Death on the Aisle by Francis and Richard Lockridge

Lieutenant William Weigand is about to take off and marry Dorian Hunt. Unfortunately, before he can even start the car, he receives a message to investigate the discovery of a dead man in the West 45th Street Theatre, and that Mr. and Mrs. North are on hand. When Weigand arrives, with Dorian in tow, he finds a play in rehearsal with cast and crew, the Norths, and Dr. Carney Bolton with an ice pick through the back of his neck.

Bolton is a physician with a reputation as theatrical angel, man about town, and ladies man. Now he is the unpopular and interfering backer of Two in the Bush, a comedy only days away from opening on Broadway. Weigand investigates a theater full of cast and crew, with a little help from the Norths.

Let me first apologize for the brevity of the above description, as well as the review which follows. While not a bad book, I found little in it to recommend, therefore this will be fairly short…and maybe not so sweet.

This started out so well. After the first few chapters I was really interested and thought “this is going to be good.” Then reality set in. The plot is predictable, the pacing slow, the dialogue stilted, and the characters boring. What could have been a light-weight, comedic mystery became confused and plodding.

The list of suspects is huge; I believe fifteen in all. Some of the suspects include actors in the process of rehearsing and so are referred to by their real and character names, which creates a great deal of confusion. Much is made of the timeline of the murder, who was where at what time. But with such a large list of suspects, in a theater, in the dark, it becomes a confusing muddle. The Lockridges definitely played fair with the mystery, but I think too fair. The clues were all there, and so transparent that the murderer is easily spotted. And the murderer’s plan, when revealed, was non-existent.

The characters are something of a blur to me. Pam North comes across as simple-minded with intuitions based on women’s habits, Jerry North is a mannequin who makes cocktails and corrects Pam’s linguistic mistakes. Dorian Wood just nods and smiles, and Weigand stares at walls and says “Right” a lot. Basically, none left a lasting impression on me, except for the sweetly slow-witted Sergeant Aloysius Clarence Mullins. Oh, and while this is a “Mr. and Mrs. North Mystery”, Weigand is the primary investigative character, Pam comes in every once in a while, although she does stumble upon the murderer in the end.

But I think the most annoying thing was the repartee between the Norths, Weigand, Dorian, and Mullins, which often left me confused and out of step. The blurb on the back cover states “Though it is the fourth novel in the saga…the series can be enjoyed in any order.” All well and good, but there were several references to characters and incidents from prior books that left me hanging. Also, oftentimes the conversations between these characters was in a sort of shorthand used by people who know each other intimately, but left me feeling that there was a joke that I wasn’t in on.

My original rating was 3.5. Immediately after reading my impression was that it wasn’t great, but it was an ok read. But after sleeping on it and mulling it all over, as you can see, I came up with a number of issues. This just was not my cup of tea.

My Judgement – 2.5/5

Prior Rulings – Sergio @ Tipping My Fedora

5 thoughts on “Death on the Aisle by Francis and Richard Lockridge

  1. Yes I’ve tried a few by the Lockridges, including a non-North one and they didn’t work for me either. Pam was also one of the reasons why. The silver lining could be that it won’t adversely affect your tbr or tbb pile, as if you loved the Norths then you would want to buy all their books!

  2. I don’t see me running out to find more. As I said, my biggest issue was with feeling somehow out of step with the characters and their relationships. I know from the introduction that the North’s are purposely never really described, but many authors do that and I can still get a feeling for the characters. Here…nada!

  3. This was a recent DNF and it sounds like I made the right choice to put it down. I had many of the same issues with the characters you did and just came away feeling rather bored.

  4. Believe me I had to work to finish it…and the effort was not worth it. Going to read a JDC now because no matter what, I will be guaranteed to enjoy it…

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