Curiosity Killed a Cat (Morrow, 1941) is the third book by Anne Rowe and the first with Inspector Josiah Pettengill in Maine. Kay Wentworth moves with her widowed engineer father to Cliffport, Maine, where he will consult with the Federal government on the upgrade and expansion of what sounds to me like the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as World War II looms forebodingly on the horizon.
She had been keeping house for her father since her mother died and accompanying him was never in question but she had a particular interest in Cliffport. Five years earlier as an impulsive 18-year-old she secretly married Bruce Jollimar, whom she had just met and who abandoned her three weeks later. One of the few bits of information she had about her husband is that he was from Cliffport. Now in love with a more eligible man, she is anxious to find Bruce to end their marriage. She sees him on the street one evening and thinks he enters what is supposed to be an empty house. She later visits the house and finds the body of a visiting professor, bringing Inspector Josiah Pettengill into the story.
Steve Lewis reviewed Too Much Poison by Rowe for Friday’s Forgotten Books several years ago on his Mystery File blog. See his review here: http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=622. It also involves a secret marriage. Rowe must have had a particular unease about them, and the social mores from that time are absorbing. Kay was extremely concerned about the publicity surrounding a divorce, and solicited her aunt’s assistance in keeping the newspapers at bay while she plotted a quiet change to her marital status .
The mystery itself is well planned, I did not suspect the killer at all. What is more interesting is the social setting, with the inherited family servants who tell Kay and her father what they will and won’t do, and the society leader of the town, who never knocks on doors, she simply enters any house she pleases. The reclusive family member who turns out to be a world-famous designer of high-end clothing for women is particularly intriguing.
In his review Steve Lewis included this information about the author taken from Crime Fiction IV by Al Hubin:
ROWE, ANNE (Von Meibom) (1901?-1975?)
- The Turn of a Wheel (n.) Macaulay 1930
- Men Are Strange Lovers (n.) King 1935
- Curiosity Killed a Cat (n.) Morrow 1941 [Insp. Josiah Pettengill; Maine]
- The Little Dog Barked (n.) Morrow 1942 [Insp. Josiah Pettengill; Maine; Theatre]
- Too Much Poison (n.) Mill 1944 [Insp. Barry; New York City, NY]
- Fatal Purchase (n.) Mill 1945 [Maine]
- The Painted Monster (n.) Gifford-UK 1945 [Insp. Josiah Pettengill]
- Up to the Hilt (n.) Mill 1945 [Insp. Barry; Connecticut]
- Deadly Intent (n.) Mill 1946 [Insp. Barry; New York City, NY]
When I included Anne Rowe’s original name in my search, I found entries in WorldCat, Alibris, and this entry in The General Fiction Magazine Index, http://www.philsp.com/homeville/GFI/z54.htm:
“Rowe, Anne (Von Meibom) (1882-1961) Born in Germany; married Leon Randall Rowe; died in Alameda, California.”
Al Hubin’s list contains one more title than WorldCat does. The WorldCat entries for each title show few holdings, which suggests these books are hard to find.
The local library unearthed a contemporary review of this book. Here is the citation:
“CURIOSITY KILLED A CAT. By Anne Rowe. 282 pp. New York: William Harrow & Co. $2. New York Times (1923-Current file); Jun 1, 1941; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times pg. BR13”
The reviewer states this is Rowe’s first mystery and hopes it is not her last.