Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Case of The Musical Butler - Martin Edwards

Story: The Case of The Musical Butler
Author: Martin Edwards
Source: Best Eaten Cold and Other Stories
Story Number: 108
This Sherlockian pastiche happens to be the only one in this collection which would qualify as a traditional detective story – a story which not only demonstrates Holmes’ skill as a puzzle solver but also gives a rear insight into an unexpectedly compassionate side to his personality!
Bloodstained clothes belonging to a tramp has been found recently near the Oaklands Estate and Holmes is not at all surprised when the owner of this property turns up on his doorstep. Holmes is hardly interested in hearing the grievance of Sir Greville Davidson (probably a first in the canon?) as he believes that even if a crime has been committed, Greville would be least interested in finding the perpetrator. He gives him only 5 minutes to state his case but the story from Greville indeed proves to be an interesting one, worthy enough to cure his ennui for the time being.
Greville has employed a young butler by the name of Mark Meade after getting a very positive reference from the folks who had employed him before. And the butler has lived up to his expectations in every way and he has some unusual talents – the chief one being his musical talent to play Chopin exquisitely on the piano! Other unusual traits turn out to be the butler’s keen interest in literature and his unwillingness to mingle with people or go out of the house during his day off!  His services have been so indispensable that the heirless Greville decides to adopt him and name him as his successor. But as soon he breaks this news to the butler, he disappears without a trace. A few days later, he gets a mail from the butler but that mail still doesn’t reveal the cause for his disappearance.
Holmes employs the Irregulars to get a few facts and his deductive capabilities are on full display as he goes about solving the case of the musical butler - with the final revelation of the identity of the butler coming as quite a pleasant surprise!

The Habit of Silence - Ann Cleves

Story: The Habit of Silence
Author: Ann Cleves
Source: Best Eaten Cold and Other Stories
Story Number: 107
The Literary and Philosophical Society Library is the setting for this murder mystery which features the author’s series detective Vera Stanhope. Gilbert Wood, who is researching and writing a book on the history of the place, is found dead in the Silence Room – death due to a blow on the head by a heavy book! The closed group of suspects is restricted to the librarian, library assistant, one of the trustees and a poet who found the body.
All of them saw Gilbert going down to the Silence Room but no one heard anything as the person who was with Gilbert wouldn’t obviously talk or make any noise because of the very nature of the habit of keeping silent in that particular room. With no clues forthcoming from any of the witnesses, Vera has to dig deep into her psyche and recall upon the trauma which she herself had faced when she was just twelve to solve this murder and identify the guilty party!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Boom! - Cath Staincliffe

Story: Boom!
Author: Cath Staincliffe
Source: Best Eaten Cold and Other Stories
Story Number: 106
DC Lin Song and her boss decide to investigate the massive explosion as soon they get the site location. When they arrive at the half standing house, they find Greg Collins fighting for his life – from the impact of the blast as well as a gunshot wound. When he recovers, he isn’t able to recollect who shot at him. Greg’s wife, her lover and Greg’s business partner are the suspects but the lover pair seems to have disappeared. And the partner’s alibi isn’t holding up!
The body of the wife turns up in the river – dead due to drowning and the husband confirms that she couldn’t swim. Even before Lin and her boss are done with the guessing game of who(the lover or the husband’s partner) killed the wife and shot the husband, the lover’s dead body crops up in a car submerged in the canal basin, with a gun still clutched in his hand and dead due to a single gunshot from that same gun. With three different victims in three different locations and one suspect with a very poor alibi, Lin takes the help of the piled up forensic evidence to unravel the mystery behind the triple tragedy!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Best Eaten Cold - Stuart Pawson

