Friday 6 April 2018

Forgotten Book - The Rynox Mystery

Image result for rynox philip macdonald

Philip Macdonald was one of the breezy entertainers of the Golden Age, an author with a flair for coming up with enticing scenarios. The republication of The Rynox Mystery in the Detective Story Club reprint series gives present day readers a chance to appreciate one of his most appealing set-ups. The book begins with an epilogue, a device used in other crime novels (for instance C. Daly King's Obelists Fly High). But I can't think right now of an example that predates this one, from 1930.

In the epilogue, two large and heavy sacks are delivered to the offices of an insurance company. When the unexpected delivery is opened, it turns out that the sacks contain more than a quarter of a million pounds. A lot of money today, never mind in 1930. What's the meaning of it? We go back in time to find out, and Macdonald presents his chapters as "reels"; no wonder he later moved to Hollywood.
This is a light thriller rather than a whodunit, and it's short and snappy if at times a little too whimsical.

The puzzle concerns the misadventures of a company called Rynox, and the demise of its presiding genius. The identity of the killer appears obvious, but the police struggle to identify him. What is going on? Well, I think most astute readers will figure out the answer, but not to worry. It's not a bad story, and this edition benefits from an intro written by Macdonald himself in the 60s, which I found interesting. He explains that he was aiming to satirise a number of people and institutions, though I'm afraid some of the point of the satire has been lost due to the passage of time.

Another extremely pleasing touch, given that the novel is a short one, is that Harper Collins have added value by including the one and only short story to feature Macdonald's Great Detective, Colonel Anthony Gethryn (who doesn't feature in the novel). The story is called "The Wood-for-the-Trees", and it's a serial killer mystery, with a plot device that crime fans will associate with a rather famous novel.

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