The Silent Murders (Gordon)

  • By Neil Gordon (pseudonym of A.G. Macdonell)
  • First published: UK, 1929

A tramp is stabbed; a financier is shot in a taxi outside the Bank of London; and an inoffensive schoolmaster is shot, apparently in mistake for his wicked brother from South Africa. Barzun and Taylor were fans: “An early and impressive specimen of police routine, full of legitimate excitement and complete with friction between superior and subordinate on the force.  The variety and surprise in the incidents maintain a high pitch of suspense and the detection is as solid as the explanation, which dawns on the reader just a few seconds before it does on the Scottish Inspector Dewar.  When it comes, it constitutes what is probably a first instance of its use: altogether a book to be cherished for its worth and its wit.” I found it solidly constructed and always readable, but not a great detective story. It’s a police procedural rather than a puzzle plot: the murderer doesn’t appear until the very end, and there are few deductions; clues turn up when the plot demands, not planted early in the text. Nor is the book a first instance of the motive’s use; John Rhode was there a year before, although Gordon is more convincing. Macdonell also co-wrote a thriller, The Bleston Mystery (1928), with Milward Kennedy.


Reviews

Eight or nine respectable, quiet gentlemen of various professions were found shot—in succession—each with a small cardboard pinned on the body designating his number in the death chain.  Inspector Dewar, baffled by the lack of connection between the men’s interests and pasts, finally uncovers the clue and tracks down the murderer.

Times Literary Supplement (25th April 1929, 150w)

Books (Will Cuppy, 29th December 1929, 130w)

Bookm (January 1930, 70w):

A highly exciting tale of a hatred fostered for twenty years.

NY Times (16th February 1930, 150w)

A Catalogue of Crime (Barzun & Taylor, 1989):

We have here an early and impressive specimen of police routine, full of legitimate excitement and complete with friction between superior and subordinate on the force.  The variety and surprise in the incidents maintain a high pitch of suspense and the detection is as solid as the explanation, which dawns on the reader just a few seconds before it does on the Scottish Inspector Dewar.  When it comes, it constitutes what is probably a first instance of its use: altogether a book to be cherished for its worth and its wit.