Friday, May 9, 2014

Mignon Eberhart: The Mystery of Hunting 's End, 1930


Mignon Eberhart , was a popular American writer . He invented the female nurse Sarah Keate , and inserted it into a his vein, distinguished from plots where there was usually a woman in danger, and in which the mysterious element fasten the romantic sentimental, a bit as the Nancy Drew mystery, novels " for ladies" , written by Carolyn Keene ( pseudonym under which lurked several authors of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the most famous of which was Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson ) . Unlike these novels, which are dominated by the suspense , because direct more than anything else to a young audience , that relate to  events in which they move crooks and thieves, but not assassinations, and that therefore the violent element is very watered down , those by Mignon Eberhart , who began to write taking as  her mode  Mary Roberts Rinehart, marked by strong atmosphere and a thriller spasmodic , contain  murders ! Although the story is often intertwined with romantic ashes .
Mignon Eberhart wrote The novel  The Mystery of Hunting 's End, s her third novel (with Character Sarah Keate), after Patient in Room 18 (1929) and While the Patient Slept (1930).
Here nurse Sarah Keate , called into question by Detective Lance O ' Leary, his friend , is involved in an affair in which dominates the suspense but also the mystery .
Mary Kingery , daughter of financier Hubert Kingery , after five years from the death of his father ,  occurred in circumstances not fully clarified, decides he wants to know the whole truth , and for this, at the residence of his father, near Barrington, summon all  people who were present at the death of his father, who also accepted , to dispel the suspicion that there may have been involved  : Julian Barre, Jasper Fraley , Nicholas Morse , Charles Killian , they are all friends and partners , and in any case characters related to financial founded by Hubert Kingery ; Jose Paggi is a tenor and his wife Helen Paggi ; Blanche Von Turcum is a baroness ; Lucy Kingery , is the sister of Hubert and Aunt of Mary ; Brunker , is the domestic and Anne , the cook . All were five years ago. The last two continue to serve at home, and like the others, would have had valid grievances , and therefore a valid motive for desiring the death of Hubert.
Apparently , Hubert died of a heart attack, but something is not clear , and the same is not persuaded Mary that her father has died in this way : he was found in his pajamas, on the ground, without slippers , prepared to sleep in the bed and the bedside the light turned on. Inside a closed room from the inside. This circumstance authorized to think that the death had occurred due to natural causes. Later O’Leary will know from Lucy Klinger there was the work of concealment and corruption against the doctor who signed the death certificate , because he was silent on the true cause: Hubert died for a gunshot at point-blank that had caught him in the chest. She who "apparently" was seized with paralysis at the time of his brother's death , bur isn’t seized with paralysys instead, in fact it seems she had opposed in all its forms , for financial games too open-minded  of her brother, faces to enrich himself at the expense of the people around him , not caring about their lost savings : all or most of those who Mary want to spend their days in La Vedette , the lonely place in the sand .
Mary would like to avoid marrying someone who might have murdered the father, also: among her guests there is also her fiancé.
She assigns the rooms on the ground floor in a hunting lodge. Very few go to sleep on the first floor where the gallery is located directly in front of the room where he died Hubert. Among assigned rooms that not assigned also is Hubert’s room, in which three among guests (Julian Barre, Jasper Frale and Charles Killian) offer to sleep there: Jasper Fraley will end among three to sleep there. Jasper is the boyfriend of Mary . At night, while Jose Paggi and Nurse Keate detectives are talking in front of the fireplace, and can be found randomly in front of the door of the Fraley’s room, they feel before a rustle , as if someone passed on tiptoe above them, in the balcony, then they hear a knock coming from the room: Jasper is died , hit by a bullet to the heart, while wearing pajamas , barefoot and attired bed for the night. The door is open , but they were there out the door , though not in the front but the side, perjury and swear that no one came out the rooms, even if, before passing in front of the Fraley’s door bedroom , Sarah had heard two voices coming from the inside. Moreover, the windows are closed and the door that connects the room with the Barre’s room is closed by a bar . And it was not suicide , because you should find the weapon, and this is not there. So ...
But what’s the murderer ? A ghost ?
Some of the guests are emotional , because the old dog of Hubert , Jericho, whining all the time that passes in front of the door of the former owner and behaves as if there was a supernatural presence among them.
The search for the killer which seem difficult. Yet he is there, among them : he can not be escaped , because it's snowing outside , it's snowing , it's snowing incessantly : the villa where everyone came together , is completely isolated . But if the murderer  can not escape, also the other people can not escape,  in case he wanted killer some other . Yeah, because Jasper before he was killed , during dinner , he had alluded to some papers that he was in possession of the hide , which were like a pass, and which contained evidence of fraudulent financial by Kingery . Precisely for this reason , Hubert had forced her daughter to get engaged to Jasper was the price of blackmail. Now everyone is looking for these cards .
Before a sheet disappears from Keate found in the room of the dead, containing a sequence of numbers addressed to Morse ; the dead man's toupee then disappears , then reappears ( Sarah finds him ) and then disappears to reappear again and again ; then disappears even the dead, while there is the Baroness  who swear s had not entered anyone in the room.
Reticence, half-truths , lies, all conspire to undermine the investigation of the couple Keate - Leary . Even the wishes of some of the guests, before the corpse disappeared , make it disappear , because if the body is not there and so there is no evidence of a crime , there can not be (in theory ) a survey.
The present situation becomes absurd , the groceries are becoming scarce , because their estate is completely isolated in the snowstorm. Meanwhile, the murderer kills.
Before he tries  to poison the dog with strychnine . Then , when the snow ceases to fall, and Morse would like to go away to seek relief, he ries to kill O ' Leary, hitting him in the head with a poker night, while the detective is collapsed in one of the chairs in the room. Finally the muredere kills Morse , shoving a knitting needle , lost by the nurse, into the heart.
