WARREN B. MURPHY – Leonardo’s Law. Carlyle Books, paperback original, 1978. PaperJacks, paperback, 1988.

   Along with co-author Richard Sapir, Warren B. Murphy was the creator of Remo Williams, aka The Destroyer, who appeared in nearly 150 men’s adventure novels over a period of some 35 years, many of them ghosted all or in part by other writers. In Leonardo’s Law, Murphy tried his hand at the classical detective novel, with decidedly mixed results.

   Let’s take Leonardo first. He’s Doctor David Vincent Leonardo, a professor of mathematics at a small college in Connecticut who also has a small interest in solving crimes, although this one is the only one of his ventures in that regard to have seen print. He is also something of an enigmatic genius, with additional degrees in philosophy, anthropology and psychoanalysis, among others.

   Dead is Barry Dawson, writer of mysteries, who is found dead in his study — the usual blunt instrument — in a room with a door that can be locked only from the inside, and in his hand is the only key, along with a tie-tack that Inspector Drossner, dashing representative of the Connecticut State Police with a fine eye toward good press coverage, is sure will lead directly to the killer.

   Leonardo demurs. Telling the story is Lt. Anthony Jezail, second-in-command of the local Walton police force, a sour-minded misanthrope who thinks very poorly of the world and believes that all those with more power than he are idiots, and who says so at length and often profanely. It does not help matters that he is correct, beginning with Police Chief Waldo Semple, a man who can barely be trusted with a gun.

   As far as the solution to the locked room mystery is concerned, which in many respects is an audacious one, Murphy proves to be more than adequate in misdirection and yet providing all of the details you might need to solve the case yourself, maybe. What I don’t understand is the need to make Jezail not only a bitter observer of humanity in general, but a victim of virulent homophobia as well.