Damon Gaunt had developed quite a reputation among criminal investigators as a detective who never failed to reach a successful conclusion in a murder case. That's pretty amazing when you realize that Gaunt had been blind since birth - although he had developed his other senses to the point where they told him more about the world around him than mere sight ever could. So perhaps it wasn't surprising that when Garret Appleton was shot and killed in his own house, members of the Appleton family called on Damon Gaunt to help them uncover the truth about the murder. They probably got more than they had bargained for. The story is told in At 1:30, by Isabel Ostrander, a classic first published 100 years ago, in 1915. It is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
In At 1:30, Garret Appleton's mother and brother call in Gaunt because they have no faith that the New York police will solve the crime, and they are hopeful that Gaunt can solve it and, at the same time, keep any scandal at bay. He is welcomed by Inspector Hanrahan of the police, though Hanrahan is hardly the not-very-bright police investigator of too many period novels. It appears at first as if an outside intruder must have committed the crime – the body clearly was robbed after the murder. It will come as no surprise to any mystery reader to learn that Gaunt quickly demolishes that theory - and that family members are less than pleased by what he finds. And we are off on an investigation which will peel away layer after layer of deceit and lying on its way to the ultimate solution.
Gaunt's blindness is central to the book. It was quite common in detective stories of the day for authors to endow their protagonists with some unusual and readily apparent trait. Gaunt's blindness serves that purpose for Ostrander's novel, just as other detectives of the period might be "psychic," or solve crimes by analyzing dreams. At 1:30 appears to have been the only book Ostrander wrote to feature Gaunt, although she did write a number of other books. It holds up surprisingly well after a century. It's available primarily as an e-book, along with a few of the author's other works in a single package. I'd be happier with it if the publisher had managed to get rid of some of the very many typographical errors that probably crept in when the book was converted to e-book format. But it's still an interesting read with an unusual detective.
The 2015 Bingo Challenge
I have already mentioned that I am participating in the 2015 Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge. The Bingo card has 36 squares to be filled by reading a book appropriate to each square's instructions. At 1:30 is my entry for the square (second row, fifth column) that calls for a book with a time, day, month, etc., in the title.
This post is also entered into another challenge. Rich Westwood, of the Past Offences blog, has begun the new year by challenging his readers to review a mystery book or film (or plurals thereof) that are 100 years old - meaning they first appeared in 1915. That's the original publication date of At 1:30, and it is my entry in that challenge. There are some interesting entries there this month - be sure to follow that link above and see what others have been reading and/or viewing.