I had been looking forward to starting on Anthony Boucher since picking up a four volume omnibus and was extremely pleased with this first offering.
Dr Hugo Schaedel is killed with an ice pick whilst taking an evening walk. But what reason could anyone have for murdering the newly arrived visitor? The only clue is a symbol left at the crime scene, the mysterious Seven of Calvary. This symbol continues to appear during the investigation and it is only when it has been fully interpreted that the case can be solved.
The narrative is framed within a conversation between Boucher and his friend Martin Lamb, who responds to the proposition that a detective story no longer requires a Watson by recounting the time that he acted as Watson for his Sanskrit tutor, Dr Ashwin. In this he is quite correct as it is Lamb who does all the legwork, whilst Ashwin ponders the evidence in his rooms, delivering various hypotheses as events unfold around him.
Boucher plays fairer than required by eliminating a number of characters from suspicion on the opening cast list. He also gives an almost complete explanation of Charles Dickens’ famously unfinished “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” – I’ve never read it so I’ve no idea if it is a reasonable theory.
Overall this campus set tale has a very American feel to it – perhaps the references to alcohol and sex have something to do with that. I was feeling quite pleased with myself up to about halfway having spotted something obviously suspicious to a regular GAD reader but was then left quite puzzled as the circumstances changed. This is a very good read and I am looking forward to my next encounter with Boucher.
Vintage Mystery Challenge
Fulfils “Where – At a theatre”.