William F. Deeck

JOSEPH L. BONNEY – Murder Without Clues. Carrick & Evans, hardcover, 1940. Digest-sized paperback: Green Dragon #16, 1940s, condensed.


   An amateur pugilist who plays the violin, dabbles in chemistry, smokes pipes when he’s pondering, deduces expertly, investigates crime, and has a roommate named Watson.

   Yes, as you surmised, I am alluding to Simon Rolfe, who regards Sherlock Holmes as an “incompetent bungler.” There are differences, of course; Rolfe reads mostly, perhaps only, of the works of Montaigne.

   While he criticizes some of Holmes’s deductions, Rolfe himself occasionally falls short in exercising that talent. For instance, Watson tells Rolfe that he does a lot of typewriting and moons about when he’s trying to straighten out a plot sequence or characterization. Rolfe responds: “You’re a writer, then?”

   In this novel, either the first or the second of two featuring Rolfe — I’d deduce the first, since he meets Watson in this one — the police are baffled by a locked room stabbing at the home of a former vaudeville memory champion.

   Not only was the room locked, with untracked snow outside the windows, but all the inhabitants of the house have alibis, including the man the stabbed woman accuses of the murder just before she dies. The weapon, which could not have been removed from the house, cannot be found.

   An interesting detective, appearing in not a lost gem of the literature necessarily, but nonetheless a good read.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring 1989.

    Bibliographic Data:   [Taken from the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin.]

BONNEY, JOSEPH L. (1908?-1989?)

       Murder Without Clues (n.) Carrick 1940 [Simon Rolfe]
       Death by Dynamite (n.) Carrick 1940 [Simon Rolfe]


       Look to the Lady! (n.) Lippincott 1947