Wednesday 4 April 2012
Rae Foley - Where is Mary Bostwick? (1958)
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).