The Queen's Gate Mystery (1927) is Jimmie Haswell’s third outing as an amateur detective. He is a lawyer --a solicitor, not a barrister -- recently married to Nonna, a French woman he met and fell in love with in his previous adventure The Crooked Lip. Nonna convinces Jimmie to investigate the various legal questions posed in Bruden's letter and to prod the police into tying the letter to the murder. The two of them get in over their heads and soon what began as a detective novel transforms into a full blown action thriller rife with the kind of 1920s set pieces that would make this novel suitable for the afternoon serials of Adams' contemporary cinema.
Nonna is abducted, Jimmie must rescue her. Jimmie is attacked, bound and gagged and must escape. The search for the treasure intersects with a subplot of a ring of criminals some of whom are looking for the treasure, others who have their own reasons for using the house. Secret passageways which featured prominently in Haswell's debut (The Secret of Bogey House, 1924) are key to solving the mystery of how the crimes are committed but this is no surprise at all and rather obvious early in the book.
As always romance plays an important role in the story. Haswell often riffs on the life of a newlywed with some amusing remarks. His devotion and love for his wife spur him on giving him a sort of superhuman talent in rescue and survival. Nonna is interested in getting the other couple to repair their relationship after a damaging quarrel seems to turn them against one another. Never fear. They all make up and both Jimmie and Nonna and Philip and Enid foil the villains and live happily ever after.
The action sequences leave a lot to be desired, however. While I found it hard to believe that he could actually untie knots by simply manipulating the tight cords on his wrist on a hook embedded in a brick wall and do this all with his back against the wall in pitch darkness it still made me smile. Oh the days of derring-do in 1920s action adventures. The story is pure cliffhanger movie fodder. But Jimmie and Nonna are just plain likeable so it's hard to make fun of such familiar stock in trade action and hackneyed devices, as Carolyn Wells liked to call them.
I have a few other Haswell books to get to and then I'll be sampling several of Herbert Adams' non-series detective novels. But nothing has yet to outshine his remarkable achievement in the baffling and exciting detective novel The Crime in the Dutch Garden.
(reviews on this blog have hyperlinks)
The Secret of Bogey House (1924)
The Crooked Lip (1926)
The Queen's Gate Mystery (1927)
The Empty Bed (1928)
Rogues Fall Out (1928)
The Golden Ape (1930)
The Crime in the Dutch Garden (1931)
The Paulton Plot (1932)
The Woman in Black (1933)