cover image The Chocolate Cobweb

The Chocolate Cobweb

Charlotte Armstrong. Penzler, $25.95 (232p) ISBN 978-1-61316-167-8

Gifted artist Amanda Garth, the heroine of this superior 1948 mystery from Edgar winner Armstrong (1905–1969), has her world upended after a chance remark from a visiting cousin, Edna Fairchild. When Edna spots a newspaper article about a painting by Tobias Garrison, a celebrated California artist, she connects Garrison with a mix-up at the hospital at the time of Amanda’s birth 23 years earlier. Amanda’s mother and Tobias’s wife both delivered babies at the same facility within a few hours of each other, but when Tobias asked to see his new child, the student nurse held up Amanda by mistake. Thinking she may have been given to the wrong parents at birth, Amanda visits Tobias at his home in L.A., where she learns that his first wife is dead; she is then disturbed to spot his current spouse deliberately break a jug of hot chocolate before it can be consumed. When Amanda, suspicious of what might have been in the jug, has a handkerchief with some of the spilled liquid tested, poison is detected. Readers soon know the culprit, but will Amanda be able to stop the killer in time? Armstrong maintains nail-biting suspense throughout. Hopefully, more of Armstrong’s undeservedly forgotten work will be reissued in the American Mystery Classics series. (May)