Wednesday, March 30, 2022

FIRST BOOKS: The Seven Sisters - Jean Lilly

Mr. Spencer, a gemologist, visits newlywed Nancy and Stanley Kent at the famed Prentice mansion. He informs them that he is doing research on the renowned Prentice Dowry Chain, an elaborate jeweled necklace made up of seven star sapphires known as the Seven Sisters. Much to Mr. Spencer’s dismay Nancy, Mrs. Prentice’s granddaughter, has never heard of the Prentice Dowry Chain and knows nothing about its existence among the many valuables in the house. Stanley, however, a clever young man if there ever was one, leads Spencer to a portrait of one of the Prentice ancestors. It’s Nancy’s great grandmother who is wearing an elaborate necklace and Spencer stands in awe of the painting sighing almost inaudibly, “The Seven Sisters!” Spencer allows the family to try and locate the necklace and he promises to return at a later date hopefully to examine the jewels in person. Thus begins a strange and macabre adventure involving buried secrets, stolen jewels, and murder.

I was utterly unprepared for what awaited me in the pages of The Seven Sisters (1928), the first mystery novel of Jean Lilly. The rambling narrative meanders through Stanley and Nancy’s courtship, an overview of Prentice genealogy, the setting up of the house, the relegation of the dozens of ancestral portraits that covers the walls, etc. etc. and so forth. This meandering all seemed to be going nowhere for the first 75 pages. Finally when Spencer shows up and delivers his two page monologue on the mineral composition of gemstones, the phenomenon of asterism, the difference between faceted gem cutting and the en cabochon method I started to see this would be yet another mystery novel about a missing item of jewelry and the crimes that follow in the wake of the jewels’ recovery. Little did I know that the story would take a bizarre detour into the land of pulpish gore and macabre thrills.

A star saphhire displaying
the asterism effect
Nancy’s grandmother Penelope, the only occupant in the Prentice home other than the handful of servants, refuses to talk about the Seven Sisters. A few days after Spencer showed up she dies of fright when a different strange man appears and confronts her and her gardener/handyman about the Prentice Dowry Chain. Just before Penelope dies she utters a fragmented message: “Under……” Stephen takes the message to be a literal clue to the necklace’s hiding place, most likely beneath one of the oak trees that line the property. He spends one night digging and to his shock (and the reader’s) he uncovers some skeletal remains. Buried with the bones he finds an engraved pocket watch. Only a capital R is legible while the other two letters in the monogram have been worn away.

Increasingly the story becomes like Harry Stephen Keeler webwork concoction. An apt analogy because this is a book from E. P. Dutton, publisher of Keeler’s books from 1927 through 1942. Along with disinterred skulls and skeletons and the engraved pocket watch we get anonymous letters, a mystery woman residing in Room 34 of a hotel on Andover Road, an acrobatic burglar, and another buried body!

Surprisingly, with a small pile of buried corpses and a break-in at the Prentice home there’s not a single policeman in sight. Stephen in trying to protect the family name does call the coroner but tells him as little as he thinks the coroner needs to know. Stephen may be clever with his dying messages and handy with a shovel but he’s extremely foolish not to report the nuttiness going on at the Prentice property. His foolhardy decision to protect his wife’s family reputation leads to more death and violence. Coroner Bailey then takes matters into his own hands. He and Stephen turn sleuth and ultimately, after various wild adventures and more crime, the greedy culprits are tracked down, the necklace is recovered and the secret of the skeleton buried beneath the oak tree is explained.

Jean Lilly is as mysterious as the goings on in this debut novel. I know more about her husband and daughter than I do about her.  Jean McCoy Lilly (1886-1961) was born in Michigan and died in Pennsylvania.  She married Scott Barrett Lilly, well known professor of engineering at Swathmore College,  for whom an endowed scholarship is still named.  Her daughter Mary, born in 1910, graduated from Swathmore in 1933, studied painting at the Philadelphia Art institute and taught art there. Later she spent much of her life as an art teacher at Charlestown Elementary School in Malvern, PA.

Lilly is the author of four mystery novels with the last, Death Thumbs a Ride (1940), the easiest to find and the only other Lilly book that has been written about on the internet. While her first crime novel has no series character another Lilly mystery novel I own but have yet to read -- Death in B Minor (1934) -- features Bruce Perkins, her lawyer-detective who appeared in the last three books.

