Friday 19 July 2019

Forgotten Book - Mystery on the 'Queen Mary'

Mystery on the 'Queen Mary', first published in 1937, is a thriller set on board the RMS Queen Mary on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic. An intriguing aspect of the story is that the author, Bruce Graeme, was actually a passenger on that voyage. What I don't know is whether the voyage gave him the idea for the book, or whether he sailed on the ship in order to research the novel. I suspect the latter, but I'm not sure, and I'd be interested if anyone has the answer to this little mystery.

The story opens with a protagonist, Robin MacKay, who has come down in the world. He finds work at a Clydebank shipyard and before long is working on the ship that is destined to become the Queen Mary. One foggy day, he overhears a sinister conversation, about a crime connected with the ship, and is bludgeoned for his pains.

He reports what has happened to the police and is engaged to travel on the ship to assist the police in their hunt for the criminal. Also on board is Superintendent Stevens, one of Graeme's series characters, who is joined by another, the suave Frenchman Inspector Allain. When the ship sets sail, we are introduced to several characters who become key to the policemen's attempts to foil the criminal.

This is a light and fairly engaging thriller which benefits from Graeme's knowledge of the ship. His descriptions are authentic, but I also felt that his interest in the ship (and its pursuit of the Blue Riband) and one or two of the characters were greater than his interest in the plot, which was workmanlike but not, for me, entrancing. Overall, the book is a mildly entertaining story about a police investigation coinciding with a slice of maritime history, no more, no less.

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