Friday, August 24, 2012

FFB: Fair Murder - Nicholas Brady

U.S. edition with a title change
(Henry Holt & Co., 1933)
Reverend Ebenezer Buckle solves his second case in this detective novel that shares a lot with the weird menace pulps of the 1930s American newsstands. Buckle is a lively amateur sleuth who reminds me of Dr. Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale. He's a brilliant man with lots of knowledge of criminal behavior, is well read in psychology and is an avid amateur botanist and gardener. In fact it is usually while doing some gardening task or examining a certain species of flower that he gets his "Eureka!" moment and all the pieces of the puzzling crime fall into place.

This is considered one of the most outlandish and gruesome of the Brady novels all of which tend to incorporate the bizarre. A murder is committed at the freak show midway of a traveling carnival. Sandra, the fat lady, is found stabbed in the neck in a tent surrounded by muddy ground. No footprints anywhere outside the tent or near her body indicating a possible assailant and the only approach seemed to be by someone on his knees stabbing upward. But how the murderer got into the tent is a mystery. One of the freaks in the sideshow is considered as a primary suspect because of his skill in throwing knives -- with his teeth since he has no arms! This is one Harry Stephen Keeler might have written.

Also worth mentioning is the seemingly miraculous transformation of the previously shapely Martha into the immensely fat Sandra. How and why did that happen? The unveiling of the culprit and the reasons for Sandra's transformation are part of the horrifying elements of what is definitely a nightmarish crime novel. I was reminded of The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck, a science fiction/horror novel by American writer Alexander Laing.

I have been lucky to find three of the five books John V. Turner wrote as "Nicholas Brady." Only two were published in the US and the remaining three were available only in UK editions. Four of those five Brady mystery novels feature Rev. Buckle as the detective hero. Strangely, I have found all of my copies in the UK editions. Currently, there are no copies of this book for sale anywhere that I could find. You might try interlibrary loan. See the list below for other reviews of the mystery novels in this brief series. For more on Ebenezer Buckle visit this page on an excellent website devoted to clerical mysteries.

UPDATE: As of 2018, the Nicholas Brady books have been made available by a fly-by-night "reprint publisher" called Black Heath Classic Crime who puts out their editions as digital books only. You can find them at the UK version of amazon. Click here for the whole list. Be warned that due to the legal restrictions placed on digital books that US readers may not be able to purchase them.

The Rev. Ebenezer Buckle series
The House of Strange Guests (1932)
Fair Murder (US title: The Carnival Murder) (1933)
Week-end Murder (1933)
Ebenezer Investigates (1934)


  1. I truly appreciate your informative reviews of these Nicholas Brady books. I have managed to track down a copy of 'First Round Murder' which was published under the Turner name. This author was skilled at developing detectives with fascinating characters. What a shame that they have not appeared in reprint editions.

  2. Ebeneezer Buckle? I love it. I'm a sucker for a detective with a fun name. Never heard of him or these books except maybe in your previous post (gone now from memory of course). I don't know if these books are for me since I'm not big into 'gruesome'. But you never know. I still enjoyed reading your review, John. Sometimes I feel that reading your review is just enough. Know what I mean?

  3. This one is gruesome indeed! Turner was an interesting writer, yet another unjustly forgotten one. The mind boggles at how many interesting writers from the GA are forgotten today. One day, when all the copyrights have lapsed there's going to be a print-on-demand bonanza like people haven't ever seen before.

  4. Thanks for this post on The Carnival Murder (aka The Fair Murder). You are the master at highlighting brilliant but obscure titles that I otherwise would never know existed. After failing to see a Nicholas Brady book for sale over the last years, I gave up and read the e-book instead.

    Whilst I am glad that I read this, it felt like I read three different books in one. The story started innocently with an interesting look at a traveling carnival decade ago. Then i was introduced to Doby, the inspector who disputes everything until proven as absolute fact, followed by Reverend Buckle, who in his quirky way observes and makes meaning of every tiny detail.

    But then the book changed ... Doby's personality vanished as he passively ceded the investigation to Buckle, who then suddenly became far more assertive than when he first appeared. And then wow ... the book took the disturbingly dark tone you mention. In all my GAD reading, I don't remember ever reading something that disturbed me more than the motive for the crime, the women murdered as both a villain and a victim, the horror/upset I felt reading that as well as never feeling more sympathetic for fictional killer than this one. Quite a book that appeared in 1933. Recommended reading for GAD enthusiasts, but know readers will be affected by the ending. It is not a cozy mystery.

    Still I liked Buckle as a detective and will try a couple of the others in the future such as "Strange Guests" and "Ebenezer Investigates".

    1. No other Rev. Buckle is this bizarre. The others are fairly traditional detective novels. One deals with incidentally with abortion but that’s about as taboo as he gets. Do you know The books by Alexander Laing? His gruesome thriller and quasi detective novel The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck is very similar in content and tone to this book. I think copies are fairly easy to come by. Ramble House may have reprinted it. I’ll look later…

    2. No, Alexander Laing is a new author me. I'll look for the Gideon Wyck title given your recommendation. Thank you.

    3. It was reprinted in 2016 by Valancourt Books in both paperback and digital editions. Should be available via Amazon their primary distributor.