Story: Best Eaten Cold
Author: Stuart Pawson
Source: Best Eaten Cold and Other Stories (a Murder Squad Anthology)
Story Number: 105
From the introduction: “Murder Squad is a group of crime writers, friends first met at meetings of the northern chapter of the Crime Writers’ Association and who decided to band together to promote their work. The squad was founded in the spring of 2000.” The members include Martin Edwards(who is also the editor of this anthology), Margaret Murphy(founder), Ann Cleeves, Stuart Pawson, Cath Stiancliffe, Kate Ellis, John Baker & Chaz Brenchley. This collection is their second anthology featuring stories from five of them, published 10 years after the first one. Halfway into the book, I’ve absolutely no hesitation in recommending this book to crime story aficionados.
Jessica Fullerton was known as the Queen of Short Story Writers and Artemesia is a writer who is struggling to get her stories published! Jessica’s stories are aired on the radio weekly and one such story turns out to be written by Artemesia. During the annual symposium event of short story writers, she starts dropping hints that her story was plagiarized by Jessica. 3 other unknown writers approach her and confess that they also had noticed something similar – a story written by them had been featured on the radio under Jessica’s byline. These 4 authors decide to meet at a later date and when they exchange notes, they realize that all of them had submitted their stories to a particular short story competition in which Jessica was the judge and she must have collected all the rejected entries and developed it as her own creations at a later stage!
They are unanimous in the decision that they should punish Jessica, though the punishment decided upon looks to be an extreme – murder! Each one of them decides to come up with their own means of a murder method and the next third of the book shows the hilarious approach of each of the 4 authors trying (finding a gun, finding a poison and administering it, making a bomb & finding a heavy weapon which could do a clean job) and failing in their mission to identify a foolproof method. In their next meeting, they rule out murder but instead come up with an ingenious way of pooling in their skills to mete out the apt punishment and what follows is brilliantly conceived and a memorable piece of storytelling!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Austin Murder Case - John L. Breen

Story: The Austin Murder Case
Author: John L. Breen
Source: Ellery Queen’s Mystery Parade
Story Number: 104
EQ’s Introduction to this story: Fans and aficionados have always regretted that certain famous detectives have appeared only in full-length novels. S.S. Van Dine is one such example who never wrote a short story about the sophistic and sophisticated Philo Vance. John L. Breen has set out to rectify this shortfall by providing his version of a Philo Vance short story – what might be called “a hitherto undiscovered account of one of Vance’s greatest triumphs” – a pastiche with parody touches, every tone and every accent the right “McWright,” the real “McDine” ….
Jack Austin is leaving New York and moving to Hollywood to make talking pictures and he is throwing a big party to celebrate the occasion. And he has sent an invitation to Philo Vance and Van Dine through Markahm – where each guest will come dressed as his favorite movie star! Vance goes in dressed as Doug Fairbanks and is immediately assured in by his host who is dressed as Charlie Chaplin. The other guests include a respected jurist, his daughter, a society vamp, a playboy, the Broadway producer who will be hit the hardest because Jack is moving, a theatrical agent, a debutante and another actor – while all of the guests were wishing Austin good luck, a few of them were not really on the best of terms with their host. And before the night is out, the host is found dead – stabbed several times with an Orient letter opener!
And it doesn’t take too long for Philo Vance to figure out who the killer is – the dying message clue is aptly interpreted by him and the clue on which the whole case hinges – how did the killer escape from having blood on him when it was such a bloody murder, is interestingly hidden among the useless trivia that is presented to the reader when the reader is getting impatient with all the unwanted knowledge that is being introduced to him!
It contains all the trademarks of a Van Dine story and much more – you see Philo Vance doing double somersaults, you see Van Dine falling in love (thereby breaking his own rule from the 20 rules for writing detective stories), eleven footnotes in a span of thirteen pages with one footnote quoting “were this a full-length novel, I would reproduce those remarks here, since they would undoubtedly be of interest to collectors. Unfortunately, the short-story form offers less latitude for the introduction of such peripheral matters," and so on!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

