Thursday, October 21, 2010

Murder by the Book by Frances and Richard Lockridge

As part of the Bingo challenge at the library, I needed a fiction book by an author who's last name begins with K-L-M-N or O.  Nothing in my TBR stack fit the bill so I wandered through the stacks and came across the Mr. & Mrs. North mysteries by Frances and Richard Lockridge.  I have long been curious about these classic mysteries so it seemed a perfect solution.  I selected what I thought was the first book in the series, however - color me embarrassed - the list I looked at was printed in reverse order (and I didn't think to check pub. dates) so what I got was actually the last book in the series - written in 1963. 
A little research on these sleuths revealed that they have also been featured in several radio and television series, a Broadway play and a movie.
Jerry and Pamela North, a publisher and his wife, are vacationing in the Florida Keys when Pamela stumbles onto the dead body of a fellow resort resident.  They move from being prime suspects to playing Archie Goodwin to Deputy Jefferson's Nero Wolf - they track down all the clues and hand them over for the police to solve.  

I was especially enamored with Mrs. North.  On the surface she appears to be the typical "dumb blond" - although I don't remember if the author ever actually said she was blond.  Underneath the wheels were always turning.  She spent much time in her own world processing information and then would spit out her conclusions as though everyone in the room had been following her thoughts - usually leaving them totally confused.

The only thing I disliked about this book was one quirk in the Lockridges' writing style - much of the dialog was told third person:
Jefferson sighed again.  He said Key West wasn't like New York.  He said they didn't have a hundred men to turn loose on it - to turn loose on anything.  Or ten men.  He said the city police had a description of her and if they ran across her - "when they're not tagging cars" - they'd tell her the sheriff's office would like to see her.
What dialog was written in the more standard "he said, she said" mode was very abrupt and often felt unnatural.  Other than these oddities, the story was well plotted, with enough twists to keep me guessing, and well paced.  At under 200 pages, it was a quick and enjoyable read.

1 comment:

  1. I liked the movie and then the TV shows of the Norths but I never got around to reading the books. I'm glad to see they are still in print.