Murder of Lydia: A Mr. Moh Mystery - Joan A. Cowdroy

Whitesands Bay reflected on its rippled surface the cool sunlight of early morning which filtered through from skies veiled as yet in haze that promised heat.

Mr. Moh sat on the end of a wooden groyne and surveyed the scene, shining waters, and smooth, unsullied sand uncovered by the tide, which had magnanimously washed away all traces of careless humanity in a spirit of deep content.

Murder of Lydia is another title that was originally written in the 1930s but was re-re;eased recently in the wave of Golden Age mystery re-discoveries.

Apparently, Joan A. Cowdroy wrote a series of detective novels that starred Mr. Moh, a Chinese-born gardener who may or may not have been affiliated with the San Francisco Police Department before moving to England.

Anyway, Murder of Lydia introduces Mr. Moh and his family: his wife, daughter, and staunchly xenophobic in-laws.

When starting the book I was afraid that Mr. Moh would end up as yet another cliche character, but actually, despite Cowdroy lumbering Mr. Moh with a speech-pattern straight out of the Mr. Moto movies, Mr. Moh is a great character, who observes the characters around him, and through whom we get to really know them.

The problem is that there is nowhere near enough of Mr. Moh in this story. A short way into the murder mystery, Inspector Gorham takes over, and Mr. Moh is pushed to the sidelines.

This is a shame.  I would have loved to have seen him take part more in the investigation.

On the other hand, this probably would not have worked either because I would have been the first to complain about why a random gardener was part of a police inquiry.

Anyway, as the story plods on – drags a bit – while we lay blame at the door of a woman who doesn’t fit society’s expectations of portrayal of feminine emotions, the story is not all that extraordinary, except that Cowdroy clearly meant to ruffle some feathers with her portrayal of the main suspect and final plot twist that made me smile.

I’m really keen to read the other book by Cowdroy that is currently available – Death Has No Tongue. I think she may have been on to something slightly unconventional and delightfully quirky that made her books stand out from the bulk of “re-discovered” Golden Age mysteries.


Original post: