Dean Street Press continues to uncover British Golden Age authors who have slipped into obscurity along with their mysteries. Their latest find is an author named Molly Thynne, an author so obscure that her name doesn't appear at all in the online Golden Age of Detection Wiki - the first GAD author I've discovered to be missing from that invaluable reference collection. Between 1925 and 1933, she wrote six crime novels, which apparently were quite well received at the time, but the author and her books pretty much disappeared after initial publication. Dean Street is now bringing all six of those books back into print. The publisher provided me with an e-book version of Molly Thynne's fifth book, Death in the Dentist's Chair. 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.
There are several patients waiting with considerable trepidation in the dental office of Mr. Humphrey Davenport. When he ushers one patient, a Mrs. Miller, into his consulting room, he asks her to wait in the dentist's chair while he finishes working on a set of dentures for her. He goes to his laboratory and finishes the dentures - but when he returns, he finds himself locked out of the consulting room.
Mr. Davenport and the remaining patients out in the waiting room, are puzzled by that – how did that door get locked? But when they are successful in removing the door lock and opening the way into the room, they find that Mrs. Miller will no longer need those dentures. She has been murdered, a quite bloody murder at that, while seated in the dentist’s chair. But nobody out in the waiting room or elsewhere in the office could have gotten through that locked door. It’s not really a locked room mystery, however, because one of the windows is open, and there are distinct signs that the killer must have fled through the window and into an adjoining vacant house.
One of the waiting patients is Dr. Constantine (no first name is provided to us), a man with some success at solving difficult puzzles, and he begins to investigate while waiting for the police to arrive.The case falls into the hands of Scotland Yard Detective-Inspector Arkwright – once again, no first name is shared with us. The inspector knows Doctor Constantine from a previous case and promptly enlists him to help figure out who could have killed Mrs. Miller – and why.
It will prove a difficult challenge. There are a couple of obvious suspects – and some less obvious ones, to be sure. And there are several conflicting motives – especially since Mrs. Miller was wearing some extremely valuable jewelry, some of which apparently has disappeared, quite possibly taken by the murderer. Was that the reason for the murder? There are also rumors of blackmail being paid – and that too might have been a reason to kill. And another murder pretty much sends Inspector Arkwright and Doctor Constantine back to start over again.
It’s an interesting puzzle – although the clues, to be fair, are obscure and not always passed along to the reader. It is refreshing to find, in Inspector Arkwright, a very smart and efficient police investigator; he and Doctor Constantine work well together as a team, and the inspector makes a number of significant discoveries on the way to solving the case.
This new edition of Death in the Dentist's Chair comes with a new introduction by mystery historian Curtis Evans, who provides more information about Molly Thynne and her mysteries. I think you'll enjoy the book.