Saturday, December 30, 2023

Murder Is a Collector's Item

 Murder Is a Collector's Item (1939) by Elizabeth Dean

Dean's first book was written as a dare--this seems to be a theme with several of our Golden Age authors. A group of friends all decided to if they could each write 20,000 words of fiction in a month's time. Dean was the only one who met the deadline and her friends challenged her to turn it into a novel. So, she did and created Emma Marsh, antique saleswoman and a fair judge of character. She works as right-hand woman to Jeff Graham who has helped her several times in the past.

One of their wealthy clients makes an appointment with Jeff to view a valuable secretary, but when Emma opens the shop the next morning she find the client, Richard Norwitch, stabbed to death on the floor and the secretary is missing in action. So is Jeff. She is certain that Jeff is no murderer, but Lieutenant Donovan finds the circumstantial evidence to be a bit compelling. And if the missing antiques dealer didn't do it, then probably Emma did. Or maybe Emma's boyfriend, Hank Fairbanks--who also happens to be the nephew and joint-heir of the dead man. Of course, being friends with Hank and Emma, he doesn't seriously believe it, but when all the clues seem to lead nowhere, he doesn't know what to believe.

Fortunately, Emma and Hank make pretty good amateur detectives and they manage to locate Jeff's missing car (with a bullet hole in the window and blood on the seat...but no Jeff) as well as several important witnesses. When a rival antiques dealer winds up dead in the shop, the mystery gets even murkier and the killer will try to kill two more people before Emman, Hank and Donovan figure out who they are.

This was a fun, almost screwball comedy mystery that would have ranked a bit higher if some of the humorous banter hadn't been so hard to follow. There are two scenes where Emma, Hank, and Donovan are going back and forth about clues and suspicions and whatnot and then a little light bulb goes on for one (or more) of them and we all supposedly know what they've just figured out--except I didn't either time because the banter lost me in mid-bant. Whatever I was supposed to catch flew by so high over my head that it missed my glove completely (over the fence and into the bleachers). I do like the relationship the three have. I just wish some of the conversation weren't so convoluted.

I had a sneaking suspicion that the villain really was the villain and I was right. I was pretty proud of myself for figuring it out before either Hank or Emma. Overall, this is a good debut mystery and I look forward to reading the other Dean book I have on the TBR (Murder a Mile High) and to finding the remaining book in the series (Murder Is a Serious Business).    ★★ and 1/2.

First line: It was almost five-thirty.

Last line: "They're going out to eat and then," Emma turned a wicked eye on Jeff, "he's going to wire a chandelier."


Deaths = 3 (one stabbed; two shot)

No comments: