Sunday, July 3, 2016

Review: The Bishop Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine

by Mary

The Bishop Murder Case is a mystery that grabs the reader by the lapels and drags them into the story, for it's hard to resist the statement that the matter "seemed too incredible and too wicked for acceptance by the normal mind of man".

Once again, Philo Vance aids DA John Markham and his police colleagues after Joseph Cochrane Robin is found dead, an arrow in his chest, in the private archery range behind retired professor Bertrand Dillard's New York house. Also residing in Dillard's house are his niece Belle and his protégé and adopted son, mathematical genius Sigurd Arnesson. The Drukkers, an over protective mother and her crippled son Adolph, live in the house whose back yard adjoins the Dillard's. More than one person appears to know something useful even if they are not saying anything, and included among them are a neighbouring chess expert, John Pardee, and civil engineer Raymond Sperling, Robin's rival for Belle's hand.

The connection between the nursery rhyme relating how Cock Robin was killed and the murder is noticed even before messages signed by The Bishop, pointing this out, are sent to the press. Soon there is another death whose circumstances again echo a nursery rhyme, and that's only the start.

My verdict: An intriguing premise that will doubtless remind readers of Agatha Christie's A Pocket Full of Rye. Is Philo Vance right when he declares abnormal psychology is involved or is there some other reason for the crimes? The only way to find out is to read this serpentine entry in Van Dine's series, for more I cannot say without revealing too much.

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