Thursday, December 24, 2020

Do Not Murder Before Christmas: Jack Iams

This book was a pleasure to read, on the humorous side but definitely with a serious theme. Stanley "Rocky" Rockwell has been instructed to cover a Christmas Party at the community center, even though he is an editor and that assignment should be beneath him. His presence was requested by the wealthy Mallory family, who have set up the community center in a bad section of town, to atone for their sins.

The problem is that Uncle Poot, owner of a toy shop in Shady Hollow, traditionally gives a party on Christmas Day for kids in the neighborhood and gives away free toys to all the kids. The two parties will conflict. Rocky has always done a special story on that event. The intersection of these two events and sets of people leads to a death.

Another problem is that Rocky meets the new social worker who is running the Malloy Memorial Community Center, and she is young, blond, and just his type. And also seems to be hooked up with Martin Malloy III.

My thoughts:

This one started out a little lighter than I like, but it has a mix of romance, a crusading journalist, and the sleuthing is entertaining. There are also elements of hard-boiled crime fiction and themes of corruption in City Hall and inequities between the poor and the wealthy. 

The story is told in first person by Rocky. He has a supporter in Mrs. Pickett, also known as Debbie Mayfair, the society columnist. Both of them are great characters, ones you want to encounter again. Jane Hewes, the social worker, is also a good character, a good portrayal of a woman who wants more than just marriage and a man to support her. Rocky does show up in two later novels.

My only problem with this one was that the culprit was too obvious, but the rest of the story made up for that, with enough suspense and action to keep me interested. 

The Dell paperback edition is like a Mapback, but the artwork on the back features newspaper clippings superimposed on a drawing of the toyshop. My copy of the Dell paperback is in bad shape so I purchased another copy to read. That book is a Detective Book Club edition that includes two other mysteries that I will read someday. That edition was missing two things: an excellent cast list, and the innovative chapter headings from the earlier edition.

The chapter headings were modeled on the poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas".

For example chapters 1-10 have the following titles

The Note Was Sent to the Record With Care
In Hopes Good Editors All Would Beware
The Days Before Christmas
Around the Community House
Charming Creatures Were Stirring
And Maybe a Louse
Jane With Her Worries
And Me With My Woe
Were Caught in a Maelstrom
Of Murder Most Low

I have kept the description of the plot of this book as brief as possible, but it is very complex. Check out reviews at My Reader's Block and The Passing Tramp if you would like more detail on the story and additional views of this book.


Publisher: Dell, 1949 
Length:    224 pages
Format:    Paperback
Series:     Rocky Rockwell
Setting:    US, possibly Ohio 
Genre:      Mystery


Margot Kinberg said...

This does sound like a solid read, Tracy. I'm like you in that I prefer my crime fiction not to be too light. That said, though, I do like a little sense of 'upbeat' in a story if it comes naturally. And, while I'm not usually one for romances, I don't mind a romance as part of a novel. But for a romance to work for me, it's got to fall out naturally from the plot, and not be the main focus or be too contrived. I'm glad you enjoyed this.

Rick Robinson said...

Happy Christmas, Tracy! Hope you and yours have a wonderful day!

TracyK said...

Margot, this was unusual in that it seemed to mix various styles, but light and humorous fits well at Christmas. Kind of a small town story, although location wasn't specified that I could find.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Rick. We are certainly planning to relax and have fun today. It is very sunny right now, hope it starts looking like rain in a couple of days.

Judith said...

Hi Tracy,
Wishing you and your husband a very merry Christmas!
Best wishes!

TracyK said...

Thanks, Judith, and the same to you. Looking forward to new books and reading experiences in 2021.

Cath said...

What a great title! And I like the sound of it too. Hope you had a good Christmas day in these weird times. I'm looking forward to 2021 reading plans too.

TracyK said...

The title is one of the attractions of this mystery, Cath. We had our usual quiet Christmas, and watched movies, which was fun, and I talked some to my sister in Alabama. I am ready for new challenges reading books. I am taking on more challenges than I should, but I will not stress about it.

col2910 said...

I quite like the sound of this, though probably not enough to seek it out and the chances of crossing paths with it are likely to be miniscule. Not like I'm short of reading material though.

TracyK said...

I think you would like this, Col, but you are right, it probably won't turn up there. But if you see it, try it.

I do hope I can control my book buying in 2021. Have a happy New Year.