An inoffensive, apparently harmless old man who plays the violin in a movie theatre (to accompany the films) is not exactly the sort of character you might think would disappear suddenly. But when that violinist, Julius Anthony, vanished, to the consternation of his granddaughter, it became all too apparent that somebody wanted to be sure the violinist had played his last accompaniment. When it all ended in murder, it would be Dr. Constantine and his good friend, Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Arkwright, who were faced with the task of discovering what complex motives may have led to the death of that seemingly harmless old man. That story is told in He Dies and Makes no Sign, a Golden Age classic from 1933 by Molly Thynne. 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.
The Golden Age author Molly Thynne wrote half a dozen mysteries between 1928 and 1933. The books were quite well received at the time, but the author turned to other genres and never wrote any more mysteries after those initial efforts. Of the six books, three featured an elderly and rather genial amateur detective named Doctor Constantine – no first name given – who was able to provide the official investigators from Scotland Yard, in the person of Detective Inspector Arkwright, with valuable information and hints. He Dies and Makes No Sign, first published in 1933, was the last of those books.
The story begins with the disappearance of Betty Anthony’s grandfather, violinist Julius Anthony. There appears to have been no reason why he should disappear; he apparently had no secrets worth sharing and no enemies worth pursuing. At one point, one character is asked about Julius Anthony’s possible enemies:
“He had his enemies, I suppose? He seems to have been downright to a fault.”
“Disputes, you mean? Over the merits of Puccini and Wagner, Strauss and Verdi! But people do not entice an old man from his home many years afterwards to avenge Wagner or Puccini.”
But when the violinist’s body is discovered in a room under the stage at the cinema where he had played, there are few indications of what might have led to the old man’s murder. The absence of any discernible motive is certainly one of the key mysteries – and it will only be when that motive is discovered that Dr. Constantine and Detective Inspector Arkwright will be able to uncover the rather shocking truth about the murder.
It should be noted that He Dies and Makes no Sign is less a fair-play detective story than it is a fast-paced thriller-type story with detective elements. Characters are well-defined, and the writing is sharp. There certainly are clues, and perhaps two-thirds of the way through the book it’s fairly clear who the villain or villains must be. No matter; we still follow the closing moves of the contest between the forces of justice, represented by Dr. Constantine, and the forces of evil, and I found the final confrontation quite satisfying. The Dean Street Press has brought Molly Thynne's books back in both paper and electronic editions, with introductions from mystery historian Curtis Evans. They're well worth reading.