However, back to the matter at hand, Mr. King!
The Lesser Antilles Case is the third of three maritime mysteries starring King's series detective Lieutenant Valcour that appeared between 1930 to 1934 (Valcour also solved two non-maritime mysteries in this period).
|Chart your course for death!
We learn that while on a lifeboat the survivors may have been drugged with chloral and two of their number--the New York millionaire and owner of the yacht, Lawrence Thacker, and yacht third mate Leighton Klein--pitched by some malign individual off the boat into the shark-infested sea. A publicity-seeking numerologist, Lillian Ash, is doing all she can to trumpet the word "murder" to the press and Valcour is asking questions of the survivors informally.
|Curses! The old hydrocyanic acid
in the highball trick!
For a (non-lethal!)
whiskey highball recipe
see the great cocktails website
This part of the book recovers some of the high tension of the earlier pair of maritime mysteries, particularly during the nail-biting diving expedition. However, the first half of the book is compelling as well, a fast-paced, smoothly-written investigation in New York City locales both high and low of events in the near past.
There are several interesting women characters in the novel, particularly the aforementioned Lillian Ash (though she rather resembles Carlotta Balfe from Murder on the Yacht); Erika Land, the young heiress; and Land's society matron aunt, Helen Whitestone. Often an exaggerated target of lampoonists, the 1930s society matron in Rufus King's hands becomes a character of surprising depth.
|beautiful but deadly
Neither Antilles nor Murder on the Yacht really has what Mike Grost and I both found in Murder by Latitude to be notable gay subtext.
However, King does include this circumspect though suggestive exchange between Valcour and Mr. Pritchett, butler to the poisoned Edmund Gateshead:
"I wonder whether I'm right about Mr. Gateshead."
"In what way, sir?"
"In seeing him as a man who possessed an intense desire for beauty, a man of strong, few, and perhaps curious friendships. His life with women confined itself almost exclusively to those of an age with or older than himself."
Pritchett said carefully: "That is about correct, sir."
King has a nice way with words all round.
With that almost terrifying facility of the very rich, to think, with Miss Whitestone, was to act....
She did not think, and never had thought, that sunken bathtubs (possibly from some early Roman connotation) were quite nice.
The word murderer hit her with a sickening physical blow. It was useless to argue with herself that well-bred people didn't do such things. She thought irrelevantly that Cain must have been, for his time, well bred.
She did something strange with her lips, under the curious delusion that she was managing a smile.
And to top the whole thing off, the plot is classical, clever and fair play! What more can a mystery fan ask for, really?