William F. Deeck

HENRY KANE Corpse for Christmas

HENRY KANE – A Corpse for Christmas. J. B. Lippincott, hardcover, 1951. Hardcover reprint: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, November 1951. Paperback reprints: Dell 735, 1953; Zenith ZB-19, 1959, as The Deadly Doll; Signet D2877, 1966, as Homicide at Yuletide; Lancer 75261, 1970s? Previously a two-part serial in Esquire, December 1949 & January 1951.

    As all of you — or at least the three people who read these reviews out of a misguided urge to get your money’s worth from this magazine — know, I strive for balance here. That is to say, I endeavor to work in at least one tough P.I. novel every other column.

HENRY KANE Corpse for Christmas

    This one almost didn’t make it, since fantasy is what the author starts with. I mean, of the six females encountered by the detective, four of them are hot for his body immediately. His client would be, but she is aware he lusts after her so she needn’t bother. Only a landlady shows no desire, perhaps because she’s unprepossessing and it would embarrass the detective.

    Acting in behalf of his client, another private eye in jail on several traffic charges, Peter Chambers discovers a man, with wine-red hair and beard of the same color, shot to death. Holding the murder weapon is a young lady, who of course didn’t do it.

HENRY KANE Corpse for Christmas

    A gangster looking for some jewels possessed by the dead man is the client of Chambers’s client, and there are various former wives of the dead man whose income he was going to cut off but who didn’t mind that, or so they say.

    Chambers investigates on Christmas Eve and Christmas and identifies the murderer, who was fairly obvious at least to this reader.

    What kept me reading was Kane’s obvious love of the language and Chambers’s sense of humor. Kane has a delightful style, although I still haven’t figured out what a “saltatory mattress” might be. Maybe he’ll explain it in his other books, which I’ll be looking for.

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