The Seven Sisters exists only in one US edition and is the scarcest of all the Lilly mystery novels. It was not reprinted in either hardcover or paperback during the author’s lifetime. While I enjoyed this oddity I wouldn’t break my neck (or bankbook) tracking down a copy. Despite its strange turn of macabre events it’s typical of 1920s American mysteries: not really a traditional detective novel but rather an adventure thriller overloaded with preposterous coincidences. Ultimately it all ends in a sadly predictable finale. With its old-fashioned prose style, unusual narrative tricks and creaky plotting it all reminded me of a book that might have been written in the late Victorian or early Edwardian era by either Richard Marsh or Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

I Am Afraid - Elma K. Lobaugh

THE STORY:  Dorothy marries divorced Edward, a non-fiction writer.  All is well until Edward's children are sent to live with him. Caroline, Edward's ex-wife, has decided to move to California to start life anew and feels the children will only burden her.  If her new life doesn't pan out and she returns to Chicago she'll ask for the children to move back with her.  And so for Dorothy her romantic idyll in Edward's custom built home by the dune-lined shores Lake Michicgan in northern Indian comes to an abrupt end. The children are odd to say the least. And Stephen, Edward's 11 year-old son, is positively creepy.  Life becomes increasingly tension-filled and soon Dorothy feels she is being persecuted by the children, abandoned by her husband, and imagines she is slowly losing her mind. 

THE CHARACTERS:  From the opening paragraph we get the sense that Dorothy, our narrator, is a fragile woman easily intimidated and a victim of a runaway imagination. The dust jacket illustration (see image at left) shows several surreal looking eyes that are meant to suggest the eyes in a portrait hanging on her bedroom wall. As Dorothy's persecution (real or imagined we are never really sure until the final chapter) continues the eyes in the portrait take on a sinister aspect and represent to her the eyes of everyone in the house -- her indifferent, apparently unloving, husband and the two judgmental children, especially the elder Stephen.  I Am Afraid (1948) is a reverse fairy tale, a nightmare story for adults with Dorothy cast in the role of a victimized stepmother seemingly at the mercy of sinister stepchildren.  

When Stephen first appears the reader knows there is something not quite right about the boy. He talks and behaves like a middle-aged man.  He treats his stepmother not as a parent, but as someone to pity. Stephen has a patronizing manner about him. In his daily visits to Dorothy's bedroom with her morning or afternoon cup of tea he seems ingratiating and deferential, but Dorothy begins to imagine the boy has an ulterior motive. He doesn't act like a son or even a child when he's around her. She calls him strange and weird. She wonders if the tea should be drunk at all.

It doesn't help that Edward dismisses all of Dorothy's ideas when she attempts to discuss the boy's disturbing behavior. The boy is not athletic, disdains anything remotely boyish and shuns any type of play, preferring to read books. He's already suspect in the eyes of 1940s America.  Imagine any American boy not wanting to play baseball or football and turn into a bookworm! Dorothy becomes increasingly frightened by the children, but especially Stephen. It's not just the bookishness that gives her pause. And it's only a mater of time before the strangeness gives way to malicious and dangerous acts.

There may no other suspense novel as intensely domestic as I Am Afraid. The small cast of characters helps build a claustrophobic atmosphere resulting in a stifling melodrama. Dorothy has no real friends outside of her immediate family and spends much of her energy trying to win over her stepchildren or trying to entice her husband back into her bedroom.  The sex has gone from their marriage now that the children have arrived.  Adding insult to injury Edward has retreated to his writer's den claiming a need for no distractions while he tries to hammer out his articles under the pressure of fast approaching deadlines.

The only other character worth mentioning is the neighbor Frank Henderson, a gym teacher and football coach at the elementary school. Dorothy goes for strolls along the shores of Lake Michigan and chances upon Frank walking his dog.  They have a casual conversation that feels so alive and adult to Dorothy she finds a way to get out and go walking nearly every evening just in order to meet up with the coach and his dog.  Little does she realize that her walks and utterly harmless friendship is under close observation.

