Friday, January 24, 2020

"She Turned with a Startle of Breath To See a Weapon Poised, and To Glimpse the Face of Murder"

OUR NEXT STORY prompts Ellery Queen (the editor) to wonder out loud: "Is it possible that Mr. Byrne [the author] is satirizing the whole 'golden age' of the pure detective story? (With particular emphasis on E.Q.?) Even so and nevertheless, a brilliant story." You might agree when you read . . .

"The Mystery of the Third Mustache."
By John F. Byrne (?-?).
First appearance: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, September 1959.
Reprinted in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (Australia), November 1959 and EQMM (U.K.), November 1959.
Short story (16 pages).
Online at (HERE).
(Parental caution: Mild profanity.)
     "There would not be one honest tear if I were dead tomorrow."

Can too much ever be made of a dying clue? The vicious murder and robbery of a faded theater star who leaves one behind would seem at first to be of the "passing tramp" variety, but Exendine isn't buying it: "She was killed by someone who knew her well. She was killed for reasons in her house—by someone here in her house."

Major characters:
~ Jessie:

  "You scorched the hides of one and all, I hear. What come over you? You never got 
too loud before."
~ Doronda Rice:
  "She was scrawling a mustache, signing the killer's name, as the second blow, the 
death stroke, was slashing . . ."
~ Exendine:
  ". . . the D.A.'s workhorse . . ."
~ Sergeant Dowson:
  "It's a gasser for the tabloids."
~ Colonel George French:
  "I don't like to see good citizens, decent, innocent people herded and bullied for 
hours by capering apes who should be chasing some red-handed moron."
~ Leo Strawn:
  ". . . a frustrate monk . . ."
~ Rosemary Orr:
  ". . . a fawn in hiding . . ."
~ Harlan Lundquist:
  ". . . sharp as a whip."
~ Carl and Pearl Kinvarra:
  "He's a sweaty roustabout and she's a codfish cake."

- "she didn't exactly rival the Barrymores": It's a mild understatement for Wikipedia (HERE) to tell us, "The Barrymore family is an American acting family." They have been the definitive acting family for almost two centuries.
- "The Mystery of the Third Mustache" is the only entry on The FictionMags Index for John F. Byrne, and nothing else about him is currently available.


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