Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Picked: "Burnt Offering" by Richard and Frances Lockridge

Picked: Burnt Offering by Richard and Francis Lockridge, 1955, LOC Cat no.55-6310.

I read the upcoming FFB theme of books written in the 1950s.  At first I used the fancy way of looking for a book and ran a library report on publication dates for fiction items.  That didn't work very well.  There was a Nevil Shute book I had not yet read but I did not want to read that one. So, I wondered the Mystery section looking for old stuff.

I'm surprised I did not weed this one.  Past circ' stats are iffy for individual items.  Reports cannot easily be run and keeping track of each item would balloon the database.  From what I can see this last went out in 2009. I don't know anything about the Lockridge's and don't feel like looking them up.  They did write a lot of books and the main character in Burnt Offering seems to be a series character.

Captain M.L. Heimrich of the New York State Police is visiting his niece and her husband in the Town of Van Brunt, NY along the Hudson River.  Heimrich attends a town council meeting with his niece and her husband because the Lockridge's want to set things up by showing the conflict between Phipps, the town supervisor, and Town residents regarding several issues including zoning, name changes, and other issues.  The narration says Hiemrich is tagging along as his family is there to hear about the proposed zoning changes.

Anyway.  A fire alarm cancels the meeting and everyone drives down to the firehouse because the firehouse is on fire.  The next morning Phipps is found burned up in the remains of the fire.  How did he get there?  Was it an accident?  No, this is a murder mystery and Phipps was shot.

Heimrich is already in town and is assigned the investigation.  His main partner, Sergeant Forniss, comes to town and they start investigating. The novel is sort-of a cozy police procedural.  Heimrich starts trying to figure out where Phipps went after the fire to figure who killed Phipps and dumped him in the smoldering remains and covered him with gasoline in a try to hide the killing.

Heimrich interviews the already introduced suspects.  A lawyer, the town librarian, the rich matron van Brunt and her son, people angry over real estate and class issues.  Van Brunt is split among old money, newer money with multi-acre lots, and the poor people in shacks on The Flats.

Heimrich finds the killer after a couple false leads, a burglary, a second shooting, a threatened child, a kidnapping, an arson, and a fire rescue.  A nice mix of action and cerebral work.

1.  Heimrich often closes his eyes during interviews and just listens.
2.  Heimrich has a tactic of turnign away questions by saying, "Now, Mr. [name}..."
3. Some of the pacing was nice with a mix of short sentences mixed with longer description.
4. Map of town included.

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