A University of Chicago graduate who worked at Jane Addams' famous Hull House settlement, Viola Paradise was a vocal advocate of immigrant rights who published a number of articles about immigration matters during the Golden Age of detective fiction (c.1920-1940). By the 1930s she had moved to New York City and was a member of the New York Jewish Social Service Association.
|murder in blue |
This is a shame, for A Girl Died Laughing is a good detective novel, with a interesting, genuinely clued mystery plot and able depictions of New York City life in the 1930s.
My copy has a full page inscription from the author, about which more later.
While stopping at the apartment building of his fiancee, Adelaide Sayre, to take her out for the evening, archaeologist Sheridan Dinard (now there's an amateur detective name if I ever heard one--except he's not one) hears, behind the door of another apartment, the laughter of a "girl" (this is the 1930s, so what is meant, of course, is a woman in her twenties).
The laughter is suddenly cut off, but Dinard thinks little of that. However, since we know we are reading a murder mystery, we know better than Sheridan Dinard, of course.
It's only when Dinard and Sayre return to the apartment building that they learn that this laughing girl--whose identity seems to be unknown--was murdered (stabbed). And Dinard seems to the police's leading suspect!
Even though the girl who died laughing (as she is dubbed by the press) is unidentified, the crime seems to be linked with Dinard's place of work, a private archaeological museum. The museum caretaker, an Englishman named Marlin, has disappeared. Has he simply absconded, believing he was being accused of theft, or was he actually involved in the murder? Has he been murdered himself?
The slain laughing girl was found in the apartment of Mr. and Mrs. Coggs, Adelaide's grasping landlords from Hell (this couple is memorably portrayed). Do they know more than they admit?
|apparently Philo passed on this case|
There's a nice bit when Sheridan Dinard introduces himself to Assistant D. A. Alby (it's pleasing to think these characters all inhabit the same universe!):
"I had the pleasure of meeting you once, Alby...at Mr. Philo Vance's, with Mr. Markham."
There's also help from young Joey Timmott, a hotel bellhop with ambitions to become a detective. He's a nicely done character.
The police are convincingly portrayed too (there's even a policewoman).
All in all, A Girl Died Laughing is, I would say, a book that should please fans of Golden Age mystery, particularly those who like the Dorothy L. Sayers, S. S. Van Dine and Mignon Eberhart. You can see influences from all these authors, I think.
|a note from Paradise|
The League was formed in 1935, with the stated purpose of fostering "a truly democratic culture." The Exiled Writers Committee succored persecuted anti-fascist writers in Europe.
Apparently the League was a Communist Front group--though of course that doesn't mean that given individual members actually were Communists (in Paradise's case, by the early 1960s at least, she had become critical of the Soviet Union).
"This book comes unpretentiously into the collection, just to be going along," writes Viola Paradise modestly. "And in the hope that some one will find a few hours' diversion in its pages."
Someone has, Miss Paradise. I thank you!