lunedì 1 settembre 2014

Christianna Brand : Heads You Lose, 1941



The first novel by Christianna Brand, with the Inspector Cockrill was Heads You Lose, written in 1941. Before it, in the same year, Christianna, had made ​​her debut with Death in High Heels, a novel who had given her a warm reception and that was served to spur, when she was still working as a clerk, convincing her to continue her career as a writer.
It's a novel of impossible crimes, subtly macabre , veined by the veil of madness and in any case by the oddity that gives the novel its own special charm.
Stephen Pendrock is the squire of the village. Grace Morland is a painter, who now is talking to him on the terrace of his house. She is in love with him, maybe yes maybe no, but certainly she would like to live the rest of her life with him in Pigeonsford. The fact is that Stephen, so measured, so sober, and also so mature, secretly loves Fran, one of the nephews by Lady Hart that he is hosting in his mansion. Fran, however, is so young, so saucy, that Stephen is in doubt whether he really, fifty, may be of interest for her: his at the moment is a platonic love and does not know if it will ever become something else.
Grace paints at different times of the day, the landscapes that attract the most her: from the  Stephen house’s terrace she can paint enjoying the best scenery, but she knows to be tolerated; nevertheless she imposed her presence, that  for kindness has not been refused. She immediately has notice that Stephen only has his eyes for Fran, despite also James Nicholl is interested to her, young and wealthy bachelor. And because she is jealous of Stephen, really wants to despise the only thing that Fran has proven to be enthusiastic, a charming hat, that she makes everyone see: to her grandmother, Lady Hart; to her sister Venetia and to his brother-in-law Henry Gold, rich jew; to Stephen Pendrock; and Grace, who is there to paint, which says that not even dead in a ditch, she would like wear on the head a hat like that!
At that night her corpse is found, at the property belonging to the mansion, just in a ditch, with the Fran’s hat pulled down over her head , by the old butler Bunsen, who went in bycicle to visit his sister, and was returning to Pigeonsford. The shocking fact, that leaves everyone aghast, is that Grace Morlan has not only been killed, but also beheaded; and that on her head, as a kind of scarring, the reviled hat was pulled down on her head. It 'obvious that only a few people were aware of what Gracehad said, and always the same people only knew where the hat had been placed, in what place of the house: so it is clear that if an offender must find, he must be found in the house.
The Inspector Cockrill,  known familiarly as “Cockie” from the occupants of the house, because inhabitant in those zones,  of this he is especially convinced: he was deeply disturbed at the sight of the Grace’s body, also because he had known Grace Morlan in his youth: "a sentimental goat "was for him, and then he had never had any stimulus affective against him although she had on several occasions attempted to be seduced. The sad fate of Grace: although she had tried to avoid being "old maid" for the rest of her life, no one had ever shown affectionate feelings towards her. Perhaps for her acidity that she showed at the first opportunity. The fact is that now she is dead. And too bad.
The first alarm bell for Cockie, is the phone call that comes to policeand which comes from the house of Pendrock: to talk about is a woman, who claims to be the killer, and claims that soon Fran also die. Cockrill must find the killer before he/she kills again; and since also the summer before, a scullery maid, after saying goodbye to her lover, had been found in the grove of the estate, with his hands tied behind his back and his head severed from the body by a sharp sickle, left there closely, the thing becomes damnly urgent .. It 'very strange that after one year are found two headless corpses in the same estate.
Another character peeks at the death of Grace: is her half-sister Pippy Le May, actress.
Pippy Le May subtly hated half-sister. When the crime took place she was far away and therefore it’s not a good reason she can be concerned. Pippy who is awake, saw something in that house, and really wants to take advantage. He's going to blackmail someone? But also she is soon killed in a horrible way, beheaded. Near the tracks. It’s as if someone with an enormous force, he tore the collar from the trunk, leaving no footprints in the snow. If on the severed head from Grace had been put the Fran’s hat, now around the Pippy’s mangled neck the murderer put the scarf of the woman. In short, three people were beheaded, in less than a year. Everything revolves around this house, a cursed house.
Cockrill investigates but soon he finds himself up against a wall of silence: someone must have been in the house, certainly, to kill Grace Morland, perhaps Pippy Le May, and perhaps also the scullery maid killed at the year before. Covering each other the occupants of the house, it becomes extremely difficult to nail down the murderer to his/her responsibilities: in this situation, the virtually unassailable alibi make these last two crimes “impossible” to have occurred. 

