William F. Deeck

PETER STORME Thing in the Brook

PETER STORME – The Thing in the Brook. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1937; Mystery Novel of the Month #22, digest paperback, 1941, as The Case of the Thing in the Brook; Bonded Mystery #6, paperback, no date stated [1946], abridged.

   Professor James Whitby, a biologist who is preparing a book on slime molds, discovers the dead body of a neighbor, the most hated man in the small community, hanging over a brook. It turns out that the man was strangled to death, had his brains bashed in, and then was hanged.

   (Or maybe his head wasn’t bashed in; the coroner’s physician’s testimony and the summing up of the amateur detective at the end of the book conflict.)

   Later on, the town drunk, who claims to have seen something strange at the time of the murder, is killed by having his head bashed in. He, too, was strangled, though not fatally, and had a noose put around his neck to simulate hanging.

PETER STORME Thing in the Brook

   Onto the scene comes Henry Hale, avid reader of mystery stories and would-be amateur detective. Since there are few physical clues, Hale uses “psychological patterns” to discover who perpetrated the crimes.

   Though not a book anyone should seek out actively — it is not particularly well written and the characters are cardboard — it may be quite enjoyable for those who, in these cynical times, can accept the mores, views, and plot devices of the 1930s.

   (For those who may be interested, Peter Storme is the pen name of Philip Van Doren Stern.)

— From The Poisoned Pen, Vol. 7, No. 1
(Whole #33), Fall-Winter 1987.

Bibliographic Data:   This was the only appearance of amateur sleuth Henry Hale. Under his own name, Stern has one other entry in Crime Fiction IV by Allen J. Hubin: Love Is the One with Wings (Farrar, hc, 1951), reprinted as Manhunt (Berkley, pb, 1955).