Having finished reading the first in this limited series, I plunged into the second Detective Thriller Library publication by Gerald G. Swan, printed circa 1960-1961, which collects leftover manuscripts purchased during the 1940s by Swan. This 64-page, stapled digest-paperback, measures approximately 5 x 7 inches. Cover art lacks any identifying signature, and seems to illustration the lead story.
“All Brides Must Die,” written by Patricia Westley, is a murder thriller. An unknown assailant known as “The Choker” is strangling beautiful young ladies to death, before they take the final plunge into matrimony. Malcolm Peters is invited to a party held by the gorgeous newlywed Mrs. Carter. While at home again, he receives a frantic distress call from her, that someone is in her house, etc. On investigating, he finds the typical souvenir left behind by The Choker. Further, the house has burned to the ground. Mrs. Carter’s faithful dog has escaped the infernal, unscathed. Peters takes in the dog, and reports all to the police. Mrs. Carter’s husband is missing. Did Harold murder her? Is he the “choker?” Questions abound. But when Peters discerns that Mrs. Carter is not actually dead, he begins to put the pieces to this puzzle together…
One can rely on Leslie Bussey to supply a decent, hard-hitting short thriller. With a title like “The Dead Sometimes Talk,” we really expect something of that sort. Bussey provides us with a bizarre tale, in which a poor woman is rifling through trash on a dead-end street, when she happens across a large manikin-doll. While rescuing the item, she is approached by a younger gentleman, whom talks sincerely to her. Offers her a job, to-be-paid at the end of her couple weeks, and she is to maintain his home for him while he is out, etc. Above all else, she is to ask no questions. She (Jenny) takes the job immediately, as housekeeper. Too, she needs money, and employment in England is tough to obtain, especially for someone down on their luck like herself. Cleaned up and dressed in better clothes, all at his expense, she takes to the job. She blunders into becoming too aware of her surroundings and suspicions begin to form that he is the mysterious murderer that the police want. The tale is inherently weak, but stimulating enough to forge through. Locked in his home, she has no escape, and finally, hangs the manikin outside the window, hoping somebody will see the manner in which it is hung. The device works. For, just as he is throttling the life out of her, the police burst in and save her life.
Next up is Dorothy Bronson’s “Blackmail Racket.” June Elder is murdered shortly after having visiting Barry Logan, private investigator. He reports the murder to Inspector Bland. Seems there is a lot of love affairs going on, and June was caught by her husband, whom creates a fake blackmail racket and plans to stick it to her secret suitor, whom has a tainted background. But when Logan discovers the woeful husband is amorous with the local dance-hall hussy, he begins to put the various clues of misdirection together in a proper sequence. Not a bad tale, altogether. It did keep me guessing.
In “Death Came Flying,” Chris Blake supplies the typical circus murder. A man is found dead, splattered, having been thrown from a fast-flying ride. Turns out he is (was) one of the circus owners. All eyes are on the co-owners, the ride operator, and the woman involved, but the detective discovers the extra clue due to mud on his clothes, which leads us to the doctor, whom was on the scene at the time of the murder. Ironically, we learn via post mortem that the victim was already dead. The murderer wanted to speed up the process by providing his own post mortem, but, the police stuck to protocols, and this thwarted him. He never had the time to remove the bullet. Secondly, a newly dead body splattering should have been drenched in blood. He was already dead, and did not splatter….
Seems odd for me to see Patrick S. Selby’s name in a crime thriller, since I’m more familiar with his appearance in New Worlds magazine, but, here we have “Pint Pots and Papers.” Terry Kestry is an insurance-man. He wishes to marry the bosses girl, but, so far, believes he will be fired shortly, because every case he has handled, the insurance company has found no fault and had to pay out. His career as an insurance detective seems to be rapidly dwindling, when he is called to check out a claim. A book collector has had his safe blown, and a rare book stolen. The case blows wide-open when Terry realizes the book could NOT have been inside a safe that couldn’t hold a book of such disproportionate dimensions, which means the person that sold the book to the collector also is in on the fraud, for having claimed he saw the book placed in the safe!
In “The Resurrection of Reen,” H. Main tells a crooks’ tale. A henchman is sent to steal a mummy from a professor. The mummy had been sold at auction, but, the henchman failed to be the high bidder. His boss isn’t happy. The mummy has a false bottom, having been stuffed with “five thousand quid’s worth” of cocaine. Having slipped through customs, it was to be auctioned off. Anyway, our crook, Snaky, realizes he can’t blow the job twice, or his life is quits. He sneaks into the professor’s home, and waits forever for the professor to leave the room. Only, he doesn’t. The professor is too engrossed in deciphering the hieroglyphics and learns of a curse. He flees to the window, when he hears a rapping. It is a raven, as mentioned in the curse, and bizarrely, it drops stone dead (never explained). While away, staring at the deceased bird, Snaky sneaks in, nabs the mummy, but only gets to the curtain in time before the professor returns. The professor is in stark fear. The mummy has arisen! and he flees the scene. Meanwhile, Snaky learns it is the wrong mummy. No false bottom. Despite fearing his life, he replaces the mummy back into its case, and reports back to his boss, whom gathers the gang, intent on raiding the house and securing the mummy, for he is certain that Snaky is an idiot. The professor has returned with a colleague, whom thinks he his batty, especially after regurgitating the mummy’s curse. On arriving, they find the mummy has returned. What’s more, they now find themselves surrounded by masked thieves. The whole scene goes colorfully weird when police burst in and the mummy inexplicably comes to life, its wrappings falling from its face to reveal a raven-haired corpse. It informs the bad guys to kneel before the presence of Reen, High Priest of Ra. Remarkably, they do just that, except the boss, whom faints. Turns out the mummy did NOT pass customs. They caught the cocaine, and switched the mummy, too, in order to bust the gang.
Last up is Garry Elliott’s “Cheque for Murder.” Darrell, a one-time crook, has been in the hire of old man Cowan now for quite some time. Having forgiven the crook’s past transgressions, he gave the man a chance at redemption and Darrell, as accounts bookkeeper, and has performed admirably. However, he is sweating bullets. He signed and cashed a false check, and is afraid the bank caught this. When an envelope arrives with his name on it and check noted, Darrell is sure he has been caught. He decides to murder Cowan; and murder him, he does. The irony occurs when the police discover the check in an envelope on the desk, and Darrell blurts out that they can’t have found it…he has it on him! Really? Turns out Cowan had written a bonus check, and was to award Darrell a promotion! He had never been suspected by Cowan and, he recovered the wrong check.