HERE WE HAVE a police detective being confronted with a knotty locked room murder problem, the solution to which will be found in giving close consideration to what was—and wasn't—playing on a radio at the time . . .
"Medicine for Three."
By Frank B. Long, Jr. (1903-94).
First appearance: Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine, January 25, 1934.
Short story (10 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
"It's like a dozen cross-word puzzles all mixed up together."
Imitation is the sincerest form of murder . . . .
~ Mrs. Perkins:
"Our quarrels were just lovers' quarrels. We were devoted to one another."
~ Mr. Perkins:
". . . was lying upon the floor. His ashen face was streaked with blood."
~ Mrs. Simpson:
". . . was too cowardly and hysterical to do anything but reel back against the door jamb, and cry out in frenzied alarm."
~ Detective Sergeant Barnes:
". . . sat opposite Mrs. Simpson in her room and questioned her with patient insistence."
~ The medical examiner:
". . . explained calmly to Barnes that Perkins had been shot once in the head, and twice in the stomach. 'At close range'."
~ Jimmy Barnes:
"I don't get it at all, dad. Who could have turned off the radio if the window was locked from the inside?"
Comment: Not a fair play mystery, unfortunately, with too many clues withheld from the reader until the end. With a little rearranging, this one could have been a classic.
References and resources:
- "It's bridge": The seldom used formal name is "contract bridge"; see Wikipedia (HERE) and the Agatha Christie Fandom Wiki (HERE) for those instances when she made use of the game as a plot gimmick.
- "a couple of crooners": Sinatra and Crosby didn't think the term applied to them; see Wikipedia (HERE).
- Another puzzler involving a radio is Ngaio Marsh's "Death on the Air," which we noted in our posting (HERE) about Thomas Godfrey's splendid anthology of Christmas crime narratives, Murder for Christmas:
"The body of Septimus Tonks — 'a damned unpleasant sort of a man,' attests his doctor — is found slumped over his wireless ('radio' to us colonials) on a dreary Christmas morn, prompting the presence of Chief Detective-Inspector Roderick Alleyn, who in short order determines that the wireless itself is the murder weapon. If only it were as easy to determine the killer . . . ."
And let's not overlook Grenville Robbins's "The Broadcast Murder," which predates today's narrative by six years:
". . . this story, written and published in 1928, is, as far as I know, the first radio murder mystery—certainly the first 'locked room' one." (Mike Ashley comment briefly noted HERE.)
- This is our first encounter with Frank Belknap Long's fiction.