William F. Deeck

RUFUS KING – The Steps to Murder. Doubleday/Crime Club, hardcover, 1960. No paperback edition.

   The first tale in this collection — more novelette than short story — gives the book its title. A rich amoral woman who manipulates people for her greater good, using as her excuse her presumed ugliness, has lost her to some extent blackmailing hold over her husband. Quite insupportable, so his death is necessary.

   The rest of the stories are set in Halcyon, Fla., King’s fictional small town, “composed of the modestly retired, seasonal tourists, native crackers, horse-happy railbirds, amiable bookies, and glazed divorcees.”

   O.K., not so small, perhaps.

   An open-and-shut case of murder interests Monsignor Lavigny. Enlisting the aid of St. Jude, the good Father comes up with an alternative explanation that convinces Stuff Driscoll, in “The Patron Saint of the Impossible.”

   In “Murder on Her Mind,” a jet-setter comes to a psychiatrist to make sure that her brother-in-law will be declared sane so he can remain at large and kill her sister. She is, so to speak, hoist by her own petard.

   An embezzler commits suicide in “A Little Cloud. . . Like a Man’s Hand.” Or does he? Stuff Driscoll, without the Monsignor, solves this one.

   Another ugly woman, rich now that her family has been wiped out in a boating accident, faces a definite death in the near future from natural causes and a possibly more immediate death from unnatural causes in “Rendezvous with Death.”

   While everybody liked Jackson, Jackson didn’t like anybody. He also didn’t like the idea of being executed for murder, but murder was necessary to further his interests in “A Borderline Case,” borderline in more ways than one.

   Six fine stories, a couple fair play, all with the special atmosphere of menace that King created so well.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring 1989.

Bibliographic Data:   The title story was original to this book and “Murder on Her Mind” first appeared in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. The other four came from Ellery Queen’s, not surprisingly.

       Previously on this blog:

Museum Piece No. 13 (reviewed by Bill Deeck)
Rufus King’s Florida short stories (by Mike Grost)
Holiday Homicide (reviewed by Mike Grost)
Design in Evil (reviewed by Mike Grost)
Malice in Wonderland (a 1001 Midnights review by George Kelley & Bill Pronzini)
Murder by Latitude (a 1001 Midnights review by George Kelley)
Design in Evil (reviewed by Bill Deeck)