Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"There May Be Something Even More Sinister Than Murder Behind It"

IN A PREVIOUS posting we featured a conventional private eye story by an author who specialized in impossible crime fiction. In the tale that follows, we have just the opposite: an impossible crime story by a writer not known for them. Our author, the legendary Fredric Brown, manages to do what few writers ever could, deftly juggle two genres, SF and detec-tive fiction (impossible crime subdivision) to make a coherent whole; this blurb from the ISFDb should give you an idea:
 A police investigator on Callisto is confronted with the impossible murder of a man assassinated in five different and contradictory ways, according to eye-witnesses. And this is only the beginning . . .
By Fredric Brown (1906-72).
First appearance: Thrilling Wonder Stories, Fall 1943.
Reprinted numerous times (HERE), including The Saint's Choice of Impossible Crime (1945).
Novelette (26 pages).
Online at (HERE).
"Police Lieutenant Rod Caquer Tackles a Case of Murder on Callisto and Pits Himself Against a Sinister Fiend Who Plots to Degrade Mankind to the Plane of Robot Slaves!"
Chapter I: "Five Way Corpse"
Chapter II: "Terror by Night"
Chapter III: "Blackdex"
Chapter IV: "Rule of Thumb"
Chapter V: "Nine-Man Morris"
Chapter VI: "Too Familiar Face"
Chapter VII: "Wheels Within the Wheel"

Some days you find yourself wishing you'd stayed in bed. A police lieutenant who has never had to deal with a murder case finds himself in the middle of one:
"He was shot with an explosive-type gun and a blaster. Someone split his skull with a sword, chopped off his head with an axe and a disintegrator beam. Then after he was on the utility stretcher, someone stuck his head back on because it wasn't off when I saw him. And plugged up the bullet-hole . . ."
That was the set-up that confronted Rod Caquer, and one can not blame him for beginning to wish it had been a simple case of murder.
Principal characters:
~ Willem Deem, the book-and-reel shop proprieter:
   "He was interesting to listen to, but he was a sarcastic little beast. I think he had a perverted sense of humor."
~ Barr Maxon, Regent of Sector Three:
   "The case must be cracked. A murder, in this day and age, is bad enough. But an unsolved one is unthinkable. It would encourage further crime."
~ Lt. Rod Caquer, Sector Three of Callisto:
   "He had hoped against hope that it would turn out to have been an accidental death after all. But the skull had been cleaved down to the eyebrows—a blow struck by a strong man with a heavy sword."
~ Brager, a policeman:
   "I was walking by on my beat when I heard the shot."
~ Dr. Skidder, the Medico-in-Chief:
   "What's the matter? Never see a blaster death before? Guess you wouldn't have at that, Rod, you're too young. But fifty years ago when I was a student, we got them once in a while."
~ The utility man:
   "Opinion? When a man has his head cut off, what two opinions can there be, Lieutenant?"
~ Jane Gordon, the "Icicle":
   "Rod, stop driveling."
~ Perry Peters, Deem's co-worker:
   "I do know one thing about Willem that might possibly have something to do with his death, although I don't see how, myself."
~ Professor Jan Gordon, Jane's father:
   "You've never heard of the Kaprelian Order or the Vargas Wheel?"
~ Lt. Borgesen:
   "The world's gone nuts."

Typos: "he had cracy notions"; "it take us five minutes"; "Jane asked Caquer" (should be the other way around); "offered one hundreds credits"; "would, bit it doesn't"; "Thue, there were cases"; "brought a big chance."
- We last touched base with Fredric Brown, at that time in his role as a crime fiction writer, nearly a year ago (HERE).
- In his survey of SF detectives, "The Super-Sleuths of Science Fiction" (1966), Sam Moskowitz notes about "Daymare":
"This story represented the entrance into the scientific detective field of the crack professional capable of homogenizing both the detective story and the science fiction story into an acceptable blend." — See (HERE) and (HERE).
- Not surprisingly, TV Tropes (HERE) cheerfully attacks this story's theme, which has become a time-frayed cliché.
- Thanks to space probe fly-bys, Callisto, the second largest moon of Jupiter, does seem to be one of the better candidates for future colonization; see (HERE) for what's known now (73 years later) about this moon, and (HERE) for how some fictioneers have dealt with it.

The bottom line: "His brain has not only been washed, as they say, it's been dry-cleaned."
Dr. Yen Lo

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