Lost Classics Series Continues
The Murder in the Stork Club
By Vera Caspary
Crippen & Landru, Publishers, 2010, $29/20
Continuing its Lost Classics series, Crippen & Landru has published a volume of short novels by Vera Caspary.
Caspary, who died in 1987, is best known as the author of “Laura,” which was made into a memorable movie thriller starring Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price and Judith Anderson. The 1944 black and white film, directed by Otto Preminger, became a classic.
Readers will find aspects of Caspary’s romantic and feminist tendencies in the four tales recounted in this volume.
My favorite is “Stranger in the House,” a World War II spy story with a political edge. The heroine, Alice Remsen, uneasily struggles with an unwelcome house guest whose political persuasion both frightens and repels. It is also a story of growing feminism and mixed loyalties. This one will leave you breathless long before you reach the denouement.
“Sugar and Spice” tells about the rivalry of two young women, one wealthy from birth, the other beautiful but poor, and their relationship with the men who would become husbands and/or friends and an eventual murder. The tale is good, but the author chose a flashback technique that is more confusing than helpful.
The Stork Club murder uses as its backdrop the glamorous New York nightclub that attracted celebrities from a variety of backgrounds. This story also enjoys the dropping of famous names, who enjoy cameo appearances along with the fictional characters involved in the murder. (Real-life proprietor Sherman Billingsley is among the cast of characters.)
Freshly discharged from the Army, Joe Collins returns home to his young wife, a successful artist for greeting card companies, only to learn that she is the primary suspect in the poisoning murder of her former lover. Collins, a private detective before his Army service, must return to his old occupation to prove his wife’s innocence, something that grows increasingly difficult as she becomes less than cooperative in his investigation.
“Ruth,” the final story, is a psychological thriller in which the heroine must face renewed suspicions about her husband’s occupation and loyalty. Originally published in 1968 by Good Housekeeping magazine, it is the most recent of the novellas. The other three date to the 1940s.
Although these four novellas are dated in style to some extent, they are significant in their variety and the distinctive writing style of Vera Caspary. The book was edited by A.B. Emrys.
Crippen & Landru, based in Norfolk, Va., concentrates on discovering stories by mystery writers of yesteryear, some famous, some little known, and presenting them in collections treasured by mystery buffs. Its books are often hard to find in the local bookstore but may be ordered directly from the publisher. The website is www.crippenlandru.com, and e-mail addresses are email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florence Gilkeson may be reached at email@example.com.
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