Thursday, 22 March 2012

Kathleen Moore Knight - Death Blew Out the Match (1935)

"One moment--brilliant sunshine, shimmering sea, the pipe and whistle of birds, the quiver of a million growing things; the next--death and horror."

The first of the author's Elisha Macomber mysteries, Death Blew Out the Match is set on the Cape Cod island of Penberthy where recently unemployed Anne Waldron and her friend Hazel "Kerch" Kershaw have come to stay at the Waldron cottage. Their plans for an idyllic summer stay are shattered however when they discover the body of caustic playwright Marya Van Wyck who has unflatteringly portrayed several of the locals in a recent stage success. Marya is found in her cottage in front of the fireplace (unlike the dust jacket illustration), a charred match still held between her thumb and forefinger. Kerch, a nurse, thinks the death suspicious and an autopsy establishes Marya's death by cyanide of potassium poisoning. However the autopsy also shows no traces of food in her stomach or mouth . How was the poison introduced into Marya's system? Anne soon turns detective (her efforts describe as "philovancing") with her attention firmly focused on Mr. Hyland, a recent arrival to Penberthy.

I was disappointed with Death Blew Out the Match. While quick-tempered Anne Waldron's narration and investigation are for the most part enjoyable, much of the focus is centred on events that turn out to be unconnected with Marya's murder which is hastily (and rather accidentally) resolved. A paucity of suspects is also a weakness and the method of poisoning is more goofy than clever. Hopefully Elisha Macomber is better served in the next of his mysteries as his character could easily have been written out of this novel without a substantial difference to the plot.

Fans of old time radio can listen to an adaptation of the novel here.


  1. I have this one on my to-read list! Hmm.....

  2. Love the map and the title, but I can't say your comments have me quite fired up for the book itself...

  3. I own this one, too. And was thinking it would be the best place to start my Knight introduction. Guess I'll start with a different one.