Monday, June 01, 2020

77. The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope

The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope. C.W. Grafton. 2020. Poisoned Pen Press. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: My secretary said that there was a Miss Ruth McClure to see me and I said that she could come on in. The girl who stood in the doorway a moment later was small and lovely but she was obviously very unhappy and looked as if she were not sure she wanted to come in after all.

Premise/plot: As adults we don't really have D.E.A.R scheduled into our days, well, most don't. D.E.A.R. if you don't know means Drop Everything And Read. But this vintage mystery should be a must-must-must read for all mystery lovers.

Originally published in 1943, it stars an amateur detective, Gilmore "Gil" Henry, a lawyer. A young woman, Ruth McClure, comes to him--as a lawyer--seeking his services. She has a couple of questions about some stock she has inherited after her father's death. Henry takes the case, and, well a lot more comes with that--than he was expecting! His close encounters with death start piling up!!!! Somebody does not want him helping out Miss McClure. But why?!?!

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, loved, LOVED this vintage mystery. It perhaps isn't perfectly perfect. It is very much a product of its time. It was written and published during the second world war. But for adult readers with an appreciation for context that don't find offense at the drop of a hat, I think it would prove a delightful escape.

I love the narrative! I love Gil Henry. It's not often you get pudgy, chubby detectives that are way out of their element but super stubborn. I love the description as well.

As I reached the city limits I turned on the radio and caught a hot swing band with one of these women crooners who sounds as if she has gallstones. It was starting to rain a little and the black-top road was shiny like seals in the circus.

I was about halfway down the steep hill when there was a sharp explosion and the car jumped and twisted under me like a hula dancer. I went down that hill in a wild zigzag, keeping to the road for fifty or seventy-five yards by pressing my hundred and eighty pounds against the wheel and trying to anticipate each move. Then I went into a spin and the last thing I heard was the high whine of the tires skidding sidewise. I ought to be dead. How many times the car turned over I don’t know but when I came to, I was hanging halfway out of the door by the driver’s seat and the car was upright some thirty feet off the road down a slight incline.

I began to get a pretty good idea of what Tim McClure might look like when I tried to put on the suit I found on the bed. It may not have been a zoot suit6 but the way I wore it, it certainly had a drape shape. I rolled up probably eight inches around my ankles and the overlap at my waistline was something to look at. The shoulders of the coat hung down almost to my elbows and, of course, my hands were clear out of sight up the sleeves. No wonder Miss Ruth McClure laughed when she saw me. I was a dead ringer for the smallest of the seven dwarfs and sure enough she called me Dopey.

Every person has some cross to bear. Mine is that I am not shaped like people who are intended to get their clothes in ready-to-wear shops. If clothes are to fit me in the middle, they have to be too long at the ends and if they are to fit me at the ends, they hurt me in the middle.

I didn’t want to take the time to wait while alterations were made so I took a suit which hurt when I buttoned it at the waist. Mr. Silverstein had on a black skull cap and a measuring tape hung around his neck. He patted and smoothed and pulled at things to make them hang right and appeared to approve in every particular although he finally said that maybe it was a little snug. I thought snug was hardly the appropriate word since my belt was almost out of sight and I could tell that I would not want to sit down very often.

I regretted my decision when I crawled in under the wheel of the car. They say when you cut earthworms in two, the halves go about their own business and supply whatever it takes to carry on, but I am no earthworm and I had no faith in my ability to do the same.

I wondered if there was any way to grow a new tooth, remove bruises, reduce thirty pounds or grow eight inches taller in a few minutes, but decided there wasn’t. I thought about buying a new suit and incidentally giving my tortured stomach a rest, but with the other details so accurately reported, I thought it would be a waste of time and money. There wasn’t any water at the newsstand so I took two tablets out of the box and munched them disagreeably as I walked down the street wondering how long it would be before I was on the inside looking out.

People who fix things to eat like to see other people eat them, especially when they are hungry and say so, and I was so hungry it must have been shining out of my eyes for anybody to see.

Well, you can’t stand in one spot forever. Acorns do it and get to be oak trees and leaves grow all over them and by and by they can’t move at all.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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