A Craig Kennedy Scientific Mystery Novel. The sudden death of Stella Lamar as she is playing before the camera is the occasion for a story with a double appeal--a thoroughly tangled mystery solved by Craig Kennedy and the life of the movie people in all its fascinating detail.
"You saw nothing suspicious," interrupted Kennedy, "nothing in the actions or manner of anyone in the room?"
"No, when I first entered I didn't suspect anything out of the way. I had them send everyone into the next room, except Manton and Phelps, and had the doors and windows thrown open to give her air. Then when I examined her I detected what seemed to me to be both a muscular and nervous paralysis, which by that time had proceeded pretty far. As I touched her she opened her eyes, but she was unable to speak. She was breathing with difficulty; her heart action was weakening so rapidly that I had little opportunity to apply restorative measures."
"What do you think caused the death?"
"So far, I can make no satisfactory explanation." The doctor shrugged his shoulders very slightly. "That is why I advised an immediate investigation. I did not care to write a death certificate."
"You have no hypothesis?"
"If she died from any natural organic disorder, the signs were lacking by which
I have read all of Arthur B. Reeve's Crag Kennedy novels published through 1920. This is by far the best.
Craig Kennedy is a professor at the University. But while he occasionally undertakes a case for a former classmate or student, in only one of the novels (THE GOLD OF THE GODS) does he appear to have any contact with the University or ts faculty other than the use of the laboratory.
Walter Jameson, the narrator of all of Kennedy's cases, is a newspaper reporter. But, except for occasionally dropping in on his editor and being assigned to follow Kennedy around, we learn nothing of the newspaper business.
Arthur Reeve, in addition to being a newspaper man and an author, had a career providing stories (if not scripts) to the film industry. This provides him with the setting for this novel, and makes reading it worthwhile in itself.
Reeve, of course, worked in the film industry when it was still centered on the east coast. His only mention of Hollywood in this book is a reference to "the California film colony" where an actor or actress can "break into" the film business and, with luck, be called to New York.
The book centers on the mysterious death of a leading actress during the filming of a scene from her newest film. Craig Kennedy is called in to find the murderer from a group of suspects which includes the head of the studio, the producer and the director of the film, the scriptwriter (the actress's ex-husband) and about half the supporting cast. The investigation travels from Tarrytown, New York to Fort Lee, New Jersey(then the center of the film industry) to the film stuion. Along the way there are more murders, mostly osmong the suspects, and an explosive fire in the film vault.
Kennedy solves the crime, as usual, through his scientific method, but he does engage in an interesting, if superficial, consideration of the psychological potential of each of the suspects not only to commit murder but to commit it in the ways that this murderer uses. This psychological approach may have been attempted to meet the changing demands of the reading audience. It was not enough, for in the decade following this book Philo Vance, Hercule Poirot and Ellery Queen came to dominate the field of mystery books, and Craig Kennedy was relegated to the pulp magazines. His next book was, THE STARS SCREAMED MURDER, was not published until 1936, the years Reeves died.