Sun 28 Jun 2009
FERGUSON FINDLEY – Counterfeit Corpse.
Ace Double D-187, paperback original; 1st printing, 1956.
Findley wrote a small handful of crime novels back in the 1950s, and Iíll add a list of them at the end of my comments on this one, which I enjoyed, but which Iíd be hard pressed to recommend to anyone else without waving a lot of warning flags first. (Read on.)
A fellow named Don Ivy is the featured player in Counterfeit Corpse, and he tells the story himself. After being bounced out of England, after years of knocking around Europe and northern Africa during and after the war, and now that his motherís dead, heís settled down in the small town in New England and living in the very same house he grew up in.
Itís not clear whether the town of Tombury is supposed to be in Vermont or New Hampshire, but since later on in the story he and his niece Judy have to cross the Massachusetts line while making a quick trip to Boston, my voteís for the latter.
Which of course doesnít matter to you. What does matter, I think, is that the reason he was quietly kicked out of England was his expertise in making counterfeit plates (for ten pound notes) so well that the bills they were capable of printing could not be distinguished from real ones, save for one small deliberate flaw that only Ivy knows.
He has no record in England, though — itís been erased, thanks to services to the Crown. Which is all prelude to the story, though, which begins with Ivy finding a body in his yard while doing a spring cleanup. Then another Ė a roadside accident — then his niece Judy, whom he hasnít seen in maybe 15 years, shows up; and then another body is found face down in a pond behind his house.
Coincidence? Not on your life. It certainly gets the local authorities into an uproar, though. First the local cop, then a state policeman, then a guy from the FBI. Itís up to Ivy and the surprisingly capable assistance of his niece Judy to get him out of trouble before heís up to and over his neck in it.
Breezily told, in good old-fashioned pulp magazine style, the tale has some flaws I ought to tell you about, too. The pile up of bodies is no coincidence, but heading to Boston to look for clues, it strikes me as next to impossible that he find the correct cheap night spot where all of the players in the plot struck out from, in only one try — and how did they all come to be there in one spot to begin with? That’s neatly not mentioned or alluded to either.
There is not a lot of detective work going on in this book, not the real deductive kind, that is, until the end, in which (unless Iíve read it wrong) Ivy doesnít recognize a certain telephone number, one that he should know, until several hours later, when it is almost too late.
What is amusing, I think, is how Ivy manages to steal the local copís girl friend away from him, after the local cop, trying to be friendly, uses the girl friend as part of his cover in the aforesaid enterprise.
And if youíve read this far, you might as well read the book and see how he does it, whether it ‘s a good move or not; or on the other hand, you might decide that Iíve told you enough of the story already, and that anything more would be superfluous.
Bibliographic data: [Expanded from the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin; US editions only.]
FINDLEY, FERGUSON. Pseudonym of Charles Weiser Frey, 1910-1963.
My Old Manís Badge. Duell, 1950 [Johnny Malone]. Popular Library #324, pb, 1951. Also reprinted as Killer Cop (Monarch #114, pb, 1959).
Waterfront. Duell, 1951 [Johnny Malone]. Serialized in Collier’s Magazine, August 1950. Popular Library #408, pb, 1952.
The Man in the Middle. Duell, 1952. Reprinted as Dead Ringer (Bestseller B160, 1953).
Counterfeit Corpse. Ace Double D-197, 1956.
Murder Makes Me Mad. Popular Library #780, 1956.