Of course it is strange to happen three crimes, all with the same characteristics,at the same place! Cockrill thinks and makes his conjectures, but to remove the wall created from the members of the house around them, each other, is no small thing. It seems they want to believe that the person responsible has come from the outside, but even they are reliable. In fact, as the Grace  murder is at least strange, for the detail of the hat, that one hand at the same time mocking and mad, trod on the severed head by the painter, a sign that someone by force, even though all deny it, and no one saw anything, he/she must be returned to the home, stealing the hat from the box where it was put, and have it taken away, even the Pippy murder someone can not say that it is not curious: Pippy has returned to his home, but has forgotten her glasses at Pendrock’s home and then she has reported to her maid she would return there to take the glasses; but she has not returned. This thing reconnect the crime at Pendrock home. In this case, however, the detail that makes it all the more difficult, is that around the body there are not footprints but an expanse of untouched snow: how did the murderer to kill Pippy?
In a whirlwind of blows, Cockrill will nail the murderer, less guilty than we would think, for the murder of two cousins​​, but not for that of the scullery, of which will be blamed another person. Before it will make the name of a lot of persons as the killer: Trotty, the maid; Pippy (for Grace); the true killer; Lady Hart. Why, if did you mention the name of the murderer (by Cockrill, which he considers responsible, and of which he explains the actions and the guilt), then was another person accused? Because here Christianna Brand resorts to a trick she will use other times, for example in Tour de Force: to indicate the real murderer, then to invent another solution that put him in the shade, and then to return on his culpability.
Again, Christianna Brand surprises and charms. And once again, a hallmark of his narrative style, are the multiple solutions, which succeed each other, and the  multiple culprits are indicated and discarded from time to time; but also the multiple identities of the same people, as we have already seen in other novels, for example in Tour de Force. But since this is the first novel, it is even more special.
The identification of the murderer comes almost unexpected. I say almost, because the careful reader (who had read the other novels in which a certain particular uses) may have been suspicious for a certain thing (which I do not mention, otherwise it is as if I took the name of the murderer). This thing, however, occurs in other novels: it reminded me Helen McCloy, about his masterpiece about the Doppelganger; and, above all, in the same way, in one of the masterpieces by Paul Halter, Le Brouillard Rouge. In other words, the murderess is not fully responsible, because he's crazy, and after killing, he does not remember anything: it is as if he had acted in a state of trance, because epilepticus. Now, crazy killers in the novels of Halter, there are several, but, in that novel, the murderer, and his “modus operandi” are shown twice: first mentions about a certain thing he does, and then, in another step of the novel, takes this action in particular juncture that described before, but explaining it in all its horrible significance. Here, the same thing happens.
Another interesting thing, because it will also be used later, is the presence of a prologue: we will see a similar thing for example in Death of Jezebel.
Finally, there is the use of solutions that contemplate the locked  rooms : in this case, it is explained by referring to the gymnastic skills by the killer (Carr already had experimented this, for example, in The Footprint in the Sky), in a way specifically, it will be taken verbatim from Joseph Comming in one of his stories; and much later, in a novel by William De Andrea: Killed on the Rocks, at a similar. But the really interesting thing is that in this novel, there are three victims and two separate killers. What does it mean? Christianna Brand that is inclined to the extreme originality, and for not bind the chariot to anyone, already in his first work. Which also reveals a great self-confidence. Moreover, the ploy, let's face it, is the real "coup de theater" of the novel.
Finally, there is the use of solutions that contemplate the locked rooms: in this case, it is explained by referring to the gymnastic  qualities by the killer (Carr already had experimented this, for example in The Footprint in the Sky), in a way specifically, it will be taken verbatim from Joseph Comming in one of his stories; and much later, in a similar manner at a novel by William De Andrea: Killed on the Rocks. But the really interesting thing is that in this novel, there are three victims and two separate killers. What does it mean? Christianna Brand is inclined to the extreme originality, and for not bind the chariot to anyone, already in his first work. Which also reveals a great self-confidence. Moreover, the ploy, let's face, it is the real "coup de theater" of the novel. If Agatha Christie, on two occasions, had given  a shove to the classic Whodunnit (before in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and after in Mrs McGinty's Dead), also regulated strictly by SS Van Dine, in the case of Christianna Brand, the thing is more remarkable because it is performed on the occasion of her debut: while Van Dine, in order not to confuse the reader had forbidden that there was in an enigma novel over a murderer, here there are two!
I must note at this point that I was surprised by some comments by Christianna Brand when she describes Henry Gold, the jew husband of Venetia (Henry "Gold", mind you): describes him as anti-Semitic propaganda of the that time described the Jews. The particularly strange is that it comes from a writer of Anglo-Saxon origin, a sign that this cultural setting was not own  of certain individuals identified politically and geographically, but that the same cultural setting was more widespread than you think.

