Sunday, February 5, 2017

Death Takes a Bow: Review

Death Takes a Bow (1943) by Frances & Richard Lockridge is the sixth book in their Mr. & Mrs. North series. This one opens with Jerry in a panic because he has to give a short speech introducing one his publishing company's latest stars, Victor Leeds Sproul. He's quite sure he's going to mess it up...even though, as Pam points out, he's quite a good speaker and he always does fine. Little does he know that his audience isn't going to care one way or the other. Not after Sproul declines to come to the lectern when introduced...or rather is incapable of coming to the lectern because he's dead. 

Of course, since the man died while Jerry was introducing him, Pam naturally thinks that this murder is one of theirs. Oh sure, Lieutenant Weigand and Sergeant Mullins will come along and take charge officially, but they won't really get anywhere if she and Jerry don't give them a little help...and a few martinis here and there. And it soon becomes apparent that help might be appreciated because Sproul wasn't exactly a popular fellow--no matter what his book sales might indicate. He was good at stealing other fellows' wives, holding secrets over his "friends'" heads, gloating about his success to those less fortunate, and generally making himself unloved. But who hated him enough to slip him a deadly dose of morphine before his speech? That's what Weigand, Mullins, and the Norths will have to find out. Muddying the waters even more is the presence of a "little dark man" who Jerry sees slipping away from the stage and who may have taken a few vital clues with him.

Pam has her style cramped a bit by the arrival of her nieces. She thinks she's going to be meeting two little girls at the train, but instead she is saddled with two pre-teen/young teenagers (who look and act a bit older than their years) who seem to be magnets for eligible young servicemen. Keeping the girls occupied and away from the sailors and the marines prevents Pam from getting into as much trouble as usual (no tense moments with the killer holding her hostage this time around), but she does manage to spot the murderer based on one key phrase--just before Bill Weigand does. 

This is another fun and light adventure with the Norths. The Lockridges are really very good with dialogue and it's very entertaining to "listen" to the interactions of Jerry and Pam (and her nieces...Pam's way of thinking/talking seems to run in the family ) as well as Weigand and Mullins. I can't say that the mysteries are ever very taxing to the seasoned crime fiction reader, but they are always interesting and entertaining snapshots of New York during the time period. A great escape read. ★★★★

And if you're looking for evidence of 1943...there are several references to the war. Everything from mentioning Jerry's service in "the other war" and the fact that they wouldn't take him this time "because of his eyes" to the nieces' penchant for picking up sailors and marines on leave. But never army men. As the book ends:

Beth and Margie both looked radiant as they came in. They both had sailors.
"Those girls," Pam said, "are unfair to the army. They ought to be--they ought to be picketed."

There is also Jerry's "little dark man" who turns out to be a rather clumsy, third-rate spy and his contact Heinrich. "Heinrich was a bona-fide enemy agent, like you read about. About Grade C, but genuine. The F.B.I. followed him about and snaffled  off people he spoke to. Heinrich was being very useful, but not to the Reich. The F.B.I. was enjoying Heinrich very much." But even with all the allusions to servicemen and Jerry's desire to serve being thwarted and the wandering in and out of Nazi spies, there aren't very many clear markers within the story that this is 1943 rather than any other year in the late 30s or 40s. The New York world of the Norths is pretty insulated from the historical events happening off-stage. 

This counts for the "Red Object" on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card as well as the "set in a state that begins with an 'N'" category on the Mystery Reporter challenge. It is also my first entry for Rich's 1943 edition of Crimes of the Century. If you've got a mystery from 1943 to share, come join us!


Tarissa said...

Hmm! Looks like a fun read. I've never heard of this series before. Thanks for sharing about it!

Bev Hankins said...


The Lockridge books are a lot of fun. I've been on a mission to collect them all for quite a long time now. Some are pretty elusive.