Leonidas Witherall (who just happens to be a look-alike for William Shakespeare), down-on-his-luck former schoolmaster, now building janitor, gets involved when his former pupil Martin Jones is arrested for the murder of his former boss, Professor North.
Witherall and Dot, a pretty young red-head of Jones’ acquaintance, set off tracking down clues to the murderer’s identity. They are soon joined by a Boston dowager, as well as North’s maid and her gangster boyfriend, in a race to stay one step ahead of the police, out of the clutches of rival gangsters, and uncover the real murderer.
This would have to be described as a madcap comedy with elements of thriller rather than a mystery. With Witherall (aka Bill Shakespeare) and company going from one jam to another, the story is very fast moving. Unfortunately, I felt that it spent so much time centered on each crisis they got into, as well as subplots involving likable crooks, lovers on the run, and high-spirited society matrons, that I actually tended to forget what the real plot was about. There is a very strong element of humor, but there were also some rather dark, bleak moments that felt at odds with the overall atmosphere.
I will say that the characters are very well written, and the dialogue is clever. When I originally rated this (immediately after reading) I gave it a 4/5 because of those elements. But in writing my review, as I read my notes, and re-read passages that I’d marked, I found that this is just one of those books that, while I appreciate certain aspects of it, I can’t say I enjoyed reading. If you like your mysteries light and on the zany side, or your gangsters Runyonesque, this could be a book you want to try.
My Judgment – 3.25/5