You might think that the theft of a priceless statuette from the private museum on a magnate's private island shouldn't be all that difficult to solve.
You might think that a murder on that same island, cut off from the outside world, with a limited number of suspects shouldn't be difficult to solve either.
You might be wrong, as we will see in Murder Gone Minoan, a 1939 mystery by Clyde B. Clason. It is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
In Murder Gone Minoan, we meet department store magnate Alexis Paphlagloss, owner of a chain of department stores named Minos, after the classical pre-Hellenic people who lived on the island of Crete. He has bought himself an island off the California coast, where he has built a replica of a Minoan palace, and he has renamed that island home Knossos, after the ancient city on Crete. He calls himself “The Minos,” as the absolute ruler of his own island.
In his private museum in the palace, his most valuable possession is the priceless statue of the Minoan snake goddess. When it is stolen under circumstances where the thief must be a family member or an honored guest, police suggest to The Minos that he invite historian and professor Theocritus Lucius Westborough to his island to help uncover the thief. Professor Westborough is Clason's amateur sleuth who has shown himself able to help the police solve difficult - often seemingly impossible - puzzles.
When Westborough gets to the island, he discovers that there now has been a murder - and police, again, are stymied and ask Westborough to help. And so the professor stays on Knossos and begins to gather information. It will be, as the police had warned him, quite dangerous. And the story will certainly take some unexpected twists, as the tension builds. Yet there is a trail of evidence pointing the reader towards the solution, though I think it’s sufficiently obscure to fool most readers. It all leads to a most satisfying climax.
Clyde B. Clason wrote only ten mysteries, packed into just a few years, but they all are really fine traditional mysteries from the American Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Murder Gone Minoan seems to me the best plotted and most interesting of Clason’s books, at least of the ones I have read. Clason obviously did a lot of research for this one – I learned a great deal about ancient Minoan art and culture among other topics. It’s a fascinating journey and I recommend it to you.
The 2015 Bingo Challenge
As you probably know by now, 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. Murder Gone Minoan is my entry for the square (third row, third column) which calls for a book with an amateur detective.