The Frightened Lady by Edgar Wallace
Created: Tue Mar 23 12:07:53 2010 | Last modified: Tue Mar 23 12:07:53 2010
Something strange is going on in the aristocratic household of Marks Priory. Lady Lebanon, a forbidding character, seems to have a whole lot of secrets hidden and when one murder leads to another, Scotland Yard is called in to probe deeply into the affairs of Her Ladyship, much to her discomfiture. I won't reveal any more of the plot here, as even small clues provided in this review will only act as spoilers.
Like all classic Edgar Wallace crime thrillers, this one provides the reader with plenty of clues - disjointed, cleverly placed ones throughout the books and while some are obvious red herrings, they serve only to increase the reader's anticipation. The characters in this story are mere caricatures and the reader is hard pressed in the first half of this book to find a reason to continue reading, but as the mystery slowly unfolds, the effect is rather more gripping. In fact, the lack of character development aids, rather than hinders the plot as the reader is kept guessing as to the true nature of the various characters involved. But unlike modern-day crime thrillers, there is no fast paced action or any real sense of urgency throughout this story. Even through the half-way stage, the reader only has a vague idea of where the whole plot is heading. However, once the second crime is committed, the plot speeds up and rapidly heads towards a conclusion.
Edgar Wallace's plot-weaving ability is quite remarkable and the way he leads the reader to discover the real culprit in the climax is quite unique and rounds off the mystery very satisfactorily. A lot of readers might not appreciate the long-winded explanations in the end, but they serve as a neat summary of the whole plot after the plot is unveiled completely.
All said and done, I recommend this novel if you can get hold of it. Most of Edgar Wallace's books are currently out of print, but you might still find a few in stock at your nearby bookstore. I rate this 4/5 the one point being reduced for its rather slow pace and lack of tension in the first half. Highly recommended if you like "whodunnit" kind of mysteries.