French translation of I Am Afraid
SETTING:  While the house may be an oppressive and loveless place filled with portraits of staring eyes and oddball children too much in charge of the adults the locale is contrasted with the outside setting.  Edward's home is situated in the dune lined shores of Northern Indiana. Lake Michigan and the dunes are favorite locations in Lobaugh's crime novels.  For Dorothy the lake, the beaches, and the dunes surrounding the house serve as an idyllic escape from the sterile and claustrophobic home that increasingly seems like a prison.

INNOVATIONS:   With a cast of only three adults, two children and one dog it seems almost as if it was meant to be a script for either theater or the movie screen. It's confined settings also make it prime material for a theatrical adaptation.

I think Dorothy's pre-occupation with her dwindling sex life was pretty modern for a book published in 1948.  Clearly her life with Edward was a happy and passionate one prior to the arrival of the oddball kids, Emily and Stephen. Her private life with her husband all but disappears once the children are in the household. I was impressed with Lobaugh's insistence on making Dorothy a woman with desire and whose life requires sexual expression.  Her descent into depression and isolation has a lot to do with her being ignored by her husband as much as it is about the weird and later thoroughly malicious behavior of her creepy stepson. There aren't many crime novels that address this aspect of marriages gone bad and the consequences of one isolated partners mental health.

INFLUENCES:  The real thrill of this suspense novel doesn't occur until the final third of the book and involves lies, deception and spiteful violence.  I can't help but think that Lobaugh was familiar with Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour, a play first produced on Broadway in 1935 with its first of two movie adaptions in 1936.  It became a standard choice of melodrama in colleges and community theaters by the mid 1940s. The ugly rumor spread by Stephen that serves as the climax of the book seems so entirely inspired by the malicious talk of Mary Tilford in Hellmann's play that it can't be mere coincidence.  When Stephen is forced to confess to his lies in Lobaugh's novel the boy's fury and anger is like a madman's hysteria. His character foreshadows all the "Bad Seed" kids and demonic children that would flood the pages of popular fiction throughout the 1960s and 70s.  In this regard Lobaugh's book prophesies an entire crime and horror novel subgenre decades before it became a cliché.

QUOTES:  Their poise was more unnerving than if they'd come in the house screaming.

He kissed me good night, a sweet gentle kiss befitting my supposedly nervous, wrought-up state. I could have slapped him.  He might have kissed me differently--as a woman, as a lover, as a wife.

I began to think that it was too bad we were civilized. If I were to slap him, if he were to hit me at least that would be honest. At least that would be more sincere than this quiet politeness that was a living lie. 

(In reference to the painting that causes so much of Dorothy's paranoid anxiety) of these days I'm going to throw something at that smirking bitch on the wall.  I can pretend she's Stephen.

AUTHOR:  Elma Klinedorf Lobaugh (1907-1997) was born and raised in Indiana where she lived most of her life.  In 1928 she graduated with honors from University of Chicago.  Among her first jobs was labor analyst for the Indiana State Employment Service.  She wrote three crime novels under her own name then disappeared from the Crime Club roster for four years.  In 1946 her melodramatic novel The Devil Is Loneliness was published by the second tier house A. A. Wyn.  Described as a "steel mill soap opera" by one newspaper reviewer it was her only mainstream novel. When she resurfaced in the 1950s as a mystery writer she used the pen name "Kenneth Lowe" and was once again published by Doubleday's Crime Club. The Lowe crime novels are all set in Indiana and at least one (Haze of Evil) deals with murder and crime in the steel industry. Some of them are set in a fictional town called Merrittville which is most likely modeled on the real Indiana city of Merrillville. At least two of her novels were translated into French:  I Am Afraid became A devenir folle (literally "to become crazy) and L'Envoûtements (Bewitchments) was the translated version of her sophomore mystery, Shadows in Succession, a mystery involving voodoo in New Orleans.

Elma K. Lobaugh Crime Novels
She Never Reached the Top (1945)
Shadows of Succession (1946)
I Am Afraid (1949)

As Kenneth Lowe
Haze of Evil (1953)
No Tears for Shirley Minton (1955)
The Catalyst (1958)

Friday, March 25, 2022

Winners of The Lake of the Dead giveaway

I put all the names in a hat so to speak.  Using a random number generator I found on the internet I got two numbers. I matched up those numbers with where your comment fell in the order of comments left on the post.  So the lucky winners of a copy of The Lake of the Dead are:

1. Joel

2. Book Glutton

I was thankful that the numbers matched up to people who had signed heir comment or had an ID attached.  Didn't have to deal with all those Anonymous comments and having to ID you by the book or writer you mentioned. Anyway, if you are Joel or Book Glutton please email me with your mailing address and I will ship your book to you.

