Friday’s Forgotten Book: Stop Press – Murder! (1947) by Peter Stirling

I went into this story blind, aside from the synopsis included in the book. A cursory glance on google didn’t reveal anything either, so I am not sure how typical this work is of the author.

Today’s book is set within the world of journalism and is narrated by the publisher of the newspaper, imaginatively named News. He is rung up in the middle of the night to be told that his managing editor has been found shot in his office. The suspect list is fairly long given the number of criminal scandals the paper had brought to light and there was no love lost between the editor and his son. Yet the how of this crime certainly provides much puzzlement for the reader. No one saw the victim enter their office, let alone a killer and there were only two entry points. One was locked, the key at home with the janitor, whilst the other door led out into the city room of the newspaper and had no fewer than 20 people in it at any given time. There was no blood in the room, nor any fingerprints. There were powder burns on the victim’s face but there is also evidence to suggest that they killed from the window. No weapon is found and no one heard a thing. Whilst we do get to see what the police are up to, the narrative primarily focuses on what Harper and his newspaper employees get up to in their quest to find their colleague’s killer.

Overall Thoughts

In many respects I think this would have done a lot better as a 1940s film than a novel, with the sparse writing and pacey action focused plot. The characterisation is fairly minimal and a cop movie cliché drinking game could get somewhat deadly, especially as the story runs into its melodramatic finale. The solution is unusual, though highly specific, so not something a reader is going to figure out. The reversal of character in the culprit also feels somewhat unconvincing. There are a few unusual points of social history, in particular I was quite baffled by the way one character who has been shot near the hip, says they hadn’t learnt to use crutches so had to be carried to the car. How much is there to learn in using crutches?? This wasn’t really my usual sort of read and it was pretty much average, but having been somewhat poorly this week, a non-challenging read was not such a bad thing. Quite excited for my next read though so stay tuned…

Rating: 3.5/5

4 comments

  1. Allen Hubin, in his mystery bibliography, provides the following information: Peter Stirling (a pseudonym for David Stern [1909-2003]) wrote one mystery, the one you have read. I was unable to find anything on Stern, looking for other books he may have written as himself or under another pseudonym. The original publisher, Phoenix Press, often published mysteries by “one-off” authors. They sold mainly to US lending libraries, which were often a department within a store that sold other goods. Many of the Phoenix books were republished by paperback publishers in “digest” form, often abridged to fit the standard (more or less) size and page number (usually 128) of the digest form. And as you probably know, many of the lesser publishers and digest books were swept aside by the profusion of emerging paperback publishers in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
    I am a big fan of your reviews and look forward to them.

    Liked by 1 person

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