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Friday, 11 April 2014

Book Review: The Mystery of the Boule Cabinet by Burton E. Stevenson

Although one in a series about a New York lawyer, The Mystery of the Boule Cabinet can stand alone. I haven't read the earlier stories yet the characterisation was fine and any references to other mysteries were brief and not crucial to the plot. Lester, the lawyer, is visiting the home of his client and friend, Philip Vantine, discussing the new cabinet Vantine has just bought but which has been accidentally switched for another one. The cabinet that has been delivered is worth much more and has a rich history. However, a visitor arrives and, after waiting in the room containing the cabinet, is struck down dead. An investigation starts up but then Philip Vantine himself becomes the next victim. Both seemed to have been killed by poison administered via two marks on the hand but it would be a very deadly poison. Who has killed the men and what role does the cabinet have in the case? The police try to investigate but it is Lester's friend, Godfrey, who is more open-minded and willing to put himself at risk to unearth the mystery.

As I said, this book can easily stand alone, though the references to earlier book made me want to read them. The friendship between Lester and Godfrey is a pleasant one, contributing to the case but also adding a focal point that I suspect runs through the books. As for the mystery itself, there are plenty of twists and turns and a few red herrings that make it interesting enough to hold attention. Perhaps the final twist was one too far but it did lead naturally from the rest of the book so I suppose it's difficult to complain on that point. There were a few twists that I saw coming but sometimes that's part of the fun of reading mystery stories.

However, for all the intricacies of the plot, The Mystery of the Boule Cabinet is laxly written in parts. There are careless repetitions which draw attention from the central mystery, at least for somebody paying as close attention as I was. Still, they don't impede the book as a whole, just create a little irritation. The mystery is enjoyable and the characterisation of Godfrey is a delight. I'll read the other books in this series, I'm sure.

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