MURDER WITHIN MURDER (1946) by Richard and Frances Lockridge

LOCKRIDGE_MURDER-WITHIN-MURDER_POCKETThis was the tenth in the long-running series of screwball mysteries featuring Pam and Jerry North, a married couple with (of course) a penchant for solving crimes. He is editing a new book on true crimes and when one of his researchers is poisoned to death the duo go into action. The victim, Amelia Gipson,  was an ex school teacher and a very prim and proper lady, with very definite views on everything, including how everybody else should conduct their lives. But has her research for Jerry on old murders resulted in her own?

I submit this review for Bev’s 2015 Golden Age Vintage Mystery Challenge; and Patti Abbott’s Friday’s Forgotten Books meme over at her fab Pattinase blog.

“I thought it was a new suspect, not a new cat,” he said. “Not that I’m not  glad you’ve got another cat, Pam.”

It turns out that la Gipson is anything but  a harmless old biddy – she was a snoop who made trouble for those who didn’t behave to her strict standards. She got a teacher fired from her old school and several others too before it became apparent that she was making things up and was herself asked to leave. Is it a coincidence that a teacher who lost his job was in the same library when she was poisoned? And what about her nephew and niece, who stood to benefit by her death by inheriting in advance the substantial trust fund she administered on their behalf? Lockridge_Murder-Within_dellPam and Jerry go to her apartment and immediately detect a perfume that may have belonged to the killer. When the  cleaning lady is found murdered, it seems clear that the poison was added to a medicine Gipson regularly took two hours after eating and that murderer used the cleaning lady’s key to enter the apartment. Neither the nephew nor the niece have an alibi for the time the cleaning lady was shot. But could it be that Gipson discovered something about the cases she was researching – or  even a secret relating to the writers assigned to turn her notes into chapters for Jerry’s book? Pam certainly thinks it could be all three and comes up with all sorts of ingenious scenarios – is one of them right?

“She was a liar,” the man said. He almost shouted it. “She hurt everybody she could reach. She was a vicious – a vicious, poisonous hag. She …”

The general North formula is adhered to pretty rigidly here – Jerry and Pam get involved as amateurs with support from their friend, Lieutenant Bill Weigand. Pam gets the limelight and goes by hunches that often turn out to be right while making scatterbrained comments along the way, while Jerry tries to keep it all on the straight and narrow. Eventually Pam gets into trouble and has to be rescued, there is a car chase and a final revelation of the villain. The plot is solid and there is plenty of good humour (some of it just a touch risqué in fact) along with Pam usual’s comic asides (we also get a lot of time devoted to the Norths’ new Persian cat, ‘Martini’).

“… there was a great deal of purr for so little cat”

What is also true, and which has stopped me ever really getting into this series, is that the detection is rather plodding (and there is a fairly small circle of suspects, so can;t stretch in too many directions) and the writing (mainly by Richard Lockridge apparently) somewhat pedestrian, distinctly lacking in colour or atmosphere. These books are fun and amusing but I can’t say I have ever managed to get too enthusiastic about them I’m afraid and this one hasn’t changed my opinion.

The Pam and Jerry North Mysteries

  1. Lockridge-Death-Aisle-pocketThe Norths Meet Murder (1940)
  2. Murder Out of Turn (1941)
  3. A Pinch of Poison (1941)
  4. Death on the Aisle (1942) – reviewed here
  5. Hanged for a Sheep (1942)
  6. Death Takes a Bow (1943)
  7. Killing the Goose (1944)
  8. Payoff for the Banker (1945)
  9. Death of a Tall Man (1946)
  10. Murder Within Murder (1946)
  11. Untidy Murder (1947)
  12. Murder Is Served (1948)
  13. The Dishonest Murderer (1949)
  14. Murder in a Hurry (1950)
  15. Murder Comes First (1951)Lockridge_Sheep
  16. Dead As a Dinosaur (1952)
  17. Curtain for a Jester (1953, aka Death has a small Voice)
  18. Key to Death (1954)
  19. Death of an Angel (1955, aka Mr & Mrs North and the Poisoned Playboy)
  20. Voyage into Violence (1956)
  21. Long Skeleton (1958)
  22. Murder Is Suggested (1959)
  23. The Judge Is Reversed (1960)
  24. Murder Has Its Points (1962)
  25. Murder by the Book (1963)

I submit this review for Bev’s 2015 Golden Age Vintage Mystery Challenge bingo in the ‘detective team’ category:


***** (2.5 fedora tips out of 5)

This entry was posted in 2015 Vintage Mystery Challenge, Friday's Forgotten Book, Mrs & Mrs North, Richard and Frances Lockridge. Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to MURDER WITHIN MURDER (1946) by Richard and Frances Lockridge

  1. tracybham says:

    I read this fairly recently. I think I liked it better than you did but did note some flaws. I used to enjoy the amateur sleuth paired with a policeman more when I was younger and maybe Pam’s ditzy behavior did not seem so strange back then. But I still have a few to read through. And I love that cover (2nd from the top).

