William F. Deeck

DAVID FROME – The Black Envelope. Farrar & Rinehart, hardcover, 1937. Popular Library, paperback, circa 1965. Published in the UK as The Guilt Is Plain, Longmans Green & Co., hardcover, 1938.

   That timid detective manqué, Evan Pinkerton, is in Brighton for the first time in fifteen years to enjoy the seashore. What he gets is foul weather — and foul play at the Royal Pavilion, where someone, probably part of her household sticks a knife in the odious Mrs. Isom.

   Lots of coincidence here, not least of which is the presence of Inspector Bull in Brighton at the time the murder takes place. Once he finds out what “take it on the lam” means, Mr. Pinkerton takes it, loses his clothes, and finally has to admit he was on the scene when the murder took place.

   Frome (aka Leslie Ford) writes well. Once you’ve adjusted to the coincidences and Pinkerton’s being not just rabbity but virtually hag-ridden at the beginning, you can enjoy a complex fair-play mystery.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 6, No. 2, Summer 1990, “Vacation for Murder.”