Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"Man Likes to Break Laws, and I Suspect That Secretly His Heart Goes with the Daring Villain Who Breaks the Law and Escapes the Penalty": Reviews from THE BOOKMAN IV

"Murder Will Out!"
By Charles McMorris Purdy (?-?).
From The Bookman, October 1928.
Online HERE.

Our reviewer at The Bookman registers his complaints about a trend in mystery fiction that still hasn't gone away and isn't likely to:
. . . I doubt if I will ever live to see the day when a mystery-story will allow me the pleasure of a villain who is without virtue, kindness or any other, exception-al characteristics, who shall commit the most heinous of murders and shall not avoid lawful penalty by a little squib of deadly poison carried conveniently in a large seal ring, in a vest pocket, or under his finger nails, or by jumping or driving off a cliff into the sea, but shall be conducted to a good, standard deathhouse and after the necessary electric interval shall be pronounced by an astoundingly large committee of medical men: dead, dead, dead!
More than a trend, it seems to be the new normal:
. . . let me bring to your attention the incredible fact that, in four-fifths of the novels under consideration, the murderer evades the ultimate decree of the law. And in the stray one-fifth, only one penalty is recorded as having been fully paid. If one reads mystery stories singly, this commentary on present day murder fiction is not obvious; but when, night after night, the guilty cheat legal retribution, one wakes to this curious weakness of mystery story writers—or readers. For I am not certain that the mystery-story reader is not responsible for the murderer's evasion of legal death.
People, he insists, are born scofflaws:
. . . Just as ultimate escape is sought for the characters of our "happy" fiction so is the illegal escape of a perfectly good murderer expected, and perhaps, relished, in the murder-mystery story. For man likes to break laws, and I suspect that secretly his heart goes with the daring villain who breaks the law and escapes the penalty. What matter if he defeats justice only to do away with himself by his own hand? What if murderers be trapped by tides, to die a lingering death? The law is not paid in terms of the law. And the reader, although perhaps he may not admit it, inwardly gloats. The reality of life is defeated: the murderer escapes!  . . .
As to the books, there are some Golden Age classics that have either never been out of print or, thanks to the rise of e-books, are making a comeback:

~ The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie (1890-1976):
. . . by the time the actual crime is committed, one is so well acquainted with the characters in the story that the crime becomes almost personal, which is about the best tribute one can pay to a mystery storywriter.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Sea Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts (1879-1957):
. . . Mr. Crofts lacks the imagination of Mrs. Christie, but his plot structure is more thorough . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ Mystery at Lynden Sands by J. J. Connington (1880-1947):
. . . Inspector French and Sir Clinton have much in common through general lack of picturesqueness, but while the former is at least a plodding and effectual human, Sir Clinton has little to recommend him.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Missing Partners by Henry Wade (1887-1969):
. . . The disclosure of the guilty one comes as a distinct surprise; it is one of the few times in the course of reading these stories that I had no inkling toward the close of a tale as to the identity of the murderer, and I entertain a sneaking suspicion that the author hasn't quite played an honest game with his readers. The end has the same psychologically illogical taint that The Greene Murder Case carried with it. The novel has one point in its favor, though, and that is that there is no Philo Vance in it.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957):
. . . Miss Sayers's mysteries are never intricate, but provide enjoyable enough reading—amusing, that is, if you can enjoy Lord Peter, who is what Philo Vance might have been if he had been amusing.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ Death in the Dusk by Virgil Markham (1899-1973):
. . . In spite of the author's irritating habit of going around in circles of description, and neglecting to clear minor points which might have been explained to better advantage—especially in those passages concerning the motive of the murderer—his story stands out in my mind above all the others in this list.  . . .
GAD Wiki HERE - Beneath the Stains of Time review HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Black House in Harley Street by J. S. Fletcher (1863-1935):
. . . What a perfect villain a doctor, with his opportunities for good and evil, can be is made evident [in this book].  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Strange Case of "William" Cook by Richard Keverne (1882-1950):
... [a book that relies] less on the sensational, and more on the psychological ...
GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Quartz Eye by Henry Kitchell Webster (1875-1932):
. . . centers about [sic] an antique dealer . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Secret of Mohawk Pond by Natalie Sumner Lincoln (1881-1935):
. . . It has the same strange charm that our childhood adventure stories had—the silent Indian, snakes in the grass, and a villain behind every tree.  . . .
GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ Hurrying Feet by Frederic F. Van de Water (1890-1968):
. . . another outdoor mystery, written in an equally lurid style, but not unabsorbing.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ Scissors Cut Paper by Gerard Fairlie (1899-1983):
. . . has thrills, but unless you are terribly unsophisticated in your mystery story reading, the improbabilities will down you.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ The Patriot by A. E. (?-?) and H. C. Walter (?-?):
. . . the author asks one to believe in a murderer who murders for the good of his country, and, uncaught in the end, is about to return to native England to wreak further vengeance. Here is where the escape motive leaves me enraged.
~ Sing Sing Nights by Harry Stephen Keeler (1890-1967):
. . . the author fails only through the overweaving of his plots . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Man in the Dark by John Ferguson (1873-?):
. . . the reader's point of view is that of a blind man's. An interesting experiment, and worth reading.  . . .
GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ The Red Scar by Anthony Wynne (1882-1963):
. . . what might have been a good murder story is frustrated by the manner of presentation.  . . .
GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE - Beneath the Stains of Time HERE ISFDb HERE

~ The Seven Sisters by Jean Lilly (?-?):
. . . capably written, and with an appeal to those who do not care for too much blood and thunder.  . . .
As for horror stories, which usually were and still are often lumped in with detective and mystery fiction, reviewer Purdy urges us to make allowances:
. . . Uncanny mystery stories hold a corner of the field all their own, and cannot rightly be judged with their more deductive brethren. One must be prepared to accept the supernatural and the abnormal without too much questioning.  . . .
~ The Beast with Five Fingers by William Fryer Harvey (1885-1937):
. . . good for a spine chilling . . .
Wikipedia HERE - FictionMags HERE - Online HERE - Movie version described HERE - ISFDb HERE
~ The Runagates Club by John Buchan (1875-1940):
. . . I am sorry to report that this latest volume of Mr. Buchan's contains few of the qualities which brought him so great a circle of readers.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Six Proud Walkers by Francis Beeding (1885-1944/1898-1951):
. . . The mystery of the Six Proud Walkers, who navigate about the Catacombs of Rome, left me afraid of my own shadow.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE and HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE - ISFDb HERE and HERE

~ Lafcadio's Adventures by Andre Gide (1869-1951):
. . . the amazing hero performed a perfectly cold-blooded murder . . .
Wikipedia HERE - FictionMags HERE

- Our last visit with another Bookman's mystery fiction reviewer is HERE.

Category: Detective fiction criticism

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