Already in his first novel of the Inspector Cockrill series, Christianna Brand sets up spectacular stagings, in the case of the murder of the scullery maid, and in the case of the murder of Grace and Pippy. But it happens also at her other novels (for example, Death of Jezebel and Tour de Force) and at some of her short stories (for example The Gemminy Cricket Case).
Finally, a characteristic thing: in some novels by Christianna Brand, the victims are beheaded. It does not happen only in this her first macabre divertissement, but also in Death of Jezebel. I believe that this can probably be related also with the fact thatChristianna Brand was born in Malaysia, Borneo, where the dajachi practiced the beheading of enemies: this horrible practice may be stuck in her mind and then reproduced in her "crimes of paper".

Pietro De Palma

venerdì 29 agosto 2014

Hillary Waugh : Madame Will Not Dine Tonight, 1947



About Hillary Waugh I have already spoken on the occasion of the excellent novel republished by Polillo Publisher.
Waugh began, however, as I have already said, with three novels in the classical tradition of Mystery Enigma. It was the first ever written: Madame Will Not Dine Tonight ,1947.
Sheridan Wesley was invited to the home of Valerie King for a dinner. Nothing strange if Valerie King was his acquaintance , but it is not. The invitation is also more strange because to Sheridan, who is a private investigator, was delivered an envelope with an invitation, in which was a hundred-dollar bill and also the demand to bring with him to dinner, an escort: in his case, his wife.
The invitation, which is already strange in itself, acquires even greater significance when the two arrive at the home of Valerie and do not find her waiting for them; instead found a strange company of people: Jimmy Burns, a tabloid journalist; Charley Cromwell, a playboy; James Godfrey, a lawyer; Gloria Van Ryne, a beautiful girl from a good family; the Hammitt spouses. The group of individuals gathered there is all the more strange because they do not know each other- and could even happen that into a party people do not know - but even more strange is when it is clear to Wesley and his wife, that some of them say they had never known before the King: for example spouses Hammitt, Burns and Gloria Van Ryne.
Meanwhile, everyone is waiting for Valerie, but  seems his guests wait her. Sheridan begins to ask questions: the household, the Webbs, say Valerie went to town the day before and  when they are returned at ten o'clock in the morning, already she was not in the house, but she had announced the day before that they would prepare the house for an evening reception, when they would return. And they had done what she  had ordered. However, this revelation seems to be in contrast with what Wesley has discovered: Diana's car is still in the garage. She could not  go to the town from a villa in the countryside without a car! Wesley begins to smell a rat: if at the house she does not seem to be , somewhere else she will stand. Around the villa there is a grove: although it is night, it’s cold and they are dressed in evening gowns, Wesley and Diana walk, illuminating the ground with a flashlight that he always brings in the car. The fact is that after theyhave found on a stretch of land, footprints women's heels, and then a female high-heeled shoe, they find Valerie naked, stabbed and dead , at least since one day.
They return to the villa and they call the police.

The surveys are entrusted to Captain Slocum, who initially distrusts Wesley, thinking abouta red herring, then he gives him credit for (while distrusting him) when he knows that Wesley and the Inspector-in-chief Bradley, of the Homicide Squad of the Police New York, are good friends. As Slocum did stalk Wesley, he  instead of supporting the survey, investigates on his own: first at the opening of the Valerie’s safe , he subtracts from it, a photo among the documents Slocum gave him, an old photo; then in his absence, raids deeper  the study, where he found, communicating by phone to the police about the death of Valerie, tobacco scattered on the carpet and two tins of cigarettes (colored red and green) with the plugs reversed that he had put in place: pondering about the assumption that the spouses Webber and in particular the woman claimed to have thoroughly cleaned the house on Thursday morning before leaving, he concludes that tobacco had to be dropped after, as during a lite, when the jars were opened and the cigarettes were  finished on the carpet. By removing the tobacco, he realizes that there are spots on the carpet flattened, as if for the time it had been leaning over something heavy that he hypothesizes were the legs of the desk; aligning these to the legs of the desk, he realizes the areas of the carpet covered temporarily by the legs have spots, presumably of blood: understanding that is the location where Valerie was killed, he knocks on the walls to try hypothetical secret drawers and finds instead, behind a reproduction of a Corot, the bullet of a .38 impacted behind, that he removes and takes.
After clearing the room, he goes to deliver the bullet to his friend policeman for ballistics, just to know that it comes from the gun of a notorious gangster finished long before the electric chair. Also, doing a search on the newspaper years ago, he dates back to the people portrayed in the photo he has taken away. They are two robbers, Lenny Myers and Joe Freeman: the first, that had a younger sister, Virginia Myers, was executed on electric chair for a murder during a rapine; the second, has escaped from prison and about it, it has not heard anything; Virginia Myers later had changed the name in Valerie King. Along with other clues, including cards and letters kept in the safe, it takes out another portrait of Valerie, not simple wife, betrayed by a husband who solaced with four lovers, who lives with the heritage derived from the divorce from her ex-husband, but blackmailer patented, which blackmailed Cromwell, his former lover, but also probably the lawyer Godfrey, his lawyer in the divorce proceedings; and probably also the former husband. It’s possible she also blackmailed the spouses Hammitt? Freeman at the old photo, older, could be similar to Hammitt? Wesley understand Hammitt is  an escaped convict, who later made ​​a fortune in the industry. Who will never be the murderer? What’s the value of the discovery made by Wesley, together with the discovery of blood stains on the carpet of the study, about  a fragment of a diopter lens?
Madame Will Not Dine Tonight, which was written while Waugh was still in the army, was not very successful. Why ? Probably because it did not create anything new. It would have fascinated unless he repeated some elements of novels published previously: this is the limit of the novel. It 'an honest product, very cleverly written, that mixes the Hard Boiled (the stalking, assault in the night club with fistfight , which hints at many other similar ones, in particular, contained in Headed for a Hearse by Jonathan Latimer: the femme fatale, as opposed to his wife, who wants to get with the sex the fixed result and when she doesn’t get it, she produces in a waft of obscenities longshoreman) with the deductive Mystery (the blood on the carpet, which mocks a novel by Ellery Queen, The Egyptian Cross Mystery, the diopter lens route and the exchange of cigarette boxes, clues linked to color blindness, which makes the verse to another novel by Ellery Queen, The Greek Coffin Mystery, and always to this novel by Ellery Queen it may refer Waugh, with regard to the artistic side of Godfrey, since as in the novel by Queen there’s the painter's forger Grimshaw, here is the lawyer Godfrey who is also an accomplished artist; the blackmail, theme already deepened in many other novels; and also in several previous novels, there is the indication of the false footprint  to sidetrack the investigation) according to a specified path already own by Jonathan Latimer or Craig Rice.
Then Waugh adds very personal themes, which are obtained associating once again, as so often happens in the first few novels by a particular author, the own personal story to that of his hero. It is no coincidence, for example, the wife of Wesley, is called Diana, as the wife of Hillary Waugh, and the lawyer Godfrey dabbles in prints being an accomplished artist, as the same Hillary Waugh was designer.
A novel, however, we read in one breath, supported by excellent dialogues. However, the offender can be easily identified on the basis of the projectile analyzed, a long time ago.
In practice, there is no surprise in the final (we speak of course about the novel read by avid readers), because the offender can not be that one person!

