Strangeness and Forgetfulness

MYSTERIES OF THE MISSING. By Edward II. Smith (The Dial Press).

“THE Lotophagi are gone from the Libyan strand and the Sirens from their Campanian isle, but still the sons of men go forth to strangeness and forgetfulness.”

The reminiscent note of high poetry that sounds in the last 12 words of the above quotation from Mr. Smith’s preface promises much from his anthology of mysterious disappearances. Happily the promise is fulfilled, in so far as it may be done within the limitations of factual narrative: and frequently, from phrase or sentence or paragraph, breaks the old, weird moonlight of wonder, still new as when the world was young.

It may seem a far cry from the upper air of his beginning to the general level of the author’s subject matter: but wherever there is mystery there is something of poetry also, and Smith knows how to find it. Beginning with the story of Charlie Ross, the author explorer a wide range of mysteries. Now we are reading of the disappearance of Aaron Burr’s daughter, Theodosia: now of the vanished Austrian Archduke who called himself John Orth: now of Ambrose Bierce’s going forth to “strangeness and forgetfulness.” Again, it is some stout ship that, sailing from a quite matter-of-fact port, somehow managed to find “the harborways that know the ships of all the sagas.”

The book should be kept for one of those nights when a rainy wind opens and the sleeping house is haunted with unexplained noises. Along about 12 o’clock of such a night the fairly competent thrill-hunter ought to have the best of luck with this volume.