Friday, August 17, 2012
A Puzzle for Fools by Patrick Quentin
When his wife dies a horrific death, Broadway producer Peter Duluth, hits the sauce and puts his once promising career on tenterhooks. It's only when he's about to hit rock bottom that he checks into an asylum for a little rest and salvation. When staff and patients start dying in ghastly ways, Peter is looped in by the asylum director and asked to keep his eyes and ears about him. Someone is tyring to drive him off the case. He is hearing voices when no one is around, objects are appearing where they shouldn't, and suspicion is starting to fall on the shoulders of a lovely young lady. Whether is the prospect of death, or the promise of love, Peter is starting to come alive again. Now he just has to make sure he doesn't end up dead in the process.
If you don't know that I love vintage mysteries by now, I'm afraid you haven't really paid all that much attention to me over the years. If you are a recent newcomer to the blog, I may let you slide for now. Despite my love affair of all things Golden Age, I've tended to focus on the female writers of the time. I've dabbled with the men here and there, but never given them my full attention. I wish I could explain the reasons behind it, because when I do explore the more masculine side, I find myself loving it just as much. I guess it's doomed to be one of the great mysteries of life.
I know I drone on and on about atmosphere and how important it is in a mystery tale, but it really is. I'm almost to the point of saying that it's the most important aspect of a well written mystery. A Puzzle for Fools hits the nail on the head and gives one of the creepiest setting I've had the pleasure of reading in a very long time. I'm almost convinced that an insane asylum is the perfect setting for murder, especially one that is populated by this particular cast of characters. Of course a sunny feeling is hard to maintain when people are being bound and slaughtered like cattle. I'm already a huge fan of mysteries set in spooky country houses, on speeding trains or small yachts, now I'm going to have to add insane asylums to that list.
If you couldn't figure it out by now, I really enjoyed A Puzzle for Fools. It was one of those tales that grabbed and kept my attention from the get go. Peter Duluth is the type of guy that I could easily fall for in the right circumstances. He has taken a lot of hits in a short period of time, and even though he starts a slow descent to the bottom, he has the strength of will to not only admit it, but to do something about it. Through it all he manages to keep a sense of humor that serves him well on more than one occasion. Once things start to get a little wonky, he wakes up and realizes more is at stake than his career. Luckily for me, this is only the first book in a series, so I'm going to get to spend more time with Peter. I have to share him with that lovely young woman he met in the synopsis, but I'm not an overly jealous man.
Challenges: A-Z, VM (Cherez le Homme)