Friday, 6 May 2011

Forgotten Book – The Dangerfield Talisman


My choice for today's Forgotten Book is a novel published in 1926. That year saw the first appearance of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – suffice to say that The Dangerfield Talisman by J.J. Connington was rather less ground-breaking. All the same, it is readable example of an early Golden Age mystery by one of the first members of the Detection Club

The setting is a country house packed with the obligatory party of suspects. But this is a mystery story, rather than necessarily a murder mystery, although one character does disappear in strange circumstances. The eponymous Talisman is a family heirloom, valued at £50,000 "and the price of diamonds had gone up a good deal since then". Surprise, surprise – it goes missing.

We are provided at the outset with a chess problem that provides an enigmatic clue to the riddles surrounding the Dangerfield family, and the problem is ultimately solved in classic Golden Age fashion. The story is rather low-key, but offers agreeable entertainment in the game-playing tradition of its time.

J.J. Connington was an interesting writer, a prominent professor of chemistry who wrote a leading textbook on his subject, as well as a goodly number of nicely constructed mysteries. He went on to improve upon this early effort, and having enjoyed a few of his books, I'm certainly interested in reading more.

6 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks, as always, for your review. I happen to like those "country home" mysteries, so even though this one isn't groundbreaking, it does sound worth a read.

Todd Mason said...

Your focus on the classic fair-play detection fiction, while not unique in the roundelay, does tend to introduce me to the area of CF I'm least well-read in...

John said...

There is a used bookstore here in Chicago with a shelf-ful of Connington books. I keep waiting for the somewhat avaricious owner to lower the prices. They're all beat up and the previous owner scrawled his name on the flyleaf of all of them and also had the very odd habit of checking off each title in the Table of Contents when he had apparently finished. He used a pen for all of these personalizations. Of course.

The bookseller wants upwards to $75 for some of them. I'm guessing the higher prices are based on scarcity of the title and not condition. Anyway, every now and then he re-prices one or two of them and I snap it up.

I have two sitting in a pile waiting to be read: MURDER IN THE MAZE and THE TWENTY-ONE CLUES. I enjoyed DEATH AT SWAYTHLING COURT - his very first - because it was so lighthearted. Almost a parody. I reviewed at my blog if you haven't already seen it.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Margot and Todd.
John, your review is fascinating. I haven't read that one yet.

Jack Feathering said...

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who enjoys J J Connington! Quite low-key stories, as you say, but very entertaining. And he had a good eye (ear?) for titles: my favourite is 'Nemesis at Raynham Parva", which sounds like a spoof of an Agatha Christie St Mary Mead story - but actually came out the year before "The Murder at the Vicarage".
Apparently John Dickson Carr was a fan, too! (Connington titles like The Case with 9 Solutions, and The 21 Clues have a very Carr-like sound to them.)

Martin Edwards said...

Jack, you are quite right - excellent titles.