Before saying a fond goodbye to the Florabunda--where, you will recall, hateful syndicated columnist Paul Price has been murdered--and coming ashore, let's look at the last two detectives to investigate the case.
Most recent Ellery Queen novel at the time
The Scarlet Letters (1953)
|searching for a pattern|
Mallory grinned at him. "I haven't gone crazy. At least I don't think so. I'm just working on the suspects' names anagrammatically.
But Mallory, out of kindness, explained: "I mean, I rearrange the letters....Often names provide vital clues, you know. They can influence character. In one of my cases there were two brothers, called Kane and Judah: their real names were Cain and Judas!
Turning from Spike Bludgeon (Mike Hammer) to Mallory King (Ellery Queen) in Murder in Pastiche is apt to give one whiplash, but it's truly striking, to be sure, how well Marion Mainwaring captures the styles and themes of both authors.
With Spike she gave us a typical Mickey Spillane revenge plot, with the tough guy dick--whose profound sense of disgruntlement with his lot in life and resentment against elites and "others" would have made him a wonderful focus group voter in last year's election--punching his way to a solution (though his paranoia leads him utterly, hilariously astray).
|I feel so symbolic....|
"My cases...always have some underlying pattern; some theme, some motif which unites and gives meaning to details which, on the surface, seem merely arbitrary and fantastic."
The first officer nodded intelligently.
"For instance, in one case the killer used the concept of the chain of evolution, working up from the murder of frogs, and dogs, and so on, to Man. Another, with an Old Testament complex, used the scheme of the Ten Commandments. This time--"
"Yes?" Mr. Waggish asked eagerly.
"This time--Darn it," Mallory said plaintively. "I simply don't know."
But Mallory sticks with it, and he begins to see the light, or what he fervidly imagines is light.
Concerning Ellery Queen, the ex-academic Mainwaring has a lot of fun with EQ half Frederic Dannay's obsession with patterns and symbols, so manifest in then-recent EQ fiction, like The Origin of Evil (1951), specifically referenced above by Mainwaring. Recalling another recent EQ novel, Double, Double (1950), the nursery rhyme The Farmer in the Dell even gets a workout--a very thorough workout! It's a bravura performance by Mainwaring, even if EQ's brilliance leads him astray. Mainwaring leaves it to another detective to resolve the affair.
Lord Simon Quinsey
Most recent Lord Peter Wimsey novel at the time
Busman's Honeymoon (1937)
|the gentleman is cogitatin', don't you know|
Lord Peter comes out of a seventeen year retirement (fifteen if one counts the few Lord Peter stories in the collection In the Teeth of the Evidence) in Murder in Pastiche, in the guise of Lord Simon Quinsey, accompanied by his loyal manservant, Bunter--er, I mean Punter.
This is another smart Mainwaring appellation, recalling Simon Peter, of course; and, as for the surname Quinsey: "The crest of the ducal family" is "a domestic cat crouched as to spring" and its motto is "Lest Quinsy take me." Clever woman, that Marion Mainwaring!
However, thanks to Marion Mainwaring's brilliance as a pastiche writer, mid-century detective fiction fans got once again to see Lord Peter--or a close facsimile thereof--in sleuthing action, along with eight other famous British and American detectives who were still active at the time of Pastiche's publication.
Today, over six decades later later, Murder in Pastiche indeed reads like a return to Arcadia, to what many of us see as, if I may borrow the title for a brief moment, the Golden Age of Murder.