2015 August 21: “They Don’t Always Hang Murderers” by Benson Herbert

After reading a Nazi thriller, I decided to “blitz” through this next book.

Benson Herbert’s “They Don’t Always Hang Murderers” was published by Lloyd Cole, originally released in boards, in February 1943. Copies sold out and it was re-issued April 1943. These, too, apparently sold out, for the publishers finally issued a “Cheap Edition” soft cover, the one featured below, a their Third Impression, on October 1943.

LLOYD COLE They Don't Always Hang Murderers

It features a lovely cover illustration by H. W. Perl, and is a 144-page digest paperback.
It’s unclear who the Golden Amazon (thank you, John Russell Fearn) lass featured is supposed to be within the novel, but, I suspect she is the secretary; but, I digress….(nice legs, though)….

The story involves Henry Wilcox’s addiction toward uncovering the mysterious whereabouts of a man whom he was best friends before the First World War. They both served together along with Henry’s brother, Clive. The friend, one Tracey Gooth (what a name!) is wounded in the leg and forever more, vanishes without a trace. Henry, likewise, is injured.

Returning from the war, Henry finds that his wife is missing. Try as he might, he can not locate her. Likewise, Gooth is missing, and his sweetheart, Joan, ends up marrying Henry, since they have something in common. There is no real love between them. She has money of her own (by which means is never honestly divulged, so, it must be inherited family funds) and she stakes Henry to business and pushes him to be successful, for which, he largely is.

Flash forward a couple decades. No clear year is given, but, let us assume that 25 years has passed since 1918, landing us upon the year this book is released. Sound good? Great.

Henry’s son, Arthur, has been having an affair and she sneaks out to his country estate to blackmail the family. Arthur, finally convinces her [Clara] to depart the estate for fear of upsetting the family. She leaves, but it is clear that she will return and continue the blackmail. She eventually is found dead, later in the novel, and it is presumed by Clara’s mother, that Arthur murdered her and that leads to another blackmail attempt, this time, on Henry and his business.

Enter Henry and his wife, Joan. He is easy-going while she appears to be the family “matriarch” in the iron-fist sense. She controls Henry and Arthur through fear. Henry submits to her wishes because he is ill and requires a medication to control it while Arthur is weak-minded and is simply afraid of her. Not to mention, Arthur works for his father.

The tale mostly revolves around the disappearance and sudden re-appearance of Tracey Gooth into their lives, and Henry’s brother, Clive, trying to substantiate the fact that Tracey, once a decent sort, has fallen on hard times since his debilitating wartime injury left him with a permanent limp, is now there purely to blackmail the family.

I’ll ruin part of the plot by announcing that facts arise that Tracey was not simply engaged to Joan prior to the war. They had in fact, secretly married, and, to top that off, Arthur is their son!!! Right as this information is ultimately divulged [at the end of the novel] in walks Clive, to proclaim that Henry is dead and that Tracey murdered him by supplying the carefully locked-up meds, which led to an overdose.

Do they believe him? Or, is there another person present that ultimately committed the crime? Sadly, what begins in earnest as an interesting novel of crime, attempted murder, a slanderous affair or two, etc., essentially collapses in the end with the most ridiculous soap opera endings. I recommend the book to anyone, but, ask only that they stop short of discovering the identity of the killer and the ultimate fate of that person in a quasi-“Fall of the House of Usher” like moment.

2015 August 21: “They Don’t Always Hang Murderers” by Benson Herbert