Tuesday ’Tec! The Taggart Assignment by Vincent Starrett

The Adventure of the Missing Fiancé…

 

the detective megapackAlthough loads of classic out of copyright stories are available around the internet, I still struggle from time to time to find one for this little section, since general searches tend to bring up the best known stories again and again, leaving the more forgotten ones to remain in obscurity. So over the last few months I’ve found myself turning often to the Megapacks series published for Kindle by Wildlife Press. Each one costs pennies and contains a real mix of stories, and they do horror, crime and sci-fi packs.

Today’s story comes from The Detective Megapack, which has 30 stories, most of them old but with a few recent ones thrown in, including one that is original to this collection. Of course, the quality of the stories is always very mixed, with lots of them showing exactly why they’ve been forgotten, but there are always some goodies in them too. This one, which cost 59p ($0.89) has two Dashiell Hammett stories, Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue, Sherlock Holmes in The Five Orange Pips, and a story from R Austin Freeman, to go along with the many other authors I’ve never heard of. The packs do tend to have some typos, but considering the cost I think they’re great value and a fun way to be guided towards some stories that are a bit off the beaten track.

So I’ve randomly picked one of the authors I haven’t come across before (though I feel I should have) for this week’s…

 

Tuesday Tec

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The Taggart Assignment by Vincent Starrett

 

Vincent Starrett
Vincent Starrett

Our narrator “Gilly” Gilruth has turned up at the rooms of his friend, private detective Jimmie Lavender, to discover a client there telling her tale of woe. A week before she is due to marry, Miss Dale Valentine’s betrothed has gone mysteriously missing. Rupert Parris had phoned Miss Valentine on the previous Sunday evening to say he would arrive at her house in an hour and that was the last that had been heard of him. The enterprising Miss Valentine had managed to trace the call…

“Admirable!” my friend exclaimed. “The most sensible thing you could have done. Where did it come from?”

“That is strange too, and I can’t quite believe it. Perhaps the operator made a mistake and traced the wrong call; but I was told that it had come from the office of the Morning Beacon!”

Sending the young lady off with a reassuring promise to keep the affair confidential, Lavender wonders aloud if the obvious answer can be the correct one…

“A fine girl,” said my friend at length. “If this Parris has jilted her and run away for any reason, I’ll – well, I’ll make him regret it, Gilly, if he’s living!”

Vincent Starrett Bookplate
Vincent Starrett Bookplate

Now stand by for a Big Coincidence, for at that very moment our narrator remembers a letter, addressed to Lavender, which the postman had handed him on his way in. And the letter is from the office of the Morning Beacon! It transpires that the proprietor of the paper wishes to consult Lavender about an employee of his, a Mr Moss Lennard, who has been missing since Sunday evening! Lavender (like the reader) is quickly convinced the two disappearances must be linked. Poor old Gilly is struggling to cope though…

Lavender looked questioningly at me, and I looked back at him without a glimmer of light in my brain.

“Muddle is right!”, I said at length. “You guessed it, Jimmie!”

The muddle becomes even muddlier when the drowned corpse of poor Moss Lennard is fished out of a lake the following day – dead since Sunday. There are no obvious signs of violence but Lavender is convinced that Lennard had been blackmailing Parris and Parris has done away with him. But is he right? And if he is, how will he prove it? And where is Parris now??

* * * * *

This is quite a fun little mystery, owing a huge debt to the Holmes and Watson stories. In fact, Vincent Starrett was apparently well known as a Sherlockian and writer of Holmes pastiches in his day, and apart from name changes and the fact that this is set in America, this could easily be another. I’m not convinced it’s fair-play since the final clue comes from the discovery of a book called The Montreville Mystery, of which I can find no trace. If it existed and was well-known at the time this story was written (1922) then yes, anyone who had read it could probably have solved the mystery. But if, as I suspect, it is a made up title then I fear the greatest brain would be baffled. Except Lavender’s of course. Or anyone’s who had read the particular Holmes story which I suspect is the actual source for the plot – I won’t name the story since that would give the game away to all Holmes’ fans immediately.

