Monday, November 21, 2016

"The Murderer Was Well Acquainted with Her Intimate Habits"

"A Kiss for Belinda."
By Lawrence G. Blochman (1900-75).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, February 17, 1951 (as "Kiss of Kandahar").
Reprinted in The Saint Mystery Magazine, September 1959; EQMM (Australia), February 1960; EQMM (U.K.), February 1960; and Keyhole Mystery Magazine, June 1960.
Short story (16 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE) (PDF) and UNZ (start HERE) and (end HERE; scroll down to page 67).
(Note: The UNZ Collier's version is poorly reproduced but still readable.)
"Belinda was blonde and beautiful and kissable, too. But unfortunately someone gave her a kiss—of death!"
It's an election year, and Northfield's Coroner is even more useless than usual after the life-less body of an attractive woman is found in her bathtub; in Lieutenant Ritter's experience, the Coroner is "prone to regard all unexplained deaths as due to heart failure, apoplexy, or accident—unless of course the head was missing or a knife protruded from the back." Obviously the victim is this case hasn't been decapitated or stabbed and definitely not shot, but Ritter's policeman's instincts tell him it was no accident, either; moreover, since just about every person involved in this imbroglio doesn't seem to feel it necessary to adhere strictly to the truth, it's lucky for the Lieutenant that he has a clear-thinking man of science, Dr. Coffee, to help sort it all out . . .
Principal characters:
~ Belinda Holliday:
   "The woman in Suite 232 of the Southside Apartment Hotel was certainly young, probably on the exuberant side of twenty-five."
~ Detective Lieutenant Max Ritter:
   "Slim, dark, sad-eyed Lieutenant Ritter made his way to Suite 232 without a word. When he entered the bathroom, and instinctively took off his soft felt hat, his big ears gave him the silhouette of a pogo stick."
~ Dr. Daniel Webster Coffee:
   "Ritter telephoned his friend, pathologist at Northbank's Pasteur Hospital, who had a great and useful scientific curiosity."
~ Roy Manson:
   "Somehow his big, well-muscled hands seemed to call for blue denims and precision tools, instead of the green wax-paper cornucopia of flowers they were holding awkwardly."
~ Anne Devoto:
   "She was a dark, demure little woman, past the first bloom of youth but attractive in a virginal, wholesome way. Her eyes were alive, positive, passionate . . . ."
~ Warren Holliday:
   "He had tired gray eyes and a hesitant smile. His walk was slow and lumbering, but his handclasp was firm."
~ Dr. Motilal Mookerji:
   "Not only was the little Hindu broad of beam, but his fore-and-aft dimensions precluded side-slipping through the narrow channels that separated the autoclave, centrifuge, and 
other pieces of standing gear which cluttered the laboratory."

- Keyhole Mystery had a very good start but quickly went downhill during the great fiction digests implosion of the late '50s-early '60s; William G. Contento (and/or Phil Stephensen-Payne) at FictionMags explains:
"Initially Keyhole Mystery Magazine presented a good array of the more stand-ard mystery and detective short stories by many of the better-known mystery fiction authors, but was unable to sustain sales and folded after only three issues. It was relaunched over a year later, by a different publisher, under the title Keyhole Detective Story Magazine, with an emphasis on a more violent, fast-action clip, heavily laced with tough and coarse characters and, above all, sex."
- It was just the other day that we met with Lawrence G. Blochman in one of his stand-alone mysteries (HERE) without Dr. Coffee.

The bottom line: "An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it makes a better soup."
H. L. Mencken

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