Sunday, August 23, 2015

Review: The Dream Doctor by Arthur B. Reeve

by Mary

The Dream Doctor is narrated by ace reporter Walter Jameson, Professor Craig Kennedy's flatmate. Jameson is instructed by his editor at The Star to write an article describing an average month for the scientific detective and this collection relates, in the form of a continual narrative, the cases Kennedy handles as Jameson undertakes the task.

Price Maitland, fatally stricken by cobra venom, has apparently committed suicide. His wife is being treated by Dr Ross for "nervous trouble" (apparently of a Freudian nature -- something to do with her broken engagement to Arnold Masterson perhaps?) so her claim to have dreamt of her husband's impending death is pretty well ignored. The wonderfully named Lovibond Tintometer contributes to the solving of the puzzle.

The next case involves the Novella Beauty Parlour, wherein actress Blanche Blaisdell is found dead. Her married boyfriend, top lawyer Burke Collins, wants his name kept out of the papers and parlour owners Professor and Madame Millefleur seem a wee bit shady too -- but what about the young girl found wandering in the street, babbling about a woman with shining lips? Suspects gather in Kennedy's lab, where they are hooked up to a long-distance lie detector....

Yvonne Brixton asks Kenndy to help her millionaire father, who's hiding out in his country house convinced he is constantly spied upon and that his telephone is tapped. Oh, and he hears voices in his country home's fortress-like office/study as well. What does Count Conrad Wachtmann, Miss Brixton's fiance, know about those threatening letters sent to Mr Brixton, signed The Red Brotherhood of the Balkans?

Hardly have Kennedy and Jameson returned home after solving that puzzle when wealthy J. Perry Spencer sweeps them off to his private museum and art gallery, where green objects have been vandalised and his collection of French emeralds stolen. Lucille White, caretaker of Spencer's library, relates a strange tale involving a greenish yellow Egyptian coffin. Kennedy's optophone assists the truth to emerge.

Next comes a call from steel millionaire Emery Pitts. His chef has been murdered in the kitchen, although by the look of its bloody shambles he appears to have managed to stab his assailant several times before being overcome. A torn-up note to Mrs Pitts and some remarkable theories about aging help round out the story.

The breakneck pace continues when Kennedy is retained by the Curtis family to investigate the death of Bertha Curtis, whose body has been found in the river. A phantom boat is seen visiting the dock of a deserted riverside house at night, and while 'Big Jack' Clendenin, who runs a dope joint frequented by Miss Curtis, will be well worth investigating, first a tong war in Chinatown must be put down.

The next consultation involves thefts from a high class emporium and a Fifth Avenue jeweller, where valuable jewelry has been stolen and replaced by imitations. Suspicion initially points to well-known shoplifter Annie Grayson but delicate sleuthing is required, given the last person looking at the diamonds pinched in one case is a Wall Street broker's wife, Mrs William Willoughby. Fortunately Kennedy's telegraphone and psychometer come to the rescue!

Next, a Mr Winslow and his daughter Ruth call on Kennedy. The Winslows live in Goodyear, a town famous for its rubber (Reeve's little joke perhaps?). Bradley Cushing, Ruth's fiance, has invented an improved type of synthetic rubber whose widespread use is inevitable and which will ruin many residents. Thus there are numerous suspects when Cushing is found murdered in his laboratory. There is a scent of oranges in the air...but this crime conceals one that in some ways is far worse.

The excitement continues when District Attorney Carton summons Kennedy to the Criminal Courts Building, where Kennedy nonchalantly dismantles a bomb sent by kingpins in the vice trade. Carton has hopes of getting a fellow called Haddon, one of the wretches involved in the filthy business, to sing like the proverbial canary. Unfortunately, Haddon disappears....

In Kennedy's world, it's often dangerous for men to get engaged, for yet another fiance is suspected of having a hand in criminal activities. A German, Mr Nordheim, is affianced to the daughter of Captain Shirley. The latter has invented a wireless-controlled submarine using a process Kennedy calls Telautomatics. But someone has been tinkering with its operation. Warning: claustrophobes will find part of this story difficult going but there is a nice twist vis a vis who is responsible.

Montague Phelps has died after going into a coma whose cause cannot be discovered. Not long before he had married the dancer Anginette Petrovska, but during their honeymoon trip the family banking house failed and Phelps returns home pretty well wiped-out financially. As if that was not bad enough, the family mausoleum is desecrated and Mrs Phelps receives a blackmailing letter. Then her husband's body is stolen and it's up to Kennedy to solve the matter.

Sanford Godwin is in Sing Sing, awaiting execution after conviction for poisoning his adoptive father, Parker Godwin. Sanford and the Elmores, the three grandchildren of Parker Godwin's sister, are co-heirs and the state asserts the cause of Godwin's crime was a new will which in effect disinherited him. Nella Godwin, Sanford's wife, appeals to Kennedy for help. The solution features both a twist and a particularly satisfying denouement.

My verdict: Though the mysteries are sometimes slight with few suspects unless the culprit might be a passing pedestrian who carpe diemed, the scientific explanation are delightful if somewhat long-winded for modern taste. I found myself wondering if the various types of equipment utilised by Kennedy would operate as stated, so consulted an electrical engineer of my acquaintance about one, the phantom circuits -- and apparently it's correct. Presumably the other contraptions strewn in the path of wrongdoers would also work as stated. An enjoyable collection, especially for those interested in sleuthing aided by science.

Etext: The Dream Doctor by Arthur B. Reeve

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