The House Without The Door by Elizabeth Daly

Vina Gregson needs help. Finally acquitted of the murder of her husband, who died from a probably-not-accidental overdose, she had money and the will to spend it. But the eyes of the world still see her as a murderer, acquitted or otherwise. And someone has started to do something about it.

 

Threatening messages and four attempts at her life later, she calls in amateur investigator Henry Gamadge to find the person responsible. But while he has his theories, it is not long – actually, it does take a while to be honest – before someone lies dead. Can Gamadge find the murderer before their plans reach fruition?

I picked this one up on my visit to Hay-On-Wye in preparation for the upcoming Bodies From The Library conference. One of the talks is a no-holds-barred verbal wrestling match between Christine Poulson and Sarah Ward about the relative merits of Ethel Lina White and Elizabeth Daly. Or it might just be a polite conversation… Whatever, I thought I should get a little insight into the two authors, with Daly coming first.

Daly wrote sixteen mysteries between 1940 and 1951, this being the fourth to feature Henry Gamadge. Gamadge is a pleasant enough lead, with a team of investigating chums including his wife (who comes across as being a bit simple in this book) and a cat (so bonus points there).

The structure is fairly talky. Despite Gamadge revealing at the end that he was sure who the villain was from early on (early enough to prevent a murder – just saying) he still takes his time over things and I found the book dragging at times. Daly is clearly influenced by Christie as she tries to create a Christie-esque mystery, but unfortunately just ends up nicking one of Christie’s more overused tricks which would have made the killer pretty obvious if I hadn’t dozed off about half-way through.

So, points for ambition and for trying to create a fairly clued mystery, but with a fairly dull set of suspects – the only really interesting one gets murdered late in the narrative – and a seen-it-before solution, I really couldn’t get too excited about this one.

The Daly canon was reprinted in 2012 by Felony & Mayhem so is reasonably available, but I wouldn’t start with this one. Adequate but Nothing Special.

 

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11 comments

  1. It’s not my favorite of hers by any means – I think your summary is correct: this isn’t the one to introduce Daly to someone who hasn’t read some of her others. My own favorite, with what I think is the finest misdirection, is The Book of the Dead, which I recommend to you, if you haven’t already read it.

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  2. I’ve got THREE sitting unread on my shelf. I think I started buying her because I know Christie was very fond of her. I better read one soon so that I can form an opinion!

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  3. “…but unfortunately just ends up nicking one of Christie’s more overused tricks which would have made the killer pretty obvious….”. Give a girl a hint! Which ‘trick’ did Daly use that Agatha overused? Love this blog, btw!

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  4. Yeah Daly is not an author to write home about. Fairly middle of the road stuff, so if there is contest between Daly and White, it’s not much of a battle really. White in my opinion is by far the more superior writer. Looking forward to your thoughts on Some Must Watch.

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  5. I like Daly’s work on the whole (including Nothing Can Rescue Me) – my favourite is Evidence of Things Seen, with its slightly supernatural atmosphere and rural setting.

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