By Carter Sprague (real name: Sam Merwin, Jr., 1910-96).
First appearance: Thrilling Detective, October 1946.
Short story (18 pages).
Online at Pulpgen HERE.
"Major Jimmy Grey, just out of the army, is confronted with a puzzling mystery that defies solution when a lovely lady meets death in the luxurious home of an industrial tycoon!"Recently returned from the war, Jimmy Grey wants nothing more than to settle back into comfortable civilian life, and that includes renewing his interrupted relationship with comely Dawn Barton, the niece of Olin Wade, the richest man in Laketown and husband of Marian, a handsome Englishwoman and retired actress; but when, at a party being held at the Wade mansion, Jimmy discovers the lifeless body of Anne Lewis, a "charming, redheaded ingénue," he'll be forced to have dealings with violent death just a little while longer.
Anne was affianced to Rick Carden, "tall, spare, darkly handsome right bower [right-hand man] at the Wade factory," who throughout the war years had proved himself indispensable to Laketown's most important industrialist. As for the murder weapon, it's not the usual thing: "She was stabbed with a pie knife. According to Stone, the butler, it came from the sideboard in the dining room here."
|The murder weapon|
He laughed and opened the door, turned back to blow a kiss at her as he stepped to the driveway. So while he had been subconsciously aware that another car had turned at the far end of the lane between the cabins and was coming back toward them, he missed its approach on the other side of the driveway.
The lights snapped on as he turned to walk around the front of the convertible, caught him full face. There was the sudden roar of a powerful motor racing, then the other car was swerving directly toward him. It was less than thirty feet away and picking up speed. . . .And there are other hazards, as well:
She was lovely, standing there in the green and silver evening dress, with a sable cloak tossed carelessly across her shoulders—lovely and utterly, dangerously mad. . . .The solution of just who shoved a pie knife into a beautiful young woman's back will depend on which side of the street you normally park your car.
Comments: ~ All of the story's action occurs in roughly half a day. ~ Jimmy and Dawn, although not yet married, remind one of those husband and wife sleuthing duos that were enjoying a vogue in the movies at the time. ~ There are brief indications of how World War Two (1939-45) impacted civilian life on the American homefront.
- FictionMags has a list HERE of Sam Merwin's stories written as by "Carter Sprague"; previous ONTOS encounters with Merwin are HERE and HERE.
The bottom line: "For love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave . . ."
— The Bible