Pietro De Palma

mercoledì 27 agosto 2014

Hillary Waugh - Sleep Long My Love, 1959



Recently came out in italian bookstores, signed by Hillary Waugh, "Dormi bene amore mio", Sleep Long My Love, 1959, in the series of Polillo Publisher.
Who was Hillary Waugh?  
Hillary Baldwin Waugh was called and he was born in 1920 in New Haven, Connecticut. He graduated in 1942 from Yale University, and then he enlisted in the Air Force USAF: just as he lent military service, he thought of writing a novel, his first, Madame Will Not Dine Tonight in 1947. After having published two more novels without much success, in 1949 he turned his attention from the Mystery enigma - genre that had raged in the thirties and early forties to the so-called "Procedural", a novel in which the survey is conducted by a police , following tracks, interviews, formulating hypotheses, abandoning them, etc. .. until you find the culprit. His first novel, the change was the dazzling Last Seen Wearing ... which was published in 1952, followed by many others.


Waugh, also named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, has died at age 88, in 2008

Sleep Long My Love is a black novel , but most black that you can not.
Even here the characteristic of Waugh emerges forcefully: a beginning of the novel absolutely surprising, as well as the final unsettling were the characteristic of Brown. But I'm not talking about the Prologue, but just the beginning of the novel.
In the Prologue there is a dialogue between a man and a woman, two lovers. He is tired of her, but she haunts him, begged him, and finally threatening him with the story that she is pregnant by him. A threat as old as the world, for a married man who lives an extramarital affair only as carnal fun without wanting to break up with his first wife, becomes the motive for murder.
So far nothing special. It’s the beginning of the novel instead that  is unsettling!  Mr. Watly, an employee of a real estate company that rents houses, finds broken the glasses of his office. He Suspects a theft but he can not find anything that was stolen, except ... of leases from the archives?
One steals money, shares, securities,  jewelry, but never you heard that someone has stolen rental contracts. Yet it is so.  But Fred Fellows, police chief at Stockfords, does not think so. It begins to dig, to analyze all the rents and eventually focuses on short-term contracts. Restlin, the owner of the estate agency speaks about a certain Campbell who had rented a nice big house for a month, and would be available soon; Watly only that you had taken the day before a buyer, Brunnell, but had found the house deserted and the door closed.

