Creasey Mystery Magazine (v1 n3, October 1956) was published by Dalrow Publishing and like its preceding two issues, sports a solid one-color cover devoid of artwork. Edited by Leslie Syddall, this issue is filled with mostly reprints by quality writers of the mystery genre.
The lead novella is by John Creasey and titled Under-Cover Man. The tale originally appeared in a South African magazine, thus far untraced. It later was serialized in Australia’s Woman’s Day and Home beginning 1951 Jun 20. Two years later it was jointly published with Murder Out of the Past by UK: Barrington Gray, 1953 (I’ll be reading that tale in the next issue). This novelette opens with a frightened young lady fleeing from a tall man into a hotel. Hiding there, she is approached by a nice man who offers his assistance. He notices her fear of the tall man and convinces her to permit him to escort her out to his car, and away to meet his sister. Assures her calmly he really does have a car, really does have a sister. He’s not on the prowl. While at the car, the tall man approaches and our odd hero takes him down, disarms him of the knife he was attempting to bring forth. Creasey, ever the master at quick action yarns, spins the usual one here, but it flows admirably along. The gist: two men and two women vacation in South Africa. One man is murdered. Stabbed to death. The other collects what funds they have and makes for town. He can’t return but sends for her. She’s got no money; she arrives at the hotel to discover he’s not there! Enter…our hero. We learn there is some form of blackmail racket. But it goes even deeper than that, expanding into an even broader plot. Is anyone truly innocent? Our hero is clearly the under-cover man of the title. Why has he involved himself in the plight of this young lady? Why not simply involve the police? It’s a decent yarn and readily available for those interested in pursuing.
The Nemean Lion once more features Hercule Poirot. Written by Agatha Christie, the story debuted in The Strand, November 1939. I’ve mentioned prior that I find Poirot to be a frustratingly annoying person. Certainly not the sort of person I would enjoy spending time with, in any capacity. This story introduces readers to the fact that Poirot has effectively decided to retire, but not before tackling twelve cases that he has dubbed The Labours of Hercules, after the famed exploits of the Greek literary demi-god of legend. Unfortunately for Poirot, his first “labour” involves a Pekinese dog. It was dog-napped for ransom, that was paid, and the dog returned. So, who cares? The dog belonged to a woman. The husband cares. It was his money, and his wife did not inform him of the missing dog nor the ransom until after the issue was settled. He doesn’t care so much of the money. He has plenty. But it irks him regardless. And, another person likewise lost his wife’s dog via the same manner, but at a cost of 300 Pounds, 100 more than his own wife’s dog! Poirot takes the case and if you’ve read Poirot, he wraps it up quickly, but not to my satisfaction. He sends out his faithful man Georges to track a certain person; I’d already determined early that there were only two plausible culprits. I won’t divulge the identity but suffice to say that Poirot visits the person at their home and gives the person the opportunity to explain their actions. Despite a crime perpetuated more than once (several times, in fact) to various dog owners, Poirot permits the crime to go unpunished with a caveat.
The Missing Model by Peter Fraser appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 Aug 1954 and the BBC issued it in 1955 as a ‘Play for Broadcasting’), but it’s true first appearance was actually in The (London) Evening Standard, 13 December 1950. A couple are strolling past a shop window. The female watches a figure stumble in and collapse, dead. Returning with a constable, they are shocked to discover no dead body. Reaching out to the shop owner, he’s brought in to open shop when the detective notes that the alarm isn’t active. There’s no evidence of foul-play. The lady describes the clothes the dead person wore and notes a picture in the shop is that of the dead woman. Turns out she is their main model. Calling at her home, her mother states she is out but will return…she never does. Months pass and while no body nor clues surface, a circular was dispatched with a full description of the model’s clothes. Those turn up at a shop, the cops investigate, and we eventually obtain the killer and a case involving essentially industrial espionage.
A Dog’s Life by Michael Innes is listed on the story-page as a new story. This is false. It debuted in The (London) Evening Standard, 11 May 1950 and features his recurring popular Scotland Yard detective John Appleby. The story later was reprinted in America’s digest MacKill’s Mystery Magazine, September 1952. It’s undeniably an entertainingly flavored yarn, too. Appleby relates a case from many years earlier, in his younger years. He spends time at a cliffside town with the Lorio family, a strange couple. Something feels off about them, but he’s on vacation, not working. As he later confesses, a Yard man is always working, and must always be cognizant of this fact. While napping at the beach, he overhears a couple talking and making love. He’s mortified to recognize the voice of Mrs. Lorio making out with a strange man. Not wishing to be present to this love affair that is hardly his business, he sneaks away. Days pass find Appleby often walking with Mr. Lorio and his dog. One day the pair alone are walking along the cliffs; the wind is dangerously whipping about. Appleby has no interest in the edge, but Mr. Lorio suddenly discovers his dog down the cliffside, seemingly stuck. Appleby finds this intriguing and watches in shock as Lorio scrambles down the cliffside to rescue his dog, vanish from sight, then fall away into the sea far below to his death. Appleby runs and calls for coast guard assistance, etc., returns, and finds the dog climbed up on its own and Mrs. Lorio present looking for an explanation, seemingly mortified that her dear husband is dead, when the dog struggles lose and pursues a man that looks like vagrant. In fact, looks very much like the strange man Mrs. Lorio was having affair. The dog isn’t attacking. It loves its fleeing Master! Appleby discovers a clean-shaven Mr. Lorio and realizes the truth: the pair murdered another man to pretend it was Mr. Lorio that died to collect insurance money. Realizing he’s captured. Mr. Lorio jumps off the cliff, and Mrs. Lorio is arrested, sentenced to hang.
