Friday, August 25, 2023

House of Storm

Mignon G. Eberhart (1899-1996) authored mystery novels from the 1920s to the 1980s, earning her the praise as America's version of Agatha Christie. In fact, she was one of the leading female crime-fiction authors of her time (and one of the highest-paid) with a total of 59 novels, eight of which were adapted to film. She was awarded the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award and also earned the Agatha Award. Eberhart also served as president of the Mystery Writers of America. 

My first experience with her is the 1949 novel House of Storm, which was originally published by Curtis. My version is the 1964 Popular Library paperback. The book exists in various formats and remains in print today.

The novel takes place over a 24-hour period of time on the fictional Beadon Island in the Caribbean. Like something out of a mid-20th century gothic-romance novel, the beautiful and vulnerable protagonist, Nonie, has recently experienced the loss of her father. With no other recourse, she moves to Beadon Island for a vacation. Eberhart sets the table by providing sheets of rain and prevailing wind as a hurricane descends on the island. This sort of chaos symbolically parallels Nonie's upcoming marriage to an older gentleman named Roy. This culmination of storm and mismatched marriage is the complimentary greeting for a murderer.

With a full house of various characters, a murder takes place when a wealthy woman is found dead. There's red herrings galore, ranging from Nonie's fiance Roy to her one true love of the story, an ambitious man named Jim. Each suspect is interviewed by both the island coroner and police, so the narrative unfolds in a typical armchair detective format – a house full of people with varying degrees of motive. The secluded house hosting a murderer makes for a great atmosphere that Eberhart feeds on. With thick tension, the clues are slowly unveiled to readers. Guessing the killer's identity before the police is ultimately the real thrill, as always. 

If you are a fan of the Agatha Christie novels like And Then There Were None, then this is certainly your cup of tea. For me, I found the narrative required a great deal of attention and patience and the prose was a little uneven. But, there's no denying Eberhart's storytelling strengths of character development and atmosphere. I'll be reading more of the author's work. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

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