Book Report: The Book of the Crime by Elizabeth Daly (1951)

Book of the Crime cover This book is one of the last in a series by Elizabeth Daly, whom Wikipedia claims Agatha Christie called her favorite American author or something. Like Dark Bahama, this book appears in a Detective Book Club edition I purchased when I bought a couple dozen of the Walter J. Black hardbacks at some book sale’s box day.

Also like Dark Bahama, this book is a little hard for my modern reader sensibilities to get into. Although this book is set in Manhattan in the 1950s (or just post World War II), it shares more sensibilities with English cottage kinds of mysteries. Ms. Daly was in her late 60s when she wrote this, so she’s more of Clarence Day’s Manhattan than Mickey Spillaine’s New York.

The story focuses on a young wife who escapes from the creepy, closed-in life she gets when she marries a wounded war hero who inherited an income and a townhome from an uncle. She ends up with Gamadge, who is a series character that detects based on knowledge of antiquarian books. Apparently, the woman’s husband found her holding two thin books and locked her in a room, compelling her to flee without even her gloves (yeah, it’s that kind of mystery). Gamadge noses around and discovers a murder and a cover-up, all hinging on the fact that the wife saw (but did not read) a book on the Tichborne case. Uh, spoiler alert.

I’d kinda figured that was where it was going, and I strangely enough knew already about the Tichborne case; I even have it up on my white board as something I should write about. Maybe this book report will be enough to get it erased.

So the first 40 pages were hard to get into, but once it got past that and you figured out who the characters were to care about, it got better. At 104 pages, it’s a fat novella more than a book. But it’s sold more copies than I have, so who am I to criticize?

Books mentioned in this review: