It is the August Bank Holiday in the UK today, always a feel that after this (and after the summer we’ve had, one way and another, it might be very welcome) is the autumn… Not quite Labor Day in the USA yet, with the same feel, but coming soon….
published 1956 (in UK, maybe 1955 in US?)
[Gen is at a beach house with friends, and going to spend the day at the beach]
Dressed in her bathing suit and carrying her beach bag, she started down the steps with Brad. The sight of the cottage reminded her. ‘Wait a minute,’ she said, and, feeling like a sneak-thief, she darted down to the cottage, inside, and out again with Otto’s package.
[at the end of the day]
Smiling to herself, she began collecting her belongings.
Towel, robe, sandals, sun-tan oil, bathing cap, and cigarettes stowed away in her beach bag. All present and accounted for? She paused, with a dim feeling that something was missing.
And something certainly was.
[The evidence] was no longer in her beach bag, nor anywhere else in sight.
comments: Have a good look in that beach bag above and see if you can see the evidence. Nope, not there. Well really, what do you expect? You take the vital piece of evidence down to the beach, you wave it in front of everyone’s faces, you fall asleep, people come and go. You have pinched the item in the first place, and then carelessly lost it. Tut tut. Gen is actually a rather annoying heroine, and I expected slightly better of Jean Potts.
Man with the Cane by Potts featured on the blog a while back (with some great 50s clothes), and in the post I explained how my friend John Norris had reminded me of her books and how much I was enjoying re-reading them. He was championing them over at his blog over at his blog Pretty Sinister Books, and now some of them are being reprinted, luckily.
Even if I didn’t like the crime plots – and I do, I described them before as ‘A touch of the Margaret Millars, a soupcon of Helen McCloy’ – I would enjoy the books for their excellent clothes. The author describes them nicely, but also always has everyone in the right clothes, helping the alert reader to place them. In this book there is actually a clothes item that I considered to be a major clue (would the glimpsed character concerned actually have worn such a thing?).
As the cast of upmarket New Yorkers head out to the beach for the last days of summer – the events take place just after Labor Day, which is 7th September this year – a young woman gets herself murdered at the beach house, very inconveniently for everyone else. She is Marcella, the young woman featured in the title as the ‘stray cat’, in her ‘flowered cotton skirt, her off-the-shoulder bloused, her sandals and her scarf.’
She has been free and easy with her affections, and everyone around seems to know her except Gen, who is rather outraged with the idea that her husband Alex has been involved with Marcella. There is an extremely annoying sideline in her and Alex being unable to sort out their marital problems, misunderstandings, hurt pride blah blah blah.
Meanwhile, there is an absolutely splendid character called Shirley, who sadly doesn’t feature nearly enough. Shirley’s husband has actually been accused of the murder, and she is not having it:
She wore a bright green suit, green wedgies, and a little pill box of a hat with a feather in front that stood right straight up, trembling with indignation. Her face was built a good deal like a Peke’s, and it was tricked out with all the cosmetics known to womankind. Her hair, like her voice, was pure brass.
She points out with perfect truth that there is no need to pick on her Walt, it could just as easily be Gen’s Alex.
“Well let me tell you something Miss Social Register, whether you like it or not, you’re in just exactly the same kettle of fish I’m in and don’t you forget it. Alex is in it up to his precious neck, for my money. What was she doing out at your house in the first place? And these buddies of his – anybody can see that they’d swear white was black if Alex told them to.” She scooped up her handbag and whizzed out the door, leaving behind an almost tangible current of sultry perfume and unadulterated female fury.I was hoping for a) more, much more, of Shirley and b) a few more sessions in the beach houses with the NY friends sniping at each other and eating uncomfortable meals, but sadly neither happened. The characters were all rushing round going back to the city, creeping round the beach houses, driving up and down in their cars: nobody stayed still for a moment apart from Gen on the beach above.
Unfair to blame Jean Potts for my slight disappointment in that. It was a most enjoyable read, ideal for the end of the summer: she was really good at creating that atmosphere.
Beach lady from 1955, Kristine’s photostream.
Floral skirt from Clover Vintage.
Suit and hat also Clover Vintage.