Saturday, September 3, 2011

Book Review: The Cape Cod Mystery (1931) by Phoebe Atwood Taylor

The Cape Cod Mystery (1931)
Phoebe Atwood Taylor

Phoebe Atwood Taylor hailed from Cape Cod's well-known Atwood family.  Her first novel, The Cape Cod Mystery, does not feel like the energetic work of a 22-year-old college graduate, and it must have been a curious choice to make her narrator a 50-year-old widow.  Even more curious is the sleuth she created, the improbably-named Asey Mayo, here in his early sixties, the personal assistant to a man wrongly accused, it would appear, of murder, and the veteran of many years of seafaring.  

The book is certainly worthwhile to read, not by any stretch a great mystery or a great novel, but it is remarkable for its period detail of Wellfleet circa 1930, with its inhabitants running only in the hundreds and inventions like the electric refrigerator slowly changing the old way of life.  We are asked to believe that the local part-time sheriff who works by day in a grocery store and lacks a jail of his own, would, for the duration of a weekend, lock his prime suspect in a public pillory put on display for the town's tricentennial and later move him to a secure railroad car.  It sounds a bit farfetched to me, but who knows what could have gone on back then?

TAYLOR, Phoebe Atwood (1909-79). The Cape Cod Mystery. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, [1931]. 8o. Original blue cloth (slight lean, some rubbing to spine ends); pictorial dust jacket by Charles K. Stevens (minor browning, rubbing, light wear at spine panel ends). FIRST EDITION of the author's first book and the first of the Asey Mayo Cape Cod series. A Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone.

TAYLOR, Phoebe Atwood ("Freeman Dana"). Murder at the New York World's Fair. New York: Random House, [1938]. 8o. (Marginal stain to first few text leaves, ink stamp to front endpapers.) Original orange and blue pictorial cloth (leaned, some spotting to edges and spine); pictorial dust jacket (price-clipped, light soiling, 2 in. tear to front panel corner with associated creasing and tape reinforcements). FIRST EDITION. Published six months before the Fair opened, this is Taylor's only use of this pseudonym. (2)

Price Realized 

  • $777
  • Price includes buyer's premium
    $400 - $600

Sale Information

Sale 1117 Lot 232

New York, Rockefeller Plaza


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