The Crime at the Noah’s Ark is one of only six mysteries written by Molly Thynne and the first of three with the intriguing Dr. Constantine, a chess master. Originally published in 1931 by T. Nelson & Sons, this Golden Age classic was re-issued by Dean Street Press in 2016 and contains an introduction by Curtis Evans.
It’s Christmas in England, therefore it’s time for a country house murder or two. No one needs to ask about the obligatory snow in such a scenario: the snow has been falling for weeks and now is no longer a joke to anyone who relies on transport of any kind. Nonetheless, thousands of holidaymakers set out on their travels, many of them heading to an exclusive coastal resort. Angus Stuart expected the great good fortune that had visited him in the past few months as his book became an out-of-the-blue bestseller to hold and make the roads passable for him but he came to grief at the same hill dozens of others foundered upon. Fortunately an old coaching inn that now caters to a hunting crowd is nearby. Stuart makes his way there and watches as other stranded wayfarers trickle in through the rest of the day.
It’s an oddly assorted lot with a hard-drinking Army major, two elderly sisters, a dancer hired for the season at the resort and unable to reach it, the wealthy Lord Romsey and his children, a quiet upper-class lady, an ordinary accountant, an obnoxious American woman, and a traveling salesman as well as Stuart, Constantine, chauffeurs, and assorted support staff. Alarums occur the very first night when one of the elderly sisters awakens Stuart with an account of a masked man in the hall. This is the first of many broken nights for the inhabitants of the inn. Eventually the Army major is found dead and the fabulous emeralds belonging to the American visitor disappear.
The snow prevents anyone outside the village from arriving to assist and the local constable is left on his own to solve the crimes. Constantine and Stuart take an active part in the investigation, which is far too involved to describe here.
This story was a pleasure to read. The set-up was a bit different from the usual country house murder but the basics were all there: limited number of suspects mostly unknown to each other, the weather restricting movement, a sharp-eyed amateur sleuth. The plot was intricate and the resolution was satisfying. Highly recommended.