It’s the end of the Roaring Twenties. The stock market has recently crashed and Miss Hildegarde Withers, a third grade teacher, is shepherding her charges around the New York Aquarium when she happens to see a very dead body slide slowly into the penguin pool.

Miss Withers is in the thick of things from then on as confusing clues make the mystery ever more baffling. The victim, a stockbroker, didn’t drown — so how did he die? Was it the dead man’s lovely wife who killed him? Was it the man who apparently met her at the aquarium for a tryst? Was it the head of the aquarium, a man whose fortune the victim lost, who did the deed?

This is a classic detective novel with a winning amateur sleuth and a well-crafted puzzle. Like so many novels of the period, it contains plenty of stereotypes modern readers will find offensive. If you can tolerate the hard-drinking Irishman and the horse-faced spinster schoolteacher and the rest, it’s also a well written story with snappy dialogue and a story that will keep you guessing. The glimpse of New York City as the Roaring Twenties dwindled into the Great Depression is fascinating, as well.

The Miss Withers series was very popular in its day, with a number of movie versions of the novels. I hope this reissue of the first book means the rest will follow.