Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Litmore Snatch: Review

Herbert Litmore is the rather prim owner of the local newspaper in the northeast coastal town of Harborough. Because of a youthful indiscretion of his own, he takes a rather dim view of those who aren't as scrupulous in their financial dealings and their interactions with the public as he has been since seeing the error of his ways. So, he has his editor run a series of editorials against the area's Fun Fairs. Litmore is quite sure that behind the simple, rigged games and the garish entertainments there must run a vein of organized crime and vice and he wants something done about it. This results in several anonymous letters warning Litmore that if the editorials don't stop then he will regret it.

The Chief Constable, Mr. Faidlaw, is his good friend and he asks his Superintendents to have a quiet word with the managers of the Fun Fairs in their districts. But before the officers can make much headway, danger strikes Litmore and his family. The Litmores' young son and his friend make a regular trip to watch a boxing match and about the time they are heading home it begins to rain. A man stops in a dark saloon car, calls the boys by name, says he knows their fathers, and offers them a ride home. He drops Jack Smead off as promised. But Ben doesn't make it home. 

Unfortunately, the police are hobbled by the boy's parents who fear that an overt investigation will prompt the kidnappers to hurt...or possibly kill their son. Mr. Faidlaw will regret the wasted time later, but he can't bring himself to force the frightened parents to put their son at risk. Before the kidnapper's demands are met and Ben is safely home (yay!), his officers make the most discreet inquiries they can. There are several suspects to choose from--three of the Fun Fair managers have a bit of a reputation and were very vocal (among their fellow managers) about the editorials and a cloud of suspicion also hovers over one of the police superintendents who was mysteriously unavailable the night of the kidnapping. But then there is also evidence that a woman may be involved. Faidlaw winds up calling in Scotland Yard when the suspicions surrounding Superintendent Jonnison become more public. 

The Yard's Chief Inspector Vine sets to work on the cold trail and with the aid of the local officers he soon has the perpetrator in his sights. But finding the necessary evidence may be a bit tricky. Fortunately, Vine has a trick or two up his sleeve that will suit the purpose.

Henry Wade's last mystery novel, The Litmore Snatch (1957), surprisingly does not involve a murder. I can't tell you how relieved I was for that. As soon as ten-year-old Ben Litmore was "snatched" on his way home from a boxing match, I feared the worst and I don't do well with the murders of children (or children in danger in any way, really). So I was very happy to see the ransom paid and Ben returned to his family at about the mid-point of the book. It allowed me to settle down and try to identify the culprit--but that proved to be more challenging than expected. I changed my mind several times and just barely settled on the proper culprit before the wrap-up began. Wade may have been on his last story, but he still managed to mystify in the midst of this pretty straight-forward police procedural. Highly entertaining kidnap caper. ★★★★

With that lone slice of bacon on the cover, this counts for the "Food" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card. It is also my third offering in the 1957 edition of Rich's Crimes of Century over at Past Offenses. If you have any 1957 crime fiction hanging out on your shelves, then come join us!


noirencyclopedia said...

This looks fun! I know nothing whatsoever about Wade's work, so must try to educate myself.

Anonymous said...

Sounds great - Wade is another author I really must get down and try! Thanks Bev.

Kate said...

It is quite unusual for a GAD author to write a novel not featuring a murder, so thanks for bringing this book to my attention. I have only read one Wade novel, Lonely Magdalen, which I quite enjoyed and I have another of his in my TBR pile, Mist on the Saltings.

Bev Hankins said...

Kate: Mist on the Saltings gets a lot of good press, but I have to say it wasn't one of my favorites. I found the tension in the book to be primarily from the relationships and the circumstances of the characters and seemed to have very little to do with the murder itself. It actually read more like a straight novel to me than a murder mystery.

Kate said...

Bev: Thanks for the warning. Thankfully it is quite far down the TBR pile.

fredamans said...

At least this new theme for this author, in kidnapping, worked out. Sounds like a great read!

J F Norris said...

"It is quite unusual for a GAD author to write a novel not featuring a murder"

It's actually more common than you would think, Kate. I can think of an even dozen novels with no murder but with legitimate detective plots and a whodunit element: who stole the object, where did the person disappear to, who wrote the poison pen letters, etc. And there are hundreds of stories where there is no murder. Most of them are stories of theft or kidnapping as in this case. In one well known GAD book there is a disappearance of a person who is thought to be murdered, but no murder is ever committed and the person turns up very much alive in the penultimate chapter.

Bev Hankins said...

You're very right, John. There are several kidnap cases. And even a few jewel robberies without bloodshed.