There are a fair number of married couples who moonlight as sleuth teams in classic mystery novels. There were Nick and Nora Charles, Jeff and Haila Troy, Henry and Emily Bryce, Jake and Helene Justus, to name just a few. And then there were Dagobert and Jane Brown, who brought their own odd brand of detection to mysteries written by Delano Ames in the late 1940s and through the 1950s. Dagobert, a young man who appears to be chronically allergic to any kind of job, spends some of his time investigating murders; his wife Jane, who writes mysteries (which, apparently, bring in enough money for the couple to live on), helps Dagobert and serves as the narrator for these books, which really fall into the category of "screwball comedy-mysteries."
The third book about this rather odd couple is called Corpse Diplomatique, originally published in 1950. It's the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you're invited to listen to the full review by clicking here. Dagobert and Jane find themselves staying at a small hotel in Nice, on the French Riviera. They meet Don Diego Sebastiano, the Vice Consul in Nice for the small Central American republic of Santa Rica, who - not to put too fine a point on it - tries to pick up Jane, but fails. Soon thereafter, as the Vice Consul is walking down the street, someone apparently takes a shot at him - missing him narrowly, but killing another resident of that small hotel, Major Hugh Cartwright. Was Don Diego the intended victim? He certainly thinks so - although Major Cartwright turns out to have been doing quite a lot of blackmailing of just about everyone in the hotel and the surrounding neighborhood - including both Don Diego and Dagobert.
It's all done with a very light touch; there are some very funny scenes and bright exchanges in the dialogue. I can carp over a lot of the details of this book – there are a number of plots and subplots which, in my view, don’t really dovetail into a coherent story. But Dagobert and Jane are a charming couple who manage to get away with a great deal of what in most people would be considered very unusual behavior as they team up to find a killer. If you don’t know the Browns, you would probably enjoy meeting them in Corpse Diplomatique, by Delano Ames.
The 2015 Bingo Challenge
Continuing my participation in the 2015 Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge. under way at the My Reader's Block blog, Corpse Diplomatique is my entry for the square (top row, fifth column) calling for one book with a detective "team."
[Updated 3/29 to correct the title for my Bingo challenge submission. Sorry!]