Saturday, January 7, 2012

Case of the Beautiful Body - Jonathan Craig

Pete Selby and Stan Rayder are on the case again. And some good news: after appearing as nothing more than a cameo in the first three books with hardly any input Stan Rayder, the apparently junior partner in the team, gets a much bigger role. We learn more about him than the constant look of surprise on his face (it's those permanently furrowed brow lines). Stan comes into his own and I suspect judging by his short temper and conservative worldview he may become something akin to the "bad cop" in a good cop/bad cop duo.

The case involves the murder and apparent rape of a Bonnie Nichols, a commercial artist who has been leading a double life. The detective work here is not as interesting as in the previous books nor is the mystery as puzzling or intriguing. The book emphasizes the duplicitous nature of the victim and the sleazier sexual escapades that gave her a thrill before someone got tired of her Machiavellian ways and gave her the brutal beating that ended her wicked life.

Among the suspects we have these colorful characters:

Mr. Connor - Bonnie's landlord and proprietor of the candy store on the first floor of the building where she lives. He may or may not have a past history of being a child molester. He arouses the ire of his easily jealous wife when he pays a bit too much attention to the pretty women who frequent the candy store.

Ralph Hagan - Bonnie's driving instructor who insists that Bonnie turned on her sex kitten charm nearly every time the two were alone in her car. Is he making it all up or was Bonnie really a predatory woman?

Lori Mason - Bonnie's ex-roommate, also an artist. A catty gossip of a young woman who has nothing good to say about Bonnie. She has plenty of dirt on Bonnie's nightlife with...

Mel Tyner - a pimp who collected money and gifts from Bonnie after her numerous "dates."

Jason Lambert - owner of the perfume company that hired Bonnie to design some labels and bottles for his company. Didn't like Bonnie because of her too close friendship with his wife....

Elaine Lambert - a tart tongued wanna-be socialite trapped in a loveless marriage with her brute of a husband. Her friendship with Bonnie was one of the decent parts of her miserable life.

Pete and Stan do a lot of leg work and interviewing of the suspects. The sexual frankness dealing with child molestation, prostitution, and even talk of one character's vasectomy are the prominent features in this case. Sex lives - or lack of one - play a big role in the crime and the murderer's motive. While the denouement is not as surprising as the previous two books I've read getting to know Stan better and seeing how he and Pete are growing as police partners was worth the reading.

FREAK OF THE WEEK: Each time I read one of these books I discover that Craig loves to throw in some wacko with an odd sexual fetish - usually one I've never heard of. This time it's Mel Tyner. We learn that in addition to being Bonnie's pimp and loves to undress his choice women, have them stand in a bathtub in their underwear and douse them with perfume from some kind of a hardware implement that amounts to a fancy squirt gun. He's a perfume fetishist. We've already had a shameless Peeping Tom caught with his pants around his ankles in public and a "snipe grabber" - a guy who gets off on smoking the cigarette butts of lipstick wearing women. Add "scentophile" to the batch.

Next month, I'll be going back to the beginning of the series with book two - Morgue of Venus - which I finally purchased at a bargain price back in November of last year. Then I'll jump ahead to book five and continue in order until the end of the series.

Other Selby/Rayder books reviewed on this blog are:

The Dead Darling (1955)
Case of the Cold Coquette (1957)

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This is my first book in Part One of Bev's 2012 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge: Perilous Policemen: 8 books with a policeman as the primary investigator. During January and February I will be focussing on books about cops and police inspectors for this particular section of this reading challenge.


  1. I bought this book for 25¢ (or was it five for a dollar?) back in the early eighties, only to sell it a decade later. I see now this was a great mistake. Had I bothered to open the cover it would be on my bookshelf today.

    You've got me on the hunt for Craig titles. More, please!

  2. SO not for me, John, but I still enjoyed reading your view. :)

    I always find it interesting to learn what others are reading even if sometimes I just have to shake my head. HA!

  3. Like Yvette, I don't think this one would be for me. But, as always, I enjoyed your review...and find the catalog of fetishes that you're compiling kind of fascinating. In a deer in the headlights kind of way... :-)

  4. Sounds truly perverse - is there a name for a perfume fetishist ... Aromavore? I have never read anythign by Craig but certainly sounds distinctive - and there I was thinking Avallone had all the fun!

  5. Wow, this sounds intense. Might not be my cup of tea but interesting anyway. thanks for the fun to read review!