“Or You Can Drink The Wine…?” - Paul C. Doherty

Story: “Or You Can Drink The Wine…?”
Author: Paul C. Doherty
Source: The Mammoth Book of Egyptian Whodunnits
Story Number: 103
A locked room mystery dating from almost 3500 years ago, features one of Doherty’s chief characters Amerotke, the Chief Judge of Egypt.
The Lady Tiyea was supposed to have committed suicide but the circumstances under which her body has been found troubles Amerotke. The poison was found only in the wine and not anywhere else in the room, the wine hadn’t been completely consumed, the lady had taken a lot of trouble to apply makeup before retiring for the night (as was the custom then) and she had planned and instructed her servants on the tasks for the next day – a few key points which a person about to commit suicide wouldn’t think of carrying out.
But the circumstances doesn’t allow for any other explanation – the wine was poured in to the goblet by her maid who tasted it before handing it over to another servant who also took a sip before giving it to the lady, both these servants notice the Lady sipping the wine as soon as it is handed to her, she goes inside her room and locks it and a servant takes guard outside her room. When the door is broken open the next day, the Lady is dead due to a venomous poison which is found in the wine. If there was no way a person could have walked into the locked and guarded room, how was the poison induced? The clues are fairly laid out, the interviews of the husband and the servants are quite vivid and the final clue which Amerotke finds after a very detailed examination of the makeup kit - all of them clearly point to one person as the murderer and the reader should have the pleasure of identifying the solution much before it is revealed!

The Crime At Big Tree Portage - Hesketh Prichard

Story: The Crime At Big Tree Portage
Author: Hesketh Prichard
Source: The Dead Witness – A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Detective Stories edited by Michael Sims
Story Number: 102
A unique story for the following reason as cited in the introduction to this story: Hesketh Prichard has created an original and intriguing variation on the Sherlock Holmes type of detective in November Joe – a detective of the woods! He notices seemingly irrelevant minutiae in the wilds of the north; like Holmes, he turns coy about the clues’ importance until he is ready to talk – and, when he solves a case, doesn’t hesitate to serve as a vigilante judge and jury.
This story originally appeared as the third chapter of November Joe: Detective of the Woods and is set in the autumn of 1908. The narrator James Quartich has been asked to take a sabbatical and he decides to spend a few months hunting in the wilds of Canada but he ends up tagging along with Joe, who has been asked to investigate a murder at a camping site. The dead body of Henry Lyon and the woods are closely inspected for clues but both the gentlemen end up with different views of the murderer.  James is amazed at the keen observation skills of his companion who has pointed out that the murderer hasn’t left a single clue and that all the clues would be present in the previous camp which the gentlemen might have used. When they reach this camp, sure enough, they are able to make out that two men spent the night together and Joe propounds a series of observations about the characteristics of the murderer from the various clues strewn around, though he doesn’t explain as to how he inferred them from the available clues. To find the murderer, they go to the city where the murdered man lived, find out the names of the men who were absent (turns out to be 5) from the settlement during the crucial period, track down each one of them and just match the characters as propounded by Joe to one of them. Only then does he explain the significance of the clues!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Locked Tomb Mystery - Elizabeth Peters

