“Corpse from the Sky” was written by J. Murray Crouch and published by Gulliver Books, in 1950. The book is a 128-page digest-paperback that features artwork that is both not credited and has zero to do with the content(s) of the novel. The artwork is possibly that of Denis McLoughlin.
This is part of their short-lived Skyscraper Books series, which featured only one other known novel, “The Dead Are So Dumb,” by Leslie Cargill; he churned out over a dozen thrillers during a 15-year span.
Other books noted (on the rear cover) include the following series:
- Starlight Westerns
- Kismet Romances
- It Really Happened!
Joseph Murray Crouch was born 14 March 1912 at Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, England. He died 1997 in Croydon, Surrey. (Perhaps one day a family-member will read this blog and contribute something further). He attended Hatfield College, part of the University of Durham, and graduated with the Class of 1935. Come 1940, he was in the Royal Artillery, and by 1943, married on the Isle of Man. At some point, Mr. Crouch was involved with the Intelligence Corps.
To my knowledge, this is his only literary “novel” contribution. I surmise he attempted to translate some of his life experiences into writing this murder – mystery novel. He did author at least 3 short stories for London Life, a digest-magazine. Those known stories include:
- Educated Gus (February 1947) as Murray Crouch
- The Seventh Child (April 1949) as J. Murray Crouch
- Get Your Man (February 1951) as J. Murray Crouch
The first tale is not the first appearance of “Gus.” The magazine blurb states “once again Gus wins against long odds.” So we know our author had at least one prior story.
In Corpse from the Sky, a man is dumped out of an airplane. The body slams into the buildings (amusing this happens in a series called “Skyscraper Books”) before slithering to the ground practically at the feet of a detective. The coincidences and poor ability of the author to create any sense of suspense is further shattered when a lovely young lady enters his office. She is Denise, daughter and heir to Arthur Vanrietz’s fortunes. Inexplicably, we learn that her father, Arthur, suggested to her to seek out this particular detective in the event that he is dead. No explanation is given as to why Arthur should want this particular detective.
So, now we have an unidentified corpse (landing literally at the feet of the detective) and a young lovely lady hiring him to look for her murdered father. She is certain that he is dead, after all. A silly assumption. Our detective, Mr. Bartle, sends her to the local police and while there, she learns of the dropped body, identifies it as her father, returns to Bartle, and tells all. He’s immediately on the case.
Traveling out to the family castle, he meets all sorts of villainous residents. There is no need to travel down the well-worn path to explain that the butler is always given the evil slant (in fact, he served time once) and that the rest are equally unscrupulous.
In the end, Bartle hasn’t a damned clue who the murderer really is but sequesters everyone in the lounge and exposes everything he knows, then, absurdly, states that the (secret) half-brother had the best motive for murder and is indeed the crafty butcher who has murdered every other person throughout the novel.
The half-brother whips out a gun and tries to affect his escape. Why? There was no proof! He could have sat there all day and laughed. Instead, the half-brother is tackled, cuffed, and arrested, and Bartle turns away in disgust, because he can’t stand the sight of persons placed under arrest.
The novel practically concludes on that note. The girl, we are given to understand, is romantically involved with the only other person in the castle that appears to have a relatively clean slate.
Honestly, the novel had me utterly flummoxed. I was hoping that the otherwise juvenile construction and plot would suddenly explode ingeniously into a ripe thriller. Imagine my disappointment…but I am quite intrigued about the author.