Wednesday, May 8, 2019

"Why Should a Girl Deliberately Marry a Bluebeard?"

"The Girl Who Married a Monster."
By Anthony Boucher (William Anthony Parker White, 1911-68).
First appearance: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, February 1954.

Reprinted in EQMM (U.K.), February 1954 and EQMM (Australia), April 1954.
Collected in Exeunt Murderers: The Best Mystery Stories of Anthony Boucher (1983; HERE and HERE).
Short story (15 pages).
Online at (HERE).
(Parental caution: Mild profanity.)

     "I thought it'd be fun to see what a real, live, unconvicted professional Bluebeard was like."

The old saying, "Marry in haste, repent at leisure," never seemed more appropriate than when a ruthless killer, shooting for the perfect crime, says "I do" to a guaranteed hundred thousand dollars, a sure thing if ever there was one—but, wouldn't you know it, somebody else just as ruthless also has plans for that hundred grand . . .

Major characters:
~ Doreen Arlen:

  "I'm sorry. I don't need your wholesome Utah sympathy, thank you kindly. Doreen can look out for herself."
~ Marie Arlen:
  "Did I . . . did I fix the slats right, Mac?"
~ Luther Peabody:
  "It's true that many years ago Lieutenant Noble, presumably in order to advance his own police career, chose to hound me as a murderer because of the accidental death of my first wife."
~ Lieutenant Donald MacDonald:
  "Files? I think I have another source that's even better."
~ Nick Noble:
  "His eyes sort of glaze over and something goes tick inside . . . and then the facts make a pattern."

- At his The Invisible Event website JJ has a related article, "The Nick Noble Stories of Anthony Boucher (1942-54)" (HERE), in which we find our protagonist characterized as . . .

   ". . . a genius detective in the Nero Wolfe mold, an ex-cop with a mind like a trap who is able to puzzle out the links in the most confounding of cases brought to him. And the cases must be brought to him as, since being kicked out of the Force following some political maneuvering by a savvy higher-up, he is to be found in a cheap Mexican bar slowly drinking himself to death with water glasses full of cheap sherry.
   "Noble is possibly the most heartbreaking central character I’ve yet encoun-tered . . . and Boucher gives you someone who is cracked beyond repair and yet still has enough about him for some light to shine through while skipping nimbly over the tropes into which a lesser author would be unavoidably wrenched."

- It would seem that today's story was the 9th and final Nick Noble adventure, all but one of which ("Death of a Patriarch") initially appeared in EQMM; see FictionMags's series listing 
for this character (HERE).
- In case you're wondering, the author tells us that MacDonald "had self-confidence, a 

marked lack of desire to warn the murderer by ringing a bell, and a lock-gun," meaning 
one of these . . .
. . . and we also get allusions to two real-life crimes: the "English 'blazing car' murderer back around the time of Peabody's debut," said killer being Alfred Arthur Rouse, although in an unusual twist his victim's identity is still unknown (see Wikipedia HERE); and to "Raymond Fernandez, New York's 1949 Lonely Hearts killer" (HERE).
- The legendary Bluebeard (HERE) lent his name to a category of murderer that doesn't seem to be as common as he used to be.
- Another of Boucher's stories, this one with a fantasy slant, is examined (HERE); he made the cover of Arthur Vidro's Old-Time Detection (HERE); one of his all-out science fictional tales is featured (HERE); and Boucher's involvement in radio is touched upon (HERE).

The bottom line:

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