Thursday, June 25, 2015

Whisper Murder!: Review

Dan Cumberland has returned to his hometown of Clayton, Minnesota for a period of recovery after covering the war in Europe (WWII). He has been helping his father with the town newspaper and is just about ready to return to write about Europe's post-war recovery when a series of hotel fires and the deaths of the hotel's owner and his wife set the town on its ear. The police, doctors, and the coroner's jury are all prepared to call the deaths an accident or suicide and the fires a simple case of bad luck (freezing temperatures and aging fire equipment) when Dan's nose for news and the insistent urgings of a mysterious caped woman force him to investigate the conflicting evidence and testimony. But his road to the answer is a bumpy one. He finds himself up against his old rival, now the D.A., a prominent professor of chemistry, the insurance representative, and even his own father. In fact, it initially appears that no one wants him to discover the truth. It would be better for everyone if he just let sleeping murderers lie. But then two more murders follow and Dan with eventual help from the police manages to uncover the plot behind the murders and capture the villain(s) of the piece. 

Whisper Murder! (1946) runs along at a rather fast and furious pace. Interesting characters and relationships. And Vera Kelsey gives us a good view of upper Midwestern life at the end of the war. The townspeople seem to have managed to keep their good solid ordinary hometown throughout the war years and they don't want anything (certainly not murder and/or arson) to disturb that. Their fondness for their hometown hero doesn't mean that they want him using his war journalist skills to dig up dirt at home. If they can just pretend that nothing bad has happened, maybe that will mean nothing did.

The weakness in the story (from a mystery lover's point of view) is that I don't think it's well-clued at all. Clues are gathered up and sent off for analysis, but their meaning isn't revealed until the final scenes. There is no chance for the reader to know how to connect them to the killer. So, the story winds up being more of an adventure than a puzzle to figure out. There is also another point in the grand finale that I didn't buy--but I can't explain without providing a major spoiler. Let's just say I wasn't completely satisfied. 

Overall--a nice period piece with good characters and interesting storyline. The mystery could have been a bit more solid (for puzzle-solvers) and a better explanation for the SPOILER would have made this a better than average read. ★★

The aforementioned professor is a pretty prominent member of the cast of characters--thereby shoving this one into the "Academic Mystery" category on the Golden Vintage Bingo card. It also gives me my fourth Bingo on that card.


Unknown said...

I like putting all the clues together in a mystery, especially if it is presented as a whodunnit, but I think I would still read it for the historical elements and adventure. Thanks for the review, Bev.

fredamans said...

I like the use of the word, villain. Sounds promising. Great review!