GEORGE HARMON COXE – The Camera Clue. Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover, 1937. Dell #27, mapback edition, no date [1943?]. Dell #453, mapback edition, 2nd printing, no date [1950].

   Another useful feature of these old Dell mapbacks, besides the obvious one, of course, is the listing of the cast of characters, right before the title page. The map didn’t help much with the mystery this time, but it is interesting to note that of the twenty characters listed, at least nine of them are on the scene outside the murdered man’s office when Kent Murdock stops to take a candid shot of a sandwich advertising man on stilts.

   Most of them don’t want their picture taken, either. Murdock’s office soon begins to resemble Grand Central Station, with worried people continually running in and out, desperately trying to keep him from publishing theirs in the newspaper. Murdock’s assistant, Gowan, even gets his skull crushed in, by someone even more desperate than the others.

   This was George Harmon Coxe’s third novel — Kent Murdock is still definitely married, and whatever became of Joyce Murdock anyway? Formerly a writer for Black Mask and the other detective pulps of the twenties and thirties, Coxe was never known as a great wordsmith, and his massive total of camera-oriented plots soon became rather repetitious.

   He was a pretty good master of misdirection, however, and here’s a fine example of how he played the game of “fool the reader” so well. The big climax misfires just slightly, but even so I have to admit, I was caught off-balance by its outcome, exactly as I was supposed to be. In one sense I wasn’t even close, and I am chagrined to say I should have been.

   And no, the sandwich man didn’t do it.

Rating:   C plus.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 6, No. 6, November-December 1982 (very slightly revised).