Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: What — An animal in the title
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #15
Date Finished: February 3, 2018
In a sweltering New York summer, the dancer husband of a wheelchair-bound wife finds Broadway newspaper editor Bart Hardin at a craps game and confesses stabbing her to death. He had confessed to a similar crime six months before and been dismissed as a drunk and a crank. A half-an-hour later his current partner arrives back home at their rooming house, along with the landlady, and hears a gunshot. The wife has been shot, not stabbed, and Bart’s elderly assistant, who lives in the next apartment, is found on the fire escape with the gun at his feet. Naturally the police charge him with the crime and Bart has to find the real murderer on his own.
This is another frustrating Bart Hardin mystery, the second I’ve read and been disappointed with. An obvious clue, goose-down feathers around the murder room and even in the wound is ignored for 100-plus pages until Bart realizes that a pillow was used to muffle the original murderous gunshot, thus disproving the alibi that was fairly fake to begin with. Since this mystery was obvious from the beginning it is no spoiler to say that the husband’s accomplice, who fires the gun out the window, while standing right next to the body, and then tossing the gun out the window onto the fire escape, locking the neighboring door so that Bart’s assistant has to climb out on the fire escape, and then finally screaming for help, does nothing to alibi herself for the crime, yet this opportunity is not examined at all by the police, even though she clearly also has motive. Supposedly she had only seconds to accomplish all of this. Nor is there any explanation why she just didn’t commit the murder right then and not deal with setting up this ridiculous alibi. Bart doesn’t really interview suspects, He just looks for clues in the murder room several times before looking in the pillow case for the pillow with powder burns, even with all the feathers floating around. He mostly is cranky, complaining about the heat and lack of air conditioning in every building he goes to — hospitals, bars, restaurants, workplaces, apartments. Not recommended.