If you are a fan of traditional puzzle-oriented mysteries - and, after all, why else would you be here? - it is a good idea to keep your eye out for the small but significant clue which can unlock those puzzles. With that firmly in mind, let me introduce you to a gentleman named Jonas P. Jonas. He is an investigator, usually of murder in one form or another, and the secret of his success appears to be his ability to ferret out those small but significant clues which can point towards the true solution to a complicated puzzle. He is featured in six of the seventeen stories that make up The Casebook of Jonas P. Jonas and Other Mysteries, by E. X. Ferrars. The collection from Crippen & Landru Publishers is the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast. You can listen to the full review by clicking here.
E. X. Ferrars - or Elizabeth Ferrars, as she was known in the U. K. - was a prolific and talented mystery writer. Over roughly half a century, she turned out more than 70 novels. She also wrote some excellent short stories, including the seventeen you'll find in this anthology. Six of the stories deal with Jonas P. Jonas, a private investigator, and I think they're the best stories in the book. Jonas is an elderly man who loves to talk about his cases, especially with his niece by marriage, a young writer whom Jonas wants to write his memoirs. In these stories, it is usually some small, telltale clue which reveals the truth. It may be a suspect's left-handedness, or the odd choice of a blue bowl left outside the door to hold down a note for the milkman, or an auction catalogue. The stories featuring Jonas P. Jonas, all of which are very short, are quite clever.
The rest of the stories in the book are somewhat longer (with a couple of exceptions) and really are more suspenseful. Most feature a last-minute twist to the story – it may be a well-plotted murder which fails because of some unforeseen accident, or a narrative which seems to be heading in a certain direction and then suddenly turns when the reader least expects it. Really, I must say that telling more about any of the stories would be unfair to you – because the real fun here lies in discovering those twists for yourself.
Short stories can be a good way to meet an unfamiliar author. While E. X. Ferrars was certainly very popular during her lifetime, her books are not as widely known today as they should be. The Casebook of Jonas P. Jonas makes a fine introduction. John Cooper edited, and provided an interesting introduction for, this "Lost Classic" collection from Crippen & Landru.