|cover illustration by Gail Cross|
The Cases of Lieutenant Timothy Trant was originally supposed to appear last year, but with the help of fiction treasure finder Tony Medawar we were able at a late date to identify an additional Trant short story, "Death at the Fair," which seemingly had been previously published only in a British newspaper. (The majority of these tales appeared as well in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.) We also located a forgotten novella, "She Wrote Finis," which actually is the first known appearance of Timothy Trant in short fiction. This set the book publication schedule back some months, but I think fans will find the addition of two more Trant tales worth the wait.
After my introduction, the volume opens with a brief biographical entry on Timothy Trant that was penned by Webb and Wheeler. Then comes the aforementioned "She Wrote Finis," a cleverly clued novella about the murder of ambitious and unscrupulous aspiring novelist Minna Lucas, which originally was serialized in December 1940 and January 1941.
|White Carnations (Cecil Kennedy)|
All of them are genuine detective stories, fairly clued puzzles that were highly praised for their skillful construction by noted American crime fiction critic Anthony Boucher.
Herein the reader will find a delectable box of poisoned chocolates, including, besides the three tales mentioned above, such deliciously deadly delights as:
partly the model for Trant
The Corpse in the Closet, which introduces Trant's amusingly overbearing sister Freda (probably named for Webb's own favorite sister)
Who Killed the Mermaid?, wherein a train passenger is strangled with his own hideous necktie
Woman of Ice, another moving case of death in Venice
Death on Saturday Night, in which matinee idol Tyrone Power provides a key to a clue in a murder which takes place in a New Hampshire skiing village where Trant is vacationing
Girl Overboard, an ingenious shipboard mystery with modern-day resonance
This Looks Like Murder, in which a melodious Strauss waltz inspires Trant in his hunt for a killer
Death before Breakfast and Death at the Fair, in which respectively debut Trant's sister Freda's pet dachshund Minnie and her young son Colvin, both of them equally and amusingly demanding of Trant's attentions
Lioness versus Panther, the last known published piece of Trant short fiction, which wryly pits a pair of rival acting divas against each other when murder--the real thing--takes place on stage.
And there are seven more tales too! This is a fine collection indeed of classic crime fiction, one of my personal favorites from publisher Crippen & Landru, masters of vintage mystery in its shorter, but no less deadly, form. At least one additional volume of Webb and Wheeler tales is in the works as well.