On the terrace of a high-end Fifth Avenue apartment, a shot rings out and a bullet pierces the heart of adventuress Troy Singleton. No one else is in sight. The dwelling’s only other occupant is its owner, the novelist Larmar Jordan. As it happens, Jordan had enjoyed an adulterous fling with Singleton, but later had tired of her. When New York’s Finest arrest him for the killing, his loyal wife hires the blind private eye Duncan MacLain to clear him of the charge.After all, who better to track down an invisible murderer than a sleuth who cannot see? Frequent and trenchant descriptions of how blindness alters MacLain’s consciousness and sharpens his perception provide the chief point of interest in this otherwise routine mystery. A clever murder device and various canine shenanigans (MacLain owns two German shepherds, one to serve as a “seeing eye” and the other to act as an all-purpose enforcer) also reflect authorial inspiration. Yet Kendrick’s prose and his plotting unfold awkwardly: Neither seems quite worthy of the Café Society world—a realm in which slick patter glazes the surface of human intrigue—that he strives to evoke.
BAYNARD KENDRICK. Death Knell (1945).