Murder Breaks Trail de Eunice Mays Boyd

de Eunice Mays Boyd - Género: English
libro gratis Murder Breaks Trail


Set in Alaska in the late fall immediately preceding Pearl Harbor, Murder Breaks Trail involves a Congressman, a Senator and his daughter, an Alaska politician, a pretty schoolteacher, an airplane pilot and a grocer on vacation-marooned near a small lake where their plane came down. Against the approach of winter and the mounting tensions among themselves there occur murder and unexplained comings and goings in the new and ever-deepening snow. 

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Murder Breaks Trail (1943) by Eunice Mays Boyd is the first of three detective novels featuring mild-mannered grocer F. Millard Smyth and set in Alaska. Smyth's debut finds him on a plane tour of the region in the months preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor. He is with a group that includes a Senator, his secretary, and his daughter, a Congressman (who happens to be attached to the daughter), a mayor, and the pilot and his radio operator. When the Senator indicates that it's time to set down and have lunch, they spot a lake with a small collection of cabins. Red (the pilot) isn't familiar with a settlement in the area and is puzzled by the smoke they see briefly coming from the clearing. By the time the plane lands, the smoke is gone and they find the settlement deserted--with contradicting evidence of habitation. On the one hand there are clothes and other objects that are obviously from the 1890s and materials that make it seem everyone in the area just laid down whatever they were doing and vanished. On the other, there is one cabin that shows recent habitation and is filled with canned goods and supplies to last several months (this will prove to be a very good thing....).

Just as the plane landed, they discover that their radio is no longer working and they can't notify Fairbanks about their stop. No one is worried though--the plane's in good condition and there's no reason why they can't take off again after lunch and head back. Except...while they are exploring the settlement somebody empties the planes gas tanks and there's no way anybody is going anywhere. But again, they're not too worried. After all, once home base realizes they've lost contact with a plane carrying such important persons, the search parties will come find them and all will be well.

Except...the days turn into weeks...and finally into months without a sign of a search plane. Winter closes in and to add to the danger the mysterious person whose stores they have taken over keeps zipping in and out of the settlement on the only skis there are--stealing back food stuffs and kerosene. The Senator falls ill and has to take to his bed and then one morning he is found stabbed to death in his bed. Has the mysterious stranger decided to get rid of them by whatever means possible? And why doesn't he want to be seen? Smyth is appointed the unofficial detective and he begins to investigate. He really begins to get concerned when the anonymous notes start showing up:

Ask Tony Weber [the secretary] why he isn't in the army.

Ask Mick O'Hara [the Congressman] what he knows about the Mt. Zion tunnel.

Ask Red Bailey what happened to his first plane, the one he bought with Irv Cramm's money.

Ask Hope Mullen [the radio operator]how her aunt is living....

Ask Kilkenny Lee what she knows about the handkerchief that was found on her father's floor.

He discovers that the scandal monger is the mayor, Guy Fletcher, and begins to wonder about him. In the middle of the scandal campaign, the group manages to catch the mysterious skier and soon find out that he's a Nazi spy. They are sure they've caught the murderer as well. But then Fletcher is killed while the spy is tied up and it becomes apparent that the killer is one of them. Will help arrive before anyone else is killed? Or will Smyth be able to put the pieces together in time to save them? You'll just have to read the story and find out.

[Spoilers ahead--reader beware!]

One of the most interesting parts of this story is the look Boyd gives us of Alaska during the war years and before the territory became a state. Smyth is not, perhaps, the swiftest of detectives--but he certainly does get there in the end and comes up with a plan to flush the murderer out (in lieu of direct of evidence). I did appreciate the set-up of the stranded party and thought the way they handled their situation was realistic and probable--with nerves fraying just the right amount and petty squabbles seeming more important than they should. On the other hand, I found the thrusting of Nazi spies into the mix a little over-the-top--especially when the murderer wound up being a spy as well, but then the motive had absolutely nothing to do with the spying business. One spy was plenty and even that thread of the story seemed a little unnecessary.

One other [non-story-related bit I found interesting was the author's postscript "About the War." She explains her reasons for taking to mystery-writing:

I'm not doing as much as the women on the production line in the airplane factories and shipyards, but morale is important too, and that's my job. When I get to stewing about my small contribution, I pound another page of a mystery story out of my typewriter. I write about Alaska because I lived there twelve years, and maybe you'd to ead about Alaska because your son or father, your boy friend or husband, your brother or cousin, is a soldier in Alaska now.

A very interesting snapshot of the war years with a mystery flair. ★★★ and 1/2

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