The Pin Men (Roger East)

  • By Roger East
  • First published: UK: Hodder & Stoughton, 1963

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Roger East’s final detective story, the second to feature criminal typologist Jack Mors – and, like its predecessor, Kingston Black (1960), very poor.

Mors, the jacket states, is “the new style detective – the scientist who is absolutely indifferent to justice, but passionately concerned with truth, a long view in keeping with our Computer Age”. His approach to detection is to feed racial characteristics into a ‘computor’. Here is a sample of his conversation:

“If you’re interested, I’ll tell you. Richard Cadman Robinson is a syntonic pyknic cyclothene.”

“A tubby, practical little man?”

“It’s another way of saying it. Cephalic index, median. The K factor is good.”

“The K factor – is that a new one?”

“It was used for the new programming of the computor: it’s the degree to which a type is well proportioned for the type: no physical abnormality. The P factor is towards I – young for his age rather than senile, but not significantly. G factor, normal – no hormone imbalance. I couldn’t get at an accurate relation measurement for his arms – slightly epileptoid, perhaps: delicate lepto hands, but feet back to the pyknic overtone. Eyes, as you would expect, brown, and skin on the greasy side. Hair – nothing significant. The prison doctor’s records gave me nothing, but I would judge his mode is visceral.”

Chapter II (p. 38)

The Richard Cadman Robinson in question is an archaeologist who pleaded guilty to fraud: faking prehistoric paintings in a cave in Spain. His daughter believes he is innocent, and calls in Mors to vet him. Armed with his knowledge of pyknic psychology and Sheldonian somatotypes, Mors declares he is incapable of the crime for which he was convicted; syntonic pyknic cyclothenes don’t do that sort of thing.

Mors’s girlfriend, barrister Virginia Maye, then travels to Spain to investigate the fraud case. The story is feeble and meandering, although she (and the reader) learns much about caves:

“My attention was also given to dating, in accordance with the rate of stalactite growth. I have paid particular attention to this – in one of the cases here you will see a diagrammatic display relating stalactite growth to rock structure and the hydrology of the area.”

Chapter III (p. 68)

Dear God, it’s boring! Eventually (p. 103!), a corpse is found in the prehistoric cave, battered to death with an iron stanchion. The crime, we eventually learn, was unpremeditated, committed in a jealous rage. The culprit confesses when he is caught red-handed with some buried treasure. There are no real clues – other than Mors’s updated Lombrosian theory – and Mors isn’t even around when the criminal owns up.

Somehow, East adapted a dozen of Simenon’s Maigret stories for television. The mind boggles.


Blurb

1963 Hodder & Stoughton

Why did Bianca Robinson’s father plead guilty to faking paleolithic cave paintings – a crime of which he was incapable, according to the system of Jack Mors, criminal typologist? In Spain, Bianca unearthed – in its almost literal sense – a story of jealousy and murder, of elaborate fraud and of austere Spanish passion. This clever contemporary novel starts in London and ends grippingly in the dangerous galleries of a “painted cave” in North Spain.


Reviews

The Guardian Journal (Nottingham) (15th February 1963): Roger East, who has adapted some of the Maigret series for the BBC, has introduced a new type of detective. Jack Mors is a scientist who is indifferent to justice but dedicated to the finding of truth. In this, the second story in which Mors appears, he is inveigled into taking up the case of Dr. Richard Cadman Robinson who had been imprisoned for faking prehistoric paintings in a cave in Spain and getting an advance of £1,000 from a firm of publishers. It is an unusual thriller, a tale of jealousy, murder and Spanish passion laced with plenty of action.

3 thoughts on “The Pin Men (Roger East)

  1. God, this sounds even worse than The Silent Bullet by Arthur Reeve; incredible to think that “the scientific method” could be so horribly misrepresented.

    Like

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