I shall refrain from pointing out the similarities between The Shop Window Murders (1930) by Vernon Loder and The French Powder Mystery (1930) by Ellery Queen — Nigel Moss does an excellent job of that in his introduction of this reprint, and you’ll want your money’s worth. In short order we get dead bodies in a display in a shop window, and after the initial surprise of revealed identity it’s not long before Detective Inspector Devenish and the avuncular Superintendent Melis are on the scene to untangle possibly the most baffling range of clues seen this side of an early-period Queen novel. Oh, er, sorry about that. No more, I promise.
It’s a complex case, no messing, and Devenish and Melis are great company for the duration. They’re both very much ciphers in terms of their internal lives or personal whims — indeed, anything that doesn’t contribute directly to the plotting and clewing has been excised, including transitions from one location to the next: should your attention waver for a moment, you’ll miss Devenish crossing London, or getting a train out to the sticks. For all the comparisons that could be made with Freeman Wills Crofts, Loder has none of Crofts’ love of travel or the great outdoors — he’s here to log clues and take names, and there will be plenty of both. But his arguably characterless policemen and suspects have that Croftian touch of the wry in their dealings that betokens a firm respect and the low-key humour of men who know and trust each other:
“Come in, inspector. You’re the very man I want to see. One of our cheerful experts has upset your latest apple-cart, and I want to see how you propose to set it up on its wheels again.”