When one of the directors of the Virgin Queen Gold Mine was shot, deep inside the mine, it happened in front of seven witnesses. Unfortunately, none of them apparently saw the shot fired, nor did they have any idea who might have fired it. And there was no sign of a gun. It was, to be blunt, an impossible situation. So it was probably a good thing that one of the witnesses on hand was a professor of Roman history and amateur detective named Theocritus Lucius Westborough, a man who had earned something of a reputation for solving impossible crime puzzles. He does so again in "Blind Drifts," a 1937 "impossible crime" novel by Clyde B. Clason which is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast. You can listen to the full review by clicking here.
Professor Westborough, having inherited a large amount of stock in the Virgin Queen mine from his brother, finds himself at the mine in Baddington, Colorado and caught in the middle of a power struggle between two groups of directors seeking control of the mine. The more he investigates, the more he finds himself caught up in the remarkable violence that seems to befall some of the key players in the power struggle. Another of the mine’s directors has vanished, and may be the victim of foul play. That director’s daughter has also vanished, last having been seen walking onto the campus of the local university – and apparently vanishing. As the situation grows more complicated and dangerous, the local sheriff is more than happy to have assistance from Professor Westborough.
In the 1930s, writing during America's Golden Age of Detective Fiction, Clyde B. Clason made a reputation for himself as an author with a knack for coming up with ingenious locked room/impossible crime situations. Although I find his stories are less exciting than those of John Dickson Carr, whose gift for creating eerie atmospheres was unequalled, I think Clason's books about Professor Westborough are clever and quite enjoyable. "Blind Drifts" takes the reader into a very unusual world - a world of gold mining, drifts, adits, crosscuts, stopes, vugs, strikes and more. The action is fairly slow to start, but once it picks up and the bodies start falling, and believe me they do, it moves to a good, tight conclusion.
"Blind Drifts" is another book read for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge under way at Bev's Reader's Block blog. I'm putting it in the category called Amateur Night: a book with a "detective" who is not a P.I., police officer, official.
It's also another book which I have reviewed for the I Love a Mystery newsletter, edited by Sally Powers, who has graciously given me her permission to use portions of that review here and on my podcast. She also provided me with a copy of the new Rue Morgue Press edition of "Blind Drifts" for my review.