“By the time Dodson gets here in his slow-motion vehicle,” he muttered, “we’ll be a bunch of maniacs.”
Marina Hays is invited to spend a weekend at their country-home by her friends, Elizabeth and Marge Packett. Also invited is another friend, Gert. The four are met at the station by Randall, the brother of the Packett sisters who informs them that the entire family is present at home: Cousin Bruce, who is obsessed about putting things right; old fuss-pot Uncle George; aunts Delia and Lizzie; and Lizzie’s stepson Sonny. Delia reminded me of those formidable aunts of Bertie’s friend, Gussie Fink-Nottle. [Strange it is, haven’t read Wodehouse for ages now and yet when I thought about it, the name Gussie Fink-Nottle easily popped into the mind though I have forgotten the name of his aunt who used to eat glass…. Why, oh why, did I have to read Adventures of Sally and Jill the Reckless so close together that I never could regain my love for Wodehouse?] But anyway to get back to the novel under discussion, Sonny who is slightly mentally challenged is about to turn twenty-one when he’d inherit a considerable fortune. Lizzie is keen that a part of the fortune should be hers and Uncle George who is a lawyer has the documents ready for it. The family has gathered to celebrate the birthday which falls on Sunday. Sonny announces dramatically that he intends to surprise everyone on his birthday.
And surprises are in store for the family as inanimate things like dolls with tafetta skirts start walking, lights suddenly go-off, whispering and rustling are heard in the dark and murder occurs.
This novel is great fun. Relatives squabble. Murder doesn’t mean people aren’t going to have cakes and coffee along with long-drawn games of Bridge. People walk in and out of your room without so much as by your leave and can catch you in a semi-dressed state. Romance means holding boards and nails for your loved ones. Sweet nothings mean your beau wouldn’t even know your name, and policemen enter unheralded “with the complacently satisfied look of one who had been listening quietly in the hall outside”, and are slapped soundly. I enjoyed every bit of it and found it better than the earlier one read of the two sisters. I will definitely buy a copy of it if it is published anew as I can read passages repeatedly.
Gert was moved to forget her manners once again. She hopped to her feet in a flaming rage and pored a torrent of ripe profanity and abuse on to Randall’s indifferent head. He stretched out on his back and closed his eyes, while Bruce eyed Gert calmly, and Sonny looked on in open-mouthed fascination.
Jeff and Lou hurried to join us, and Dodson followed with more dignity.
“What’s going on here?” Lou asked hopefully.
Randall opened his eyes. “I’m being scolded, but I don’t see why you all have to listen.”
“Lady,” said Jeff, “try and pull yourself together.”
Gert turned on him, dealt him a whacking great slap on the face, and departed, breathing fire from her nostrils.
Jeff appealed to Dodson” “Do I hafta stand for that?”
“Not necessarily,” said the unemotional Dodsun. “next time you’d better duck.”
Lou roared with happy laughter, which was choked off abruptly by an apparently mild look from Dodson. (65)
First Line: It was hot in the train, with dust and soot seeping in and settling in a thin film on the window sills.
Publication Details: London: Collins (The Crime Club), 1944
First Published: 1943
Pages: 160 +
Alternate Title: The Black Rustle
Other books read of the same author: The Black Gloves