Title: The Murder on the Enriqueta
Author: Molly Thynne
First published in 1929
Genre: Golden Age Mystery
The Murder on the Enriqueta by Molly Thynne is my third entry for #1929Club hosted by Simon and Kaggsy.
This is the second Molly Thynne book I have read. Of all the Golden Age Mysteries I have read so far, The Murder on the Enriqueta has the most shocking and unexpected ending.
I am a very picky reader who loves a challenging mystery. I don’t like to play detective and if I do, it only means the mystery wasn’t challenging enough. 😉 In The Murder on the Enriqueta, I knew there was something fishy going on – something to do with two suspicious characters who play a major role in the story. Adding the fact that most of the story happens on land (Enriqueta is a ship where the murder occurs), I knew this book is nothing more than a 4-starrer.
What changed my opinion, you ask? The twist at the end. I have never felt so betrayed and cheated before. I mean, it was right there, right in front of my eyes – the deception, and yet it was so cunningly disguised that I did not see it. I am impressed. Like how papa Poirot loves a good challenge, so do I. Moreover, I love it when I am proved wrong. (Only in a fictional scenario, mind.)
If you haven’t read this book yet, I recommend you to do it right away and then tell me what you think of the ending. I certainly did not see the twist coming. I am curious to know if you did.
The story begins on a streamliner named Enriqueta making its way back to England from Argentina. A passenger named Smith is heavily drunk and decides to retire for the day. Instead, he retires from life forever… By next afternoon, rumors of his death spreads like wildfire. Some believe he died of an heart attack, some say he was murdered. Detective Chief-Inspector Shand of the Scotland Yard is on board. He introduces himself to the ship captain and asks if any police help is needed.
Shand was in Argentina on a case. He was to arrest a man and bring him back to England. But the man slipped, and returned to Europe before Shand landed in Buenos Aires. The victim, Mr. Smith, was one of the absconding criminal’s associates. A waiter witnessed a man wearing a green pyjamas and a white muffler covering his face at the scene of crime.
On board the Enriqueta is recently-widowed Lady Dalberry. Lord Dalberry and his wife were to board a ship back to England a month ago. But on their way to the port, their car met with an accident. Lord Dalberry and the Lady’s maid were killed instantly while Lady Dalberry managed to escape with minimal injuries. She’s returning to England now, with her husband’s dead body.
The ship arrives at its destination and Mr. Smith’s case remains unsolved. Lady Dalberry meets Mellish (an ex-detective of Scotland Yard) Carol (Lord Dalberry’s neice) and Gillie (Lord Dalberry’s nephew and current owner of the Dalberry estates.)
Carol is two months shy of twenty-one and as her guardian, Mellish wants her to have a companion. Lady Dalberry suggests she can be Carol’s companion and Carol agrees to the idea. Gillie is not happy with this development. He does not trust his late uncle’s wife ‘Aunt Irma.’
Carol moves in with ‘Aunt Irma’ and meets her next-door neighbor named Juan de Silva. Like Irma, de Silva is from South America. Lady Dalberry (Irma) has invested her money in de Silva’s business. One evening, Carol, de Silva and Mellish are dining at Terpsychorean, a night club owned by de Silva. Mellish leaves early while the youngsters stay back for a dance. De Silva tells Gillie that the bar might close soon so he must order his drinks soon. Minutes later, Gillie is too drunk to dance and Carol is angry. She asks de Silva to drop her home.
That same night, Terpsychorean is raided by the police and everybody at the venue is arrested – including the now-unconscious Gillie. The next morning, Gillie tells Inspector Shand that he might have been drugged. De Silva begins his advances towards Carol and when he crosses a line, Carol informs Lady Dalberry of his behavior.
As the story proceeds, it is quite clear that de Silva’s intentions are evil. Gillie suspects Lady Dalberry’s up to something but Carol and Mellish do not believe him. Speaking of Gillie, he proposes to Carol (she’s his late aunt’s daughter). Carol will be turning twenty one in two months and will gain hold of a huge trust fund. So, it is pretty clear that Gillie’s proposal is a sham, right? Hmm, at least that is what I thought!
The only niggle I had with this story was, I was under the impression that the whole story is set on a streamliner. But that wasn’t the case. The mystery behind de Silva’s operations in England, Mr. Smith’s unsolved murder case, and Lady Dalberry’s role kept me guessing till the end.
There’s a shocking twist at the end. I did not see it coming. I did not expect it either. It left everybody shocked – even Shand, Mellish, Gillie and Carol! (Both fictional and real people were shocked at the unexpected development. 😉 )
I loved the storytelling. Excellent character development. Completely engrossing and suspenseful mystery. If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend you to do so.