Tuesday, June 22, 2010

THE HOUSE WITHOUT A KEY by Earl Derr Biggers

This was the first Charlie Chan novel.  Written in 1925, the book is a masterful cozy.

Someone kills the wealthy Dan Winterslip in his Honolulu home.

John Quincy Wnterslip, the victim's nephew who is a bond trader from Boston, works to solve the crime with the help of Charlie Chan.

The younger Winterslip falls in love along the way.  He changes his planned career. He decides to live in San Francisco instead of returning to his wealthy family in Boston.  And he falls in love with a woman who is "below his station." 

As you would expect, the book is dated in some ways, especially in Charlie's dialog, but as a cozy mystery it is quite well done.  Every action or clue either comes around to have a bearing on the solution or to be a wonderful red herring.

Also, Der Biggers surely portrays the Chinese detective Charlie Chan in a way that went against the prejudices of 1925.  

I've never seen a Charlie Chan movie, but on the basis of the two Chan books I've read so far, I'd expect to like the movies too.

I'm glad I decided to delve into mystery-story history by reading Charlie Chan.


Richard R. said...

I read this one a few years ago and liked it a lot, which it seems you did too. I tried it because I was so unhappy with the films. It seems to me, and others do not agree, that the films make a mockery of the books - the two I've read anyway - in typical Hollywood play-it-for-laughs fashion. Bah! Stick to the books.

Joe Barone said...

Thanks for the advice.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'll link to this on Friday, Joe.