In the 1930s Lockridge created the New York socialite characters Mr. and Mrs. North for a droll series of New Yorker sketches, some of which were collected in the book Mr. and Mrs. North in 1936. When his wife, Frances Louisa (Davis) Lockridge, conceived a plot for a mystery novel, Richard, who would do the actual writing of the Lockridge mysteries, placed the Norths, Jerry and Pam, into the book. As Frances Lockridge pithily put it, "I think up interesting characters, and Dick kills them off." The Norths stayed alive and kicking in Lockridge mysteries for nearly a quarter century, however.
|the Lockridges plot murder while a fan looks on|
The Lockridges published 26 mysteries with the Norths between 1940 and 1963, the year Frances Lockridge died (they also published crime novels without the Norths and Lockridge continued to publish North-less crime novels after his wife's death). Especially in the 1940s the North mysteries were quite well-received (New York Times mystery critic Anthony Boucher was a great fan).
|The Norths make a gruesome discovery |
in Mr. and Mrs. North Meet Murder
(aka The Norths Meet Murder)
The Norths start off their career as a mystery fiction couple in classic fashion, finding a man's naked, battered body in a bathtub in the empty top floor apartment of the Greenwich Village brownstone where they live. This discovery brings Weigand and Mullins into their lives. Soon Weigand, through some clever police work, identifies the corpse as one of the North's own social set! And the Norths are suspects!!
I often see the North mysteries described as "zany," but I did not find The Norths Meet Murder so. Much of the book is devoted to the investigations of Weigand, and these parts of the novel feel much more like a police procedural than a "madcap" mystery. The Norths pop in and out and they (well, mostly Pam) play an important part in the novel's denouement, but they don't behave especially zanily, in my view--though, to be sure, they drink a lot of cocktails and Pam displays a positive penchant for seeming non sequiturs!
I enjoyed the book, although I early on tagged the culprit, based merely on what you might call general mystery fiction principles. Still, there's a clever alibi problem and a pleasingly-portrayed NYC milieu; and I plan to read additional Lockridge tales in the future.