About this selection:
F. Van Wyck Mason (fantasticfiction.com)
About the author: Wikipedia states in his biography: Francis Van Wyck Mason (November 11, 1901 – August 28, 1978) (aka Geoffrey Coffin, Frank W Mason, Ward Weaver) was an American historian and novelist. He had a long and prolific career as a writer spanning 50 years and including 78 published novels, many of which were best sellers and well received.
- Ezra Boonton, paranoid owner of "Spider House"
- Juan Boonton, his brother
- Dora Delray, "bewitching" nurse in a short uniform and high heels
- Grüber, a male nurse
- Terence Kelly, butler and bodyguard
- Whang-Su, Chinese cook
- Dr. George Lawes, neurologist
- Captain Janos Catlin, of the State Police
- Sergeant Matt McNulty, of the State Police
Eccentric Ezra Boonton, "Spider of the Street", is a retired financier who has swindled many to build his fortune, and now lives on the second floor of a house fortified with various gadgets to protect him from his supposed enemies. Captain Janos Catlin of the State Police has gone to see him on a request for protection.
While Catlin is there, butler/bodyguard Terence Kelly is shot when no one is looking. Catlin and his team decide to spend the night. He winds up locked in a closet, and when he gets out finds that (Ezra) Boonton has been killed upstairs as well; and no weapon can be found.
Sexy Dora Delray is hesitant to talk, but invites Catlin to her place (wink, wink). While there, they are both abducted by a gang. Trooper Matt McNulty had been outside on guard, but he is found dead also. While investigating the gang, Dr. George Lawes is abducted; and held hostage on a beat-up houseboat tied up on the river.
This is a version of a locked-room mystery, which has turned into a locked-entire-second-floor mystery. A bit daring, with the killings occurring under the nose of the state police. Red herrings abound. It is remarkable that there is only one woman in the book - and this one is the one your mother warned you about.
The drug smuggling gang seems to be a popular theme of the 1930's. The action all culminates in a big fight on the houseboat, quite satisfying.
Note that the text uses stereotypes and pejorative terms for various nationalities, unacceptable today but common in writing of the time.