Sunday, July 23, 2006

E-BOOK: Death of a Viewer

This title comes to us from Project Gutenberg of Australia, a companion to Project Gutenberg that deals in works which have not yet hit public domain status in the (imho overly) strict US, but which are perfectly legal in Australia and in and other countries which subscibe to the more liberal "life of the author plus fifty years" copyright guideline. The largely unknown but apparently reasonably prolific mystery writer Herbert Adams died in 1952 and hence is fair game. Nearly all of his many books featuring sleuth Roger Bennion are out of print, and the Gutenberg folks have rescued him from obscurity and made available a few of his titles.

So, is Death of a Viewer a novel worth being rediscovered? Yes and no. There are some interesting characters here---Ossie, the gambler who is hanging on to his marriage and his reputation by a thread; Lady Bethesda, the aristocrat, who is cold to her stepson and smothering to her natural one; her niece, who befriends both the young son, and our sleuth; and Roger himself, a former Scotland Yard operative who becomes unwittingly involved in the mystery when he attends a party to try and get Lady Bethesda's gardner a rental house. The mystery itself is solid enough, too---somebody dies, obviously :) But before that happens, we must endure several long, dull chapters on the characters' opinions of the monarchy and socialism and politics. Snore. I must admit, I skimmed ahead to the murder part---and things did pick up from there onward.

So, there is a reason, I suspect, that until the advent of the internet and Project Gutenberg, this guy's work was lost to the ages. He isn't timeless and eternal, maybe. But if you want a fairly frothy mystery that tells a good yarn and entertains you for a couple hours, and if the antiquated language of the better-known classics scares you off, this fairly modern tale is worth a download. And hey, it's free---for Non-Americans, anyway :)

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