Death Points a Finger

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Author: Will Levinrew (William Levine)
Published: 1933
Language: English
Wordcount: 54,164 / 161 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 78.4
LoC Category: PS
Downloads: 3,206
Added to site: 2009.10.06 25473

"The problem which Professor Brierly is asked to solve in this story is a strange one. The members of a tontine insurance group are dying off so rapidly that the survivors have become seriously alarmed. Some of the deaths have been reported as suicides, others as accidental."--New York Times

Show Excerpt

o follow the direction of the one who looked most intelligent and became lost.

He crossed the Connecticut River several times. His geography being rather sketchy, he became confused by the fact that he appeared to be in New Hampshire part of the time. Then he got lost in Canada, which feat is fairly easy for the stranger.

It was nearly six o'clock in the morning of July third, when he found the camp, about two miles off the road. He bumped over rutted paths through rough, plowed and unplowed fields several miles before he finally arrived. A friendly fox-terrier puppy fawned on him and friskily led him to a porch.

Jimmy was red-eyed, tired, haggard and in a vicious temper when he reached the camp. He knew it was his destination because, on a wide porch facing the west, he came upon his friend and former schoolmate, John Matthews, snugly rolled in his blankets, sound asleep. Jimmy took this sleep as a personal affront. As if jeering at his own sleeplessness, Matthews emitted a faint snore.<


Average Rating of 3.7 from 6 reviews: ****
Leah A. Zeldes

A journalist and a scientist are drawn into the search for a mass murderer. A slow read with a somewhat clunky style, but the mystery of who's killing off the elderly members of a tontine is resolved in an interesting and not too predictable manner.

Dai Alanye

Leaves a lot to be desired due to clumsy style, but offers some amusement.


An elderly scientist, his adopted son, and a newspaper reporter investigate a series of deviously planned murders within a group of Civil War veterans. I had never heard of this author - Will Levinrew, but this is a well written and enjoyable whodunnit.


Found the events in this mystery all a bit improbable and pulpy. The police was painted too stupid but hey, if you have a protagonist to boost... The story keeps a nice tension to the end, however.

Linda Otto

It was fun--sort of a Dr. Thorndyke knock-off with Professor Brierly the omniscient sleuth. Definitely a fun way to spend an evening.


I haven't been able to discover much about the author -- William Levine aka Will Levinrew -- who wrote a number of murder mysteries mainly in the early 1930s. He also wrote short stories including at least one published in The Phantom Detective pulp (Vol 1 No 1) the same year as this 1933 novel.

In this tale, elderly scientist Professor Herman Brierly is called in to solve the case of the serial murders of octogenarians with his assistant -- rugged blue eyed adopted son John Matthews -- and Jimmy Hale, crack reporter for the (now long defunct but real) New York Eagle newspaper. It's a nice set-up: 200-odd men share a history during the US Civil War. Every 4th of July they have a reunion and many years ago it was agreed that a fund would be created, paid into by the survivng members that would be eventually paid out to the final sole survivor. Now, 65 years have passed since the Civil War and the 17 and 18 year olds are all in their 80s. A mere 14 survive. Mysteriously, one by one, their numbers dwindle during this year's reunion. Is it a sudden rash of suicides? Or are they being stalked? Enter Professor Brierly and his crew.

OK, so it's not literary fiction but it is a fun, breezy read with lots of action. It's very much a male thing -- there is only a single woman in the entire cast and no love interest at all (she's a recent widow, the sister to Jack). But it is charming in its 1933 view of how the world works and is set on a charming lakeside in Quebec (Lake Memphremagog which also borders on Vermont).

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