Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"Suddenly, Calling the Police Didn't Seem Such a Good Idea, After All"

"Death Rides the Ski-Tow." 
By Patrick Quentin (Richard Webb, 1901-66, and Hugh Wheeler, 1912-87).
First appearance: The American Magazine, April 1941.
Collected in The Puzzles of Peter Duluth (Crippen & Landru, 2016) (for sale HERE).
Novelette (68 pages in the C & L edition).
"It's a singularly unattractive sensation being locked in a strange apartment with a strange corpse."
Peter Duluth is a bibulous Broadway producer who, fortunately for him, is married to Iris, dazzlingly beautiful and, as subsequent events will show, the real brains of the outfit.

In "Death Rides the Ski-Tow," during a long winter's night, Peter has one too many at a cocktail party and is staggering home in a steady fall of snow when he encounters a woman who, just moments later, is gunned down on the frozen street—but not before she unloads some vital information on him, practically painting a target on Peter in the process. Suddenly people he has never heard of are anxious to see him dead; thus begins a cat-and-mouse game between Peter and Iris and a ruthless gang of smugglers who won't balk at murder to get what they want—and that includes a $10,000 hot dog.

Comments: An extremely well-written story with vivid descriptions, nice bits of humor, and perfect pacing. As Curt Evans says in his introduction to the Crippen & Landru collection, it and its companion piece ("Murder with Flowers") are "intriguingly kaleidoscopic affairs reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock films."

- Mike Grost has information about Patrick Quentin on his megasite (HERE), as do Wikipedia (HERE) and the GAD Wiki (HERE).
- Curtis Evans has a review of The Puzzles of Peter Duluth on his website (HERE).

The bottom line: "A tooth is much more to be prized than a diamond."
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

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