Friday, 2 March 2012

Stanley Hart Page - The Tragic Curtain (1935)

"My policy is to construct as many [theories] as possible and balance them against each other amassing every atom of evidence in support or derogation  of them all, until the correct one achieves such conspicuity that the minimum possibility of error exists."

One can tell from the preceding quote that we've entered Philo Vanceland and I'll readily admit two things. Firstly, that Philo Vance is one of my favourite detectives and, secondly, that I'm a sucker for all the second and third-rate Philo Vance wannabes that came along in the twenties and thirties.

The Tragic Curtain is the last title in Stanley Hart Page's "Christopher Hand" series and is somewhat of an improvement over the preceding title Murder Flies the Atlantic. (I was surprised to find that MFTA wasn't the last title as with it's sloppy plotting it bore the hallmarks of the "last gasp" of a series). The Tragic Curtain relies on the well-worn plot of the disposal of the heirs of an aged patriarch (in this case, business magnate Leander Holloway). First of the heirs to die is Holloway's nephew, Robert Bradshaw, who is disposed of while sitting in front of a window (thus giving the book its title). Hand, a crankier version of Philo Vance, attempts to discover the guilty before any of the other heirs are murdered, a task made more immediate when his "Watson", Ralph Clark, falls in love with Holloway's great-niece.

There's enough plotting in The Tragic Curtain to lift it over the dry spots but Page ultimately falters with a groan-inducing motive for the killer (who's rather obvious as the misdirection in the book doesn't work well). Before the ending the book was a passable time-filler. With it, it's only suitable for faux-Vance diehards like me.


  1. Sorry the ending didn't work so well...I, too, am a Philo Vance fan. Always on the the look-out for suitable stand-ins (and not-so-patiently working on collecting the last two of the Vance books needed for my collection).