Friday 9 November 2018

Forgotten Book - The Shop Window Murders

The Shop Window Murders Hardcover  by

Vernon Loder had been out of print for many years before Collins' Detective Story Club reissued The Mystery at Stowe, an engaging novel with an introduction by Nigel Moss, whose knowledge of Golden Age fiction is exceptional. I rather liked that book, and was pleased to see that Loder's 1930 novel The Shop Window Murders has been reprinted in the same series, again with a valuable introduction by Nigel.

The opening of the book is striking and memorable. Mander's Department Store (loosely based on Selfridge's) in the west end of London is renowned for its elaborate window displays. So much so that each Monday morning, crowds gather to watch the blinds being raised to reveal the latest display. Unfortunately, on this occasion, they see a human corpse nestling among the wax mannequins. To make matters worse, a second body is quickly discovered.

All this is enough to put a damper on any retail activity, and the store is closed while the investigation is conducted. Enter Devenish of the Yard, a shrewd and likeable fellow (I'm a little surprised that the prolific Loder did not turn him into a series character). As Nigel Moss says, Devenish is in the mould of Crofts' Inspector French, while one of the killings prefigures a crime in a later novel by two leading authors, published not long after Loder's death at the early age of 57.  Loder's real name, incidentally, was John George Hazlette Vahey, who wrote under other pen-names (including Henrietta Clandon - this was an unusual example of a male Golden Age author using a female pseudonym).

Nigel Moss points out the similarity between the opening situation of this book, and that in The French Powder Mystery, an Ellery Queen novel published in the very same year. A remarkable coincidence, as he says, and it may be one more example of the way certain story ideas seem to be "in the ether" at a particular time. I've been looking forward to having the chance to read this book since I read a laudatory review on John Norris' excellent blog four years ago. I'm not quite as much a fan of the story as are John and Nigel, because I found the solution frustratingly dependent on guesswork. The early chapters seem to me to be the best. But I'm delighted that this hitherto obscure novel is now readily available. 

No comments: