Another new author to me this month and today’s story is part of a series featuring Kent Murdock, a news photographer and his wife Joyce. On returning home to take his wife out for lunch he finds Nora Pendleton instead, who is curious to know what counts as justifiable homicide, having she says just committed one. Her victim is Jerry Carter, a columnist, who was blackmailing her over some letters, which if published could cause such a scandal that her fiancé’s family may not allow a marriage to take place. She said she only took her father’s gun to the office to force Carter to hand over the letters, but out of fear fired at him twice, leaving the gun at the scene. Of course as a friend Kent decides to go over to the crime scene, taking a photo outside of the building on his way. Little does he know how many people will be wanting their hands on this image and this aspect of the case takes centre place during the middle of the tale. The murder of Carter is far from simple and various other complications and killings ensue keeping Kent very busy over a couple of days, with the case taking on a particularly personal element for him.
In terms of atmosphere this book reminded me of a Perry Mason novel at times, in that Kent is not always working in conjunction with the police, who begrudgingly tolerate him. He prefers to keep as much info to himself and work on his own initiatives, even keeping Nora’s confession to him secret for as long as possible. The initial murder itself is not overly complex but there are a number of avenues for investigation and the photo clue is clever, though slightly underhand in some respects. The choice of killer was a surprise, making the ending interesting, but I felt the revealing of the solution could have been written better, in particular the lead up to the finale is slightly drawn out too much. However the pacing otherwise was strong as the events take place over two days. One character I particularly enjoyed was Joyce as I felt she was a partner with a certain humour and gumption. It is true that Coxe gets his cake and eats it with his descriptions of her: ‘Tall, slim, vital, she had a capable tailored look that, while completely feminine, suggested an inherent competence and a generous measure of common sense,’ but I still liked her nonetheless. The only shame was is that she has such a minimal role in the story. I would have liked to have seen more of her as I think she and Kent would make for an enjoyable double act. I’m not sure if she has a more dominant role in some of the other books. Fans of American set and styled mystery fiction will probably get a lot out of this. Not an absolute fave with me but an entertaining yarn nevertheless.
Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt Item (Gold Card): Camera