Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Voice of the Corpse - Max Murray

First published 1947; cover shown is an early (undated) paperback edition by Horwitz Publications (Aust). Cover artist uncredited. 161 pages.

A poison pen mystery with a difference: the writer of the poison pen letters is murdered in the opening chapter.. "The grim reaper had caught her as she sat at her spinning wheel, at the moment when she was taking the first steps towards converting a heap of unsavoury hair that she had plucked from her Chow into a pullover for Celia Sim".

Written with a good dose of humour, this mystery covers the haphazard solving of the case by an amateur (Firth Prentice, visiting from London) and a professional (Inspector Fowler, Scotland Yard). While Inspector Fowler is the one who makes an arrest which leads to an execution, it is Firth who discovers the real killer - a killer with some personal beliefs that are a bit hard to swallow for a man in his occupation.

Murray, an Australian, nonetheless develops the sense of a small English village remarkably quickly and well, with a number of well-rounded and highly likeable characters - especially Mrs Sim, the superficially ditzy mother of Firth's love interest, and Jackie and Alfie, two small boys who know more about the murder than the village police.

Max Murray (b. 1901) was an Australian-born writer who worked as a reporter and wrote for the BBC Overseas Service during WWII. He died in 1956 while on a visit to Sydney, aged 55. The Voice of the Corpse was the first of his 11 mysteries in the Corpse series.

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