Sat 19 Jan 2013
William F. Deeck
LESLIE FORD – Murder in the O.P.M. Scribner, US, hardcover, 1942. Collins, UK, hardcover, 1943, as Priority Murder. Popular Library 60-2291, US, paperback, no date.
Lawrason Hillyard seems to have the best of both worlds. He produces virtually the entire output of promethium, a highly sought metal needed to fight World War II; he also, as a one-dollar-a-year man, issues the priorities on it for the Office of Production Management in Washington, D.C. In addition, he is rich, he has enemies, he has a shrew for a wife, and his assistant is the young man he bribed to break off with his daughter when the young man was a nobody. Dead is how you expect Hillyard to end up, and you won’t be disappointed, at least in this aspect of the novel.
While I generally enjoy Ford’s non series novels and the books she wrote as David Frome, this is only the first of seven novels I have tried featuring Grace Latham and Col. John Primrose that I have been able to finish. This feat was managed by my holding grimly on to both covers, which made turning pages both a physical and a mental chore, since I knew if I put it down I would never pick it up again. It has the slickness, and particularly the depth, of a page in The Saturday Evening Post, where I believe it originally appeared. [FOOTNOTE.]
There is nothing here to recommend. Even the setting — the nation’s capital in wartime, which must have been a fascinating place — is given shoddy treatment on those occasions it’s acknowledged. Moreover, the continuing conflict between Latham and Primrose, who address each other as Mrs. and Colonel and who want to get married but are not allowed to because of the objections of Primrose’s man, Sergeant Buck, is nonsensical.
One can understand Bertie Wooster’s being dominated in this fashion by Jeeves, but Primrose is Buck’s intellectual superior. Or is he?
FOOTNOTE: Bill was right. Murder in the O.P.M. was serialized in the The Saturday Evening Post, beginning with the 21 February 1942 issue, the first of six installments.