Sunday, December 6, 2015

Review: The Paternoster Ruby by Charles E. Walk

by Mary

The Paternoster Ruby may not be bang in the middle of the generally accepted dates for the Golden Age but don't let that stop you from reading this novel. For those who like them -- and I do, very much -- it features a floor plan and a cipher of several numbers, oh frabjous day! Not to mention colour illustrations. Can't beat such riches with a big stick!

But what of the plot? Well, the narrator, Inspector Knowles Smith, remarks at one point he believes "the reader will unhesitatingly admit, by this time, that the Page affair presented many remarkable aspects".

And so it does.

As the book opens on a January day in 1892, Inspector Smith is investigating the murder of wheat king Felix Page, who had recently made a killing on that grain and in the process trounced hated rival Alfred Fluette. There are two immediate suspects: the murdered man's two overnight guests, these being his private secretary and a young man sporting a fresh black eye who initially refuses to say what business brought him to Page's mansion the night before. However, the secretary reveals the latter's visit has to do with the titular ruby. Naturally, the ruby was involved in two deaths, three if you count the man hanged for murdering its owner Paternostro, who gave his name to the gem.

And so begins a convoluted tale in which the narrator, then in his 20s, tells of the twists and turns of his investigation. There is more to the situation than murder and the theft of the fabulous ruby, and much of the action takes place in the dead man's mansion which at one time or another has a number of unexpected visitors while Smith and a colleague are in residence seeking clues and the missing ruby.

My verdict: The novel is written in a surprisingly modern style and moves along like all get out. There's a twist at the end completely demolishing my theory about the gem, who pinched it, and Page's murderer. I suspected just about every possible culprit except the person who confesses and even then...but no spoilers here. I'll be looking out for more of Walk's works.

Etext: The Paternoster Ruby by Charles E. Walk

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