Enter Murderers (1960) by Henry Slesar

Can’t remember how I came across this title, but its cynical and dark humour, combined with its unconventional plot intrigued me and the opening sentence delivers on both fronts: ‘Temperature: 89. Humidity: 86. Forecast: Continued hot, with possible thunderstorms, passions, and murders by evening.’ Initially we are introduced to Edward Brandshaft – a fat, sweaty, unappealing business man who is off to pick up an office employee, Delores Mason, for a holiday away. So yeah little character sympathy at this point. But Slesar creates an explosive and game changing first chapter. When Brandshaft meets Mason at her flat she is on edge and things get worse when her husband shows up, who quickly begins to attack her. Ultimately events end with her husband on the floor, dead from an accidental gunshot. The two survivors are promptly taken down town by the police. Over this fast scene your sympathies change and continue to do so when the corpse gets up from the floor and makes a phone call. Only then do we begin to see the beginning of a horrid and out of control prank which is being played out…

The narrative jumps back in time, deceiving you into thinking that you know what is going on, when in fact you really don’t, as the ending springs surprise after surprise, change after change. Unlike Anthony Berkeley’s Mr Priestley’s Problem (1927), this story is much darker in its motivations, plot surprises and prank consequences, providing a chilling and increasingly sinister atmosphere as the book rapidly draws to a close. It is hard to find a fault with this book, its pacing is excellent, its’ depiction of characters is well done, particularly with the conspirators who are beginning to turn on each other and the plot thoroughly surprises and is written in a skilful manner. In keeping with my 601st post this is another story which I think would work well on screen especially the fabrications and false realities that the conspirators create. Equally the fast pace and dialogue would make it ideal for adapting into a film script. I’m not sure what else Slesar has written or whether his other work is as strong as this one, but I am definitely keen to try more.

Rating: 5/5

Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt Item (Silver Card): Written Document

9 comments

  1. According to Wikipedia Slesar only wrote five novels under his own name, but hundreds of pseudonymous short stories and TV scripts, including being “chief writer” for several soap operas, so it looks like crime fiction lost out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I recommend his first mystery novel, ‘The Grey Flannel Shroud’. Based around the advertising industry of the 1950s, it’s written with warmth and wit and tells a good story (as far as I can recall).

    Liked by 1 person

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