THE CHARACTERS: The action is set primarily in a research facility where Robert Sherry, a reclusive anti-social chemist, was working diligently on two chemical formulas -- one for a universal solvent and another for stainless steel alloy that would be able to contain the solvent. Sherry has the use of only his left arm, his right having been amputated years ago. He is found in his locked office with an injection mark in his usable arm and some Veronal found nearby. Everyone in the company assumes he has committed suicide. Tandy quickly asserts it cannot be suicide because 1. drug users addicted to Veronal do not inject the drug, it is ingested orally and 2. the injection was administered into the left arm. Since Sherry is left handed and cannot use the artificial limb on his right arm as he would a hand with fingers he could not have injected himself.
One of the bits of evidence found in Sherry's lab is a thumb mark with a scar running across the print. Talaver, surprisingly, is quick to show that he has such a thumb mark and offers up no real alibi for the night of the poisoning murder. Nevertheless, he maintains his innocence. This confession of sorts will lead to one of the most remarkable aspects of the murder mystery and recalls a similar incident in one of the memorable Carter Dickson impossible crime mystery novels
Then there's Frank Donegal, Sherry's lab assistant. Donegal gives a fuller picture of Sherry's misanthropy and utter immersion in his work. He was also the only person with an apparently iron-clad alibi having been in an enclosed study room at the research library across the street. Reading Cabinet #5, Donegal's favorite place to study, is located at the rear of the library and is constructed similar to a telephone booth. The reading cabinets are shown to be occupied by a red light on the outside wall activated when someone sits down and the door is closed.
INNOVATIONS: Tandy studied chemistry prior to becoming a police officer. He mentions this to many of the scientists he interviews and it helps him to get some of the suspects to talk more freely and, of course, more expertly on the scientific aspects of the murder case. There are several lectures on chemical alloy structures, the previously mentioned mechanical and electrical design of the elevator, the creation of plastic molds, chemical nature of poisons and a lot more. After one of these long lectures that goes on for nearly four pages (!) Sgt Bill Holland, Tandy's hero worshiping colleague, is astonished: "Holland's eyes opened wide. This was the type of detection he had hitherto believed existed only in detective novels."
|French edition of Death Rides Swiftly
translated less poetically as Death is Swift
Inspector "Napper " Tandy Detective Novels
Death Walks Softly (1938)
Death Flies Low (1938)
Death Rides Swiftly (1939)
Exit to Music (1940)