Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesdays Tomes: The Riddle of the Frozen Flames by Mary and Thomas Hanshew

Tuesday Tomes is a weekly book review of free on-line vintage books.

Illustration from the original edition

The Riddle of the Frozen Flame by Mary E. Hanshew and Thomas Hanshew

This full length novel features Cleek, the Man of a Thousand Faces-former master criminal and now the genius detective of Scotland Yard-in an adventure that ranges from bank robberies to gold smuggling to murder on the Fens.

In this 1920 novel, co-written by Thomas Hanshew and wife, Mary E. Hanshew (I think she finished the novel after his death in 1914), two of the usual characters are here: Mr. Narkom of Scotland Yard and Cleek’s boss and Dobbins, Cleek’s young assistant but sadly missing is Miss Elsa-she is only mentioned and referred to but not part of the story. (I really like Miss Elsa and missed her here…but we do get a hint that matrimony may be in her future (with Cleek, of course.)

Sir Nigel Merriton, a decorated soldier, returns from India to the ancestral home, Merriton Towers, following the inexplicable disappearance of his uncle. The house is quite old and not at all modernized and has been in the care of his uncle’s butler for the past few years. Sir Nigel feels it’s quite the proper place for ghosts!

That first night, having difficulty sleeping (the old Victorian four-poster is none too comfortable) he rises and having a cigarette, looks out the window.

“His eyes saw all of a sudden a light prick out like a tiny flame, low down on the very edge of the Fens. One light, two, three, and then a very host of them flashed out…What on earth--? But even as his lips formed the unspoken exclamation came yet another light to join the others dancing and twinkling and flickering out there across the gloomy marshlands.”

What are these? He soon learns that they are the Frozen Flames-and that anyone walking out on the marshes at night never returns!

Poor Sir Nigel-his homecoming is not as pleasant as he expected. A houseguest disappears on the marshes and then a servant and finally Nigel is driven to contacting Scotland Yard, asking for help from Cleek to work out the mystery of what has really happened to all these people on the Fens.

The New York Times review from June 6, 1920 states,” “The Riddle of the Frozen Flame” is a cleverly conceived tale that will idle away an hour most pleasantly.” I totally agree!

You can find my review of the absolutely wonderful first Cleek tale and other Cleek short stories here.

You can download this free audio-book, fabulously read by Ruth Golding, here or the free e-book in pdf. or kindle format here.


Allie said...

Oh wonderful! I love Cleek - off to get this now! Thank you!

Micki said...

It looks to be a great book! Thanks so much!