Fellows and his sergeant Sidney Wilks go with other agents, and immediately feel a strange odor that can not identify. The house is uninhabited, clean and put in order. Nothing strange, except two suitcases with two gold initials "JS" in the entrance, almost forgotten.
Bare rooms, clean bathrooms but one with the foam in the bottom of the tank, and a freezing cold inside the house. You die from the cold, and already it is in February, February 26. But for most of the heating is off. Restlin launches desperate in the basement where there’s the boiler and you can hear his cries: someone has left turn off the boiler, not shutting off the water meter and so the pipes have frozen and they have erupted.
Fellows enter into all the rooms and finds nothing, absolutely nothing. Then he goes down to the cellar. But why in the basement? Yes, because in the cellars of the abandoned houses are hidden secrets. I remember the good Carr (he intended about Gothic literature), in It Walks By Night, in a wall of the cellar it had been hiding a decomposing body. No, here. decomposing bodies hidden in walled niches there are none. But there is a trunk. Other topos of the novels blacks. When you find a chest, you can be sure that inside there is always something interesting: Agatha Christie reveals a rotting corpse in a trunk, in One, Two, Buckle My Shoe; Alfred Hitchcock conceals one inside a chest and then over there prepares the table for a cocktail party in Rope; Michael Gilbert hides a decomposing body in a trunk, in his masterpiece, Smallbone Deceased; even the French writer Pierre MacOrlan (one of the pseudonyms of the great Pierre Dumarchey, author of the ever remembered enough Quai des Brumes, the novel from which Marcel Carné drew the eponymous film masterpiece with Jean Gabin and Michèle Morgan) in Le tueur numéro deux hides a corpse in a trunk; and even “The Jackal” at Forsyth's novel, when he kills the forger of passports that wants to extort more money by threatening to reveal to those who have provided them, he hides the body in a chest.
Do you want to see that in the chest, in the basement of the abandoned house, there is a corpse?
Initially clothes, shoes, but then find a trunk of a body who has been partially preserved from the cold by the decomposition, from which lack the upper and lower limbs and the head. Where will the killer have hidden them ever ? 

Since at the boiler they find are a strange ash, not charcoal, it is assumed now that it is the missing part of the body. As you can never identify the body?
First, the investigations aim to identify who sent the trunk, because you know it is the trunk of a dead woman, but you can not find out anything important. Then just out of curiosity by Fellows who finds on a notebook  strange signs as products from a torn piece of paper above, he fails with an empirical method, to know a name "Jane Sherman" and her address. He convinces himself that are the true data of the killed woman. But when he went to the woman's house, he finds in front of her, alive and well. And then from the dialog that follows, almost questioning, he realizes that the Sherman is a dissatisfied woman, never looked at by men, that one day he met a man in a train, in respect of which she felt a strong physical attraction, so much to go with him to a house and spend the night with him. She reveals that all the rooms were open except one, and only after that Fellows tells her about the murder, she understands she has been one step away from discovering a dead body in it and ending up in the same way. Oh my God! A murderess kills a woman and then goes in search of another, he seduces her, leads her  in the same house with the corpse still warm in a room, and he makes love with her !
Fellows understood to be looking for a monster, which is a common man, so common as to be impregnable because John Campbell is an invented name.
 Everything is probed but in vain: we look for someone who may has come from some neighboring country, maybe he has a double life. A neighbor said that this guy was living with a reserved woman, arrived in the afternoon and then went away in the evening. Fellows is convinced that the murderer is a traveling salesman, but in spite of all searches, he is only able to arrest an innocent man, a salesman of vacuum cleaners with the hobby of carnal adventures with unsatisfied housewives. Only when Fellows ask the help of dentists and ask them if they have patients with the initials "JS", he takes the right path and he can figure who is the victim.
And after a patient and meticulous investigative work ... he does not call for any result worthy of note. So, he restarts from zero: from the theft of contracts; by the visit of Watly and Brunnell to the empty house; from the attempt to burn the body, which were subtracted awkwardly and by untrained bodies, fearing the woman's pregnancy, before at the boiler and then when it had gone through negligence, in the chimney of the house: to it was due the l strange and disturbing smel, since from having tried to burn the body in the fireplace. Fellows by the fact that the trunk had not been made ​​to disappear, he realizes that someone must have disturbed the murderer at the performance of the perfect crime.
He will be able to nail down the murderer only with an idea, extreme in its conception, just making a subtle reasoning and conceiving a solution to the limit of the imagination, in a dazzling finale.
Truly extraordinary novel, Sleep Long My Love is a Procedural tight, engrossing, with a tension increasing, which finds its main points in a plot just perfect: a murderer who is not, a shadow in the night; a victim unrecognizable; the weapons: a carving knife and a butcher knife found burned in the fireplace; the absence of fingerprints, signatures of tracks. Only the meticulous investigation of the police, that does not leave out anything, that does not shrink at nothing, that taking false leads, false stops murders, fails to stop the true killer; and when it is in doubt whether you can prove premeditated murder, how  thinks Fellows about, instead of manslaughter as supposed Wilk about, just a mistake of the murderer, who claims to have bought the weapons only after the woman's death had happened at a day that Fellows discovers  to have been not working but festive , will deliver the truth, and the novel ends as it began: with an attribution to the murder, of premeditated murder.
The technique followed by Waugh, an author whose magnitude is still far from being accepted and recognized in Italy, and whose many distant traces remain, but few recent ones, is to present all the clues together, not giving emphasis to them, much less to that specific, so that despite being very fair with the reader, at the same time he submits the clue, he hides the most poisonous effects resulting from it. Only at the end, he will refer, drawing the question on which rotates the whole affair: why did the murderer stop the destruction of the corpse, if anyone in the neighborhood had experienced anything strange, or if anyone had smelled the stench that radiated around?
Only by giving answer to this question you will be able to give a twist to the story and to catch the murderer.

