HUGH PENTECOST – The 24th Horse. Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1940. Popular Library #82, paperback, no date stated [1946]. CreateSpace/Bold Venture Press, softcover, May 2016.

   This is the second of five recorded mysteries solved by Inspector Luke Bradley of New York City’s Homicide Division. He’s called in when the young boy friend of a girl finds the girl’s sister’s body stuffed in the rumble seat of the car belonging to his girl friend. Complicating matters is the fact that his girl friend’s sister used to be his girl friend, but after he broke up with her a few days earlier, she had mysteriously disappeared.

   It turns out that the dead girl, while quite beautiful and popular with the men in her life, also had an unpleasant streak to her personality. Bradley soon suspects that she was not averse to a little blackmail. A letter left to be sent to the police after her death turns out to be blank. It then becomes a matter of not only who had a motive but who had access to the desk when the letter was kept.

   The background for this vintage detective novel is that of indoor steeplechase racing, with the title referring to the stages of 24 horses that people learning to jump must master, with increasing degrees of difficulty. There are, in the end, also 24 clues that Bradley gives to a friend, that when interpreted correctly, will add up the killer.

   Pentecost, aka Judson Philips, was a long time pulp writer, so it’s no surprise that when he turned his hand to writing book-length fiction, such as this one, the results were smoothly written, with solidly constructed characters.

   That it’s no classic that fans of fair play detective fiction will remember, is probably due to the fact that — in spite of the clues — does it not quite establish what Bradley knew and when he knew it. The killer is quite obvious, too, if you take the time to think about it.

      The Inspector Luke Bradley series —

Cancelled in Red (n.) Dodd 1939
The 24th Horse (n.) Dodd 1940
I’ll Sing at Your Funeral (n.) Dodd 1942
The Brass Chills (n.) Dodd 1943
Secret Corridors (na) Century 1945 [also with Dr. John Smith]