Friday, December 28, 2012

Fri Forgotten Books:
Crime Hound, by Mary Semple Scott (1940).

I'm just an ordinary fellow with sharp ears and eyes who can sometimes do a problem in mental arithmetic.
—Mary Semple Scott, Crime Hound 50
Jacket by Carl Cobbledick
Herbert Crosby, assistant to the St. Louis DA and self-styled detective, gets more than he bargained for when he vacations near the lakes of northern Michigan. A shady real estate agent with whom he had an appointment is found murdered in a sunken car, and the sheriff is asking uncomfortable questions about his movements. In addition, his defense of the beautiful Joan Ashleigh against a bully has made the man his sworn enemy, and his stolen gun is implicated in two additional murders. Soon Crosby is entangled with a proprietor of a former speakeasy, a twelve-year-old girl nearly suffocated in a closet, and a countess convinced that European communists are targeting her family. There also may be a connection between the recent murders and the mysterious deaths of Joan's parents. There's a nice twist on the scenario of gifted amateur/dumb yokel law enforcement and fairly advanced commentary for the time on prejudice against Native Americans.

Mary Semple Scott (1873–1968) was a granddaughter of Illinois senator James Semple; her brothers Ashley and Semple Scott made the first electric bus in St. Louis. She was active in the woman's suffrage movement, was the editor of the suffrage magazine The Missouri Woman, and was a friend of American novelist Winston Churchill (not to be confused with the British prime minister of the same name). Crime Hound was her only mystery novel.

Mary Semple Scott,
from Mar 1904
St. Louis Republic
Mary Semple Scott, at left,
plays the Democratic donkey
in a skit at the 1920 Nat
Amer Woman Suffrage Assn
meeting. Library of Congress,
Prints and Photos Division.


J F Norris said...

Bill Pronzini named this one of the worst mysteries ever written. I agree having suffered through Crime Hound. His very funny write up in SON OF GUN IN CHEEK skewers this book. It may include some "fairly advanced commentary for the time on prejudice against Native Americans" but it's also badly written, poorly plotted and often stupid.

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

As much as I respect Pronzini, I do not agree with his (or your) estimation. I enjoyed the book very much, especially as I regarded it as a spoof of a cozy mystery. The countess aunt and the lurking communists may be hard to swallow, but I suspect Scott was poking fun at mystery conventions.