Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Murder Comes First: Review

"Weigand!" Deputy Chief Artemus O'Maley said, in a great voice.
"Sir?" Lieutenant William Weigand, Acting Captain Homicide West, said in a much smaller one.
"The Norths!" O'Malley told him. "Don't you see them?" 
"I won't have it," O'Malley said. "I've told you a hundred times. You know what happens when you let them in, don't you"
Bill Weigand nodded and looked attentive.
"Gets all screwy," O'Malley said. "Doesn't make any sense. Gets so you don't understand a damn thing."

In Murder Comes First (1951) by Frances & Richard Lockridge, Pamela North's three aunts, the Misses Thelma, Pennina, and Lucinda Whitsett, come to New York City for their annual fall visit on their way south for the winter. In addition to spending time with their favorite niece and her husband Jerry, the aunts always drop in to see Grace Logan, their friend since childhood. They are gathered for tea and reminiscing when Grace takes a vitamin capsule and collapses--apparently from cyanide poisoning. Lt. Bill Weigand and his Chief O'Malley arrive on the scene and it seems that "Arty" has determined that it's an easy one. All sewn up. Because it has been revealed during questioning that Grace Logan stole Thelma Whitsett's beau...25 years ago. But, hey, these dames can get bitter, you know.

Aunt Lucy sneaks a call to her niece and naturally Pam and Jerry come to rescue the aunts. And Pam decides to investigate because somebody has to do something to find the real killer. It's not like there aren't more likely suspects. Grace's son wants to marry the daughter of her [Grace's] companion. But his mother didn't like that idea a bit. She thought Lynn Hickey was a hard, calculating woman--out to change her son and possibly out to marry him for the money he'd one day inherit. Lynn's mother took exception to the disparaging comments about her daughter and quarreled with Grace. But was that enough to inspire murder? Then there's her niece, Sally, and husband who might also have had a mercenary interest in the $50,000 Sally would inherit from Grace...if she died. But Sally disappeared well before Grace was murdered--could she have doctored the vitamins before she left? None of these people liked the way Grace would exert her will and her wishes in their lives, but who resented it enough to substitute a cyanide capsule for a harmless vitamin?

And, of course, it does get screwy. Pam chats up suspects, gets taken out to dinner by a few of them, and finds herself followed by a mysterious "medium" man. She is forced to take refuge in the dressing room of a Fifth Avenue department store and walks out in a new rust-colored dress which allows her to lose her tail. Meanwhile, Aunt Lucy who never forgets a thing she reads [and she read a lot--a woman after my own heart] and gets a sudden inspiration about who and how and why and makes a frantic trip out of the city to prove her theory. Pam & Dorian Weigand (Bill's wife) follow in hot pursuit with Bill and Jerry on their trail and a few FBI men following all of them. They all converge on an isolated cabin for an exciting finish.

This is, perhaps, one of the more outlandish plots in the Lockridge line-up--after all FBI men chasing spies and maiden aunts in pink hats running about the countryside are a bit much. But it's all good fun and I can forgive a lot just for the inclusion of Aunt Lucy who reads as much as I do and loves books and places with books as much as I do too.

...at the very thought of a library she brightened. It had been months, it had been last spring, that she had last been in the New York Public Library, where merely being surrounded by so many books made one tingle exquisitely.

It is entirely appropriate that Aunt Lucy seeks out answers to help her theory in the library. The mystery itself isn't terribly intricate, but I don't really expect that from the Lockridges. I do expect Pam to get into trouble--and she does, taking Dorian along with her. It's easy to see where Pam gets her impulsive nature from--Aunt Lucy is just as bad. I also expect a good peek at vintage New York as well as an exciting finish. The Lockridges deliver on all counts. ★★ and a half--deducting just a bit for the outlandish plot.

This fulfills the "Bottle/Glass for Drinking" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card. It also is another entry in The 1951 Club.

1 comment:

Simon T - StuckinaBook said...

I love how classic crime has come up in all our 'clubs' so far - and I do love a ludicrous plot in one of these. I've not read any of their books - but I will keep an eye out. Thanks for joining in the 1951 Club!