C. W. GRAFTON – The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope.  Gil Henry #1. Farrar & Rinehart, hardcover, 1943.  Dell #180, mapback edition, no stated date. Mercury Mystery #97, digest-sized paperback, 1945. Perennial Library, paperback, 1983. Poisoned Pen Press, trade paperback, 2020.

   Ruth McClure of Harpersville, Kentucky becomes suspicious when her deceased dad’s boss, William J. Harper, offers her exorbitant prices for her father’s shares of stock in his company with the stipulation that she turn over to him her father’s papers as well. She approaches Gil Henry, a junior partner in his law firm to investigate.

   Gil is an unusual investigator — short, pudgy, thirty, and living at the YMCA. He takes the case and Harper is killed shortly thereafter in his study. Ruth’s stepbrother is arrested on suspicion and Gil has to quit the firm to represent him because the firm proper already handles the Harper estate. Soon a neighbor, Miss Katie, is killed as well.

   There are some very good scenes at the bank when Gil is trying to get into the safety deposit box belonging to Ruth’s father. It’s fairly complicated with a lot of references to stocks and depreciation and whatnot, and Gil does some handy will juggling himself at the request of Mrs. Harper.

   It’s all neatly tied up at the end, however. The Mother Goose title is a bit far-fetched. Gil represents the rat gnawing at the rope, setting off an inevitable chain of events. I will definitely read the sequel,  The Rope Began to Hang the Butcher (1944).

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 3, Number 6 (December 1980).