Thursday, January 31, 2013

IN BRIEF: Case of the Village Tramp - Jonathan Craig

Another Jonathan Craig book and you know what that means -- sex and crime. The victim in this sixth book about cops of the 6th precinct is found wearing nothing but a chastity belt and tiara. A genuine medieval chastity belt. Museum quality, my friends. And the key is missing. Talk about a titillating start.

I read this back in December and I made no notes so I'm relying solely on my memory of the book. Sorry to report though only one month has passed I don't remember much. Craig really has a knack for dreaming up some of the strangest people to populate these police procedurals. But this time no real standouts in the cast , but the cast of male characters is made up of a variety of the usual weirdos and oddballs. There's a Casper Milquetoast medievalist, a very strange doctor who seems to have strayed out of a Sax Rohmer book from the 1920s, a hired killer who uses an icepick as his weapon of choice, and one of those drop dead gorgeous Lotharios Craig always throws into the works. Apart from the victim who turns out to be a nasty piece of work the women characters, usually one of Craig's strengths, failed to stick in my cluttered mind.

This one was rather a low point in the series for me. Craig seems to be repeating himself and made the plot overly complicated this time by adding a mobster subplot with a hitman looming in the background. The victim turns out to be yet another in a long line of blackmailers who went too far. I'm tiring of that angle. Pete and Stan do yeoman-like police work as usual. Detection is not as good as in some of the other entries, but there's enough to elevate this book away from some of the lesser, similar Gold Medal crime novels.

Another censored Belmont Tower cover
FREAK OF THE WEEK: One character I didn't forget is the creep who gets this regularly awarded dubious honor. This time the badge goes to a cop -- a captain no less --whose passion is aural sex. He loves listening to the details of the sex crimes and goads his fellow police officers into lingering over the details of the manner and method of the crime. When he hears about the chastity belt he's in his element. The reader gets the picture when Pete Selby says the captain leaves his hands in his pockets during the interview. Not the kind of guy you want as your co-worker, let alone your superior.

As those voiceovers go on TV here's the "previously on Pretty Sinister Books" section. Titles marked with an asterisk are the best of the bunch.

The Dead Darling (1955)*
Morgue for Venus (1956)
Case of the Cold Coquette (1957)*
Case of the Beautiful Body (1957)
So Young, So Wicked (1957)* - not part of the Pete Selby/Stan Rayder series
Case of the Petticoat Murder (1958)*
Case of the Nervous Nude (1959)*

1 comment:

  1. You had me at "chastity belt" (and "tiara" clinched it).

    Well worth the 25¢, I'd say.