Every year I give myself a book for my birthday—a book I wrote. By that I mean that my annual Sebastian McCabe – Jeff Cody mystery is officially published each year on my natal day.
This year’s offering, The English Garden Mystery, was especially fun to write. All of my books owe a lot to the Golden Age of mystery fiction, that period roughly between the two worlds wars of the last century, but none more than this one, the 13th book in the McCabe-Cody series.
The English Garden Mystery is an homage to Golden Age great Ellery Queen (cousins Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee sharing a joint pseudonym) starting with the title. The names of the first nine Queen novels all had a nationality adjective followed by a noun, from The Roman Hat Mystery through The Spanish Cape Mystery.
Beyond that, Mac and Jeff’s latest adventure shares a number of other tropes with the early Queen:
· The subtitle “A Problem in Deduction.” Check!
· An eccentric family living under one roof or in a compound of nearby homes. Check!
· A map showing where the family members live. Check!
· A Shakespearean theme running through the storyline. Check!
· A “Challenge to Reader” at the point in the novel when all the clues necessary to solve the murder have been present. Check!
· A perfectly logical solution—which turns out to be false, thus creating a kind of double ending when the real solution is unveiled. Check!
· A dying message from the victim identifying the killer. Check—or maybe not!
The cousins Queen had multiple names. Manfred Bennington Lee was born Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky and Frederic Dannay started out as Daniel Nathan. I like to that Dannay, who was the Sherlockian of the duo, wouldn’t mind that one of the suspects in The English Garden Murders is a pharmacist named Nathan Daniel.