Monday, June 22, 2020

Murder in a Hurry

Murder in a Hurry (1950) by Frances and Richard Lockridge

Liza O'Brien is hired by Jerry North to draw illustrations of cats for a soon-to-be published book. She begins with the Norths' three Siamese cats and plans to use a black, longhair kitten from a pet store she knows. She makes arrangements with the owner, J. K. Halder, to come one afternoon, but when she arrives the shop is closed. A gentleman from the neighborhood who is a friend of Halder's lets her in with a key and the two of them make a terrible discovery...Mr. Halder has died and his body has been stuffed into a dog cage. The older gentleman seems to take it hard and Liza goes in search of brandy or something to help him. When she returns, the man is gone. Liza winds up rushing away from the scene too--urged to do so by her boyfriend whom she has called for help and who just happens to be Halder's son. She accidentally leaves her sketchbook behind.

Halder is a famous eccentric millionaire who, after marrying twice and having three children, sold his money-making business to buy the little pet shop, left his home to the family with a suitable allowance to keep them in style, and takes up residence in the back of the shop. He said he preferred the company of animals to people and devoted his life to caring for strays and sick animals. He's had little contact with anyone since then, so who could have wished the old man dead?

Lieutenant Bill Weigand and Sergeant Mullins are called upon to investigate and as soon as he sees the old man crammed into the dog cage, Mullins knows it's going to be a screwy one--which of course means the Norths must be in it somewhere. Weigand proves him right when he glances through the sketchbook left on a chair and recognizes some familiar feline faces. Soon the Norths are in it and Pam will follow the clues from man's best friend to what she thinks is the answer. Weigand meanwhile is looking at the age-old questions: who benefits and how? Is it the younger wife who has found a "friend" more her age and might want freedom without divorce? Is it the friend who wants his lady to inherit? Or perhaps one of the children wanted a rush on their inheritance? Because one thing is certain--somebody was in a hurry to get Halder out of the way.

Small spoiler ahead--though if you are like me you'll pay attention to the wrong moment and the spoiler won't spoil the plot for you at all. Nonetheless...proceed at your own reading risk.

This is another fun entry in the Lockridge's light mystery series. As per usual, there are lots of cats but this one is made more interesting with the introduction of a young Scottie who helps Pam and Bill discover the catalyst which sets murder in motion. I absolutely knew the dog was important, but I paid attention to the wrong thing and managed to suspect the wrong person. But I was in good company, so did Pam (for different reasons). 

I read most of the North books back when I first returned to mysteries (early 1990s) and our local library still had quite a number of them on the shelves. I've since spent my time trying to collect all of the Lockridge books and I have enjoyed rereading them. Fortunately, my memory is much more sieve-like than it used to be so I can reread and still be fooled by red herrings. The thing I enjoy most about these books, though, is how comfortable they are. They're perfect for when I want something light and fun and not too complicated. ★★★ 

Deaths = 2 (one poisoned; one strangled)


Gretchen said...

Sounds like a good series! You cracked me up with your "mind is more sieve-like than it used to be". Isn't that the truth! I have a friend who says she loves getting older because she can watch movies she has already seen and it is like she has never seen them before ;).

Thanks for the review.

Bev Hankins said...

Gretchen: The Lockridge books are great fun--especially the ones featuring Pam & Jerry North.