Tory Hageman’s Murder at Bridge
by Margie Pignataro. © 2016 Great Bridge Links
Tory Hageman was not a real person. Rather, Hageman was a construction by the Grates River Printing Company.
Multiple authors wrote mysteries under the Hageman name between 1899 and 1922. One of whom was Anne Austin, and in particular, Murder at Bridge.
Setting a murder during a game of bridge does have logic. It’s a “locked room” mystery in that all the suspects are in one room and seemingly have an alibi provided by one another. Bridge provides the role of Dummy, a time when one person is freed from the game and may have a few minutes to stab someone whilst the others are occupied by the game. Perhaps there’s also a further interpretation here, a commentary on the viciousness of bridge players, the calculated minds which work to win, the plotting and cunning required fit the portrait of a murderer.
Austin’s Murder at Bridge provides all of these features in a bright, engrossing way. Truly, the novel gripped me quite firmly, and I could not stop reading until I knew who had done it. At one point, I thought I knew the killer, only to discover that I was quite off track—which made the ending even more deliciously satisfying.
The detective is Bonnie Dundee, special investigator to the district attorney, who seizes control of the investigation, manically obsessed with solving the murder of Nita Selim, former chorus girl, “that miniature Venus” who was so alluring that Dundee found himself irresistibly tempted “to put his arm about her too intriguing little body”.
The book was published in 1931 and the dialogue and characterization is as bubbly and embellished as that era is famous for. The women swoon, blush bright red, tear at their hair, become overwhelmed, overcome and overwrought. The men are quite dramatic as well, their temples throbbing, affronted and enraged, not at all understanding the relevance of such personal questions. There’s even a startling character of a servant who had her face melted off with acid. She is, of course, compulsively proud and loyal.
Rather than being a distraction or annoyance, this becomes the center of the the story’s charm. And one can both laugh and feel a chill at lines such as this, which end chapter one: “’My God!’ he said slowly, blankly. ‘Of all things—murder at bridge!’”
Bridge players will adore the detail of the game, the loving reconstruction of the last hand of bridge when the murder takes place. I must warn though: the book becomes complicated at times, as Dundee shuffles through evidence and suspects. At times, I couldn’t entirely remember who was whom, but I simply went with it and the book worked regardless. Typical of this genre in this time period, there is much time spent in discussion, talking through theories, and less time involved in more aggressive, physical activity which dominates our current style.
Best of all, at the time of this writing Murder at Bridge, now listed as written by Anne Austin, is available on Amazon for free as an ebook or you can purchase Murder at Bridge here
Margie Pignataro is a Fiction/Playwright/Academic Writer from the United Kingdom. Margie is a regular contributor to Great Bridge Links and Gifts for Card Players