Wednesday, August 1, 2018

"Was It Conceivable That Nobody Had Heard the Sound of the Shot?"

By Arnold Bennett (1867-1931).
First appearance: Cassell’s Magazine, October 1927.

Reprints: Liberty, October 1, 1927; Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, May 1942; EQMM (Australia), May 1949; and 
The Saint Detective Magazine, August 1956 (as "The 
Secret Murderer").
Collected in The Night Visitor and Other Stories (1931).
Novelette (14 pages as a PDF).
Online at Project Gutenberg Canada (HERE).

     "There is something to be said for murder, though perhaps not much."

A mercifully few men insist on being bloody-minded just for bloody-mindedness's sake, to such an extent, sometimes, that only a decimal 38 bullet from a Webley Mark III can offer a cure . . .

~ Mr. Gontle:

  "'You see, the point about it is that until the breach is properly closed it cannot be fired. So that it can't blow open and maim or kill the would-be murderer.' Mr. Gontle smiled archly at one of his oldest jokes."
~ Lomax Harder:
  "I came down here specially to talk to you. I should have said all I had to say earlier, only you happened to be going out of the hotel just as I was coming in. You didn't seem to want to talk in the street; but there's some talking has to be done. I've a few things I must tell you."
~ John Franting:
  "He drew the revolver from his overcoat pocket, and held it up to view. 'You see this thing. You saw me buy it. Now you needn't be afraid. I'm not threatening you; and it's no part of 
my game to shoot you. I've nothing to do with your goings-on. What I have to do with is the goings-on of my wife. If she deserts me—for you or for anybody or for nobody—I shall follow her, whether it's to Copenhagen or Bangkok or the North Pole, and I shall kill her—with just this very revolver that you saw me buy. And now you can get out.'"

~ Dr. Austin Bond:
  "The detective-sergeant recoiled at the dazzling name of the great amateur detective, a genius who had solved the famous mysteries of 'The Yellow Hat,' 'The Three Towns,' 'The Three Feathers,' 'The Gold Spoon,' etc., etc., etc., whose devilish perspicacity had again and again made professional detectives both look and feel foolish, and whose notorious friend-ship with the loftiest heads of Scotland Yard compelled all police forces to treat him very politely indeed."
~ The Superintendent:
  ". . . hesitated. Why should the great amateur meddle with what did not concern him? Nobody had asked his help. But the Superintendent thought of the amateur's relations with Scotland Yard, and sent for the charwoman."
~ Emily Franting:
  "'I expect you were right,' she angelically acquiesced."

Comment: As always, plot is paramount in detective fiction, with characterization rightly subordinated to it; nevertheless, in "Murder!" Bennett proves that it's possible to integrate deeper characterization into a mystery short story's plot without completely spoiling the thing.

- If you're fortunate enough (we're not) to have the April 1977 issue of The Armchair Detective, you might want to consult N. C. Ravenscroft's article, "Arnold Bennett — As a Writer of Crime Fiction." As of now, we have no idea what Mr. Ravenscroft's assessment was.
- Previous criminously-themed Arnold Bennett stories that we've highlighted are "The Christmas Eve Burglary" (HERE), "The Murder of the Mandarin" (HERE), and "Mr. Pen-
found's Two Burglars" (HERE); we're pretty sure that we're not through with him yet.

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