Now he knew he would have to kill her.
The Police Procedural is one of my favourite kind of mysteries and by that I don’t mean A Higher Up from the Scotland Yard solving a case with perhaps one assistant whom he converses with a little but rather a whole team working together to bring the culprit to justice with their interaction being as interesting as the case they are solving. And that’s why I am very happy to have discovered a series from author (and police officer) Hillary Waugh (1920-2008).
The novel opens with a conversation between an unnamed couple, though the woman calls the man Johny. The man, it is clear, wants out of the relationship. The woman though doesn’t want it to end. Alternately cringing and threatening, she asks him to get a divorce from his wife so that they can marry. Finally she tells him that she is carrying his baby. The man then decides that there is only one way out of the situation.
Raymond Watly, real estate agent, arrives at his office, only to find that somebody has broken in. He calls his boss, Frank Restlin, who in turn calls the cops, only to tell them that the thief took away the lease files though not the cash. Intrigued, Chief Fred Fellows decides that this crime was only done to cover a worse one. The investigation leads the police team to a rather secluded house that had been leased to a certain John Campbell for a month. There they find two suitcases packed in the living room and the torso of a woman in a trunk. The head and certain vital organs are missing, the smell and the ashes indicating that they were most probably burnt in the fireplace. Yes, it is gruesome but thankfully the author takes no voyeuristic pleasure in describing the dismemberment for which I am most thankful having no desire to read vomit-inducing passages in which the author takes more delight than the sadistic killers of his/ her imagination.
Anyway, the cops have a corpse on their hand but have no means of identification:
“I’ve heard of murder cases where you don’t know the killer, but this is the first one where you don’t even know the victim.”
What follows is dogged persistence with seemingly everything against them. Clues lead to dead ends, tensions rise in the group, and press and public breathe down their neck. There is no amateur genius suddenly having a brain-wave but rather patience and tenacity. The procedure can get boring, repetitive, and even open you to ridicule:
“You aren’t going to find the real McCoy in some place she worked at eight years ago, are you?”
“I don’t expect so, but we’re going to look anyway. That’s what the detective business is all about. (147)
Then there are tasks which unnerve you even though you might be a veteran like breaking bad news to the family of the victim.
Needless to say I enjoyed every minute of the investigation and the interaction.
By a lucky chance, though I had selected the book only because of it’s title being reminiscent of Chandler, it turned out to be the first in the Fred Fellows series. I have already borrowed the second from Open Library.
Have you read the book? Did you find it interesting too?
First Line: It was ink black in the back bedroom of the little house, black and suffocatingly warm.
Publication Details: London: Victor Gollancz, 1976
First Published: 1959
Series: Fred Fellows #1
Source: Open Library
Alternate Title: Jigsaw
Trivia: The movie Jigsaw (1962) is based on the novel.
Other books read of the same author: The Shadow Guest
Part of the Friday Forgotten Book meme.