In the early days of WWII, a blind detective follows unseen clues to solve a murder and undermine a German spy plot.
Meet Captain Duncan Maclain. Blinded during his service in the first World War, Maclain made up for his lack of vision by sharpening his other senses, achieving a mastery of the subtle unseen clues often missed by those who see only with their eyes. Aided by his dogs Schnucke and Driest, the Captain puts the intelligence-gathering techniques he learned in the Army to work, making a name for himself as New York City’s most sought-after private detective. Now it’s 1940, there’s a second World War breaking out, and Maclain is pulled into a case unlike any he’s investigated before.
The murder of an actor in his Greenwich Village apartment would cause a stir no matter the circumstances but, when the actor happens to possess secret government plans, and when those plans go missing along with the young woman with whom he was last seen, it’s sensational enough to interest not only the local police, but the American government as well.
Maclain suspects a German spy plot at work and, in a world where treasonous men and patriots are indistinguishable to the naked eye, it will take his special skills to sniff out the solution.
Reissued for the first time in over a half-century, Odor of Violets is the most well-known installment in the long-running Duncan Maclain series, which featured one of crime fiction’s earliest disabled detectives. The novel, filmed in 1942 as Eyes in the Night, is a classic hybrid of mystery and espionage fiction.
Kendrick (1894 1977), a now obscure founder of the Mystery Writers of America, gets his due in this terrific reissue, first published in 1941. As Kendrick explains in the foreword, a sightless soldier he encountered in England in 1917, who rattled off a stunning series of deductions about Kendrick that would have done Sherlock Holmes proud, was the inspiration for detective Duncan Maclain, a former U.S. Army captain who was blinded during WWI and whose abilities derive from his other senses. In the late 1930s, Maclain is working as a PI in Manhattan when he's visited by Paul Gerente, "once a famous stage name," who claims to represent Naval Intelligence. The actor asks for Maclain's help identifying vulnerabilities in the city's infrastructure defenses, in anticipation of an attack by German saboteurs. After the man's departure, Maclain suspects he was an imposter. When he goes to Gerente's apartment, he finds the thespian bludgeoned to death, and the plot careens into a series of twists. Kendrick keeps his concept believable, while tossing in enough action and surprises to keep the pages turning. This is an outstanding addition to the American Mystery Classics series.