However despite the familiarity of aspects of the plot and the mild feeling of cheating in the solution, this is well-written and enjoyable – light, very readable and held my attention throughout. I’d cheerfully read more of Lavender and Gilly’s adventures, and do recommend these Megapacks as a great starting point for finding introduction to “new” old authors.

Vincent Starrett's Gravestone - one feels perhaps fandom can sometimes be taken too far...
Vincent Starrett’s Gravestone – one feels perhaps fandom can sometimes be taken too far…

* * * * *

Little Grey Cells rating: ❓ ❓ ❓

Overall story rating:      😀 😀 😀 😀

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

32 thoughts on “Tuesday ’Tec! The Taggart Assignment by Vincent Starrett

  1. I must check out that collection, FictionFan! It sounds very much worth the investment, even if not every story is of stellar quality. This particular one sounds like a fun read, too, and the inspiration from Conan Doyle is clear. Glad you enjoyed this one.

    • These collections are fun – always something worth finding in them! I liked this story and was surprised to discover that apparently Starrett was pretty well known. I don’t remember coming across him even back in the days when I used to read a lot of Holmes pastiches. I knew you’d be able to spot which story this was inspired by!

  2. This sounds like quite good fun! I do love these older mystery tales, even if sometimes the quality isn’t quite what it could be. And no depressing renegade alcoholic cops, beating up children. Or whatever.

    • Yes, I like them because they’re never too dark or harrowing even when they’re about murders. Good bedtime material. And these packs always have a few goodies hidden in them – and the bad ones are usually obvious within the first few paragraphs, so easy to skip…

    • Haha! I know! The Kindle theoretically holds 3000 so that should last me for another few weeks… 😉 Love these collaections – there’s always at least a few goodies in them!

  3. I love an old detective story. That collection sounds like a fun one if this story is any indication of the style of story. The only issue is that I probably have some of these in print copies already. But it’s worth having on an eBook reader.

    • I do too – they tend to be less harrowing than modern ones. These collections are always variable and yes, I find I’ve usually got some of the better known stories already too. But I nearly always find something new to me that’s well worth reading, and at the price I don’t mind the odd duplication. 🙂

    • Yes, they’re great for coming across authors that I’ve never heard of and then you can usually track down other stories on the internet once you know their names. I like them just to dip in and out of… you know, for those moments when I’ve run out of books… 😉

  4. This one sounds most interesting, FF (about time you got a good one, too!!). I’ve never seen a grave-marker quite like that. It’s very realistic, isn’t it??

    • Haha! I do seem to be having a bit of run of bad’uns recently – oh, well! I just wondered if his wife would have been thrilled with the gravestone… she seems to have been a bit neglected!

  5. Now, do tell me, in your posting today, did you discover something really weird has been done by WordPress to make writing a post almost impossible – some newfangled it wasn’t broke so we fixed it by breaking it invention?

    It has taken me many hours to contstruct tomorrow’s post with the new system – not the writing of the text, that was already done a day or so ago, but the posting and formatting and fol-de-rols. Grrr

    • Hmm… no, I heard they had changed it, but I never use that screen. I always go into the Classic editor via WP Admin. I can’t be bothered with all the changes they make – they seem to be incapable of ever producing anything that isn’t full of bugs. And the way it was when I joined was so much easier and better than they’ve made it now. So I just stay with the old screens and join in on the forums to say do what you like with the new stuff but leave the old stuff for those of us who prefer it – which as far as I can tell is almost everyone!

      • Thank you for the tip to get back to the old one. This appears to be a new new which happened only yesterday with a default seemingly for tablets not PCs and it was doing lots of strange annoying things. I am currently bald and with teeth worn down quite to stumps as a result

        • If they ever change anything and you don’t like it, it’s worth going to the forum – someone will usually have posted a way to get back to the old screens. The ‘Happiness Engineers’ *gags* are obviously underworked and fill in their time messing about with things that work fine…

  6. Glad you enjoyed this – Starrett was a serious Sherlockian: as well as writing Pastiches, he was a leading light in The Baker Street Irregulars – the American version of the Sherlock Holmes Society.

    • Yes, this was good, even though the major plot point felt somewhat familiar! I may have read some of his pastiches back when I read a lot of Holmes stuff, but the name didn’t ring any bells.

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