Red Chair Reads: The Secret of Lonesome Cove

Yet another obscure writer-with-three-names I have never heard of: Samuel Hopkins Adams!  The mystery, The Secret of Lonesome Cove (1912), was actually rather entertaining.  I read these works because I have this vague and somewhat romantic notion that if only one person reads just one work by these writers, they get to continue to exist.

The interesting thing about all these Red Chair Reads is that the writers, from a technical point of view, have all been pretty decent: I may not be crazy about the story lines or characters, but I cannot fault their handling of the English language.  I assume that this ability to construct a proper sentence is the product of the middle-class educational system of the time, and I can see that a certain amount of creativity may be compromised.  BUT, I also think the craft of writing is like playing the piano: Hanon may have written the most boring and restrictive finger exercises in the world, but they get the job done.  I don’t care how many cool ideas a writer has if I itch to take a red pen to his prose — I am slogging through a couple of Saroyan Prize submissions right now, and let’s just say that it can be discouraging.

Right.  Back to The Secret of Lonesome Cove, and the scientific detective so popular at the turn of the century.  Professor Chester Kent is, of course, eccentric and brilliant (can a scientific detective be anything else?):

While I specialized on botany, entomology, and bacteriology, I picked up a working knowledge of other branches; chemistry, toxicology, geology, mineralogy, physiology, and most of the natural sciences, having been blessed with an eager and catholic curiosity about the world we live in.

Indeed!  The professor then went on to demonstrate how all his areas of expertise came in handy in solving the case of the mysterious woman found dead on the beach of Lonesome Cove.  Who killed her?  How did she end up where she was found?  What was the significance of the iron manacle on her wrist?  And most important of all — who was she, and what did she have to do with the rich but edgy family that lived 14 miles away from the village?  As has been the case for all the mysteries from this era, the female character (interestingly enough, there was just one) was annoying, and the romance silly, but luckily that part of the storyline was kept to a minimum.  All in all, a fun read for a lazy afternoon.

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