I have been able to develop the same reasoning of Fellows and to nail the same murderer before he be revealed by Waugh.
The murderer is the most unexpected of the story and at the same time the most plausible.
he recalls a famous novel by Agatha Christie as the murderer is presented to the readers.
More than that, it needless to say.
The psychology of the novel is taken to its best, the portraits of the people involved are in the round; and there is a certain sensitivity and a certain sadness to tell the mournful events, that takes away the mystery from the certainties of the puzzles aseptic thirties, instead of sinking it in the mist and the blood of Crime Story. In some ways, also here, the victim is at the bottom an executioner and the executioner a victim: if the victim did not not threatened the murderer to reveal his relationship to wife of him, she would still be alive and he would not have become a murderer.
And to dominate the story, it is the Fate, the only winner, inscrutable: it causes the murder.  It causes the Simpson to lead to extreme her threat; it takes Campbell to premeditate the death of the woman, or rather her missing. But the Fate leads to occupe about the case  is not just a cop, but an heir to the great tradition of the 30s, a Poirot, a Fell or even better, a Appleby, the only one who can (except the ultra-shrewd reader) making some reasoning and unmasking the murderer. Detector is also the theft of contracts, which, however, could not be consumed.
Moreover, the murderer is a mile away from those wicked cool or smart by Ellery Queen or by Carr or by Agatha Christie: here is a man who only under the aura of mimesis of which he is equipped, he is unable to believe be rescued; but then demonstrates his fragility, in his sobs and in his tears, at the end.
And there is an exquisite sensitivity in analyzing the American province, and the ill-concealed tendencies of depressed men who are victims of social degradation and the lack of any value in which to believe, in the face of another society dominated by the myth of the "Self Made Man ", and the ill-concealed tendencies of depressed women in their lack of hope for a better life, crushed by the absence of leadership roles reserved for them only in promoting social and refugees at being married or however loved, even if only for one night. So the twoJ.S.” of the story, the Jean Sherman, small-town girl, devoted to her father ill, who by virtue of his condition she can not enjoy the close proximity of men, in short, a virtuous maiden, and Joan Simpson who has given, or believed to have given a twist to her own life, finding a young love, which will lead instead to the death, if they are united by the initials, instead run through two paths parallel but very different: they both made sex with the murderer, but while the first saves herself of the because she is content of the love’s night not having or having a few doubts that the man will never see again from her, because she will continue to live everyday life with his father sick (an example all positive), the second ends up murdered and mutilated by her will to try to stretch to infinity in opposite a story that it is already over, in his desire not to settle for what is offered, looking with her feminine wiles to rape a husband and wife situation of others, replacing it with her own (a negative example in her lack of virtue).
Maybe that old proverb "He who is content, enjoys" is still valid?
Waugh flaunts the murderer under the nose more than once and meanwhile leads the can for air.
And the question he makes, "A challenge to the reader" implicit, that it is why the murderer knew he would be disturbed, it is a blow: it is as if it was the only chance that he offers to the reader to figure out the enigma before the final solution.
Truly a magnificent novel !

Pietro De Palma