Robert Rylee, Deep Dark River (1935)
“An unusual novel, presenting the fight for justice for a negro in Mississippi, in the hands of a woman lawyer. Mose has incurred the hatred of an overseer, and kills the man sent to kill him. Racial pressure prevents Mary Winston from having the case settled out of court, the jury is ‘fixed,’ the witness intimidated, and Mose sentenced to life imprisonment. There he finds happiness, with his patch of earth and his preaching. It is fundamentally the picture of likable, humbly intelligent Mose, never hysterical, taking the downs of fortune in his stride, slowing coming to an understanding of his part. Nothing here of the ‘quaintness’ or playfulness usually portrayed in negro stories, but rather their puzzlement, their unaffected dignity, the overtones of a decaying white race. . . . Many will like it.”
August 20, 1949 — Winona Republic-Herald
Barbara Frost, The Corpse Said No ($2.50)
“Evangeline Kearns Mortby, deciding to make her will, employs a young woman lawyer, Marka, whose shingle has been hung out several months yet so far has attracted discouragingly few clients. But the eccentric old woman is found strung up by the neck until she is dead dead dead before she has time to sigh.
Marka’s secretary, Rosie Gay, has picked up some lurid ideas about crime from the movies. The way to become a successful lawyer, she figures, is to get your name in the newspapers; the way to get your name in the newspapers is to have a murder case; hence, since she is fond of her boss, this has to be, she decides, a murder case.
The police, for other reasons, think so, too. Among the possible clews are goldfish, an elastic bandage with fuzz on it, and antiques, which Mrs. Mortby had been buying at high prices from an auction house run by Connet. Among the suspects are the old woman’s brother Dustin; her two sons Montague and Alfred; Alfred’s wife Leona; the pretty granddaughter Hortense; a doctor, butler, housekeeper, auctioneer and so on. Even you the reader had better check what time you got home on such-and-such a night before the finger of suspicion is pointed at you, too.
The finger pointing is done by Detective Lieutenant MacRae, who is willing to bet it’s Hortense. But Marka, who had been saved from a fire by the young girl, would like to put her bets on some one else, anyone else. The trouble is, she feels it’s outside her line of duty to take part in the investigation; she’s no crusader, she’s a lawyer; the legal mind is not supposed to be softened by gratitude or friendship. But a couple more killings help to change her point of view, and there’s almost another one before murder is out.
The reluctant lawyer, the cocksure but open-minded detective, the tie-up with the higher things in life, like art, and corpses in closet, museum and plain ordinary bed make this a hair-raiser worthy of the author of The Unwelcome Corpse. Art auction ructions are something new in the mystery line. The shivery reader says yes.”