It was a beautiful morning for a horseback ride through New York City's Central Park. Too bad it ended in sudden - and most unnatural - death for the rider. As a result, the very considerable talents of schoolteacher Hildegarde Withers and her good friend, Inspector Oscar Piper proved to be essential in solving The Puzzle of the Red Stallion, by Stuart Palmer. It's the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
Stuart Palmer wrote more than a dozen novels and a fair number of short stories about schoolteacher Hildegarde Withers, whom he referred to as "that meddlesome old battleaxe." Hildy generally teamed up with her friend (and more than occasional rival), New York City Police Inspector Oscar Piper to solve mysteries which very often appeared impossible at first viewing.
The Puzzle of the Red Stallion, which was first published in 1935, was the sixth book to feature Hildy and Piper. It begins with a murder – a murder in which Miss Withers quickly becomes involved. The victim, a glamorous fashion model, had been riding her horse, a beautiful red stallion and former racing horse named Siwash. At first, there appears to be no good way to explain her death, as there is no evident wound on the body, though there is blood in Siwash. Miss Withers helps Piper solve that problem only to discover that, while there are plenty of suspects who might have had good reason to want the victim dead, none appeared to have had an opportunity to commit the murder. There is a great deal about horse racing in this book, and the sport does play a very important part in the solution of the mystery. There is more than one murder – and, I would have to say, a really nasty method for committing murder that almost evades detection.
While The Puzzle of the Red Stallion is not the strongest entry in the series, there are a couple of murders and some interesting characters. It was made into a movie called "Murder on a Bridle Path," but I don't think it's available for viewing at the moment. The book is a fairly quick, enjoyable read. There are used copies available from the usual sources, but it's also been published as a low-cost e-book from the Mysterious Press and Open Road Integrated Media.
This book is another entry for this year's Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge at the My Reader's Block blog. The challenge this year is to fill our "Bingo" - type cards with vintage mysteries (Gold = pre-1960 or Silver = 1961-1980) mysteries. On my Gold card, this book counts os "one book with an animal in the title.