Richard and Francis Lockridge’s Pamela and Jerry North series is one I have somewhat neglected. A couple of years ago I read the 14th novel in the series, Murder in a Hurry (1950), but finding it rather average I have not returned to the series until today.
Today’s read combines two popular interests: cats and tennis, which converge in the murder of John Blanchard, who one Saturday judges at a cat show and acts as a linesman in a tennis match. In both activities he manages to make himself unpopular and to complete his train of unpopularity he has also found the time to write a letter to the Sunday Times, heavily criticising the chair of an anti-vivisection committee. All of which Pamela and Jerry find out in their usual casual manner and are not hugely surprised when they hear of his death the next day. There is a wide range of suspects including a potential gold digger, an impoverished old friend and an irate tennis player, to name but a few. The chapters alternate between the Norths and the work of the police, with the bulk of the investigating being achieved by the latter. Though of course there are chapters where the two investigating bodies join and there is a wonderfully funny scene where they are all involved in trying to catch a cat.
Initially I was a bit concerned with the nature of the dialogue; Pamela and Jerry over breakfast have a tendency to talk in a very abbreviated and therefore very cryptic manner – perhaps regular readers of the series may find such conversation less confusing. Thankfully though this problem ceased after a couple of pages and everyone started making much more sense. There is a lot to like in this book. It’s a great read for when you’re feeling rather tired, (as I was), since it is a quick and easy read, with a steady pace throughout. Its choice of milieus engage reader interest and I like how they link to the potential murder weapon used. Using two milieus, (cats and tennis), means Lockridge have a fuller range of characters, which are well drawn. The Norths, although amateur sleuths, fit into the case plausibly enough and don’t overdo their role and I also enjoyed the understated humour they can bring to a scene. This is not a mystery which knocks your socks off, but considering it is the 24th in the series, I think it is an enjoyable enough mystery and I definitely think I enjoyed this mystery more than Murder in a Hurry. The ending was a little rushed and aided by info not readily available to the reader, but this book doesn’t commit this fault any more than many other mystery novels do.
All in all I think I will try and get back to this series again this year, so if you have any recommendations let me know!
Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt Item (Silver Card): Cat