June Cable a mystery with Dickensian overtones

In Jane Cable, George Barr McCutcheon gives readers a break-neck paced mystery with characters that make zombies look benign.

The mystery is the Jane Cable’s parentage.


June Cable by George Barr McCutcheon

1906 bestseller # 5. Project Gutenberg EBook #5971. My grade: B+.


David Cable’s wife led him to believe Jane was his own daughter. Jane was actually a founding Frances had adopted.

Frances has never told either David or Jane that Jane is adopted.

Jane, now 20, is devoted to the couple she calls her parents.

The lawyer who handled the adoption, James Bamsemer, learned Jane’s parents’ identity and blackmailed Jane’s father’s family.

When Bamsemer turns up in Chicago, Frances knows she has to tell her secret.

Bamsemer terrifies her, but she’s even more frightened of his law clerk, Elias Droom.

James Bamsemer develops a crush on Frances; his son Graydon and Jane fall in love.

The story gets more complicated and more exciting with every chapter.

McCutcheon gives his charming characters flaws and softens the dastardly ones with an occasional generous impulse.

Droom is worthy of Charles Dickens: Ugly and devious in aiding Bamsemer, Droom grows geraniums and loves Graydon like a son.

Droom also invents things, such as a do-it-yourself guillotine.

You’ll stay up past your bedtime to see how McCutcheon fits that into the plot.

©2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Postman Still Delivers the Goods

Sign saying push me points to doorbell button
Push the button twice.

James M. Cain’s novel The Postman Always Rings Twice is a sordid story of adultery and murder — and it is superb reading. Eighty years after publication, it is as fresh and contemporary as human nature itself.

Frank Chambers drifts into a California fuel-and-sandwich joint. Owner Nick Papdakis offers Frank a job pumping gas.

Work isn’t Frank’s line, but he takes the job after getting an eyeful of Nick’s sulky, raven-haired wife, Cora.

Before 24 hours pass, Frank has Cora in bed. Cora wants “to work and be something,” but she says she can’t do that without love. If Frank will love her, she’ll be a hellcat, just once.

Nick’s days are numbered.

Frank and Cora bump off the Greek on their second attempt, but their cover-up goes awry. Their lawyer gets them off, but also sets them up for blackmail.

The more they struggle to get free, the more they are entangled.

Eventually, fate steps with a last ironic twist to the plot.

Read The Postman Always Rings Twice instead of watching it on late night TV. You’ll be glad you did. None of the four film versions is nearly as good as the book.

The Postman Always Rings Twice
By James M. Cain
Grosset & Dunlap, 1934
188 pages
My grade B+

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni