My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Our very own American version of Sherlock Holmes, but this time with intelligence comes a charming disposition in which heiresses are taken weak in the knees and even the hardiest of frauen purr like kittens in his presence. He’s handsome, independently wealthy, and lives the life of a 1920’s bachelor. He’s Philo Vance and just as Sherlock had Watson, our stories are brought to us from the recounts of sidekick S. S. Van Dine.
Philo Vance has found his way into the mysterious murder of the ancient aristocratic (read: old money) Greene family who live in a mansion full of secrets. The matriarch is a bitter widowed invalid tended to by her sweet ward, Ada, while the rest of the children waste away their lives waiting out the stipulations of their father’s will in order to inherit. When heirs systematically begin to be killed off, it seems only the genius of Vance can stop the carnage and save what’s left of this family from demise.
I absolutely love the Philo Vance series which totals twelve books written about the exploits and brilliance of a New York dandy. I’m slowly picking up the remaining seven books in the series, but have greatly enjoyed the ones I currently have. Admittedly, there is a formula to the books: Vance is bored, murder happens, Vance becomes a private detective, Vance figures it all out while everyone else is still scratching their heads, the murderer *blank* <—- no spoilers here! That being said, the predictability doesn’t overshadow the simplicity or complexity of the crimes and Vance’s seemingly easy approach to solving them. It’s all about the logic and small details, my dear Van Dine.
For being murder mysteries of the 1920 and 30’s you will get the crime without the gore, without the sensational and intimate details which run rife through current literature. It’s about the story, about the chase, about the mystery – not the blood. And it’s why I love them. It is far too easy to hide poor writing behind the gruesome details of rape and murder than it is to write a hero capable of standing tall on their own without the crutch of sordid slaughter.
I highly recommend this series to any and all who like mystery. The writing and language are high quality and intelligent – prepare your vocabulary for expansion – and the footnotes at the bottom and floor plans of crime scenes add an extra charm which make the lives of Van Dine and Vance seem all the more real.