John Waldo Leeds lives with his beautiful young wife Mary in a remote cottage near the mouth of the Chesapeake, trying to work on his musical compositions (he has earlier tried to be a racing-car driver and a painter) when their blissful existence comes crashing down with a scream. One night, even as John has retired to bed, Mary wakes him up, claiming that she had heard a scream in the night which might have come from a boat outside. As the sleepy John tries to get his bearings, a blood-curling scream rents the air again. At their calling out, the boat starts slipping away. Husband and wife (rather foolhardily, I thought) decide to chase the vessel rather than calling up the police. When they return from their nightly adventure, having unable to do anything except note that it was a yawl and blue in colour, Mary calls up the police.
The next day Lieutenant Reynolds shows up from the coast-guard and takes their statements. It is clear, however, that he skeptical of the entire incident, and sees no chance of gaining success based on the flimsy ‘evidence’. John is in favour of forgetting the whole thing but Mary rightfully thinks that the murderers know that they might be in danger from the Leeds and ought to be apprehended before they come for them. John finally gives in to her constant cajoling and nagging. Mary turns amateur detective (partly to get out of the boredom of being a hausfrau always at the beck and call of her husband) and starts investigating the owners of blue yawls in the nearby vicinity and they prove to be an interesting lot: a wolfish ‘lord of the manor’ who has an invalid wife; two rough-necked brothers who are known for their loutish behaviour, a respectable family whose unmarried daughter might be carrying a child; a Nazi sympathiser who lives behind a barricaded fort of a house. John indulges his wife till the threatening calls begin. Then suddenly it is not a game anymore. And then an attempt is made on John’s life. What Mary feared has come true….
This is the third novel of Fletcher that I have read in a short span of time. I am very glad to have read her as she writes gripping novels with an unsettling quality that one cannot put down. This book too is extremely engaging and taut but reminded me of a book by Hillary Waugh which took away some of its suspense. Nevertheless, the ‘blue yawl murder’ ended with an unexpected victim and murderer. Would soon be reading more of her works.
First Line: The strange events I am about to relate began on October 15, 1962.
Publication Details: NY: Random House, 1964
First Published: 1964
Source: Open Library
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