CHARLES G. BOOTH – Murder at High Tide.

Charles Booth, Murder at High Tide

William Morrow & Co., hardcover, 1930. UK edition: Hodder & Stoughton, 1930.

   This story of a domestic tyrant who’s found murdered in his library has a lot of what attracted me to mysteries in the first place.

   Even so, while fun to read, an honest appraisal would have to rank it only a notch or so above the Hardy Boys. And as in a vintage Charlie Chan movie, the dead man’s mansion is full of suspects at each other’s throats, with wild accusations and amazing discoveries coming at every moment.

   The hero is a young antiques dealer, in his own words, an ass with women. (No further comment.) The detective is Anatole Flique, a comically suave French policeman, although the murder does take place on an island just off the California coast. In his own words, he’s the cleverest on the Paris Surete. He’s also greatly given to twirling his mustaches and busily polishing the top of his head, all the while contemplating life’s little mysteries.

   There are tons of false evidence, most of it leading to dead ends, but I think that the killer, in spite of his or her alibi, should be spotted at once. The style is not John Dickson Carr’s, but it is his kind of story. If there’s no locked room, it’s only because then there wouldn’t have been quite so much fun with alibi-breaking, which in Murder at High Tide is the name of this particular game.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 3, No. 4, July-Aug 1979 (slightly revised).

[UPDATE] 01-14-09.  One of the revisions I made was to add the name of the French detective who worked on this case. Obviously I had no idea that he appeared in more than one book, but he did. From the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin, here’s his complete dossier:

FLIQUE, ANATOLE [Charles G. Booth]
       o Murder at High Tide (n.) Morrow 1930 [California]
       o The Cat and the Clock (n.) Doubleday 1935 [Los Angeles, CA]
       o Kings Die Hard (n.) Hammond 1949 [California; 1929]

   This last book never had a US edition. It came out in 1949, the same year that the author died. According to Wikipedia, Charles G. Booth was “a British-born writer who settled in America and wrote several classic Hollywood stories, including The General Died at Dawn (1936) and Sundown (1941). He won an Academy Award for Best Story for The House on 92nd Street in 1945. […] He also penned the source story for Paul Mazursky’s 1988 film Moon Over Parador.”


   I’d never realized until now that Booth was originally from England. Besides the fiction he wrote in novel form, I know his name from many stories he wrote for Black Mask, the quintessential hard-boiled American detective pulp magazine.

   In fact, he has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the three authors whose stories were deleted from the paperback edition of The Hard-Boiled Omnibus (Simon & Schuster, 1946), edited by Joseph T. Shaw. This is a great reason why you should own the hardcover edition, not just the one reprinted by Pocket (1952).