CHARLES B. CHILD “The Thumbless Man.” Short story. Inspector Chafik J. Chafik #24. Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, December 1961. Published earlier in Collier’s, 21 January 1955 as “Invisible Killer.” Collected in The Sleuth of Baghdad (Crippen & Landru, July 2002).

   If my count is correct, there were 31 stories about Inspector Chafik of the Baghdad Police, the first of them appearing Collier’s, the last four in EQMM. Charles B. Child was the pen name of British author C. Vernon Frost, (1903-1993), who finally had 15 of the tales collected in The Sleuth of Baghdad by Crippen & Landru in 2002.

   In “The Thumbless Man” the victim of a vicious strangulation was the first in line of several men making their way, one-by-one, through a tunnel leading to a burial chamber in a tomb uncovered in an archaeological dig in Akkar, outside Baghdad. No one was inside, and yet the man is dead, with the marks on his throat strangely indicating the killing was done by hands having no thumbs.

   Bit by bit, following very small physical clues but guided by the personalities of the people tat the camp, Chafik not only deduces who did it, but how, a murder which was quite cleverly planned out. Chafik reminds me of Charlie Chan in some ways, keeping his thoughts to himself, but making appropriate but sometimes cryptic statements as he goes about his job.

   The only drawback to highly enjoyable stories such as this, however, is the question, not answered, is why the killer decided to go to such lengths to commit such a murder, one bound to produce more questions than one set up to look like an accident, for example. That would be my approach, how about you?