Today's Forgotten Book is one that I'm fairly confident few readers of this blog will have encountered. What's more, it was written by one of the finest novelists of the Golden Age. It's a fabulous rarity,conceivably the most sought-after of all Golden Age mysteries, and I was lucky enough to be loaned a dust jacketed copy in superb condition. I've no idea how much it was worth, but quite a bit, and you can be sure I took good care of it before returning it to its owner.And for good measure, it is a novel with a curious history. What's not to like? Well.....
The book is Cicely Disappears, and the author is A.Monmouth Platts. Now, if that name is unfamiliar to you, I should add that it's a pseudonym, composed of the names of two houses owned by Anthony Berkeley Cox, whose much better known pen-names were Anthony Berkeley and Francis Iles. Regular readers of this blog will be well aware that I'm a fan of Berkeley-Iles. He really was an interesting writer.
This particular story began life as a serialisation published by The Daily Mirror, of all newspapers,under the by-line of A.B. Cox. The Mirror ran a competition with prizes for those who guessed the solution correctly.The story was at that stage called The Wintringham Mystery, and Tony Medawar, a great researcher into the Golden Age, published a piece in CADS some time ago explaining that Agatha Christie's husband Archie was one of the runners-up. Did Agatha enter the competition under Archie's name, I wonder?
Berkeley made some changes to the story, and published it as a novel under his new pen-name a year later. So, what of the story? It's a book of legendary rarity, but I am afraid I think this is a case where obscurity is deserved. Really, the changes to the story are largely padding, and the mystery of Cicely's fate is dragged out in a way that tempts one to skip to the end. I'm so glad I have had the chance to satisfy my curiosity by reading this particular forgotten novel, but I'm afraid the final verdict is that those who are less fortunate are not really missing out. The books that appeared under the Berkeley and Iles names are infiinitely better.