William F. Deeck

M. E. CHABER – As Old As Cain. Henry Holt, hardcover, 1954. Paperback Library, paperback, 1971. Also reprinted as Take One for Murder: Bestseller #202, digest-sized paperback, 1957.

   After a fairly preposterous beginning — the FBI insists that Milo March fly from Denver to New York immediately after his wedding for a reason totally nonsensical — this novel settles down to not a first-class but certainly a high second-class level.

   An insurance investigator, March, his marriage unconsummated, is sent to Athens, Ohio, to check out security arrangements for the props to a movie not in much progress, West to the Hocking. It is to be a historical film, dealing primarily with the life of Hiram Hanna, who settled in the Ohio Territory in 1797. The props, many quite valuable monetarily and historically, were in the hands of Hanna’s descendants until they lent them to a museum the motion picture company set up.

   In Athens are the female star, not much, the male star, even less, the director, who would like to make a movie without people, the researcher and the screen writer. Only the latter is a suspect among the Hollywood contingent when a man guarding the antiques is killed with a historical poker and the murderer makes off with some of the more valuable items and one of little value.

   Imitating a private eye when people insist on it and cracking wise — some of them quite good — March beds down with the female star in a most ungentlemanly fashion and meanwhile pines for his recent bride. Oh yes, he also investigates the murder and the theft, and the reader discovers why his talents are in great demand among insurance companies.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 7, No. 4, Winter 1991/2, “Murder on Screen.”