Tuesday, December 5, 2017

"If It’s a Twister Case, We’ve Got to Crack It Wide Open Before Morning, Even If We Have to Beat the Truth Out of Somebody"

"Death Plays Santa Claus."
By Johnston McCulley (1883-1958).
First appearance: Popular Detective, December 1945.
Short story (10 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

"Lieutenant Mike O'Hara of homicide makes short work of a murder case—so that he can spend his Christmas at home!"
If there's one kind of case O'Hara hates most, it's a twister, where there isn't an easy and straightforward solution to a murder and figuring it out could take a long, long time . . .
and wouldn't you know it, the death of a wealthy benefactor on Christmas Eve turns into
one, particularly when the prime suspect, Santa himself, also goes toes up . . .

Pleasing phrase: ". . . an old residential part of the city where imposing mansions sat far
back from the street in groves of trees, and expressed the grandeur of an earlier era."

Comment: It looks as if, twelve years later, Rex Stout borrowed a plot element from our story for one of his own (HERE); McCulley did some borrowing, too, lifting the same element from an Agatha Christie novel from seven years prior. (Three guesses as to which book.)

Typos: "Hara asked"; "the side of to"; "I suppose hasn’t been changed" [missing a subject]; "Penny and Bob Blodger and gave gasps."

- Another instance of urban Yuletide mayhem is John D. MacDonald's "Dead on Christmas Street," which we highlighted along with "Who's the Blonde?" in our twofer posting, "A MacDonald Duo" (HERE).

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