RARA-AVIS: Murder on Monday

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 19 Dec 2000

With all the pontificating I've done lately on the PI conventions of 50 years ago, I've just stumbled on a 1952 novel that twists many of them. MURDER ON MONDAY by Robert Patrick Wilmot was published by Lippincott in 1952 and Pocket Books in 1954. It is the third (and I believe last) in a series featuring private investigator Steve Considine, who works for a New York agency. Wilmot also had stories published in Manhunt and other magazines but I do not know if they featured this detective.

Told in the first person, Steve Considine is a likable character. But he is also a bit clumsy and, well, not the brightest detective on this case. Considine's boss and his wife have to help him through several tough spots. He knows when he screws up and it bothers him alot. After one major mistake, Considine's boss shrugs and says to him "I kind of figured your batting average had been running a little bit high."

The novel also features the classic rumpled-suited, cigar-chomping police inspector. Everything about him is a cliche except the fact that he is regularly one step ahead of both Considine and his boss. Again and again, the PIs discover information only to find out that the cops knew it three days before but withheld it from them.

The story is told straight, not for laughs and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The writing is average or a little better for early 50s private eye novels. It is flawed with some terrible similies. The plot is unrealistic but fun in a screwball way. It begins with a blackmail attempt on a family of high social standing that results in a murder. Routine stuff.
 Ah, but the blackmailer is a recently released convict who left prison carrying a cage of canaries and leading a puppy on a string. Or is it someone impersonating the convict? Hmmm. His next would-be blackmail victims are two mobsters who hire Considine's firm to protect them. Alas, the private dicks screw this up. After one of the mob leaders is wounded, they turn to the police for protection and get it. Grateful, they insist on providing the police with the money for a sting payoff at Grand Central Station at rush hour.

I've rattled on too much about a long out-of-print novel. But it was fun to see all the cliches turned inside-out.

Richard Moore

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