Then he hides the corpse.
With this novel , Mignon Eberhart won in 1931, the Scotland Yard Prize. Why ?
Undoubtedly we are dealing with a good novel that has some very specific characteristics :
an oppressive and claustrophobic atmosphere , which is a bit the feature of all those novels in which the house is in the middle of something from which the occupants can not escape : a cyclone ( Murder at 28. 10 , of Newton Gayle ), the sea ​​( Ten Little Niggers by Agatha Christie ), electrified doors ( The Invisible Host by Bristow & Manning ), a fire in the woods (The Siamese Twin Mystery, by Ellery Queen) ; the presence of climatic conditions and extreme weather ( something that also appears in other novels of Eberhart ); a woman in danger ( here's the nurse , but also Mary Kingery); a love story (between Killian and Mary ) ; a survey that moves more for isolated events which for a concatenation of tiles put into place ; a history  more than detective , romance , but not too much ; and especially a solution that , while providing convincing , gives way to some bugs here and there . However, because of the strangeness of the survey, which differs a lot from the more classical , typical of the Mystery , the Eberhart who rightly or wrongly (from this first novel , I'd say more , " wrong " ) was defined as the Agatha Christie of America, she’s  more akin to the kind Suspence or Thriller , since the solution does not come as the logical conclusion of a speech, but as the successful attempt by the detective , who is suspected but has no proof that ( he says) , to compel one who he thinks is the murderer to be discovered, forcing him along with other people that make up the decoy , to avoid being shot by the device that he, the murderer, prepared earlier. In essence, the reader is just waiting to see if the murderer will be found or not, because he did not know who might be right ( I had it figured out but for another reason, which is inherent in the allocation of Rooms: why does Jasper die? And this not because the reader is stupid , but because the author does not provide the clues clearly , but then explain its meaning after: " Hidden Harmonies !") so that he can understand it.
The thinking  I do is this : given that the assignment was made by Mary , and that she can not be the murderer because otherwise she would never have called this meeting to find out the murderer of her father, it goes without saying that it should be another. If the murderess was by flesh and bones, could be anyone , but it is obvious that the strangeness of the discovery of the body suggest something exceptional : no one would be able to approach from the other far rooms , so it's someone close to Jasper’s room . Despite this, the novel is good : merit of Eberhart that packs all in all a good novel .
It 'obvious that
The Mystery of Hunting’s End is a classic locked room , while not seeming that at first sight: in this case the sums It Walks By Night by Carr ( The door was not locked, but was supervised from trusty people  ) , and the novels in which the murderer although physically it may seem he was , he was not ( essentially returns the case described in The Greene Murder Case by S.S.Van Dine, in which a gun is operated with a device specially prepared : I note that the novel by Van Dine, American , precedes this by Eberhart two years); and of course, as we said before , it could be called a Locked enlarged  Room , being the house itself a locked  large room , from which, for the blizzard in place, the murderer can not be escaped .
The fact that some important foreign critics have expressed warm appreciation in respect of this novel, is likely to be related to the nature of the Locked Room .
It 'obvious that it can not have happened that the murderer has staged a few pantomime in order to distract the viewer, go in and kill the victim into believing that he was already dead (as in The Wrong Shape of Chesterton ) , because in the latter case , there would be the guilty competition and therefore an action spectacular directed to stage anything ; and then it would explain the lack of credit by specialized critics . I’s obvious that we fall in other cases .
That that sees the crime mature in the absence of the murderer , for a carefully premeditated plan . In this case the repetition of the murder of Hubert,  in the Jasper’s killing , makes us understand how , having been the home, for Mary’s admission , closed for five years, the murderer can neither having prepared the room nor removed the device that is therefore operating . The strange thing is that just kill the person nominated to be killed, dies : then, the murderer left at the last moment that the mechanism of death did his part. Precisely the absence of the person of the murderer and the reliance on a device, technique that’s in the novels of the period preceding Eberhart ( for example Eden Phillpotts : The Grey Room, 1921) , I believe it has contributed little to the credit of the work. But then, why did other works remain immortal ( The Greene Murder Case , by SS Van Dine, for example, with its mechanism mentioned by Carr , and the same Fatal Descent , by Carter Dickson / John Rhode, who puts into practice a murder carried out in an elevator hermetically closed , by means of a gun calibrated in a certain way ? ) and this novel, less ? I think because Mignon Eberhart does not put the reader in the position to understand , or at least to seek to understand how the murder took place , not revealing a few things : so in a sense, she does not meet the 20 Van Dine rules or those by Knox, ie in practice she cheats  the reader
John Dickson Carr at his Locked-Room Lecture in The Hollow Man, he also refers to this way of killing:

“Most people, I am delighted to say, are fond of the locked room. But--here's the damned rub--even its friends are often dubious. I cheerfully admit that I frequently am. So, for the moment, we'll all side together on this score and see what we can discover… A man escapes from a locked room--well?... It's the escape from the room that bothers me. And, to see if we can't get a lead, I am going to outline roughly some of the various means of committing murders in locked rooms, under separate classifications…..
"3. It is murder, by a mechanical device already planted in the room, and hidden undetectably in some innocent-looking piece of furniture. ..
For a more large extract, see my article in this blog:

If you wish to see other killing manners described by Carr, let see the article by a friend of mine, John Pugmire in his website “Locked Room International”:

Perhaps it is for this reason, also, the novel is not overly loved.

Pietro De Palma

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