William F. Deeck

PHILIP MacDONALD – Something to Hide. Doubleday Crime Club, US, hardcover, 1952. No paperback edition. Published in the UK as Fingers of Fear: Collins, hardcover, 1953. A “Queen’s Quorum” title.

PHILIP MacDONALD - Something to Hide.

    This collection comprises two novellas and four short stories, all exceptionally well done. Two of the stories display the abilities of Doctor Alcazar, MacDonald’s “clairvoyant” detective.

    In “The Green-and-Gold String,” Alacazar is at his tent at the carnival and reads the future — “General Reading–50 cents. Special Delineation–$1.00” — of a lady’s maid, who is murdered several days later. Her employer offers a reward of $5000, and Alcazar can’t resist the “easy” money. Alcazar is a character, of course, but a superb psychologist and bluffer, and he traps the murderer into a confession.

    In the second story about Alcazar, “Something to Hide,” he and companion, the carnival’s former Weight-Guesser, are down on their luck. Their former client knows a rich woman with a problem, but how is Alcazar to know what the problem is? No one needs to tell a clairvoyant anything; he should already know it. As Avvie says:

    “Pinkertons! The Bass-Ackwards Detective Agency Inc. — No Crime Necessary — All We Need’s The Clues!” “Very funny,” said Doctor Alcazar. “Quite amusing.”

    “The Wood-for-the-Trees” has Anthony Gethryn returning to England from the US in the summer of ’36. He is delivering a letter from a Personage of Extreme Importance in the US to another P.O.E.I. in England. The area to which he is delivering the letter has recently had two murders by, ostensibly, an obvious maniac.

    A third occurs while Gethryn is there, and he quite frankly admits that a motiveless crime is best handled by “routine politico-military methods.” Something his son says on his return home and wifely suspicions, however, put him on to the murderer.

    “Malice Domestic” deals with a husband who is being given poison, most probably by his wife, and the “happy” ending, or at least happy if you’re the murderer.

    “Love Lies Bleeding” is something of a horror story. How does Cyprian Morse, having killed a young lady in hot blood after she tries to seduce him — Cyprian is CD all of the way, you see — manage to be freed after telling a quite implausible tale of how the murder happened? A fairly evident ending, but nonetheless a powerful story.

    Finally, “The Fingers of Fear” deals with a child molester and murderer. After he has presumably been apprehended, Lieutenant (acting Captain) J. Connor, the man who arrested him, begins to have doubts, doubts that are reinforced by his wife. Connor and his wife begin their own investigation.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 10, No. 1, Winter 1988.