Peter Cheyney’s The Rope originally appeared in the 1920s-1930s. The earliest publication I’ve found is 28 June 1939 in The Wireless Weekly (Australia), a journal dedicated to the radio, and in England via the Staffordshire Advertiser, 10 Feb 1940. It was much later reprinted in MacKill’s Mystery Magazine, December 1952. This tale proves that if you give a criminal enough rope, they’ll hang themselves, no matter how smartly they plan. Getlin owes 700 Pounds to his friend Varne. His friend Varne is an alcoholic because Getlin once stole his girlfriend. He never recovered. Getlin doesn’t actually like Varne. He hates him. Hates him so much that he plans to murder Varne, and has a brilliant plan, planned over the course of a few years. Everyone in town has heard Varne drunkenly state he’s tired of living. Death by suicide: hanging. While Varne is drinking it up heavily in town, Getlin with the third spare given him by Varne (housekeeper has the other) enters the home. Arranges the suicide. Varne finally stumbles home, but Getlin gets tired of Varne drunkenly digging in his pockets for his house key. Unlocking the door, Varne falls through. Assisting the scarcely conscious man to his room, he arranges the noose about Varne’s neck, props him up, slips out of the room and in doing so, Varne slips and hangs himself. Next day, a constable comes to Getlin’s home to place him under arrest for murder. Where did he go wrong? Investigation states Varne was too drunk to tie the noose and hang himself. Plus, how did he get inside the home when his key was found in the street? The housekeeper was out of town. That leaves only Getlin.
The Case of the Red-Headed Women features Neils Orsen and is written by Dennis Wheatley. While its first publication remains unknown, it is known to be excerpted from Gunmen, Gallants & Ghosts (London: Hutchinson, June 1943). I say this because I genuinely doubt that GG&G was the first publication of all the bound stories. They feel more like pre-WW2 tales. In this psychic detective outing, Orsen is approached by friend Bruce Hemmingway to investigate a home recently purchased by newlywed clients. The home is the source of past deaths. Two redheaded women were hurled to their demise out the bathroom window; a man likewise died from that same window, but how he connects with the women is unknown. The question: is there a genuine haunting or is something more physical involved in the past-murders? Do the new owners have anything to fear? Possibly…if the wife is a redhead. Orsen accepts the invitation and sets up his photographic camera equipment outside said window and inside the bathroom. On the appointed night, Hemmingway and Orsen go to the home only to find that the newlyweds have already moved in, ahead of schedule. The pair must convince the husband to cater to their unexpected arrival and humor them until the ungodly hour of the fated wife’s scheduled demise…assuming it will actually occur. Orsen is convinced it will, when suddenly the wife, who is supposed to be asleep, is heard screaming in the bathroom. Orsen forces his way in ahead of the belligerent husband and discovers the wife very much alive, if not shaken by some supernatural ordeal. Collecting his equipment, Orsen develops the film and discovers that a ghostly form indeed had proceeded to hurl her out the window, an actual elemental. But why did it fail? Because powers of darkness can be beaten back by powers of light, namely, Orsen’s camera flash from outside the window!
The Skylight Man is by Nigel Morland and features his hard-nosed bitch of a detective, Mrs. Palmyra Pym. If that statement offends you, it shouldn’t. Pym’s stone-cold, abrasively coarse, etc. I’m not sure as to her age, but I dare say she’s probably in her 50s or so. Least, that’s how I read it. She’s called in to track a robber that can scale any building as agile as a cat and twice as fast. He made off with loads of cash. He was captured (accidentally) by a cop. Tossed in jail. Escaped, and killed a copper in the process. Every copper is hunting him to no avail. He has a girlfriend that has her own show at the BBC. She’s watched 24/7, certain the pair will contact one another. Pym finally cracks the case when she spots a blonde model and her unique nylons. They are coded in Morse, and the robber was once a navy man that can read Morse. Plus, being more than a bit of a “wolf,” he’s certain to first spot the sexy blonde’s legs on TV and then the code. They catch him alright, but Pym is miffed. Dozens of viewers also spotted the Morse code and phoned in asking if there was a cash prize for solving the code! I’ve read Nigel Morland previously and wasn’t too impressed with his works. The first time was via stand-alone novella The Big Killing.