Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Murder Book of J. G. Reeder

The Murder Book of J. G. Reeder (aka The Mind of Mr. Reeder; 1925) by Edgar Wallace is a small collection of short stories featuring the mild-mannered, bland-looking Mr. J. G. Reeder. Reeder works for the Public Prosecutor and those who see him might mistake him for a simple office clerk. But those who attempt to operate outside the law do so at their peril. 

Mr. Reeder wore whiskers and a frock coat--he always carried an umbrella--his strongest expression was "Dear, dear!"--but he spread grim death through London's underworld.

Many a criminal has taken one look at Reeder and thought how easy it was going to be to put one over on the little man...only to find themselves inside a prison cell before they knew quite what had happened. He claims that his secret is simple: "You see, I have a criminal mind." Apparently, if he had wanted to he could have (as has been said about Holmes) made a formidable crook. Instead he uses his insight into the villainous mindset to help him trap the villains.

An interesting collection of stories from the early 20th Century. They lean a bit towards the Holmes style--not all (and sometimes not many) clues are displayed for the reader. But still an enjoyable, short read. ★★

Observations: there is less murder going on in the "Murder Book" than one might suppose from the American title--fraud, theft, kidnapping, forgery abound and Mr. Reeder is more often investigating these less violent crimes. When murder does rear its ugly head its usually tangential to the crime which has initially caught Mr. Reeder's attention. Despite his preference for the "lesser" (if you will) crimes, he is perfectly up to the task of catching a murderer out...evidenced by the second story in this collection, "The Treasure Hunt." Reeder uses a criminal's intention to take revenge as a tool to (quite literally) dig up evidence of an ingenious murder.

Other stories:
"The Poetical Policeman": Despite evidence implicating the bank's manager, Mr. Reeder is convinced that there is another answer to the question of who masterminded the operation. A policeman's poetical tendencies help illuminate the problem.

"The Troupe": The investigator takes on a jewelry fraud with artistic ties to a theatrical group.

"The Stealer of Marble": A story about embezzlement and a housekeeper's inordinate interest in acquiring chips of marble.

"Sheer Melodrama": Two members of the criminal fraternity combine forces for a spot of forgery and an effort to do Mr. Reeder down. They should leave the melodrama behind in the theater when they ambush Mr. Reeder and his young lady one evening. 

"The Green Mamba": Mr. J. G. Reeder, outsmarts one of the leading master-criminals in London at the very moment when he is on the verge of his greatest criminal coup. Mo Lisky has held sway in London for quite some time, but when he crosses Mr. Reeder he finds that his power can't protect him from a strike as deadly as that of a poisonous snake.

"The Strange Case":When a wealthy government minister dies, suspicion falls on the man's heir who stood badly in need of money. But Mr. Reeder suspects a much deeper plot.

"The Investors": Mr. Reeder becomes curious about a number of mysterious disappearance--but he becomes very concerned when there are hints that the disappearances may be related to a certain investment opportunity. An investment opportunity that his young lady is now taking part in.

Finished on 9/28/19
Deaths = (three poisoned; one shot)

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