helen refused had not told her: it turns out in the end that she had been the cause of the break between George and Vic. But the murderess is a man or woman? Was Vic who wanted to take revenge on George who had stolen the success, or Helen, who wanted to inherit his father's money, hating her stepmother? O Janie who would like to get rid of her husband and live with Vic? O Stahl who wants to avenge Vic? Or Emily and her two daughters?

It 'a pretty classic mystery novel, written with great skill: the reason lies in the plot, who is apparently based on a matter of course. He does everything to bring together the suspicions about certain subjects, then here and there, that's Stagge dangles other ideas, however, concealing the real rehearsal, the evidence of guilt to the end.
It is good to say: they are overwhelming rehearsals only if interpreted psychologically from Westlake, otherwise they would not be. Wetlake employs two flashes of genius to reverse the recent guilty suicide, in murder of an innocent: the clues are two disks on which the false killer suicide would affect his/her confession and an interview that there would have not been.
Even though the final twist, about the name, is a bit melodramatic and quite built: you do not understand why a person would have to call in a way, and his parents give that name, only in order to play with his destiny.
Mysteries of a novel in which, once again, Dawn makes her contribution to the success of his father, Dr. Westlake.

Pietro De Palma

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your review. I thought the story was fine but not great, though I appreciated the very fair clueing. The main limitation Insensed during my reading was that some of the characters came across as cliche or "stock". But the book redeemed itself with the emotional strength of the final chapter. I can see how some readers may call it melodramatic. To me, it was not melodramatic in the bad sense of the word; rather it was all consistent with years of built up tensions and frustrations.