Elisabeth Sanxay Holding: Miasma

‘Doctor Dennison, if I were you, I wouldn’t stay here,’ she said.
Because he was so simple and direct himself, he was not inclined to impute subtle motives to other people. He saw in her grey eyes only an honest anxiety, and he believed she spoke in honesty and good-will.
‘Why?’ he asked.
‘I don’t think it’s the right place for you,’ she said.
‘Perhaps not,’ he answered. ‘But, just at present–‘
She rose.
‘I wish you’d go!’ she said. ‘I can’t–‘
‘Lunch is served, Miss!’ said the man-servant from the doorway.

Earlier in the month I posted about Elisabeth Sanxay Holding’s Lady Killer, a sleek suspense novel set on a cruise ship. Miasma is a different beast, published 13 years before and far clunkier. A young but very strait-laced doctor, on his uppers after failing to establish a practice in a small town, is recruited to help a more successful local medic.

It all seems too good to be true: food, board, a decent salary (enough to think about marrying his fiancée in a few years) and the chance to make his name.

Our Dr Dennison almost immediately develops suspicions. Why does his new mentor insist on seeing certain patients himself? And what to make of his strange views on marriage and euthanasia – especially when an elderly patient dies suddenly? After a while Dennison realises he is only staying because of his growing attraction for the glamorous nurse Hilda. There’s a name that’s suffered a reversal in fortunes.

When another young doctor disappears after calling at the house, Dennison commits to finding out what has happened to him.

There is a strong flavour of the ‘Had I But Known’ school, with all the tedium that that implies (sorry, HIBK fans), but two things mark it out. The first is a remarkably good (I think – I’m quite square*) description of the effects of not one, but two, different drugs. For a book published in 1929 this is a pretty interesting feature. The second is Dennison’s fiancée, Evelyn, who surprises in the final chapters.

Still, the weaker and certainly the less sophisticated of the two books. Taken together, they seem to me to represent an arc drawn across American crime fiction between The Circular Staircase at one end and Beast in View at the other.

*See also: Operating a crime fiction blog

Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
This edition: Stark House Mystery Classics
First published 1929 by E. P. Dutton and Co., Inc.

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
This entry was posted in Witness Statements and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Elisabeth Sanxay Holding: Miasma

  1. This is one of the Holding doubles i don’t have yet but you make a good case Rich 🙂


  2. Guy Savage says:

    I have this one (the two-fer). This sounds worth reading even if it is the weaker of the two.


Make a statement...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s