Monday, February 19, 2018

#23 - The False Purple by Sydney Horler (1932)

About this selection: This edition was supposed to contain Baffle Case Number Four, as well as the solution to Baffle Case Number Two, The Crime at Laurel Lodge (presented in #21, Murder in the French Room). However, the Baffle Cases seem to be foundering in this ominous sign for the sustainability of the Mystery League. There is only this brief mention on the dust jacket flap: "Due to the extreme length of Mr. Horler's tale, the Baffle Case [#4] planned for this month has been omitted and the results of the contests regarding The Crime at Laurel Lodge individually sent [to] all contestants."

Sydney Horler (photo:

About the author: Here is a Wikipedia article about Sydney Horler. He has two other titles in the Mystery League series: The Curse of Doone and Peril! 

Principal characters:

  • Elsie Spain, a.k.a. "Venetia", a clothing model; tricked into assuming the identity of Princess Corisande of Caronia.
  • Susy Jarvis, Elsie's roommate
  • Mrs. Sarah Goodbody, a.k.a. "Yolande", owner of the dress salon
  • Philip Wendover, who inherited a newspaper The Messenger
  • Beryl Trentham, a.k.a. "The Imp", 20, staff officer of the G.O.G. feminist group, cousin of Philip Wendover
  • Charles Zuberra, a.k.a. Charles Chapelle, Baron Fuipo
  • Sybil Trent, a.k.a. Sybil Chapelle
  • Millie Vandefield, a.k.a. Comptesse Lépiney, the "largest woman in Paris"
  • -- Vanelli, forger and blackmailer
  • Rafael Giraud, discredited backstreet doctor, a hunchback
  • Detective Inspector George Lomax of Scotland Yard, friend of Philip Wendover

Locale: London and Paris


Refined Elsie Spain, used to life with a wealthy family, finds herself destitute after the death of her parents. She winds up in a cheap rooming house with her roommate Susy Jarvis. She takes a job modelling clothes (as a 'mannequin' named Venetia) in a swank salon ("Yolande's") owned by Mrs. Sarah Goodbody, who prefers using "Yolande" as her name.

At a dinner party, a Mr. & Mrs. Charles Chapelle take a shine to Venetia, and invite her into their home with puzzling comments that they want to make her "a princess". 

The Chapelles are not what they seem, it is an identity assumed by crooks Charles Zuberra and Sybil Trent. They have noticed that Elsie bears a resemblance to the late Princess Corisande of Caronia, believed to have been killed in a revolution. Zuberra and Trent hatch a plan to have Elsie pose as the obligatory rediscovered-with-amnesia princess in order to defraud her patron Comptesse Lépiney and claim the Corisande's estate.

The action moves to Paris, where Elsie is taken to Comptesse Lépiney's. A struggle ensues between those trying to convince her she is the lost princess, and those who know she is not.


First, keep a pencil handy to keep track of the players. By my count, five characters have two different names each, and two characters have three names! See above painstakingly-compiled list to keep them straight.

The scam of the beautiful commoner posing as the obligatory lost-princess-who-had-amnesia sounds like we will be in for some great fun, reminiscent of The Prisoner of Zenda and anything written by Manning Coles. Half of the fun is watching the characters trying to keep track of which name they are known by with various people.

Like other Sydney Horler thrillers, this is not a murder mystery (although one minor character is knocked off in an unusual and somewhat amusing manner) but rather a fast-paced adventure thriller.

No comments:

Post a Comment