Contribution

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Phoebe Atwood Taylor wrote some thirty detective novels, which have been praised for their historical verisimilitude. Her books about detective Asey Mayo demonstrate her intimate knowledge of the charm and liveliness of Cape Cod communities such as Quanomet, Weesit, and Wellfleet. Taylor does not depict her setting as the famed summer resort it is but rather reveals the Yankee charm of the people of Cape Cod, who live there after the tourists are gone. The dialogue and glimpses of daily life are distinctively Yankee.

Many of Taylor’s works move at a brisk pace; there are chases on foot and by motor vehicles, and the detective solves the case in only a day or two. Humor is also a notable element of many of Taylor’s mysteries, especially in the stories featuring Leonidas Witherall, the detective-hero of the novels that Taylor wrote under the pseudonym Alice Tilton. The pace of Taylor’s novels, combined with a variety of farcical situations, places her mysteries in both the Golden Age of mystery writers, of which Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh were a part, and the 1930’s era of screwball film comedies.