At long last, I decided to read the first Henry Gamadge book by Elizabeth Daly, Unexpected Night. I read a long time ago that Elizabeth Daly was Agatha Christie’s favorite American mystery author, and ever since then I have been meaning to read her books, but with one thing and another, somehow I had never gotten around to doing it until now. Boy was I wrong to wait! Anyway, Unexpected Night is the next book in my series of posts discussing some of the most popular and recommended Cozy series.
Elizabeth Daly published the sixteen books in the Henry Gamadge series way back between 1940 and 1951. I have to admit one of the most attractive things about Unexpected Night is the setting that seems to be from a whole other age — and of course, it was. Set in a resort hotel in Maine, and populated by a young heir, his sister, mother, cousin, aunt, and uncle, (among other characters), the air about the characters and the setting is almost British just as you see in old British movies. Of course, old American movies also show this old-time gentility with “dressing for dinner” and other customs that are now long gone. With their formal dress and formal way of speaking, the whole ambiance is very different from the modern Cozy, and yet at its heart, Unexpected Night is, in a lot of ways, a model Cozy.
Set in 1939 Maine, the story begins with the arrival of sickly heir Amberly Cowden and his family at his Aunt and Uncle’s cottage on the outskirts of Ford’s Beach, a small summer resort. Amberly is set to inherit a large amount of money (a million dollars or so) upon his 21st birthday which is only an hour or so away. If he doesn’t survive until he is 21, distant French relatives will get the money. Luckily for his immediate family, Amberly survives long enough, and he and his family check into the local resort hotel just around midnight. Soon, though, there is a murder, and Henry Gamadge, a rare book authority (and amateur detective, as it turns out) helps the police unravel the mystery.
As with Agatha Christie’s books, the plot in Unexpected Night is intricate. I’m tempted to say “convoluted”, but I think that word holds too negative a connotation. There are quite a few characters in the story, and it is very interesting to see how Elizabeth Daly weaves the various plot elements (including several murders) together to create a mystery that is difficult to solve but which has enough clues sprinkled about that I was constantly thinking that I almost had figured it out only to learn that there was one more twist that didn’t quite fit my theory.
Reading this book was just old-fashioned fun! It required some thinking to keep the characters and the plot straight, but putting in the effort was really rewarding. If you are in the mood for something different — an old-fashioned mystery book set in a much different era, I wholeheartedly recommend Elizabeth Daly’s Unexpected Night.
If you’re interested in seeing other most recommended or popular Cozy Mystery authors/series, please visit the Most Popular & Recommended Cozy Mystery Series page on my site.