HUGH PENTECOST – The Fourteen Dilemma.  Pierre Chambrun #12.  Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1976. Worldwide, paperback, April 1990.

   It’s been quite a while since I read either a Judson Philips or a Hugh Pentecost mystery, and I find that I’d completely forgotten how much passion he used to put into a story. Not passion in a sexual sense, but pure, unadulterated emotion. Rage, hate, love, joy, the works.

   What disturbed me at first was the fact that this adventure of Pierre Chambrun centers around the death of a beautiful young 12 year old girl who also happens to be a deaf mute. She and her parents are staying at the Hotel Beaumont as the result of a winning lottery ticket in a $250,000 lottery, They’ve been given a luxury apartment on the exclusive 14th floor, along with assorted diplomats, movie stars, professional killers, including one working for the State Department, and some of the wealthiest people in the world.

   And thus the number of possible suspects is limited, even though the hotel is otherwise very much like a city unto itself. But young innocent girls are not supposed to be murder victims, and — if this makes sense — while I know it happens in real life, there is no real reason I have to read about it in fiction as well, is there?

   But the fact that she cannot hear or speak is an essential part of the plot, and that she is an innocent victim is part of what spurs Chambrun into taking some of the actions he does. The story builds, as it often does in Pentecost’s books, into a story of black power politics, Arab nationalism, corporate greed, and of course, national security. In other words, a full-fledged international crisis.

   As the years [have gone] by, some of the fervent emotion seems to have ebbed away from what seemed so important a decade or so ago. On the other hand, it’s still oil that makes the world go around, or haven’t you noticed?

   Overall,  this us a decent mystery, told in Pentecost’s straightforward, often blunt style of writing, but in the end the death of the small girl  is all but forgotten.  With all the other events going on, it’s not surprising, but I somehow still found it more than a minor annoyance to me.

– Slightly revised from The MYSTERY FANcier, September/October 1978.