In my previous post about Elizabeth Daly's Unexpected Night, I suggested that this book might not be the best choice for someone new to Daly's novels and to her sleuth, biblio expert Henry Gamadge. One of my visitors sent me an e-mail asking which of the novels I would suggest as a place to start.
Fair enough. I'd suggest any of these three books as good starters (and point out that there are several others which are just as good).
First, there's my personal favorite of all the Gamadge books, The Book of the Dead. I like this one because I love it when an author's skill at misdirection is so great that I never see a key twist or surprise coming. That's true with a vengeance in this one - and that's all I'll say about it, except that it's one of the best pieces of misdirection since John Dickson Carr's The Nine Wrong Answers.
For a book with a setting in Gamadge's native New York City, I'd suggest The Wrong Way Down. It has a particularly memorable set of characters, quite a few surprises of its own, and a couple of very interesting puzzles.
There's another Gamadge book set outside New York City, in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, called Evidence of Things Seen, which features an apparently impossible murder, committed virtually before the horrified eyes of Gamadge's wife Clara. It would appear that only a ghost could have carried it out - but Gamadge doesn't believe in ghosts...
Elizabeth Daly is one of my favorite authors, and I enjoy all sixteen of her books about Henry Gamadge. He's a fascinating character. In the Golden Age of Detection wiki, the editor has reprinted something that Daly apparently wrote about her character in 1946 (about the time of her tenth novel, Somewhere in the House:
"In 1904, Henry Gamadge was born in the family home in the East Sixties of New York City. His father and grandfather had both been interested in rare books and Henry himself was 'steeped in books from infancy'. By 1939, after the usual proper schooling for one of his background, he was drawn by circumstances into what he calls 'a sideline with a puzzle interest'. This, of course, refers to his detective work in which he has to date 'participated' in ten cases. He married Clara Dawson in 1940 and has one son, born in 1943. His hobbies and recreations are bridge, golf, music (as a listener) and -- he insists -- the conservation of the transitive verb. He says he has no pets. 'That yellow object that you see rolling among my papers, my cat Martin, is not a pet. He merely came and stayed. You might call him local colour, or you might call him my Familiar.' During the war he worked here and in Europe for Counter-Intelligence. When asked what he did, he says he flew around."
Felony and Mayhem Press has republished all sixteen of these books.