William F. Deeck

KEN CROSSEN – The Case of the Phantom Fingerprints. Vulcan Publications #5, digest-sized paperback original, 1945.

KEN CROSSEN The Case of the Phantom Fingerprints

   This is the second of two novels featuring the talents of Jason Jones, a very unusual detective first grade who is a fat, lazy, geranium-raising sleuth — the “poor man’s Nero Wolfe” — and the presence of, for he doesn’t seem to have any talent, Necessary Smith, private detective.

   In this case, a straightforward murder is committed. Morris Block, Broadway producer and blackmailer, is stabbed to death at his home during a party. The murderer’s fingerprints are on the knife. When the police finish fingerprinting the group and discover a match, the killer vanishes from the house, despite all the doors being guarded by the police and the few unlocked windows having the snow on their sills undisturbed.

   This is a fair-to-middling “impossible situation” novel. Those who have read Carter Dickson’s Nine–And Death Makes Ten will know how the murderer manages to disappear. One of the clues is a mystery novel, The Laughing Buddha Murders, another impossible-situation novel, by Richard Foster, one of Crossen’s pseudonyms, and published also by Vulcan.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 12, No. 3, Summer 1990.

Bibliographic Notes:   The other, earlier case tackled by the detective duo of Jason Jones and Necessary Smith was The Case of the Curious Heel (Eerie Series, paperback, 1944).

   If I am reading Bill correctly here, one of the clues in solving this mystery was another book by the same author but under a pen name. This can’t have happened often. (It is as if Sir Henry Merrivale referenced Gideon Fell in one of his locked room adventures.) Can anyone come up with another such instance?