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The Black House (Rue Morgue Vintage Mysteries) Paperback – June 19, 2004
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The house is entirely snowbound. And it's full of people crashing on Henry Debbon for various reasons. Some are from the law office where Henry works, and one is the beautiful redheaded stepdaughter of Henry's boss. There's also a detective in search of an escaped jailbird and his hidden stash of ill-gotten money.
It's a madhouse. A body disappears. Terrible arguments break out over who cooks and who washes up. There's general outrage that Henry has no liquor, only wine. Food disappears mysteriously. Both food and fuel are running low. Where will it all end? The plot is as wacky as any Little sisters mystery. And as usual, there's a lot of creeping around in dark rooms and hallways when everyone's supposed to be in bed. Henry's ghostly aunt is pretty active too.
I enjoyed the book, but I found the put-down humor (the constant exchange of insults) not as agreeable as the usual brand of wit from the Little sisters. And the romantic element (there's always a romantic element in these mysteries) feels like a bit of an afterthought. The Black House was first published in 1950. I missed the forties-style repartee of earlier books. Still, I'm glad I read this. There's no one quite like the Little sisters, and I wouldn't want to miss any of their books.
The brief introduction is very good and has interesting things to say about the shift of tone and viewpoint from early to later books.
THE BLACK HOUSE is told from a male point-of-view, probably because after World War II men emerged as the dominant breed in America. Henry Debbon is the hero, a lawyer going in for a typical day of work. Because he set his alarm incorrectly, he is an hour early. Immediately he senses that something is out of whack in the office when he meets a total stranger waiting in his boss's office. His boss acts downright crazy:
"Claude, chewing on his customary cigar, looked him over. 'I suppose you were so bleary-eyed this morning that you read your watch wrong.' This was so astutely the truth that Henry was more bitterly offended than if he had merely come down early to get some work done.
He said, with remote and frigid courtesy, 'There is a man waiting for you in Your office.'
Claude glanced at the closed door of his office. 'Nonsense, it's too early. You're not awake yet. Have you had coffee?'"
Naturally, the real action takes place at an old mansion owned by Henry's aunt, (the black house) when people in the office start disappearing.Read more ›
I'm a librarian and order each reprint as it is published for our collection. I consider it my aim to introduce all my patrons to the Little mysteries!