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idle theories or chimerical clues, and the wide world in which to forget it all

      “...and working along that line without blundering into irrelevant issues, I have arrived at the infallible conclusion.”
      “Yes, sir,” said McCarty. “Have you got the man?”
      Terhune frowned.
      “That will come,” he announced shortly. “The process of ratiocination alone would disclose him in time, but we shall not adopt so lengthy and crude a measure. The objective side of crime is particularly amenable to scientific analysis, and with that objective firmly fixed in the mind the solution presents no difficulties to the expert intelligence.”
      “I’ve no doubt of it in the world,” agreed McCarty [189] in haste. Of course, me being an outsider and belonging to the old school that’s past with these wonderful new scientific discoveries you’re master of, sir, it’s that interesting I can’t keep my mind from it.”
      “That is natural,” Terhune acknowledged generously. “I like to ssee a man without prejudice toward innovations which he is not mentally equipped to grasp in their full practical significance.”
      A dull red appeared behind McCarty’s ears, but he shifted to the other foot and asked naïvely:
      “Then you’ve no objections, Mr. Terhune, to me puttering around a little and asking a few questions of some of the witnesses, just to satisfy my own mind? I’ll not be bothering you, or interfering with the real investigation, but you know we old fellows like to pull in the harness now and again.”
      Terhune waved his hand airily.
      “Go as far as you like, my dear McCarty! Come to me with what puzzles you have some time when I’m not so busy, and I’ll set you straight.”
      “Thank you, sir,” McCarty hesitated. “I was thinking of having a bit of a talk with Mrs. Doremus and maybe that girl of hers, this afternoon. Of course if you’d rather I didn’t, sir, thinking I might upset your plans, or want me to wait till you can be along, too — —”
      “My good man,” Terhune turned with an air of amused impatience, “my plans are not susceptible to change because of anything you may be able to discover. Go to her by all means, and ask what you please, but please don’t bother me with any conclusions you may reach. I am concentrating upon this from a scientific standpoint, and my attention must not be even momentarily deflected from it by idle theories or chimerical clues. Run along, Mac, and investigate to your heart’s content.”

      Storm thumped his pillow viciously. Dogs had been kicked from the path before and would be again! There, within reach of his hand behind the panel lay the price of all that he asked of the future! A little more of George Holworthy’s puttering solicitude, of Nicholas Langhorne’s sleek patronage and domineering authority, a week or two still perhaps of the mask of mourning, the treadmill of the office, the dodging of hypocritical, unctuous sympathy over Leila’s loss; and then freedom! Freedom at last and the wide world in which to forget it all.


sources (both by Isabel Ostrander)

  1. The Clue in the Air : A Detective Story, by Isabel Ostrander / author of Suspense, At 1:30, Etc. / frontispiece by Paul Stahr (Grosset & Dunlap,; copyright W. J. Watt & Company, 1917) : 189 : link (Harvard copy)
    a different Harvard copy, better view of frontispiece illustration, and showing W. J. Watt on title page (along with his distinctive logotype, via hathitrust) : link

    a funny (long and interesting) “review” at goodreads : link

    and, on this and other fiction by Ostrander, Mike Grost, at mysteryfile :
          The opening of Isabel Ostrander’s The Clue in the Air (1917) is a full intuitionist detective novel. There is a Dying Message. There is a description of a whole apartment building, and the suspects living on various floors and corners — a description that could have served as a blueprint for the many Golden Age novels which have elaborate floor plans in their stories.
    link (22 January 2009)

  2. Ashes to Ashes by Isabel Ostrander / Author of “The Island of Intrigue”, “Suspense” “The Clue in the Air” etc. (Robert M. McBride & Co., 1919) : 195 : link
    same (Harvard copy, via hathitrust) : link
    BPL copy via archive.org : link

    summary, commentary, and great photo of dustjacket art at deadyesterday (October 14, 2018) : link
    that dustjacket is one of a uniform group of six Ostrander titles, viewable at/via gallica.org : link from the Bibliothèques spécialisées de la Ville de Paris

    published by Hurst & Blackett, (London, 1921) ?

Isabel Ostrander (1883-1924)
wikipedia : link

see PulpFlakes for
a thoroughly researched (and interesting) essay on Ostrander (24 October 2020) : link
continued (31 October 2020) with a story on Ostrander’s blind detective, Damon Gaunt : link
and, relatedly, “The first blind detective in modern English fiction” (a3 October 2020) : link

20 March 2023