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|Title||:||Shadow of a Lady|
|Number of Pages||:||174 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Shadow of a Lady Reviews
I generally don’t read mystery or crime fiction. You know the sort of thing - 12 people in a country house and one of them is a murderer or a crime solved with the latest CSI techniques etc etc. This book, however, is something completely different! Shadow of a Lady by Holy Roth, written in the 1950s, opens with a very appealing character. Laura Selby is driving to Geneva alone with a hire car her English fiancee chose for her. She is American and independent and loves food and wine. She has stopped for lunch at an excellent restaurant, had a wonderful time and now:“After lunch, as she trundled along, singing merrily (quite forgetting that she couldn’t sing), and reading her numerous maps with happy abandon (ignoring the fact her map-reading ability was on a par with her singing voice), she had been struck by what had seemed like a brilliant idea. It was probably the number of maps that inspired it. John had been so infuriatingly certain that she would be constantly lost (And what am I now? she thought with irritation).” And she is lost and having trouble with the hire car! Deftly, Roth sketches in the details of how Laura was in a car by herself driving to Geneva (on a route she has chosen for herself) as well the reader is given an intriguing sketch of their relationship. “...Why do you want to marry me, if I’m such an idiot?’ ‘That,’ he replied, with his usual refusal to be drawn into the childishness, ‘is as dim a point as your map reading.’”At first everything is fine but gradually as evening falls it becomes very cold, she discovers her headlights don’t work and then she realises not only is she lost but she’s running out of petrol. Negotiating the steep curving road at a crawling pace she discovers something is not right up ahead. And then this on page 24!“...and she marched angrily around to the front of the car to inspect the road, and found herself standing on the rim of nowhere.And then the car, its brake released as she tripped against it, pushed her gently into the nothingness, and slowly almost reluctantly, followed her over the edge.”The Shadow of a Lady is good solid writing with a storyline set in the not too distant past. Distant enough though to make it interesting. No modern technology and just old fashioned police techniques! And one hell of a twist!
Though it is billed as the first D-I Medford mystery, it is not his acumen that leads to the solution. An engaging mystery where the identity of the murderer suddenly strikes one. Actually 3 and a half stars.*First Line: Laura Selby suddenly applied her brakes, and then added the hand brake for good measure.Source: Open Library
Letter R in the Crime Fiction Alphabet offered up many possibilities, but once again it was a book from my line of green Penguin Books that called the loudest.You see that line holds many lesser known woman crime writers from the fifties and sixties. Women who created such original scenarios, such interesting characters, and who wrote about them with subtlety, intelligence and wit.And so I picked up Shadow of a Lady by Holly Roth, hoping to meet another.I knew nothing of the author, but the storyline was intriguing.An American woman was driving from Paris to Geneva. Her fiance, who had been called home to England, had planned a route for her, but she decided to do things a little differently. Just a small show of independence. Sadly though, it lead her into trouble. The terrain was much tougher than she had expected, and the small British car that her fiance had given her was quite unlike the cars she had driven before. Laura pressed on, but she never reached Geneva. She disappeared.The drama of Laura’s journey pulled me in. I liked her, I admired her spirit, and I missed her when she disappeared.And then the scene shifted. The drama was quieter, the story moved forward through dialogue instead of action, but it was no less effective.Some time later a trunk arrived at a Norfolk station. And it caused great consternation when it is found to contain the body of a woman who has been badly beaten, and is wearing only an anklet engraved with the letter L.The trunk was linked to Laura’s fiance, John Seton-Smith, and the body was identified as Laura’s, by her maid and by the porter at the mansion block where she made her home.John disputed the identification, but his was a lone voice. He could not - or maybe would not – account for the hours immediately after he and his fiancee parted.That was infuriating, but I realised that Holly Roth was very cleverly planting a seed of doubt.John found himself on trial for murder at the Old Bailey. He knew that he was innocent, but as the prosecution builds its case he realises that he could be found guilty.His only hope lies with the private detective hired to trace Laura…And so dramatic, and utterly believable, courtroom scenes are balanced by the investigations of a most practical and logical detective.It was a fine mystery and the two principal characters made it sing. They were simply but effectively drawn in the beginning, but they gained depth as more was revealed. And yet they both retained a certain mystery. That was very clever.I knew that there was a very simple solution to the mystery, but I was sure that it was wrong. And so I was baffled.The end when it came was dramatic. At first I thought that the solution owed rather too much to luck, but maybe that had to be because identification mysteries are very difficult to resolve satisfactorily.Or that maybe the author built up the mystery a little too much and made it impossible for her ending to work perfectly. There were some loose ends that made me think the book might have worked better as a whole if things had been simplified just a little.But the quality of the writing and the characters carried the day.And a striking twist, followed by a very clever postscript, rounded things off nicely.I haven’t been able to explain the many strengths and few weaknesses of this book as well as I’d like, because I don’t want to say too much about the plot. So just let me say that it wasn’t perfect but it was certainly good enough to make me want to investigate Holly Roth’s other books.
