Monday, June 8, 2015

The Line-Up: Review

The wealthy Timothy Arden dies in his sleep--apparently from natural causes resulting from a weak heart. But when a shabby man with a scar presents a check for $10,000 written by Arden in the name of his secretary, the bank officials get a little skittish. And their skittishness brings in Inspector McKee who heads to the Arden home to see if things are as fishy as the bank's attorney thinks they might be. He takes along his favorite physician Dr. Fernandez to give Arden the once-over. On the face of it, there's nothing to counter Arden's doctor's pronouncement. But McKee's interactions with the secretary, one George Benson, and the other members of the household set off alarm bells and he commits Fernandez to an autopsy.

McKee's instincts prove right. Arden was given a nice hefty dose of chloroform to speed his long, endless sleep. The D.A. is convinced that Benson is the culprit and greed is the motive, but McKee is sure that there is more to the murder than meets the eye. When Benson also falls prey to poisoning, he knows he's right. But the murderer is clever, covering his/her tracks well....and has already gotten away with one previous murder. Will McKee be able to find enough evidence to put a stop to the killing before more of Arden's family and friends fall victim?

The Line-Up by Helen Reilly (1934) would appear to take its title from the standard police procedure. Here, a police line-up parade serves not necessarily to identify the current murderer (although it may), but it definitely helps McKee to discover the alternate identity of one of his main suspects. That initial clue sets him on the trail that will lead straight to the clever mind behind the murderous plot. But there is also a nice line-up of suspects to sift through along the way. There's the son Eric who has creditor breathing down his neck and who could stand an early inheritance. And Eric's wife Diana--a real beauty who likes nice things and would like Eric to have more money to spend on them. And Daisy, Timothy's daughter, who happens to love a man that Daddy didn't approve of...and who seems not too bothered that Daddy isn't around to disapprove any more. Daisy's darling is Dr. Philip Lawless--not only did Timothy take exception to his attentions to Daisy, he booted Lawless out as his personal physician when he discovered his intentions. Add in Diana's mother, Daisy's godmother, and a mystery woman who visited Arden when no one else was home and McKee has his choice of culprits.

After Reilly presents us with a nicely done police procedural in which we follow McKee and company as they track down clues and make connections between the suspects, she gives us a lovely wrap-up in Golden Age style. McKee calls the group together, runs through all the evidence (pointing first here and then there), and finally springs a surprise witness or two on them. It's quite fun and when the dust settles and the villain is unmasked, we see that Reilly has also played fair with us. The clues are there for the taking...if the reader is clever enough to spot them. ★★ and a half--verging on four.

This counts as a first entry for Rich's Crimes of the Century feature for June. This month is focused on crime fiction from 1934. Thanks to Rich for taking my suggestion for the year. Up next--the book that really made me ask for 1934.


fredamans said...

Sounds like an interesting whodunit! Great review!

Yvette said...

Ooooh, sounds good, Bev. I'm so in the mood for the oldies lately. I never EVER tire of this sort of story. I think I'll hunt around for a copy. Reilly's books are readily available in old paperback copies.

She's not my favorite writer - THE FARMHOUSE was a BIG disappointment - I got taken in by the cover and the online synopsis. But I'm always willing to give an author a second and even a third try. :)

noirencyclopedia said...

Sounds extremely interesting -- many thanks!

Bev Hankins said...

Yvette, I think her earlier books are better--they lean more towards the detective story/police procedural and less towards the Had I But Known school.