About this selection: This selection was scheduled to contain the solution to Baffle Case Number Three, The Alexander Mystery (presented in #22, The Bungalow on the Roof). However, there is only this brief mention on the dust jacket flap: "The results of the Baffle Case, The Alexander Mystery, have individually been sent to all contestants submitting solutions." This was the last mention of Baffle Cases in the series.
Gwen Bristow (wikipedia)
About the authors: Here is a Wikipedia article about Gwen Bristow and her husband, Bruce Manning. They also authored three other novels in the Mystery League series (The Invisible Host, The Gutenberg Murders, and The Mardi Gras Murders).
- Brett Allison, owner of the Peacock Club
- Major Jack Raymond, federal drug smuggling investigator
- Andrew Dillingham, federal drug smuggling investigator
- Linton Barclay, federal drug smuggling investigator
- Daisy Dillingham, perky grandmother of Andrew Dillingham, amateur sleuth
- Eva Shale, beautiful woman with a mysterious source of income
- Imogen Cupping, guest of the club
- Tracy Cupping, guest of the club, jealous husband of Imogen
- Judith Garon, guest of the club, keeps busy with frequent changes of elegant clothing
- -- Foster, potential buyer of the Peacock Club
- Mrs. Penn, manager of the club, subject to hysterics
- -- Warren, maitre d' and chaffeur of the club
- Felicia Meade, telephone operator of the club
- Beans, radio operator for the club
- Pedro Artinza, crewman on Linton Barclay's yacht
- John Smith, crewman on Linton Barclay's yacht
Locale: Paradise Island, in the Gulf of Mexico off Mississippi
A storm is approaching Paradise Island in the Gulf of Mexico. The island is the site of the Peacock Club resort owned by Brett Allison. Most of the guests have gone to the mainland for the duration of the storm but a few remain. Of those remaining are three men investigating drug smuggling into the US via the Gulf (Major Jack Raymond, Andrew Dillingham, and Linton Barclay).
A private plane lands - on the golf course, no less - to discharge Daisy Dillingham, grandmother of Andrew.
Just as the storm arrives, Linton Barclay is found murdered in his cottage, with Eva Shale present, but disclaiming any knowledge of the murder. The mainland authorities empower Brett Allison to secure the scene and begin the investigation.
It turns out pretty much everyone has a motive, and everyone was in the vicinity of the cottage at the time of the murder. The interviews boil down to a exhaustive query into everyone's movements and accusations.
To better understand the setting, here is a sketch of my conception of the cottage area which I reverse-engineered from the text.
Linton Barclay's cottage at the time of the murder.
Numbers indicate page number references.
The investigation gets derailed when Pedro Artinza and John Smith, crewmen on Linton Barclay's yacht, come ashore and start a fight. Artinza is injured. On his deathbed, he tells Daisy that Barclay has committed other murders by using his cane as a weapon. His dying comments allow Daisy to figure out who Barclay's murderer is.
This is one novel which cries out for a map of the environs, S. S. Van Dine or Ellery Queen style - so I had to sketch my own in the process. This is a classic stranded-on-the-island murder which is supposed to limit the cast of characters, but somehow new ones keep popping in periodically. One character, "McPherson" just shows up in the action with no explanation, and I am still not sure who "Warren" is either.
The solution lies in breaking down the alibis of everyone over the time of the murder, and gets a little tedious (as real detective work goes, I suppose). Feisty Daisy solves the case by her observations, and is a good solid character. When she reveals the solution, my eyebrows went up at the surprising development.
There are some fair play issues which put the reader at a disadvantage. Daisy keeps some observations to herself and does not share them with the reader. The final resolution of what-to-do-with-the-murderer is certainly not kosher legally, but in a sense satisfying to the reader.
In addition, may I refer you to this fine synopsis and review posted by Bev Hankins on Goodreads.com.