"The blackness ahead was not blacker than the blackness behind. Or to the left or to the right, she thought, or above--she drew her mind up short, as she had the car.""The air had been full of wine--and so, she thought wryly, had she.""He had smiled, and the smile stung her to simple fury.""The occasional herd of cows, invariably driven by a small boy with a big stick, charmed her. The occasional haycart, invariably driven by a wrinkled, sleepy, smiling old man, charmed her. And the scenery go prettier and prettier.""It came to her in the late afternoon that the car was straining somewhat. And why not? she thought defensively, with the protective instinct people adopt toward cars and cats, she's been climbing.""The friend--his name was Eugene Cotten--was large but speechless, blond and ruddy but otherwise rather colorless.""Oh, no, Medford thought. The superintendent used the word "transatlantic" as other men used "vicious." He seemed to have a theory, rather unsuitable in view of his profession, that crime was un-British, and when it became blatant, or particularly messy, it was, in his vocabulary, "transatlantic.""As they pulled out of the Yard and onto the Embankment Medford peered through the soupy darkness (it was ten o'clock in the morning) and said, "Nice day.""His room--cold, too large, barren, spotlessly clean but with a bed that would have been irresistible to a marauding American antique-hunter--sported no such refinement as a telephone.""The lab confirmed my conjecture that the dead woman was probably unusually attractive.""'No. Laura Bennington Selby. It has a ring.' 'No tinkles for me.'""She is an entirely feminine woman who sometimes seems ultrafeminine. Flibbertigibbety. Scatterbrained. She is actually nothing of the sort.""It is difficult to be balanced without being somewhat withdrawn; and it is difficult to be withdrawn--to any degree--without seeming cold.""I said, Certainly. Sell it, or put it in the stew. I didn't care.""You must come to think of a character trait as part of a subterranean canal, underlying the river of facts. It and its fellows that go to make the canal must be taken into account, but it is the river you are pursuing to its end. The canal will not actually enter into your navigational problems but once in a hell of a time.""In the interest of my work, I read fifteen newspapers a day.""I certainly didn't succeed because I had any ability; I had none at all. But if you think all night and work all day you can succeed in surprising enterprises.""The Danish man was very damaging. He was a big, rotund, bland, phlegmatic, middle-aged, bald, respectable-looking man, whose name created small ripples of amusement for the first few minutes, until all attempts to use it were abandoned.""The severe grooming saved her from being a fluffy type, but on the other hand, her underlying tendency to look fluffy saved her from looking determined. Actually she was an extremely ruthless woman, and rarely indecisive."
From 1957, this is an intriguing mystery and courtroom drama, dated in terms of morality and also in its fairly flat and unsurprising ending. Laura Selby, soon to marry, crashes her car and disappears en-route from Paris to Geneva. Soon after, a decaying body in a trunk turns up at her fiancé’s small town Norfolk and he is charged with murder. It takes some time before the truth is uncovered and the explanation dramatically delivered with the gradual tightening of the noose and three-dimensional characters adding tension.
Pretty good book. It's a shame that Roth died so young. Hope to find another mystery of hers soon.