An elderly woman is shot to death at Johnny Redfield's country estate. The victim is his elderly aunt, a woman who claimed to belong to an obscure "sun cult" and insisted on being called by her astral name of "Vega." What possible motive could there be for the murder? And what significance attaches to a particularly grotesque statue in the garden of the estate?
It's a classic country-home murder, but the setting isn't rural England and the author isn't Agatha Christie. The book is "Any Shape or Form," written in 1945 by Elizabeth Daly, who was one of Agatha Christie's favorite American writers. It's the subject of today's review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
Christie's admiration for Daly is quite understandable, because Daly was one of the finest American practitioners of the classic puzzle-plot mystery. Her detective, an expert on rare books and manuscripts named Henry Gamadge, is within a few feet of "Vega" when she is shot to death. There is a house full of potential suspects, although both motive and opportunity seem difficult to establish. Daly keeps things moving along, with clues carefully palnted amidst some expert misdirection, not to mention another murder, and I suspect that most readers will find the final twists to the plot both unexpected and breathtaking in their audacity. I would advise you to pay particular attention to that statue in the garden.
Between 1940 and 1951, Daly wrote 16 mysteries featuring Henry Gamadge, who is one of my favorite American detectives. The Felony & Mayhem Press has been republishing Daly's books, with seven of them in print at the moment, and I can recommend all of them quite heartily. I am delighted to be able to offer Elizabeth Daly's "Any Shape or Form" as my entry for the 1940s in the My Reader's Block book blog Vintage Mysteries Reading Challenge.