SUMMER SLEUTHS

In response to many requests that we provide Book of the Fortnight Club specials for summer reading, I have spent the last month perusing detective stories. This, I understand, is a leading variety of escape literature, although why anyone would choose this way out, I don’t know. Real life must be frightful.

A student of the genre has concluded that the detective story is modern man’s passion play. Evil is met and conquered—often by the brilliant reasoning of the “little gray cells,” or by the omnipresent power of Scotland Yard. Sometimes sheer intuition shames the more methodical bloodhounds. More often, the emphasis is on the face-smashing vengeance of the private eye. The reader is supposed to identify himself with the gumshoe of his choice for a vicarious triumph.

Perhaps all this accounts for my difficulty in finding suitably edifying sleuths. No Pastor Brown has emerged to provide a Protestant peer for Chesterton’s redoubtable priest. Of course the choice is narrowed a little by the Fortnight Club policy of distributing only author-subsidized editions absolutely free to those who do not request them.

The two selections reviewed below I finally wrote myself to exploit the need for summer diversion. At least two groups of readers can now identify themselves with a congenial Sherlock.

Murder at the Organ, by Georges Sanglant

Sophisticated existential fiction. This is not a whodunit, but a whydunit. Inspector Migraine achieves such rapport with the criminal that the ambivalency of his motives becomes unequivocal. Migraine is easily the most non-judgmental detective in the business. The plot frays beautifully as he unravels it.

The Case of the Missing Xylophone, by Rex Stone

Another first in Sunday School fiction; ...

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