Clarence Budington Kelland – Death Keeps a Secret (1953)

DBC cover

Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: How — At least two deaths with different means
TBR #12.33
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #14
Date Finished: January 31, 2018

A young physicist, Thomas Alva Edison Gimp, has taken a job in missile guidance work at White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico. He is a pedantic, uptight, scientist, in the vein of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, crossed with Miss Manners, but more athletic. On the train to El Paso, he meets an exotic woman and a mysterious man, while he DeathKeepsaSecretalso finds a Mexican policeman stabbed to death. After arriving, both of his acquaintances from the train are also in town, while he also encounters various other suspicious characters, including a Casper Gutman-type fat man who is working toward his own ends. He also finds a prospector who has been shot to death, and runs into a feisty and flippant young woman who he knew as a child. All of this is related to a plot to force him to steal the missile guidance system they are developing and deliver it to Communist agents.

This is a humorous mystery with the humor built around the wacky characters and dialogue, especially Gimp’s naivete around women, rather than around the plot. The murders are never satisfactorily explained, nor is their necessity, but it doesn’t seem to matter once the agents are all captured. In a way this is reminiscent of the innocent involved in espionage plot so often used in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episodes, with Gimp bumbling along until the FBI agents show up and rescue everyone. Kelland seems to have been a right-wing nut, but that doesn’t come through here, other than the usual “America good, Communists bad” spiel.

Just the Facts Golden Card 2018-01-31

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