The Man Who Cried All the Way Home (1966) by Dolores Hitchens

This is a title which was put on to my radar by John Norris who blogs at Pretty Sinister. It has been nearly 2 years since I have read anything by Hitchens, which is crazy, so I was glad I finally decided to read this book. I also hope to return to her work later in the year with the recent reprint of her mystery The Alarm of the Black Cat (1942). My edition of today’s read is by The Detective Book Club, which produced 3 in 1 books, so Hitchen’s book is nestled between Thomas Walsh’s The Face of the Enemy (1966) and The Crimson Memorandum (1967) by Lionel White. However, it is available on Kindle as it was reprinted through that format by the Mysterious Press.


‘When a policeman shows up at her door one morning, Doris Chenoweth is sure her husband, Sargent, is home—but she’s wrong. He’s been found dead in his car at the edge of a reservoir. With no one else to turn to, Doris calls her elderly uncle Chuck, knowing he has no real reason to help her since they’ve fallen out of touch. But to Doris’s relief, Chuck comes to her aid, armed with his law degree. Acting as her attorney, he delves into her husband’s affairs—business and romantic. The revelations come fast and furiously, pointing to infidelity, shady stock investments, and a betrayal of the worst kind. And when Chuck realizes Doris has secrets of her own—ones that could land her in jail—he must determine which is a greater motive for murder: love or money . . .’

Overall Thoughts

From the get-go the mystery sows seeds of doubt as to what Doris Chenoweth may have been up to in the past 12-18 hours. Our curiosity is heightened when a knock at the door presents a policeman, wanting to know if her husband is at home, only for her to look inside his separate bedroom and discover he is not. We are told that Doris had an ‘almost sleepless night’, which naturally gets every mystery fan wondering why that was the case. Yet her surprise at her husband’s absence seems genuine. Nevertheless, when her Uncle Chuck arrives, at her request to help her, he can’t help but feel suspicious about her evasive answers to some of his questions. At the same time as the police officer arrives, Doris lets in her dog, Pete, a Collie mix. He has an injury to his ear, which Uncle Chuck later identifies as being a gunshot wound. It is details like this that prick the readers’ interest, as they increasingly ponder over what could have occurred.

The first chapter closes well:

‘No matter what lay ahead, no matter what accusations were brought forth, or what motives were assigned to her, she felt that she had a champion. Uncle Chuck would not let her down. If this turned out to be the last and the ghastliest part of what Sargent had been trying to do to her, she would cheat him. She would twist victory out of his grasp, even though he were dead.’

What made this passage particularly intriguing to me was how it alerts us to the fact something is up, but it is quite open ended as to what might be wrong. It also presents Sargent, the victim, in a more active light, making us consider that he might have had an endgame which has gone horribly awry.

My favourite character of the book has to be Uncle Chuck. He is a key strength of the story, without him it would have been much weaker, as Doris is not overly inspiring. Uncle Chuck is an effective sleuthing lead, and I appreciated his direct approach, as it means the plot gets going and keeps moving at a good pace. Yet he is still an affable, friendly, and kind person, with a degree of vulnerability due to his mobility issues. He is character you want to spend time with.

He is not close to his niece, as they have drifted apart since her marriage, but this makes the mystery more interesting, as he is on his niece’s side, defending her corner, yet that does not mean he lacks suspicion towards her, especially since he can tell she is holding something back. But what? He must find this out through other characters, but they too are arguably not being wholly honest.  This means Uncle Chuck needs to test the testimony he is given.

Hitchens is good at maintaining a good flow of new puzzling elements to her tale, such as the disappearance of a number of items from Doris’ home a month ago, in what appears to have been a burglary. Moreover, it seems that the victim himself left a trail of confusing and conflicting clues behind. All of this helps to maintain reader interest. One curious aspect of the murder of Sargent is pointed out by Uncle Chuck:

“If you’re prepared to commit murder and you have a gun, and it’s necessary in some preliminary move to shoot a dog […] Why would you afterward kill your human victim by beating in his skull with a blunt instrument?”

I think it is good that the sleuth voices these ideas, as it aids the reader’s armchair detecting. Midway through the story a dramatic development does a good job of turning the picture we had built up previously, upside down and like Chuck we have to reassess what events might have led to Sargent’s death.

This mystery provides an interesting variation to the canine role in G. K. Chesterton’s ‘The Oracle of the Dog’ (1926) and Uncle Chuck’s approach to solving the resulting issues is barmy, but effective. The author’s choice of killer is apt, as is the solution, but I think the reader needed a couple more dots to be joined up nearer the end of the story, to make that final link or two. It does not help that Uncle Chuck receives information off the page, which we do not have access to. However, all in all I would say this was still a good read.

Rating: 4/5

See also: I have also reviewed the following books written by Hitchens:


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