Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Eighth Mrs Bluebeard - Hillary Waugh

First published 1959; cover shown is the 1961 Pan Books (UK) paperback. Cover artist uncredited.

For just over a decade, Andrew has been marrying women, insuring their lives and then killing them. Changing his surname, his home and his identity with each murder, he has amassed a great deal of money from insurance agencies, as well as a fabulous stamp collection.

Enter Jack Graham and Warner Case from the Stanford National Life Insurance Company. Company president J. B. Stanford has realised what Andrew is doing and he's furious that it is his company that now has to hand over $50,000 because they can't prove anything. Jack and Warner must locate Andrew and take part in an elaborate plan to catch him red-handed; if not, they'll lose their jobs, along with any chance of working in the industry again.

Stanford's plan is to pay a private investigator to find Andrew. A woman hired specially for the part, Gene Taylor, will then do whatever it takes to become Andrew's eighth wife. Gene is a brassy blonde who wears too much make-up, hates men and has a voice that could "shrivel steel". It's up to Jack to turn her into the sort of woman Andrew seems to find attractive: dowdy and meek, with zero sex appeal.

Jack, attracted to Gene from the start despite her obvious disdain for him, initially agrees to take part in the plot because he wants to keep his job. But when Miles the sleazy investigator actually does locate Andrew - something Jack never thought he could do - Jack realises that he's only staying in the game to protect Gene, who easily snares Andrew with the lure of an album of expensive stamps and marries him within weeks.

Now the dangerous game starts in earnest. Miles foolishly tries to blackmail Andrew and turns up dead. Every moment of Gene's life is a new lesson in terror for her, as she fears for her life day in, day out.

They thought that Andrew would attempt to kill Gene by drowning her, so they were prepared for that. What they weren't prepared for was a killer who, it seems, is always one step ahead of them.

Hillary Waugh (b. 1920) is an American writer who perfected the realistic crime novel. His sexually ambiguous name has enabled him to have success across many genres, including crime and mystery.

1 comment:

Jeffrey Perren said...

What a superior site!

Through collecting vintage paperbacks, I know many relatively obscure authors, but this is one I'd never heard of before.


Sounds like a book worth digging into, too.