    • Thanks Tracy – I wish i had that edition but have the rather drab one from the top of the post sadly. I like Pam a lot actually (I always picture Gracie Allen) but the plots are a bit dull frankly.

  2. Bev Hankins says:

    Sorry to hear that you don’t like the Lockridge books as much as I do, Sergio. They’re my fluffy, comfort reads. 🙂

  3. Margot Kinberg says:

    I know what you mean, Sergio, about not being able to get completely into this series. Still, I must confess that there are times when I do like a light ‘comfort read.’ As always, a thoughtful and well-written review as ever 🙂

    • I think I am in a minority on this series – I do wish I enjoyed them more, though they are undeniably undemanding Golden Age fun.

      • Noah Stewart says:

        My sentiments exactly. I wish I enjoyed them more … but I’m more along the lines of Dorothy Parker when confronted with cuteness, as in “Constant Weader fwowed up.” But despite their overall tone, the mysteries themselves are pretty tight. Nothing wrong with them, just not to my taste.

  4. TomCat says:

    I know what you mean as well, Sergio, because I never really got into this series myself. Voyage into Violence was pretty good, but everything else was low on detection or flawed. Granted, I have only read a handful of them, but I feel safe in stating that I prefer Kelley Roos to the Lockridges where fun, bantering mystery solving couples are concerned.

  5. Colin says:

    I’ve seen a few episodes of the 50s TV show, which I though was OK but hardly essential. I haven’t read any of the books but I still wouldn’t mind trying out one or two – they seem like they might be the kind of thing to pass the time if you’re in the right mood.
    And of course this stuff is surely the inspiration for Hart to Hart.

  6. Bradstreet says:

    I tend to agree with you on this. The ones that I read were amiable enough, but whereas I had to track down all of the Carrs and Crispins once I head read one of them, I could probably go without ever reading another one of these. There are too many of them and not enough time.

  7. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    Can’t say I’ve ever heard of these before. But despite them being a bit lightweight, sounds like they could be fun for comfort reading!

  8. Richard says:

    I have a couple on the shelf, unread. I’m not sure this review encourages me much.

  9. Yvette says:

    Within the last few years, Sergio, I’ve read (or reread) a few Mr. and Mrs. North books and I always like them but, like you, don’t LOVE them. They’re not especially memorable but for me, they are as good a waste of time as any – books for a day when you don’t want your brain burdened. 🙂 I like the banter and the whole amateur sleuth shtick. I also liked the books featuring the state policeman whose name I can’t remember at the moment. Those were good though they lacked the charm of the Norths.

    I also remember enjoying the television series featuring Barbara Britton and the always wonderful Richard Denning as the Norths. So maybe that’s why I have a soft spot for the books.

  10. I have about a dozen of these Lockridge books but I’ve never gotten around to reading them. Most of the reviews I’ve read have been lukewarm, like yours. I may not rush into a binge reading session of the Mr. & Mrs. North books.

  11. realthog says:

    Hm. I wonder why I’ve never heard of these? It’s of the vintage where I expect at least to know about the books and usually to have read one or two. Unless, of course, I have read one or two but, as you suggest, they’re a bit forgettable. It’s a gap I ought to fill in . . .

  12. Matt Paust says:

    I’m on the fence here, Sergio. I respect your judgment in these things, and yet I see some of the others sort of like this series. I like cats, too. I just might give this a try. Thanks for the intro.

    • My pleasure Matt (and I am definitely a cat person). I don’t dislike them at all so it is purely a question of degree – odds are, most people will enjoy these at least to the point that I do and most likely more I would have thought.

  13. Kathy D. says:

    Well, I loved the TV series in my younger years, but have never tried the books.
    And, when I need light, witty mystery fare, I dig into the goings-on at the Manhattan West Side brownstone in which the portly genius resides with his side-kick, chef and orchids.

  14. New authors and series for me, Sergio. Pedestrian writing puts me off too but I plod on bravely, as I hate putting down a half-read book. I have got to try one of these books sometime.

  15. I have long heard of this series without trying them – one of these days I will certainly read one of them. But it sounds like it might be just the one…. Maybe this one, I’ll keep it in mind.

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