Why did I read this book? Lots of reasons, including the fact that I like Emma Lathen's John Thatcher series. But the immediate reason was that I saw it on a post about Tax Day Crime Fiction at Mystery Fanfare, which included a list of Accounting-Accountant crime fiction titles. I started the book on Tax Day (April 15th) and finished it the next day. I found it to be an entertaining short mystery, which is not surprising since it was a reread.
John Thatcher is a banking executive who encounters many murders in the banking world. There are 24 books in the series and I have read all except the last two. Each book centers around a particular kind of business and the reader gets a picture of the banking industry in years past, and details of the various businesses. Thatcher works on Wall Street, but often he travels to other parts of the country or outside of the US.
In Accounting for Murder, Thatcher gets involved with investigating the problems at the National Calculating Company. A group of irate stockholders want the company to be audited to find out if the losses of most divisions are due to inefficiency or fraud. Thatcher has an entertaining group of co-workers and friends. Tom Robichaux, investment banker and old friend, pulls him into the problems at National Calculating.
The murder doesn't occur until 70 pages into the book and this is over a third of the book. That is fine with me. I like it when the author spends some time introducing the characters and the situation before the murder occurs.
In Whodunit? A Who's Who in Crime & Mystery by Rosemary Herbert, Emma Lathen's two series protagonists are described:
Thatcher is rich, handsome, unattached, and endowed with keen intelligence and a huge store of common sense. Safford is a government insider. Both men, in the Golden Age tradition, solve crimes by noticing and remembering details that are more or less furnished to the reader but whose significance is lost to everyone else.One aspect of the Thatcher novels is the selection of clever chapter titles, that in some way reflect some aspect of each book. In Accounting for Murder, one of the characters is Mr. Fortinbras and chapter titles are related to Hamlet . In Murder to Go, set in the fast food industry, the chapter titles are all elements of a recipe.
Also interesting in this book is the role of women in business and development in the 1960's. Margaret Cobb is described as one of the most competent scientists at National, yet she has played second fiddle to several young male scientists who have headed her department. Not unusual at all for the time, but it is a bit unusual to point out that discrepancy in a book written at that time.
One reviewer says:
More impressive than the murder plot is the insider’s tour that Lathen conducts through the halls of corporate America, circa 1964. The glimpse offered here of that go-go culture is highly satirical, but Lathen’s use of satire hardly lessens the accuracy of her portrait.See the full review at Only Detect.
Accounting for Murder was short listed for the 1965 Gold Dagger. That year Ross Macdonald won it for The Far Side of the Dollar. Emma Lathen was the joint pseudonym of Mary Jane Latsis, an economist, and Martha B. Henissart, a lawyer.
Publisher: Pocket Books, 1974 (orig. pub. 1964)
Length: 190 pages
Series: John Putnam Thatcher, #3
Setting: Ontario, Niagara Region
Source: I purchased my copy.