If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

Check out our February author interviews: 2/7-debut author Keenan Powell (Alaskan lawyer), 2/14-Leslie Wheeler (Rattlesnake Hill), 2/21-bestselling author Krista Davis, who unveils a new series, 2/28-Diane Vallere answers my questions about Pajama Frame. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our February Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 2/3-Saralyn Richard, 2/10-Kathryn Lane. WWK's Margaret H. Hamilton will blog on 2/17, and Kait Carson on 2/24.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


Friday, June 3, 2016

The Anatomy of Murder: A Review by Warren Bull

The Anatomy of Murder by members of the Detection Club: A review by Warren Bull
In 1936 Helen Simpson, John Rhode, Margaret Cole, E.R. Punshon, Dorothy L. Sayers, Frances Iles and Freeman Willis Crofts decided to put together a book of essays about real crimes using records from the crimes and more recent developments in crime investigation.

Anthony Berkeley Cox used the pen name Frances Iles for this essay. He was best known for his work using the pen name of Anthony Berkeley. The author compared two similar crimes. In each case a woman tried for murder. Part of the crime each time was the seduction of a very young man who later played a role in killing each woman’s husband. At the end of one trial the accused was found not guilty. At the end of the other trial the accused was found guilty and hanged. The author suggests with some credibility that because one woman was hanged the other woman was acquitted. The concept was fascinating. Unfortunately Iles wrote that both crimes were so notorious that he did not need to describe them in detail. In 1936, that was no doubt true. However, it is no longer true.  The author repeatedly switched back and forth between cases. I completely lost track of who did what to whom.

Other authors emphasized the tendency of jurors to distance themselves from defendants whose behavior was not the norm. In more than one essay I was struck by the severity of punishment routinely doled out to children. I was surprised to learn that Scotland Yard investigators were distrusted, not given evidence and even lied to by local police authorities in one case. At the time Scotland Yard was a very recent addition to law enforcement. They were seen as competitors by locals.

E. R. Punchon reviewed the case of Henri Laundru. He was short, bald, an unremarkable member of the middle class. Nevertheless he was able to insert himself into the lives of strangers and to dominate them. Ten women and one young man disappeared after being with Laundru. He claimed that each person voluntarily abandoned their family, friends and homes to seek a new start in another country. No bodies were ever found. Laundru challenged the authorities to prove he murdered anyone. By testimony in court the defendant was shown to be a considerate husband and friend. He was kind to animals. He loved music and art. He was known for his polite behavior. However, Laundru had possession of stocks, bonds and other financial resources owned by the people who vanished. He also had treasured personal items that friends and family said the people would never willingly give up. Landru’s explanation, i.e., that the people had simply given them to him, was not accepted. He repeatedly stated that the missing people would appear in court to prove his innocence, but they never did. Landru kept a detailed record of personal expenditures. For each person who accompanied him for a visit to the countryside he bought one round trip ticket for himself and a one-way ticket for the other person. He was tried and convicted in France. Due to the lack of physical evidence Landru might not have been convicted elsewhere.

Dorothy L. Sayers wrote about a murder trial where both sides agreed to almost every aspect of the case. Unlike in mysteries, there was no single piece of evidence that absolutely proved the crime had been done by the killer and could not have been done by anyone else. The difference between prosecution and defense points-of-view was in the interpretation of the evidence. The jury gave a verdict of guilty. The conviction was overturned upon appeal. 

Freeman Willis Croft described how careful and professional police work unraveled a very clever murder.

Although there are interesting elements in this book, it is not as satisfying as other publications by the detection club published around the time. The essays by Punchon, Sayers and Croft were well written but they comprise only a small part of the book. If you are interested in reading collective works by the detection club shortly after it was founded, I would recommend The Floating Admiral, Six Against Scotland Yard and Ask A Policeman.


Kait said...

I am fascinated by the Detection Club. Can you imagine all the energy you could absorb just by breathing the same air! Sounds like this collection is a good look at the authors's processes too. Some interesting reading here.

Margaret Turkevich said...

I'm jotting down the books you mention, week by week, anticipating a time when I can explore the Detection Club.

Kait said...

Oh, Warren, what you did to that Peep. You know it was just born. Says so on the box. Sigh, I'm afraid someone will have to bring charges. Did you at least eat the evidence?

Warren Bull said...

Kait, Me? Harm a Peep? The sugar on my fingers and lips is just a coincidence.

Shari Randall said...

Hey, I think I saw Carla buying that Peep a one way ticket at the train station!

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, you have been reviewing so many good books. I'm writing the titles down.