Wednesday 4 April 2012

Rae Foley - Where is Mary Bostwick? (1958)

"What's up?"
"Santa Claus. I have to see him about a dead man."

Like Margaret Erskine, Rae Foley is an writer  who found herself repackaged by publishers during the gothic boom of the sixties and seventies as an author of gothic mysteries. Given, in paperback editions, cover artwork featuring worried-looking women in evening gowns, dark and spooky settings and plot descriptions emphasizing danger and romance, a casual reader might be surprised to find out that Foley's main series character was a male detective who is sometimes compared to Albert Campion. Like Campion, Mr. Potter (first name Hiram)  is wealthy, fair-haired and has a bland unrevealing face, although he is more neurotic and considers himself to be a "catalytic agent". The plot summaries of these gothic paperbacks fail to mention Mr. Potter, instead building up the involvement of supporting female characters (and distorting the plots to make them more appealing to the fan of gothic romances).

In Where is Mary Bostwick?, Mr. Potter has just returned to his native New York City and is surprised to read in a newspaper that, despite not knowing anything about the case, he is involved in the search for a missing heiress. Mary Bostwick was an average university student before being left a fortune by her unscrupulous and estranged father. However, when the will is read, Mary has been missing for months. As his lawyer is involved in the search, Mr. Potter decides to lend his peculiar talents to the investigation, a pressure-filled task as they only have twenty-nine hours to find Mary before the fortune passes to the other heirs. The lawyer, Adam Eden, assures Mr. Potter that the other heirs knew nothing about the will previously and therefore could not have murdered her (although murder will play a part in the case). The further involved he becomes in the search, the more Mr. Potter believes that Mary Bostwick is deliberately hiding, but for what reason?

Where is Mary Bostwick? depends on a number of coincidences to propel the storyline (Mary makes an obvious cameo appearance early on) for which I could forgive the author. However, the "big reveal" about why Mary is hiding is ludicrous and sinks the novel. Still, I like the character sufficiently enough and would read another Mr. Potter mystery (and hope for a better conclusion).


  1. I'm sure I read a least one of this woman's books when I was a teen in Connecticut. For the life of me I'll never remember the title.

    A few of Charlotte Armstrong's books which were pure detective novels were also repackaged as "Gothics." My copy of LAY ON, MAC DUFF! has an absurd depiction of a heroine in pseudo-Victorian garb, her cloak swirling in the wind, standing in front of the ubiquitous old house with the ominous single-lit window. None of it has anything to do with the story.

  2. You know what, I'd have rather read the "distorted" plot summary on the back cover than a review that gives away the ending. GRRR!

  3. I'm reading Rae Foley's "The Last Gamble" right now, and while it's part of a Detective Book Club collection, it's easy to see how it could be repackaged as a Gothic Romance, starting out as it does with the emphasis on a young woman put in a risky situation. Mr. Potter appears early on, but doesn't really take the lead in the story until a few chapters in.

    Nonetheless, I'm finding this to be a pretty good read--I'll have to find some more of Rae Foley's books.