Story: The Locked Tomb Mystery
Author: Elizabeth Peters
Source: The Mammoth Book of Historical Whodunnits, The Mammoth Book of Egyptian Mysteries
Story Number: 101
Just bought both these titles in the Friends of The Public Library bookstore and this story immediately caught my eye for two reasons – it was in both the collections and it involved a locked room mystery! And hence it was obviously hard to let it go! Crocodile On The Sandbank is one of her books which I’ve heard a lot about but haven’t got around to yet.
Senebtisi’s funeral had been the talk of the town because of the riches that she took along with her to the next world, leaving her son penniless. When there is a spate of tomb robberies on the west bank and the riches from inside the tombs start floating around in the open market, the citizens are a worried lot. One such tomb robbery puzzles everyone – including the Pharaoh, who hires Amenhotep Sa Hapu to investigate the strange robbery – the facts of the case goes something like this:
Senebtisi’s son Minmose decides to make sure that his mother’s tomb hasn’t been disturbed. He requests the Priest who helped in the burial ceremony to inspect the tomb; the necropolis seal is intact, they still decide to break open the seal and enter to make sure that the thieves haven’t dug a tunnel into the tomb. When they enter the tomb, the priest witnesses the mummy to have been dragged out of the burial chamber, the valuables are missing, the body inside the mummy has been torn open and yet the stone tomb itself hadn’t been broken in – the seals on the door were intact, the mortal untouched, there was no break of the smallest size in any of the tomb walls or ceilings and the dust lay undisturbed on the floor.
Amenhotep knows who the culprit is right from the beginning but he has no proof or evidence to show for it – the two interviews of the priest and Minmose provide him and the reader sufficient clues to figure out the clever trick of the locked tomb!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Whistler’s Murder - Fredric Brown

Story: Whistler’s Murder
Author: Fredric Brown
Source: The Shaggy Dog and Other Murders
Story Number: 100
Carlos Perry used to be in Vaudeville, a solo act, whistling – and hence the company name of ‘Whistler & Company’, which he had been using for his latest occupation of song writing. But he had cheated a lot of his friends and employees and hence a lot of them were pretty bitter – his nephew Walter traces a few of his vaudeville friends and tells them of his plan to help them when Carlos dies and passes on the inheritance to him. To expedite the process, Walter sends a threatening letter (without having any intention to carry out the threat) to his uncle saying he would die at a particular time. Walter believes that this would soften up his uncle and would help matters but Carlos just hires two security guards from a very reputed agency to guard him during the crucial hour. But in spite of it, somebody finds a way to bypass them and murder Carlos in his estate.
The insurance detective Henry Smith stumbles across this impossible crime when he goes to meet his client Walter Perry to renew his life insurance policy. Walter is the prime suspect as the police trace those threatening letters to him and is eventually arrested. But he has got a perfect alibi and the police can’t figure out exactly how the murder could’ve been committed. 2 security guards were standing guard on the roof of the house, there’s only 1 entry into the house via the front door and the men on guard can see the door and the complete surrounding area – no human could have approached the door without they seeing him. Yet, when there is a telephone call in the night and one of the guards goes down to answer the phone, he finds the man whom they were guarding dead! One person searches the house while the other still keeps watch on the roof but they don’t find anyone.
Smith talks to Walter in the jail and gets the background details about Carlos, his company and information about the people his uncle had cheated. Smith however gets his vital clue from the horse trainer on the estate who says he has been having a jolly good time fooling the city detectives about the difference between the various breeds of horses – which leads him to the ingenious solution of this very clever impossible crime.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Coffee Break - Arthur Porges

Story: Coffee Break
Author: Arthur Porges
Source: AH’s Tale to Make You Quake & Quiver
Story Number: 99
Sergeant Black has come to ask for the able assistance of Ulysses Price Middlebie, a former professor of the history and philosophy of science, but now a crime consultant. His problem to the professor – a locked room murder involving death due to poison!
Cyrus Denning, a 62 year old bachelor was supposed to have poisoned himself with cyanide in a locked room which was under constant observation. But Black’s instinct says that he was murdered. The murdered man was filthy rich, the only heir was with the murdered man half an hour before his death, the heir asked the boatman to keep a close eye on the door thereby getting himself an alibi for the crucial half hour and there was no suicide note. The professor explains away the locked bolt in a casual manner saying that it could’ve been locked using a high powered magnet from outside. But there are two other crucial factors that need to be explained: The coffee that contained cyanide was boiling hot when the door was forced open along with a newly lighted cigarette – giving an impression that the man was murdered just minutes before the door was broken in. If that was so, then how did the murderer get in and out of the tightly locked and guarded room?
Since Middlebie is no position to inspect the scene of the crime on his own two feet, he requests Black to take a lot of photographs inside the closed room and closely inspect the bolt on the door to make sure that it wasn’t an iron bolt. With the results of the analysis on the bolt and the photos, the professor propounds an interesting solution to this locked room problem!

