Once more I return to the 1930’s with publisher Sharman Ellis Ltd. (Click on the publisher name in the TAGS section).
The cover art (cropped along the right edge in error by the printer) is simply signed as “S.E.C.” The cover closely adheres to a closing scene in the story. One wonders if the artist read the story or if the editor supplied the artist with the idea.
Tracks of the Turtle is the 7th title in the “Mystery Thrillers” series, and spans exactly 64 pages. The story features Clay (Oke) Oakley and his assistant, Archibald (Archie) Brixey. Oakley operates Secrets, Incorporated, a Hollywood detective firm that often-times works outside the law in the best interest of their Hollywood clients.
In this particular case, Oakley has received a call from a mansion, indicating that a murder has been performed. On arrival, a gorgeous lady and man accept their call, but assure the duo that no murder been committed, and, no such call had been made from the premises.
To their astonishment, a man is murdered out back near a shed, and wet prints are found near the corpse. Oakley suspects foul play on multiple fronts, and he and his partner immediately depart the scene in favor of their home base, rather than confront the police, whom are not very favorable toward them.
The next morning, the lady phones Oakley to return to the mansion. She explains that her father lives in the “shed,” which is more than it appears. She hires Oakley to unravel the case while protecting her father from a potential arrest and public humiliation. The family is afraid that the world would deem him insane.
The story becomes quite convoluted as we learn that she is an inept actress, that her father is rich and hell-bent on pushing all his monies towards her future in acting. The male that had opened the door earlier, with her, is her brother. Turns out that neither of them are actually the presumed insane man’s children. He adopted them as children, and reared them as his own.
The father suffers from a malady of the glands; they fail to sweat. He lives in the shed and copper pipes everywhere drip water and create an artificially damp environment. The shed is home to numerous turtles. The damp environment and pipes drip on the man even while he sleeps, to assist in his bodily functions. He fears that his malady is hereditary, so avoided having children of his own.
While investigating this shed, Brixey suffers from the dampness and contracts a cold, which while hardly noteworthy, introduces this somewhat bungling character as comic relief.
Further murders occur when the director of the girl’s first-ever feature film is being produced. He is found dead, after a gun is discharged. Wet footprints are at the scene of the crime, indicating the father was present. All clues point to him as the murderer, only, Oakley sees it differently.
Each murdered candidate was already dead! The shot(s) fired and that were heard never were the killing shots. They merely indicated a gun had gone off, and to draw someone to the dead bodies. The actual killer, while brilliantly leading the cops astray, hadn’t tricked Oakley one bit. The killer wanted the bodies to be found. But why? In all instances, wet footprints are present, and, each assassinated person had received a threatening note, signed with a turtle. Clearly the killer wanted the father to be accused of the crime.
But what was killer’s motive?
In this case, it’s simply MONEY.
The children each stood to inherit 50% of their father’s net worth upon death. And he is (or, was) worth millions. However, he has been pumping all his money into the movie, and the movie is an over-budgeted whale of a doomed project. Turns out the son is the murderer, of course. In the final scenes, at home, he shoots his sister in the leg, she faints (see the girl on the desk on the front cover). The other girl, gagged and bound to a wall post, is Oakley’s fiery red-headed secretary; she is given the author’s lazy treatment of quantitatively ejaculating that he should stay away from blondes. Cliche!
Before Oakley arrives to save the day, the father has arrived, and he attempts to get the drop on his son. He drops into the room and levers a round into his old gun, fires, and click! The gun fails to discharge. The son knocks him down, but, in the interval, Oakley jumps in (with the aid of a policeman) and they take care of the son. The policeman has a history and grudge against Oakley for interfering in past cases, and still believes that he ought to be arrested for (earlier) assaulting an officer (himself) and that the father is ultimately still guilty of murder.
Oakley works fast to prove his case and free the father from the clutches of what is clearly a policeman whom should be suspended from duties or re-assigned to another district. However, right or wrong, Oakley should be brought in on assault charges, which Davis (our author) blissfully overlooks.
All in all, a pleasing crime tale, and I can’t wait to tackle another Frederick C. Davis pulp story in the near future….