IONE SANDBERG SHRIBER – Pattern for Murder. Lt. Bill Grady #7. Farrar & Rinehart, hardcover, 1944. Detective Book Club, hardcover reprint, 3-in-1 edition. Armed Services Edition #798, paperback. Mercury Mystery #113, digest-sized paperback (slightly abridged).

   With all of the above options available, unfortunately I had to settle for the one that was abridged. I’ve never checked to see what kind of editing job was done by the people at Mercury and their line of mystery paperbacks, but I’m hoping I didn’t miss too much with this one. I don’t think so, but I’m saying that with my fingers crossed.

   And a word about Grady, the police detective on the case. He appeared in eight of of the eleven mysteries written by author Ione Sandberg Shriber between 1940 and 1953. In Pattern for Murder he’s almost always referred to only as Grady. His first name of Bill is used only once, as I recall. Once he’s called Major, never as Lt. Grady, but other sources all agree that that’s his proper title.

   The use of “Major” may have come from his Army days; he’s accompanied on his investigation in this one by a chap named Hemingway who lives with Grady and appears to be a sort of aide-de-camp. Readers of earlier books in the series may know more about both gentlemen, but this is not the kind of mystery novel that pays any attention to its detective’s background or personal life.

   And in fact he does not show up or is even mentioned until page 49 of the 126 page edition I read. It takes that long to set up the situation — one of those very, very dysfunctional that show up awfully often in 1930s and 40s mystery fiction — and believe it or not, I was looking at the page number, which just happened to be 47, when I was trying to decide whether to keep reading or not.

   I’m glad I did, though. This turned out to be quite a decent work of detective fiction, with lots of suspects, alibis, red herrings and so on. The story is largely told from the perspective of an outsider, Miss Katy Sturtevant, who comes to the home of an old college friend to be the maid of honor at her wedding.

   But her friend is not marrying the man Katy expects, but her guardian, who is many years only. The man Katy expected to be the groom is already married, as it turns out, and to the daughter of Shannon’s guardian. There are several other relatives on hand as well, including a sister, an aunt and a cousin, only the latter of whom seems to be leading a normal life, plus a ultra-fat gentleman who turns out to be the family lawyer, along with a nurse and a missionary to China in the US now trying to raise funds for a trip back.

   Once started, though, the focus is which one of these could be a killer. It’s enjoyable ride, albeit a very somewhat disjointed one. As an author, Shriber has an annoying habit of ending one chapter with what seems to be a major revelation, only to jump in time to begin the next one. It’s a bit disconcerting, that’s all, no more than that, I assure you. Fans of the books published by the late lamented Rue MOrgue Press will love this one.

       The Lt. Bill Grady series —

The Dark Arbor. Farrar 1940
Head Over Heels in Murder, Farrar 1940
Family Affair. Farrar 1941
Murder Well Done. Farrar 1941
A Body for Bill. Farrar 1942
Invitation to Murder. Farrar 1943
Pattern for Murder. Farrar 1944
The Last Straw. Rinehart 1946