The Million-to-One Chance - Roy Vickers

Story: The Million-to-One Chance
Author: Roy Vickers
Source: Best of The Best Detective Stories – 25th Anniversary edition of the MWA Anthology
Story Number: 98
It’s not exactly an inverted detective story but it pretty much comes close it – the identity of the murderer is known from the beginning; the entire climax of the story depends on one question: what was the flaw in the murderer’s scheme that tripped him and how exactly was this message passed on to the police?
Crouch happens to have a dog with him when he was murdered and the dog happens to be a mastiff, the legendary dog of England which was only one among the 12 that could be found in the continent. The story is exquisitely built up to show the hatred between Stretton and Arthur Crouch, their fight over the same girl and their ultimate final showdown where Stretton breaks Crouch’s neck. He quickly buries him in his garden and the only other person who knows about Crouch’s presence in Stretton’s home is the mastiff who is patiently waiting outside the house in the car. When he takes a rifle to shoot the dog, he finds it sitting near the grave of his master. He shoots the fierce looking dog, buries it in the garden next to his master. Crouch’s wife complaints to the police when he doesn’t turn up for 24 hours but the police find absolutely no trace of the dog or Crouch and the case passes on to the department of dead ends. Meanwhile, Stretton has spent agonizing days looking out for the police but when nobody turns up on his doorstep for a month, he thinks he has got away with murder.
Six months down the line, he is surprised when the detectives from the police force come to his house with a warrant to search his garden! When he asks about the reason as to who informed them, the police detective says that the message indeed came from a mastiff! This breaks down Stretton and he quickly confesses explaining that he must have shot the wrong mastiff even though the probability of it happening was one in a million. Interestingly, it turns out that Stretton had shot the mastiff which Crouch owned and the way in which the message(where the bodies were buried) passes on to the police is something which is extraordinarily clever and brilliant!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ten Clues for Mr. Polkinghorn - Charlotte Armstrong

Story: Ten Clues for Mr. Polkinghorn
Author: Charlotte Armstrong
Source: EQ’s Lethal Black Book
Story Number: 97
Polkinghorn is a mystery writer who calls in the police to report strange signs of life in his neighboring house which to be vacant for a period of 10 days. 3 convicts had escaped the prison a few days back and 2 out of them were supposed to have drowned. But the police are yet to track down the third person and the problem for them is they don’t know who among the three survived! And they suspect that this third escapee was occupying the empty house before he fled.
Polkinghorn tells the police that he could help them if they could tell him about these escaped convicts. When he gets the description of the three men – an Italian with only one foot, a New York man named Sparrow with grey hair and grey eyes and a young Navy seal from Kentucky, the writer is happy to point out and explain in detail the 10 clues which the police have missed – 3 of them point to the one foot man, 1 points to the man from Kentucky and the remaining 5 point to Sparrow. When the occupants of the house arrive, they are asked to explain these 10 clues. The residents come up with some great explanations to the presence of those 10 anomalies – with each one adroitly explained, the great mystery writer’s hypothesis is shattered one by one and he quickly takes leave. The police do catch the third convict based on the eleventh clue provided by the residents and it turns out to be the one who was selected as the least likely by Polkinghorn, a fact which makes the writer agree with the police that the life is not quite so strange as fiction!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Thieves’ Bazaar - W. L. Heath

