William F. Deeck

LAURENCE DWIGHT SMITH – Follow This Fair Corpse. Mystery House, hardcover, 1941; Mystery Novel of the Month #29, digest-sized paperback, n.d. [1941] as The Case of the Rented Coffin.


   With a publisher, mystery-novel authors, and agents gathered for a weekend, almost anything can happen. It doesn’t help matters that the publisher is a man who doesn’t read books, who takes nude photos of his girlfriends who then often become or are other people’s girlfriends, and who suspects his wife is trying to kill him.

   The publisher invites the writers to his mansion to propose a contest in which each writer will construct a novel from the same first chapter. Acting out the first chapter himself, the publisher apparently goes further than he had planned.

   On the scene is Dick Whelan, M.D., Smith’s series character. He is there at the behest of the police and is taking the place of a pseudonymous mystery writer who is a doctor. Not too demanding a task apparently; as a policeman remarks, “Any ass can fake being a writer.” At the end, Whelan solves a series of murders.

   This novel was not as enjoyable as I thought it would be from its amusing start; on the other hand, it’s a good mystery. In addition, there are some perhaps moot quotations about publishers — “You can’t leave anything to those damned fools!” — and detective-story writers and their work — “It’s always been a mystery to me why otherwise intelligent people read detective stories. Still, I suppose it’s no worse than going to the movies.”

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 2, Spring 1991.

Bibliographic Note:   The earlier case solved by Dr. Whelan was The Corpse with the Listening Ear (Mystery House, 1940).