Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Frances and Richard Lockridge, The Faceless Adversary

Frances and Richard Lockridge, The Faceless Adversary
J.P. Lippincott and Co. 1956
© Frances and Richard Lockridge 1956
Available as an ebook and from used booksellers.

John Hayward, having just asked the woman he loves (Barbara Phillips)to marry him, arrives at his apartment, and finds the police waiting for him.  They ask him to come with them, to answer questions about the murder of Nora Evans.  From their questioning, it’s apparent that they believe (with some reason) that he murdered her to get out of his relationship with her.  They do not, at this point, have sufficient evidence to charge him with murder; he is released on bond (of $20,000—something around $150,000 at today’s prices).  Hayward is in his early 30s, a veteran of the Korean War, and an assistant vice-president of a large New York bank.  And things do not look good for him.

He and Barbara find themselves looking for evidence of his innocence (and of someone else’s guilt; the police keep him under surveillance and continue to build a case against him.  And there is a bad-cop (Grady), good-cop (Nathan Shapiro) element to the story.  (This is the first, of ten, books in which Shapiro plays a major role.  He winds up being instrumental in identifying the actual murderer, although it’s hard to call him the lead character.  He has a few walk-on appearances in the Mr. and Mrs. North books, also written by the Lockridges.)

The Lockridges do their usual good job of making the reader see and feel what New York was like (and, in this case, what a part of the Connecticut suburbs were like).  John and Barbara make an attractive couple, and there is a charming secondary character, the Anglican priest, Father Higbee, who both accepts their account of what has happened, but provides them with some insight into the people in his small Connecticut town who are a part of what has happened.

The Lockridges were never really among the top rank of mystery writers in their career (spainng the years from the early 1940s to the late 1970s; Richard carried on as a solo act after Frances’s death in the early ‘60s).  But they were reliable, and their main characters [(the Norths in particular, but also Shapiro and Merton Heimrich (24 books, a state police inspector introduced in the second Mr. and Mrs North book (Murder Out of Turn)] were always likeable.  IThe Faceless Adversary is a good example of their work—solidly plotted, with appealing characters.  I have always found that spending a few hours with thir books time well spent, and The Faceless Adversary is no exception.

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