Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Murder on Mike: Review

H. Paul Jeffers' Murder on Mike is like a two-for-one deal in the Vintage Bingo Challenge. Published in 1984, it qualifies for Bev's eccentric Silver Age time frame, but it is set in 1930s New York, so the time period is absolutely Golden.  Hmmm. Perhaps a historical vintage square is in order for next year?

It is circa 1939 and a few days before Christmas. The scene: a Radio City studio, the recording site for the popular Detective Fitzroy's Casebook radio show. Only this time Fitzroy (aka Derek Worthington, star and producer) won't be solving the crime because he is the victim. Worthington is found shot to death in the studio during a rehearsal break. The main clue? The gunshot was heard over an open mike by a Radio City tour group--giving the police an exact time for the murder. And it would seem that everyone connected with the show has an ironclad alibi for the entire break period...except for the announcer David Reed. 

Reed had previously had a rather public altercation with Worthington in which he threatened to kill the star. So when the announcer is the only one who can't produce an alibi, the police are ready to believe they have their man. Reed's girlfriend, Maggie, refuses to believe him guilty and approaches private detective Harry MacNeil to prove the police wrong. When MacNeil starts digging, he finds that everyone connected with the show had a reason to hate the womanizing Worthington--actresses he had loved and dropped; co-stars he was leaving behind for Hollywood; members of the show who might find themselves out of work. But there's still that pesky problem of alibis all round....MacNeil is ready to tell Maggie there just isn't another solution when the tour guide disappears and he finally sees another ending to "Detective Fitzroy's" last case.

This is a pleasant retro-mystery which takes us back to New York City before the United States entered World War II. Even though MacNeil used to be a cop, he's less of a tough guy than most of the private eyes from the era and follows a more straight-forward sleuthing style. He's a likeable character and fun to follow through the story. One of the major points of the solution is telegraphed early and often and it is a bit unbelievable that MacNeil doesn't pick up on it sooner. The plot also plays off of a very famous device by an extremely well-known mystery author. It's one of those tricks that once it's been done, it doesn't come off well again--except maybe in obvious parody. The ending would have been much more satisfying if Jeffers had offered up a different solution. But overall--a nice nostalgia piece which does a good job of recreating 1930s NYC. ★★ and a half--with the ending keeping it from a full four stars.

This fulfills the "Entertainment" square and a fifth Bingo on the Silver Vintage Bingo card.


fredamans said...

I enjoy that era a lot so maybe with a NYC setting and a mystery I might really enjoy it. Great review!

Anonymous said...

I do enjoy this kind of retro book (and I do like the sound of a special category of the 2015 challenge - must try and get through the 2014 one first of course Bev!)