William F. Deeck

PATRICK LAING [AMELIA REYNOLDS LONG] – If I Should Murder. Phoenix Press, hardcover, 1945. Bleak House #19, no date [1948].

PATRICK LAING If I Should Murder

   The reader is asked to accept that a jury which has convicted an accused murderer and thus caused his death by execution would want to meet each year on the anniversary of its decision; that the jury members would continue this annual get-together despite the grieving widow showing up on each occasion to give a basilisk stare to the participants; that when a jury member dies, his daughter would be asked to take his place and would agree to attend.

   Of course, if she hadn’t accepted, Patrick Laing, assistant professor of abnormal psychology and sometime criminologist would not have accepted an invitation to speak to the assembled jurors, Laing is in love with the deceased juryman’s daughter, but since Laing is blind, he never reveals his feelings to her.

   Although the gathering is held in a hard-to-find mountain lodge, the widow naturally shows up. What is more, the executed man’s lawyer arrives to read a confession by the real murderer.

   As a blizzard rages, as blizzards never fail to do, some of the jurors discuss how they would commit murder in the unlikely event any of them should wish to do so. Later that evening certain of the jury members are killed by the very methods they said they would have employed.

PATRICK LAING If I Should Murder

   Dr. Gideon Fell once stated:

   I have been improving my mind with fiction of the Bloody Hand variety for the last forty years. So I know all the conventional death-traps: the staircase that sends you down a chute in the dark, the bed with the descending canopy, the piece of furniture with the poisoned needle in it, the clock that fires a bullet or sticks you with a knife, the gun inside the safe, the weight in the ceiling, the bed that exhales the deadly gas when the heat of your body warms it, and all the rest of them — probable and improbable. And I confess that the more improbable they are, the better I like ’em. I have a simple melodramatic mind.

   Dr. Fell, I believe, would — and maybe did — enjoy the works of Amelia Reynolds Long in whichever guise she wrote. While I would not admit it as boldly as Dr. Fell did, I, too, have a tendency to appreciate melodrama in the mystery, which helped me enjoy this book, one that otherwise has no redeeming value.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 12, No. 2, Spring 1990.

      The “Patrick Laing” series —

If I Should Murder (Phoenix Press, 1945)
Stone Dead (Phoenix Press, 1945)
Murder from the Mind (Phoenix Press, 1946)
The Shadow of Murder (Phoenix Press, 1947)
The Corpse Came Back (Phoenix Press, 1949)
A Brief Case of Murder (Phoenix Press, 1949)
The Lady is Dead (Phoenix Press, 1951)