The first two Roger Scarlett novels, The Beacon Hill Murders and The Back Bay Murders, both appeared in 1930. The first novel details the murderous outcome of the invasion of Boston's exclusive Beacon Hill district by the Suttons, a family of well-heeled parvenus. That notorious "stock exchange gambler," Frederick Sutton, is determined to make his way into Boston society, but Boston society has remained rather dubious about the bumptious questing capitalist, with only the charming Mrs. Anceney, a prominent society widow, taking up his cause.
|Something sinister is afoot in Beacon Hill!|
Can Inspector Kane discover who daringly slew
Frederick Sutton in his his private sitting room?
Brilliant Inspector Norton Kane of the Boston police is soon investigating the bizarre murder case, assisted (if that is the right word) by dutiful though not overly astute Sergeant Moran and his rather dim minion in blue, McBeath. Also on hand is the chronicler of the tale, the prim attorney Mr. Underwood, who was Frederick Sutton's disapproving attorney as well as a staunch friend of Inspector Kane.
Inspector Kane ventures into another quaint Boston neighborhood in the The Back Bay Murders, this time in a case concerning horrid slayings committed among the genteel paying guests of Mrs. Quincy's refined brownstone boarding house.
|In The Back Bay Murders|
a brazen murderer strikes
seemingly with impunity
Although there is no locked room problem per se in The Back Bay Murders, the second murder in the novel presents aspects of one and the mystery plot overall is highly ingenious and pleasingly outre, presenting such teasing clues as bloodstains which are not actually blood and a cat toying with a feather.
It was this last feature of the novel that inspired the title of the most extreme plagiarization of a mystery novel known to me: a line by line swiping of The Back Bay Murders, done by an Englishman with seemingly no sense of shame whatsoever. It might have been enough to launch a second Boston Tea Party, as far as Dorothy Blair and Evelyn Page were concerned. More on this next post!