|The 1st American edition|
w/pictorial boards depicting Rivoli
|Frank believes he spies his brother in Dover|
(art by Cyrus Cuneo)
Daphne receives a letter from George in which he apologizes for his ungentlemanly behavior of the day before they are to be married. He says "terrible circumstances" have forced him to give her up. He cannot marry her nor ever "hope to look upon [her] face again. Do not seek me, you will never find me." So Daphne, Frank and Daphne's father Gerald do what anyone would do. They go off on a whirlwind tour of Europe. Forget George's melodramatic vanishing and self-imposed exile. Just dismiss his claims and the mystery of it all. Better to be distracted with the delights of a continental tour than bear up and discover the truth, right?
|Daphne is visited by a mysterious figure|
(art by Cyrus Cuneo)
Then Frank believes he sees the old Italian man who answered the door at the boarding house where the veiled woman fled. He is in conference with a priest taking confessions. Later, this man is discovered dead at the foot of cliff. Frank and Uncle Gerald use their innate amateur sleuthing skills to point out wounds on the neck that indicate strangling and a button clenched in the man's fist torn form an article of gray clothing. They are sure that they man was murdered.
Meanwhile Angelo rabidly pursues Daphne claiming his love for her, that she is the perfect model for his next great painting. He has already used her face for a Madonna that hangs in a local cathedral and she is causing a stir among the locals who recognize her face from that painting. Daphne shuns all Angelo's attentions. Frank is clearly jealous.
|Frank at the mercy of the mad villain|
All of the various mysteries, the murder of the Italian man, the meaning of the mute veiled woman on the train and most importantly of what happened to George are all revealed in a climax worthy of a Guy Boothby thriller. Madness is at the heart of the novel. And the macabre motives of the villain are rooted in - of all things - the demand for realism in art. Here are the words of the villain who performs a five page monologue/confession in the the last chapter fittingly titled "The Denouement!"
You see this is the age of realism. Nothing is now accepted in literature, art, or the drama that does not bear on its front the stamp of reality. Art, if it is to hold the mirror up to Nature, must not shrink any more than medical science from experimenting on the living frame, and analysing with delicate eye its varying of phases of agony.
I think that this was the point of Carling's book. He had recognized that the kind of book he liked to write was something of a dinosaur already in 1905. He had already written The Shadow of the Czar (1902), a swashbuckling adventure, followed shortly by a supernatural mystery called The Viking's Skull (1904). With The Weird Picture he seemed to have exhausted his imagination and waved the white flag in the face of realism. While some of his more successful contemporaries managed to carry on the trend of these fanciful, completely unrealistic stories well into the mid 1920s Carling seemed to have surrendered to the tastes of the modern reader. Fittingly, his last book was called The Doomed City (1910), a Romantic historical epic about the fall of Jerusalem.
|The second US edition of The Weird Picture|
This was a double duty post - both a Friday's Forgotten Book and a late entry in the Switzerland stop on the Crime Fiction EuroPass challenge. For more overlooked and forgotten books visit Patti Abbot's blog. For further reading by Swiss crime writers and mystery novels set in Switzerland visit Mysteries in Paradise.
Always a lovely review, John. Thanks!ReplyDelete
I'd read this for the illustrations alone. Thanks for posting those. And I'd read this edition because I could have lifted it straight from my grandmother's shelf. I wish I knew what happened to those old thrillers.ReplyDelete
You know I've read some of this.ReplyDelete
I love the illustrations too. This sounds like a 'heaving busoms' kind of thriller. Occasionally I like those.ReplyDelete
I love the work of Raphael Sabatini and he writes in similar style.
Thanks for this JohnReplyDelete
To the Ladies' Art Appreciation Society -- I'll have to dig up some more Cyrus Cuneo illustrated books and do a "Drawing on the Past" post about him. His work is as dramatic as Arthur Keeler's.ReplyDelete
To Gary/Jack - Knock me over with a feather! Did you get all the way through? I had to read to the end to find out if Carling's finale matched my own bizarre idea of who and what was responsible for all the mystery and mayhem. He didn't come anyway near what my imagination dreamed up, but the villain's insane monologue at the end just about made up for it. If it had been in a movie I'm sure the audience would've been screaming "Shut up already and kill him!" :^D
The Weird Picture - who could resist such a title. Thanks for pointing it out.ReplyDelete
Must admit that I used to pick up books like this thinking, ego unchecked, that I must surely be the first person to read it in over a decade... or two... or five. The web not only returned me to earth, but brought contact with others who have read same. 'Tis a wonderful thing.
As you may well know, the cover of the second edition was designed by Boston artist Amy Sacker, whose monogram appears below and slightly to the right of the "E" in "Picture".ReplyDelete