book review

The Studio Crime

Ianthe (God, we don’t get many Ianthes nowadays, do we?) Jerrold’s The Studio Crime is the sort of competent mystery I could learn a lesson or three from. Not that it’s terribly inspired, but what it does, it does very well indeed. The familiar repartee between the fact-worshiping cop and the gut-feel-worshiping sleuth is especially outstanding. There’s a rather tense scene featuring said cop telling his friend to drop the case. We know the sleuth is right and in some strange way, the cop knows too. How wonderful it happens just before a key piece of evidence turns rather disappointing. I smiled during this scene. I smiled a lot.

It’s a foggy (duh) night, perfect for a murderer to make a quick escape, if only he/she didn’t keep running into characters and asking stupid directions. A man is found dead in a locked room (open window) upstairs from the party at Laurence Newtree’s loft. The problem? Dr. Merewether had just spoken to the corpse and the corpse had spoken back. DUN DUN DUN! Enter John Christmas (yes, you fucking read that right) to search for some of the more interesting clues. While Inspector Hembrow is all about fingerprints and long lost family secrets, Christmas is interested in the more peculiar details, like whether or not the murderer had a squint and the halfway point between Primrose Hill and Golders Green.

The convoluted history of victim and murderer is even more convoluted than usual in these sorts of stories (said from the man who wrote The Opening Night Murders), but it is nicely doled out in bits and pieces. Terrific interviews with tertiary characters and the strong leads almost make up for the fact that the killer becomes (crystal) clear a bit too soon. Doesn’t much matter in the end. These are the kind of lovely Sunday reads that remind me why I love whodunits and if it doesn’t function as a perfectly oiled machine, it will certainly entertain you.

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