Click here to email me. The Subject field should fill in automatically.

If you live in Canada, USA or UK you will be receiving your book from Amazon. Anywhere else I'll be shipping it to you via the regular US mail at my expense.

Thanks for all your comments and special thanks to James Jenkins for linking my review on the Valancourt Books Twitter page.  I'm sure a lot of you otherwise would never have read the review.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

The Lake of the Dead - André Bjerke (and another giveaway)

"Let's summarize:  A lake that sucks people into it, an invisible phantom that screams and leaves footprints, a crazed double murderer on the loose, wandering around desperately in the dark of night. You might indeed say this is a fitting atmosphere for a psychoanalyst."

-- Gabriel Mørk in The Lake of the Dead (1942)

Is there anyone out there who knows of the existence of Bernhard Borge, the Norwegian author of four eerie detective novels tinged with horror and supernatural elements?  Unless you grew up and read Norwegian popular fiction I doubt it.  Borge is the pseudonym of André Bjerke, a well regarded poet who dabbled in crime and detective fiction during the 1940s. According to James Jenkins' extremely informative intro in this new English edition of the second Borge mystery novel I learned that it was Bjerke who is behind the Borge alter ego.  Jenkins, publisher and founder of the excellent small press Valancourt Books, also serves as translator for the first English edition of what has been deemed a classic in horror and crime fiction by Norwegain readers.  The Lake of the Dead (1942), or De dødes tjern as Norwegians know it, consistently appears on "Best of..." lists as the best remembered classic Norwegian mystery novel. Astonishingly, at one time it outranked even the work of modern Norwegian bestselling crime writer Jo Nesbó.

Let me add a clarifying bit to that statement about Norwegian readers only knowing about The Lake of the Dead.  The book was so popular that it has been filmed twice. It's first cinematic adaptation in 1958 with a screenplay by Bjerke (and featuring the writer in the role of Gabriel Mørk) is still available online from Sinister Cinema in a DVD with English subtitles. If any English speaker does know about the story it is probably because they have seen the movie rather actually reading the original book.

But to the book itself!

Anyone who craves the kind of detective novel that incorporates impossibility and apparently supernatural aspects will get more than they ever bargained for in The Lake of the Dead.  It easily stands beside the mystery novels of John Dickson Carr, Hake Talbot and Eric Harding's Pray for the Dawn for its eerie atmosphere and use of grisly legends. Each time Bjerke describes the lake and its surrounding forest the book amps up the horror and the macabre. All senses are employed as the reader is transported to the Norwegian haunted lake with the stench of rotting marshes, the croaking of frogs "as if calling from the abyss" and the miasma of fog that seems interminably wrapped around the perimeter of its waters.  Paranoia and terror infect the inhabitants of the cabin by the lake recalling the fear of the guests of U. N. Owen in And Then There Were None as they try to prevent more of their number becoming victims of the ghost that lures people to their doom in the lake's haunted waters.

And there's more to draw in fans of Golden Age detective novels here. Like the Philo Vance series Bjerke creates a narrator character along the lines of S. S. Van Dine. Bernard Borge is not only the author of his detective novels he is the narrator.  Borge is paired up with psychoanalyst Kai Bugge who serves as the real detective of the books in which he appears.  According to Jenkins' intro Bugge serves as detective in three of the four Bernhard Borge mystery novels.

Borge opens The Lake of the Dead with a bemoaning monologue in which he tells a group of friends that he is suffering from writer's block and is about to give up on writing altogether. We learn that Borge is a mystery novelist and his friends dare him to tackle a real mystery and challenge his failing imagination. His lawyer pal tells a story about a haunted lake where ages ago a crazed man grabbed an ax and chopped up his cheating wife and her handsome male lover, dumped their bodies in the water, then committed suicide by drowning himself. One of the friends, Bjørn Werner, has recently rented the shunned cabin by the shores of that very lake. The friends decide to visit for a weekend and hope that Borge will be inspired by the haunted locale to write his next mystery novel. When they arrive Bjørn is nowhere to be found, nor is his pet dog he took with him. They discover footprints leading  to the water but none that return to the cabin. It appears he was lured to the lake and disappeared. Or did the ghost of that mad murderer drag Bjørn down into the lake’s rumored bottomless depths?

3rd Borge novel, English title:
Dead Men Come Ashore (1947)
The novel features all sorts of intriguing horror set pieces including a sleepwalking damsel in distress, one attempt on another person's life, a near impossible break-in at the cabin, and --of course-- one genuine murder. Borge and Bugge are like GAD versions of Mulder and Scully, with Borge slowly but surely taken in by the occult lectures he hears from Gabriel Mørk while Bugge is the resident skeptic examining each supposedly ghostly manifestation and other-worldly event with the eyes of a rational scientist. But he's also a psychoanalyst and an avowed Freudian. He's not going to completely abandon his training and career mindset. Part of the most crucial evidence is found in handwritten notes Borge finds detailing one of Bugge's client's dreams. Together they also find Bjørn Werner's diary, the work of what appears to be a raving madman which also includes some bizarre dreams written down. Kai Bugge reminds Bernhard Borge that one of the greatest tools of any psychoanalyst is dream interpretation and he will use his Freudian training to glean from these dreams a more thorough understanding of Werner's troubled soul. Dream interpretation becomes key to helping solve the mysteries, not as bizarrely as Moris Klaw does in Sax Rohmer's Dream Detective mystery stories, but rather as a psychoanalyst approaches his work with patients. 

There are other ingeniously planted clues, much of it related to psychology and psychoanalytic observations. In this regard The Lake of the Dead is reminiscent of the mystery novels of Helen McCloy whose psychologist detective Basil Willing also acted as a police consultant by using his career training to help him understand the psyches of the suspects and the victim. Similarly, readers might recall the Freudian ramblings of Mrs. Bradley in the mystery novels of Gladys Mitchell.  I get a sense from Kai Bugge's character and his intense theorizing that Bjerke understood psychoanalytic methods much more in depth than Mitchell's often specious psychology when it cropped up in the Mrs. Bradley books.

Borge's 4th & final novel
English title: Hidden Pattern (1950)
This excellent mystery novel packs a wallop in the final pages. I want to bring up one final analogy but will have to be circumspect in doing so. Those who come away either gasping in awe or at least raising their eyebrows when reading the penultimate revelatory chapter ought to know that while it may appear to be unique and brand new it is not wholly original on Bjerke's part. The bizarre murder method and motive were both first introduced in a minor classic of English language detective fiction back in the Victorian era.

Whether you are keen on Carr-like supernatural elements, the battle between the true believer in other-worldly events and the rational scientist, or enjoy a detective novel that plumbs the depths of psychological mysteries that lead to crime The Lake of the Dead has a lot to offer. Jenkins is to be commended on his discovery and for making at least this one Borge mystery available to English language readers.  I certainly hope we have not seen the last of Bernhard Borge and the fascinating psychological detective Kai Bugge.

The web page for Valancourt Books edition of The Lake of the Dead will lead you to various other web pages where can purchase a copy.  Or you can enter my giveaway by leaving comment below. That's right I'm giving away two copies of this new edition!  Just tell me anything about a forgotten foreign language mystery or horror novel that you think we all ought to know about - translated into English or not. No geographic restrictions this time because I'm having Amazon ship the book to you!  [Why didn't I think of that before?]  So enter away and leave me loads of comments every one of you out there.  This new edition is really is a cause for celebration.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Death of an Editor - Vernon Loder

The newspaper crowd has descended upon Marsh House but not without an invitation. The impromptu house party consists of a gossip columnist, an advertising man, two reporters from France, and a serial fiction writer. All of them are waiting to speak with Hay Smith, editor of The Daily Record, one of the papers owned by publisher Sir James Sitheby. The guests are kept busy at recreations devised by Miss Roe Gay, a professional hostess tending to the various guests while Sir James is up in London. But no one has a chance to see Hay Smith. Right after a game of miniature golf the group disperses and someone finds Smith dead in the study. He’s been shot in the head and facing a window left open that looks out on the nearby seashore. Inspector Brews investigates this Death of an Editor (1931) and soon the murder reveals a complex web of questionable journalistic ethics and possible espionage. 

