Hand in the Glove
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It's 1937. "Dol" Bonner, New York private eye, searches for the identity of the killer who works in gloves and stealthily haunts the gardens of the rich. Judith West must stay in character while creating accents for the rich and eccentric. She doggedly follows the narrative as Bonner follows every minute clue and nuance of the murder, seeking to uncover whoever would perpetrate such a crime. A true 1930s mystery. M.B.K. © AudioFile 2004, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Before the novel opens Dol had been a happy young woman, her father was wealthy, she was engaged to be married and then things began to go wrong. First her father lost his fortune, then killed himself, then her fiance left her and Dol was faced with the necessity of fending for herself. She considered her prospects and decided on the highly unusual occupation of private detective. As the novel opens Dol's business partner and friend is being pressured by her guardian to disassociate herself with the agency. Soon Dol finds herself without a partner but with the guardian as a client, at least for a short time. Before the final pages the body count has risen but Dol has been one step ahead of the police to solve the crimes.
THE HAND IN THE GLOVE was originally published in 1937 and the only novel featuring Dol although she appears from time to time in Nero Wolfe adventures. Stout's style is evident here, the characters are well defined, the problem is clever and complex but the snappy banter that marks the Nero Wolfe stories is missing. Another deviation from the Nero Wolfe novels is that the story is not told just from one point of view but jumps from Dol to her friend Sylvia's and others which is a bit confusing for the reader at times. Although this is not quite as good as the Nero Wolfe stories it is interesting for Wolfe fans to learn a bit more one of the few women in Wolfe's life.
hoped perhaps this would include how Wolfe and Dol Bonner met, but it is solely her mystery,
and her first case at that!
The story is an excellent one, containing all the highly individual and recognizable characters, many delicious red herrings, and certain amount of clever dialogue and description; it even includes our well known cigar biting friend, Inspector Cramer, although
his part is relatively small, and he enters near the end.
Judith West is an appropriate choice for a story with really two heroines, Dol Bonner and
her business partner and long time friend, Sylvia, the ward of the murdered person. The
reading and characterization begin well enough, but, even though the characters are well
differentiated as introduced, I found two aspects began to grate on the ears: one, when portraying an angry or stern male character, her voice became unpleasantly strident; two,
the vocal characterizations bordered on melodrama, causing the diminution of human connection and empathy with the characters. There was one, the wife of the murdered man,l
for whom this melodrama worked wonderfully well! It was humourous and charming; but with
the other characters, especially Dol, I felt an increasing dissonance and lack of sympathy
resulting in a desire to conclude the story, rather than delicious satisfaction and connection.
Dol Bonner is one of Rex Stout’s lesser known detectives. She only starred in this one novel, though she does appear in a few Nero Wolfe stories. Yeah, she is not as interesting a detective as Mr. Wolfe, but I nonetheless found her to be an interesting detective.
I liked Dol Bonner, and I must say I liked the mystery in this book. The story is as well written as any of Rex Stout’s other works, and is filled with all sorts of interesting and often quirky characters. If you like the Nero Wolfe stories, then give this one a try – I think you’ll like it!
Rex Stout tried to subfranchise Nero Wolfe many times. He sold to radio and hated what the scriptwriters came up with. He sold to movies and then criticized how the screenplays were.
Well, actually, he was right. These adaptations are pretty bad, in all truth.
But when he adapts his own stuff, and then tries to inhabit a woman's mind, it's a mess. Inspector Cramer is the only lucid, well-developed charater in this book - and this comes from a mystery author who developed such memorable characters.
Dol Bonner is a crypto-lesbian who cannot come out in 1938. The only love interests she has in this story are other women, so I think my last observation is credible. And Rex just cannot be that attitudinally flexible. The storyline is weak and not consistently interesting.
Most fatal flaw: the abandonment of first-person narrative style. We like Archie Goodwin because we can see ourselves as fantasy Archies. But Rex was not adventurous enough to make "Being Dol Bonner, Gay Detective" in 1938 as a first-person piece. Even though we do not see this story exactly from Dol's viewpoint, everything described is within her sight. About three-fourths of the way through, we're suddenly observing a too-long scene which is outside Dol's consciousness. It's jarring and might be worthwhile, if it really led someplace.
But it is just a little meander. Rex felt like exploring nonconventional religion, nonconventional relationships and nonconventional detectives, but the guy's just way too conventional for the job. It's a noble experiment, but it failed. Stout knew; he never tried again.