Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? By Agatha Christie 1934
What, or who, sent a stranger plummeting to his death from a cliff? And what did his dying words mean—“’Why didn’t they ask Evans?’” Bobby Jones and his friend Lady Frances Derwent’s suspicions are certainly aroused, especially when it seems that someone is intent on getting rid of Bobby, who heard him utter those words. Their plan for finding out seems simple enough. One just fakes an accident to insinuate oneself into a suspect’s home and asks innocent questions. Unfortunately, asking the wrong people those questions may lead to a deadly result.
This was a fun and entertaining read. The characters of Bobby and Frankie compliment each other and make for a light-hearted pair of amateur detectives. The plotting is ingenious and the diversions abundant—working out the solution will keep even the most seasoned reader of crime fiction on their toes.
My Judgment – 4.5/5
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2013 Scattergories – #5 Jolly Old England
Fatality in Fleet Street by Christopher St. John Sprigg (1933)
Press baron Lord Carpenter is convinced that Britain is threatened by a resurgent Russia. He has been using his newspaper, the Mercury and its huge circulation, to stir up animosity and push the two countries towards war. Having just received intelligence of an atrocity against British subjects, he plans to publish the story, rouse the anger of his millions of readers, forcing the government to act. But before the presses stop running Carpenter is found dead, stabbed through the heart with an ornamental dagger.
Monocle-twirling Charles Venables, Crime correspondent and “tame investigator” of the Mercury, pursues his own inquiry, only cooperating with the police when absolutely necessary. And he knows a lot more then he’s saying.
My quibbles are as follows. That Sprigg allows that lack of cooperation to filter into the narrative, so the reader also is not privy to Venables’ thoughts, or to important facts that only turn up later in the story. And the outcome was a bit of a disappointment. Not the ending so much, which was rather clever, but the way in which the culprit is dealt with. It just fell flat for me.
There is a lot to like about Fatality though. There are political machinations and accompanying satire. A cell of argumentative Bolsheviks for some added humor. A bit of romance with Venebles as the “Knight in Shining Armor”. And an urbane Chinese newspaperman with his catalogue of proverbial wisdom is on hand to outshine any of Venebles’ witticism.
My Judgment – 3.75/5
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2013 Scattergories – #3 Amateur Night