cover image The Odor of Violets

The Odor of Violets

Baynard Kendrick. Penzler, $15.95 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-61316-204-0

Kendrick (1894–1977), a now obscure founder of the Mystery Writers of America, gets his due in this terrific reissue, first published in 1941. As Kendrick explains in the foreword, a sightless soldier he encountered in England in 1917, who rattled off a stunning series of deductions about Kendrick that would have done Sherlock Holmes proud, was the inspiration for detective Duncan Maclain, a former U.S. Army captain who was blinded during WWI and whose abilities derive from his other senses. In the late 1930s, Maclain is working as a PI in Manhattan when he’s visited by Paul Gerente, “once a famous stage name,” who claims to represent Naval Intelligence. The actor asks for Maclain’s help identifying vulnerabilities in the city’s infrastructure defenses, in anticipation of an attack by German saboteurs. After the man’s departure, Maclain suspects he was an imposter. When he goes to Gerente’s apartment, he finds the thespian bludgeoned to death, and the plot careens into a series of twists. Kendrick keeps his concept believable, while tossing in enough action and surprises to keep the pages turning. This is an outstanding addition to the American Mystery Classics series. (Apr.)