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Review: The Norths Meet Murder by Frances and Richard Lockridge April 1, 2016

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews.
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cover85679-mediumOpen Road Media is a publisher specializing in ebooks, bringing a lot of old classics and newer works into the digital age. They also make some of their books available through Netgalley, which is where I got this as a free ebook in exchange for a review.

The Norths Meet Murder is the first in a series of 26 mystery novels featuring a married couple who get caught up in murder along with a New York police detective lieutenant. Though not terribly well known now, in their time they were popular enough to be adapted for Broadway, film, radio, and TV.

Though I’ve been a mystery/crime fiction fan for decades, this is my first trip into the world of Mr and Mrs North. And it wasn’t entirely what I expected. I thought it would be a bit closer in style to the Thin Man movies based on Dashiell Hammett’s novel, and it only had a hint of that — and it’s certainly a fair distance removed from Craig Rice’s screwball mysteries featuring Mr and Mrs Justus and their friend John J Malone.

Mr and Mrs North are interesting characters with a line in banter and a taste for cocktails, but they’re guest stars in this book, which is much more about Detective Lieutenant Weigand, an equally interesting but more serious cop character, and Detective Mullins, Weigand’s hard-done-by assistant. Weigand is the primary viewpoint character.

As for the story — it’s a classic police detective mystery. It is neither noir nor hardboiled. It is, however, very much about New York City in 1940, with plenty of telling details. There’s no sex but there are certainly references that would be toned down for a 1940 movie. People tend to be pretty blase about extramarital affairs, and one key character reads as gay. The writers seem to be fairly openminded about different racial and ethnic groups, if still inclined to some stereotyping.

Overall, it’s a solid, old-fashioned mystery. I’ll probably try at least a couple more to see if the Norths become more prominent in the series named after them, and, assuming they do, to see how that changes the dynamic and the degree of humour in the books.

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