 Though I was disappointed that this mystery novel lacked the surreal qualities and outrageous touches that I thought were Loder's hallmarks this was a competently constructed and engaging police procedural.  Loder probably belongs in the camp of the "humdrum" detective novelists because his detective novels are very much about puzzling out the how and the why of the murder moreso than about exploring character or creating atmosphere.  The characters here are a bit flat and tend to fall into familiar stock roles of popular fiction.

Interestingly, Brews is the first of only two police detectives Loder created who appeared in more than one novel.  This is his second outing after his debut in The Essex Murders (1930), reviewed here under the US title The Death Pool.  While there may not be any blow guns and poison darts or murder victims who fall into their own death trap I found the complexity in this one above par for the usual Loder mystery novel.

First off, it's a quasi impossible crime.  All evidence seems to make it appear that Smith was the victim of a sniper's rifle fired from Sir James' yacht that was moored a few hundred yards form the open window of the study.  Brews finds signs that a rifle was fired from an open porthole and a strange wire mesh target was still in the porthole leading one to believe that the shooter used the intersecting wires as a sight.  when Smith's head appeared in the center intersection the shooter fired at his victim. But then why leave the wire mesh behind?  It seems not only sloppy on the murderer's part but might be manufactured evidence.  Are the police supposed to believe someone outside the house is the killer?

There is a lot made of everyone's alibis.  Some of the guests were together seemingly ruling them out while others were engaged in solitary habits.  The shooting took place almost directly after a malfunctioning car backfired several times.  No one could tell which were the gunshots and which sounds same from the ailing car. One of the most intriguing bits of evidence is the corners of several pieces of paper found still clutched in Smith's right hand.  Was something torn from his hand just before he died?  And if so, was it the killer who took the papers?  Or was someone in the study after the murder and took the papers from Smith when he was already dead?  

These several mysteries will all be explained with one of the most surprising elements being the actual method and manner of Smith's murder.  The documents in question are a sort of Hitchcockian McGuffin.  Loder never really needed to explain what they were (though he does vaguely allude to state secrets and British occupation in India);  they are merely an object "of great importance" to most of the characters in order to further the plot.  When the Home Office gets involved and wants to retrieve those missing documents an element of espionage enters the story.  Impostors, multiple chase sequences, and even Brews taking on the disguise of a gamekeeper further complicate the story as he tries to suss out the killer, find the missing weapon and attempt to recover those vitally important missing documents.  Death of an Editor morphs from a rather cut-and-dried quasi-impossible crime mystery to an engaging adventure thriller with Brews hot on the trail of a ruthless and devious French woman who holds the key to all the various mysteries.

THINGS I LEARNED: The world of bore guns or what Loder calls collector’s guns was revealed to me in the pages of Death of an Editor. Eventually the murder weapon is discovered to be a .410 bore rifle. He describes a weapon that was marketed to young men and teens in the advertising pages of boy’s magazines. I did some a-Googling and found several photos of these guns along with a couple of pages from period weapon catalogs. In the March 2022 issue of The Vintage Gun Journal I found an article titled “The Poacher’s Companion” all about these unique folding rifles. The article said this was the rifle of choice for poachers because they could easily fold up the gun and shove it out of sight into the deep pockets of their ulster or hunting jacket. Loder mentions that they were often called collector’s guns because there were used by people who collected bird specimens. Apparently the shot fired would kill the bird without obliterating the delicate body the collector would then take to a taxidermist.

QUOTES: “Look at the fever for all kinds of quack psychology in America. Every detective novel is full of it, and, what is worse for the police there, the country is infested with alienists, and experts full of mouth-filling words, who can prove that any criminal is not a criminal, but only ten years old.”

“There is a tendency...among newspapers to forget the purveying of news, and attempt the purveying of politics.”

Psychoanalysts to the contrary, [Brews] did not believe that egotists killed people. Narcissism is a full-time job.

“I have the advantage and the disadvantage of being a provincial, even a country detective -- that is to say, I am expected to do the work of a wise man while being regarded as an inevitable fool.”
“Which is the most advantageous, Mr. Brews?” she asked laughing.
“Being regarded as an ass,” he replied promptly.

Hard work and team work form the basis of police investigations; with a superstructure of observation and inquiry rather than lucky intuition. But, when the ends of the threads do begin to show, there is no one better at synthesis than your experienced detective. He knots up much faster than he unravels....