Never Turn Your Back by Margaret Scherf (1959)

When Martin Buell returns early from a tiresome conference, he finds that “There was no light in the rectory. Then he saw that there was no rectory.” It turns out that his church vestry members had decided he needs a new house, and local businessman Barry Collins had a prefab house that he needed to unload. Buell is none too happy with Collins, but then Collins turns up dead and his body delivered to Collins household in a packing crate that was supposed to contain a grandfather clock. The local sheriff doesn’t think it’s a case for him—the box was shipped from “West Glacier, Mont.”, the murder must have happened there, so off Buell pops. Luckily, the sheriff in West Glacier is busy taking tourist on fishing excursions, which pleases Buell no end, since he’d “always wanted to work out one case by himself.”

You may have guessed that I did not enjoy this book. I did not—so this one is going to be rather to the point. 

First of all, there are way too many characters to keep track of in this book, and many of them aren’t just marginal, they’re barely walk-ons. And Scherf has that aggravating tendency of introducing a character by their first name, then using their last name, then going back to the first name, making you flip back and forth trying to figure out who the %@*$ they’re taking about. Oh, and then there is the assumption that the reader has read their previous books, thereby knowing all of these characters and their relationships, as well as having a map in their head of the locales—WTF!

Buell’s “investigation” jumps from place to place and goes nowhere fast. And by fast, I mean slow. The pace is slooow, and while it’s a short book (my Popular Library edition is 128 pages), it has looong chapters, which tended to get very tedious. And after all that you don’t even get a good ending. Pages and pages of information seemingly unrelated to the murder, and then—the murderer is pulled out of a hat, Buell gets his old house back, and that’s it.

Sorry all—this turned out to be more of a rant than a review. I don’t foresee any more of Scherf in my future, so you will probably be safe from any future tirades.

My Judgment – 2/5

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2020 – Vintage Mystery Extravaganza: Commandments/Rules/Common Devices – #6 No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right. (Knox) The culprit must be determined by logical deductions–not by accident or coincidence or unmotivated confession. (Van Dine #5) Any book where it seems that the detective has pulled his/her solution out of the air or where you are completely unsatisfied with the explanation may count. 

Calendar  of Crime – July #9 Takes place in US or Canada

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