Thursday, August 27, 2015

For Want of a Nail

"Murder Makes a Difference."
By George Harmon Coxe (1901-84).
Short story (16 pages).
Paul Standish No. 3.
First appearance: Liberty, May 5, 1945, as "The Painted Nail."
Reprinted in Mercury Mystery Book-Magazine, July 1956.
Online HERE.
Dr. Paul Standish seems to have a knack for figuring out crimes even before the police get their first inkling of what's going on; of course, it doesn't hurt that Standish is the medical examiner and therefore has intimate access to the crime scene. In this case, a missing cuticle puts him on the road to catching a killer. Dr. Thorndyke would be proud.

Here, apparently, was a cut and dried suicide with ninety-five percent of the evidence supporting such a conclusion. All he had to do was sign a certificate as to the cause of death and he was about to say so when something he could not explain stopped him and discontent settled heavily upon him.
. . . as with so many other couples, absence began to work against this marriage which had, in the beginning, no solid foundation.
~ ~ ~
"And what're we supposed to be looking for?"
"A piece of fingernail."
~ ~ ~
There was no tangible warning. There may have been some whisper of a sound, there may have been a faint breath of air around his ankles where none had been there before; or perhaps it was pure instinct born of urgency that brought him here and nursed by nerves already taut and sharply tuned. What-ever the reason he glanced over his shoulder and in that same instant saw the figure loom darkly towards him.
Then as he stared and something died inside him she came up on tiptoe and kissed him.
"I don't know yet if she was blackmailing him or whether she threatened to go to his wife, but he had to get rid of her."
~ The FictionMags Index (HERE) has this list of Dr. Paul Standish short stories:
(1) "The Doctor Makes It Murder," Cosmopolitan, September 1942; also as “The Doctor Calls It Murder” (online HERE)

           (2) "The Painted Nail," Liberty, May 5, 1945; also as "Murder Makes a Difference"

(3) "The Canary Sang," Mystery Book Magazine, October 1945; also as “Frightened Canary”
(4) "Murder to Music," Liberty, September 7, 1946
(5) "Post Mortem," Liberty, November 16, 1946
(6) "Cause for Suspicion," Liberty, February 1, 1947
(7) "Death Certificate," Liberty, December 1947
(8) "Circumstantial Evidence," Liberty, September 1949
(9) "Black Target," The American Magazine, March 1951; also as “The Appearance of Truth.”
A Dr. Paul Standish novel
- The Wikipedia entry for the truly prolific (63 novels in 40 years) George Harmon Coxe is HERE.
- Mike Grost has plenty of information about Coxe's writing HERE
   "Another Coxe detective, Dr. Paul Standish, practiced medical detection in the 1940's and early 1950's, somewhat in the spirit of R. Austin Freeman's Dr. Thorndyke. This means that Coxe has elements of Scientific Detection in his ancestry. However, he only occasionally emphasized these scientific aspects as much as most full-fledged members of this school did."
- James Reasoner's appreciation of Coxe is HERE
  "Coxe had a number of strengths as a writer, most notably his ability to put together strong, complex plots and to create tough, likable heroes. His prose, like his protagonists, is blunt and straightforward, interested primarily in moving the story along."
- According to IMDb (HERE), only a few of Coxe's many works were translated to film.
- A lengthy Coxe bibliography is HERE, and Pretty Sinister Books reviews one from that long list HERE.

Category: Physician, wound that heel

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