Story: Thieves’ Bazaar
Author: W. L. Heath
Source: AH’s Tales To Make You Quake & Quiver
Story Number: 96
This is just the second story that Heath contributed to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery magazine. The story is set in Karachi in Pakistan in a Chor(thief) Bazaar – a market in many Asian tourist cities where stolen goods are sold at throwaway prices.
Jan and her Father are on a world tour and they have reached Karachi as the final leg of their tour. Jan is accompanied on her shopping spree by Dave, whom she met on the ship. When they are conversing about buying gems, they are accosted by one Thomson, who is immediately branded as a shady character by Dave, who prides himself in recognizing a ‘Shady’ anywhere. Thomson tells them that the most important thing in buying gems is recognizing a valuable one when you see it – a talent which neither Jan nor Dave know about. He recommends a place where they could get the gems for a good price and at the same time be confident that they were not swindled. He also tells them that they wouldn’t be able to find it on their own and that he would take them there himself. Dave smells a rat but he fails to talk Jan out of it. So, he decides to accompany her and keep an eye out for trouble.
They end up in a shop in the Thieves’ Bazaar, the shop owner displays a lot of gems and Jan settles for a good looking Sapphire. The price also turns out to be extremely reasonable! It all works out as a smooth transaction and they return back to their ship. Dave feels that something has indeed terribly gone wrong but he can’t put his finger to it. The Sapphire looks genuine and the price is certainly not exorbitant. When he shares his thoughts with Jan, she also agrees that she felt the same way when she was in the gem shop. Nothing untoward happens till the next day. When Dave returns back to his room after Jan & her Father fail to keep up their appointment with him, he is perplexed to see the gem owner and a few other guys thoroughly searching his room. He is quickly conked over and when he comes around his room is in a complete mess. Though he was anticipating something bad to happen all along, the actual outcome turns out to be a lot more shocking and surprising than he had ever imagined with only one fact turning out to be as he had expected – that Thomson was indeed a ‘shady’!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Double Exposure - Ben Hecht

Story: Double Exposure
Author: Ben Hecht
Source: EQ’s Twentieth Century of Detective Stories
Story Number: 95
Quote from EQ: “This story is a brisk, authoritative, witty model of the newest psychiatrist crime story, with sharp, shrewd irony and a kind of brimstone brilliance…”                   
Noted Psychiatrist Dr. Caleb Mudie has been murdered by his newly married wife Felicia on their honeymoon. Felicia is being tried for the murder and another Psychiatrist Dr. Hugo decides to come to her aid and defend her on the witness stand as he has a lot of background knowledge about Mudie – which if presented to a court, would force any jury to acquit. The story is narrated by Dr. Hugo to his best friend asking him to judge whether Hugo was a hero or a villain.
The story in all its complexity reveals the brilliant psychiatric shrewdness of Dr. Hugo – how he first manipulated Mudie to get rid of Felicia’s suitor, how he manipulated Mudie to go ahead and marry Felicia and how his manipulation led to the final demise of Mudie – 2 perfect murders committed so deftly and so cunningly that no punishment could ever be meted out to Dr. Hugo by the law - all carried out with the sole purpose of getting rid of his competitors and have Felicia for himself!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Challenge To The Reader - Hugh Pentecost

Story: Challenge To The Reader
Author: Hugh Pentecost
Source: EQ’s Twentieth Century of Detective Stories
Story Number: 94
“A tantalizing tale of mystery and deception by one of the most versatile and accomplished of modern master – a tale still as probing and provocative a puzzle as you have ever matched wits with ….” quotes the introduction from Ellery Queen, who incidentally was also responsible in providing the very apt title to this story which was originally titled “Darling, It’s Me!”
Nancy Bradford and her daughter are found brutally murdered in their apartment, the doorman of the apartment sees a man talking on the phone, is invited to come over, he watches the man step out of the elevator on Bradford’s floor and an hour later the two mutilated bodies are found, the doorman stays in the lobby but there’s no sign of the murderer as both the elevator and the stairs which open into the lobby was under constant observation by the doorman. This forms a very small portion of the story.
Two men who are very interested in the Bradford murders end up in a conversation regarding the murderer when they are out fishing. The rest of the story revolves around these two men , and as the tale progresses, the reader becomes increasingly aware that one man is the murderer and the other man is the detective. The question is: which is which? At various points in the story, the reader decides he knows; then with consummate cleverness, Mr. Pentecost twists the very fact which made up the reader’s mind think one way into making him think exactly the opposite!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Stripper - Anthony Boucher

