A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Marcia Muller


GEORGE HARMON COXE – Murder with Pictures. Kent Murdock #1.  Knopf, hardcover, 1935. Dell #101, paperback, mapback edition, 1945; Dell #441, paperback, 1950. Perennial Library, paperback, 1981. Film: Paramount, 1936, with Lew Ayres as Kent Murdock.

   This is Coxe’s first novel and introduces news photographer Kent Murdock, who works for the Boston Courier-Herald and moves with seeming ease through the various strata of that city’s society — stumbling over corpses with predictable regularity. As this first adventure opens, the jury has just delivered an acquittal in the Nate Girard murder trial.

   Murdock is on the job, snapping pictures; but later his concern with Girard turns personal, when he encounters his estranged wife, Hestor, with the former liquor racketeer at a celebratory party. Hestor won’t give Murdock a divorce, in spite of a year’s separation; Murdock wants out of the marriage, and he calls on Jack Fenner to help him.

   But before that situation even begins to be resolved, Girard’s attorney, Mark Redfield (who is to receive a $50,000 fee for his client’s acquittal), is murdered, and Murdock finds himself sheltering a girl he has noticed at the victory party — a stranger who bursts into his apartment while he is taking a shower and jumps in with him.

   Quickly Murdock is back on the job at the scene of the lawyer’s murder. And he soon uncovers a tangle of lies, infidelity, and intrigue that involves the dead man’s wife; a “man-about-town” named Howard Archer; Archer’s sister Joyce; gangster Sam Cuslik (whose brother Girard was accused of murdering); a “cheap punk” named Spike Tripp; Girard; and Hestor herself. By the time he has untangled this mess, Murdock has found the solution to more than one killing — and a unique way to resolve his marital problems.

   This is a typical Coxe novel, with multiple threads that all tic together in a satisfactory manner at the end, and a love interest spiced with sex that seems oddly innocent by current standards.

   Kent Murdock is also featured in, among others, The Camera Clue (1937), Mrs. Murdock Takes a Case (1941), The Fifth Key (1947), Focus on Murder (1954), and The Reluctant Heiress (1965).

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.