William F. Deeck

JOSEPH SAMUEL – The Murdered Cliché. Quality Press, UK, hardcover, 1947. No US edition.

   If this reviewer has any weaknesses, a charge he would vigorously dispute, revealing too much about a book would be foremost. That, of course, presupposes that he understands the book or pretends, if he thinks he can get away with it, that he understands the book.

JOSEPH SAMUEL The Murdered Cliche

   Too much about this one won’t be revealed. In fact, I’m not sure what cliché was murdered.

   Samuel’s dedicating the novel “To the Marx Brothers” ‘ should provide a pointer as to what sort of book it will be. The Marx Brothers, however, were lunatics in a sane world, or perhaps vice versa. Here, all is lunatic.

   Basil Lord Maltravers, who never did anything with reason, being beyond that sort of pettiness, is found dead by his butler, not in the library or billiard room but in the bathroom, seated upon the commode for the most part, his head having been disattached and placed in the tub.

   The butler contends to Lady Maltravers, in her “early plenties,” that it’s murder: “‘Well, I put it to you,’ he began argumentatively, ‘there’s a guy, sat down from his neck down and going to have a bath from his neck up. Now, that’s alright if he’s the kind of man who bathes stood on his head with a chair strapped to his seat. But I think I can say, Ma’am, his Lordship was always free from that kind of bias.'”

   Into Elvers Towers, home of the Maltravers, comes Inspector Crimble, stolid, full of common sense, able to move swiftly despite his weight, to scratch his head in perplexity, to be out in all kinds of weather, to hang on with a “‘bulldop” grip, and for all his apparent simplicity not easily led up the garden path. We have seen his like before — and, I believe, since.

   But Crimble, despite his many accomplishments, needs help to deal with Lord Maltravers’s wife and the weekend guests–the Hon. Percy Fitznoggy, old Lady Dewlap, young Jimmy Coker, Peggy Chumleigh, and old Amos Boustead, all of them certifiably bonkers, including Crimble. The servants aren’t much better.

   Thus, Crimble calls upon Mercure Poitrine, whose waxed mustaches and idiosyncrasies may remind some readers of another Gallic detective. And I didn’t think Poirot could be lampooned! Poitrine solves the case, but–

   Well, you wouldn’t believe the ending even if I were so brave as to reveal it. Full of bad puns, some of them amusing, and utterly strange conversations, this novel will appeal only to a few, say those who like me enjoy the early Max Shulman of Barefoot Boy with Cheek or Ross H. Spencer’s caper novels.

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

Bibliographic Note: This is the only book by this author to have warranted inclusion in the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin, unless of course Joseph Samuel is not his real name, and then all bets are off.