Story: The Stripper
Author: Anthony Boucher
Source: EQ’s Twentieth Century of Detective Stories
Story Number: 93
He was called Jack The Stripper because the only witness who had seen him and lived had described the glint of moonlight on bare skin. After six murders in three months, the only clue that Lieutenant Marshall has is the fact that the murderer is always naked when he commits the murder.
Sister Ursula calls Marshall and tells him about her professor friend who has sent a mail to her informing her about his knowledge of the identity of the stripper. But Marshall gets this news too late for the professor is found dead in his house – killed by one of his three roommates as the door to the house was locked from inside. The professor, in his mail to Sister Ursula, has left a clue to point to one of his roommates as the naked murderer.
But Sister Ursula needs much more than the religious clue which her friend has left for her – she inspects the rooms of all the three suspects and the clean freshly made bed in each of the rooms with one anomaly gives the vital clue to catch the murderer red handed!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Death At Stonehenge - Norma Schier

Theme: Authors from the pages of AHMM

Story: Death At Stonehenge
Author: Norma Schier
Source: Alfred Hitchcock's Tales to Make You Quake And Quiver
Story Number: 92
The name of Norma Schier rang a bell but couldn't place it till a simple google search gave me the result - it was featured first by Tomcat and then later by Patrick on their blogs in reviewing the collection of short stories The Anagram Detectives. For a detailed analysis of the stories, please check here and here. This story written in 1969 is a late entry in the author's output though it looks like a deviation from the anagram puzzles. A simple search through the listing of AHMM magazines and anthologies didn't yield any other entry for her.
Chief Inspector Harlan Faulkner is called in to investigate the death of Felicity Carmichael, an archaeologist who was assisting the research activity at the Stonehenge site. The body at the Stonehenge site looks as though she was being sacrificed as part of a ritual but the Inspector who is extremely knowledgeable in the matter knows that the scene has been set up by a person of somewhat cracked brain.
Her  husband believes that she was having an affair with her fellow research scientist Donat but Donat claims that it was strictly a professional relationship. Donat has an alibi for the time of the crime - he was with another lady who also happens to be the consulting psychologist for Felicity. The clues are fairly provided for the reader to arrive at the solution before the Inspector lays his trap to nab the murderer - a person whose characteristics have been well anticipated by the Inspector!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Martin For The Defense - Jaime Sandaval

Theme: Authors from the pages of AHMM

Story: Martin For The Defense
Author: Jaime Sandaval
Source: Alfred Hitchcock's Tales to Make You Quake And Quiver
Story Number: 91
Jaime Sandaval was a pseudonym used by Dan J. Marlowe for a group of detective short stories that appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine. This story is a pure court-room drama in the tradition of a Perry Mason story but without the dramatics of the famous lawyer sleuth.
Martin is a lawyer who won't take a case without a retainer. Mickey Bananas has an earlier conviction for burglary and this time, the charge is grand larceny for stealing an oil painting from a cathedral supposed to be worth two hundred thousand dollars. Defending Mickey seems to be a pretty hopeless situation as there are six witnesses, all nuns, who saw him steal the painting and he was later caught red-handed with the booty on him. The only alternative left for Martin is to prove that the painting was a forgery which would throw the grand larceny case out of the court. But he is in for a surprise when the prosecution brings in a star witness, a witness who valued the painting before it was donated to the cathedral, a witness who has around 20 years of experience in analyzing Italian oil paintings, a witness who happens to have written the only manuscript on the topic. It is a battle of the legal mind versus the expertise of the art critic and the appraiser - and as in so many court room procedurals, it's no wonder as to what the outcome would be but it's still a jolly good ride to see another expert fall prey to the guiles of a defense lawyer!