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The Bronze Hand

May 22, 2020

Look, I’d love to be reading more. I feel like I should be reading more. But my brain mostly wants to a) cudgel itself into doing some work, and b) play increasingly arcane games of solitaire. Sometimes, though, what it wants to do most is: not sleep. One night last week I gave up on sleep around 3 a.m. and looked around for a book. What I found was a very battered copy of The Bronze Hand, by Carolyn Wells.

I’m so fond of Wells, but she’s so frustrating as a mystery writer. I know mysteries are supposed to be her Thing, but they don’t play to her strengths, and she does the same things over and over.

The Bronze Hand takes place aboard a steamship called The Pinnacle as it crosses from New York to Liverpool with several thousand passengers, although we’re mostly concerned with a small circle of first class ones. The most important of these are millionaire businessman Oscar Cox, and attractive but aloof Maisie Forman, both traveling alone. Early in the trip, Cox shows off a copy of a bronze hand by Rodin: a fetish he hopes brings him more good luck than bad. Later, someone claws off his face with it.

There’s no apparent connection between Cox and Maisie, but if there were no actual connection, she wouldn’t be in the book. And the more Wells mysteries you’ve read, the less likely the twist is to be any kind of surprise.

The Bronze Hand isn’t online–it was published in 1926–and it’s not worth seeking out, but I’m not mad at it, and when I finished it I got a couple of hours of sleep. I recommend it only if you happen to end up with a copy and don’t care if your light entertainment isn’t very good.

 

5 comments

  1. Duly noted!

    I’ve been burrowing through Harriet Pyne Grove & Grace May North & Edith Lavell books, and man, some of them are draggy. Great plot ideas, just… not so great execution.


  2. There is another book with the same title, by Anna Katharine Green. I haven’t read it, though. Any connection? thanks


  3. I agree with you about Carolyn Wells mysteries. I like her enough that I read them, but they won’t make any of my lists of great mysteries.


  4. I’m reading Inez and Trilby May at present, by Ford Sewell (having run through the Torchy and the Shorty McCabe books and finding that hey, there are two more Sewell books on Hathitrust). The sheer coincidences rival Torchy’s, but it’s fairly entertaining and light reading. Two girls from Minnesota travel to NYC to 1. find a lost uncle and 2. find adventure and 3. work, and behold, they manage a wide variety of the latter two, anyway! (also, it includes the only instance I know of where an African American maid is [non-romantically] given spare comp tickets by a reporter who lives in the boarding house she works in; I’ve seen people try to Improve the help, with success varying by what genre the book is in, but this seems to simply be a casual recognition that the maid is also a human being, that’s not even relevant to the plot in any way.)(I mean, there’s also Greek ethnic generalizations, and who knows what there will be before the end of the book; we’re still in 1921 here, not some ideally-enlightened time that has not yet come on the earth, sigh. But it’s something, anyway.)


  5. I just finished reading all 11 Hildegarde-Margaret books, completing The Merryweathers just before dinner this evening. Now I want to go to a camp like theirs. I love those books, but reading them within the span of just over a week, I found all kinds of timeline continuity errors. Still, my brain can’t seem to tackle anything new right now, so the old favorites are at my bedside.



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