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Review: "Murder House" (The Shadow)
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John Olsen
2013-04-19 07:15:27 UTC
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MURDER HOUSE was originally published in the March 15, 1937 issue of The
Shadow Magazine. Like a shell-torn battleground, the peace and quiet of
a countryside give way to criminal warfare when The Shadow stalks
through byways seeking the ruler of the Murder House.

Here's a fun Shadow adventure that falls roughly in the middle of the
pack. That is to say it's not a great story... nor is it a bad one. It
has some good moments and for a nice change of pace is set mostly out in
the country. But after you've finished reading it, you'll find there's
not a lot of those moments that make it stick out as anything special.
It's well written and plotted. No glaring plot loopholes, thank
goodness. But it's still just an average Shadow mystery.

The title of this story is somewhat of a misnomer. Yes, there is a
murder. And yes, it takes place in a house. So technically, there is a
"Murder House." But the house is out on Long Island, and very little of
the story takes place there. Most of the action takes place in the
countryside several hours drive north of New York.

It all starts when two crooks named Kip Farrick and Nick Shoyden spy
multimillionaire Cyrus Brockbright having a picnic lunch in a wooden
glen out in the country a few miles from the small town of Midvale.
They've determined he picnics there often, and decide he's a ripe
customer for kidnapping. He's made his millions on Wall Street and they
look to make a bundle if they can snatch him out here in the country
away from the law.

Kip and Nick are a nasty duo. They are on the lam, having high-tailed it
out of New York after croaking Jim Kildean in his gambling joint. The
cops are looking for them in Manhattan, and that explains why they are
currently hiding out near Midvale. And while they are here, they decide
to make a little money. The easy way...

Nick Shoyden, the smarter of the two, decides that it would be better to
work a sneaky real-estate swindle on old Cryrus Brockbright, rather than
gamble on encountering the law in a kidnapping attempt. The price of
land is booming because of a resort just south of Midvale on the
Muskatinny Creek. Nick figures that old Brockbright must be scouting out
the land hereabouts under the guise of his picnics, intending to buy it
before the value skyrockets. Nick's plan is to buy the land quickly
before Brockbright can get his hands on it. Then sell it to Brockbright
at a highly inflated price.

And buy up the entire acreage, they do. For a mere seven thousand, five
hundred bucks. Their plan is to charge old Brockbright sixty-thousand
for it. To do this, they must sneak back into New York and approach
Brockbright at his Wall Street offices. But when Nick meets with
Brockbright, the old millionaire isn't so sure he wants to buy the
property. He makes plans to meet with Nick Shoyden out at his Long
Island mansion that evening, and finalize their negotiations. And that's
where the murder takes place.

The Shadow learns that Nick Shoyden and Kip Farrick have returned to New
York. He overhears their plans at the Lucky Seven Club. That night, The
Shadow makes his way out to Long Island to be at Brockbright's mansion
when Nick shows up. The Shadow detects crime in the offing. But when he
gets there, he's too late. Cyrus Brockbright sits in his second story
study dead, a bullet through his chest. The murderer has fled, leaving
no clues. The Shadow has been challenged. The gauntlet has been thrown
down. It's up to The Shadow to accept the challenge and find the
merciless killer.

Joe Cardona, ace detective of the New York police force, is on the case.
He receives a tip that Nick Shoyden and Kip Farrick were seen up north
around Midvale. So, under the guise of taking a long-postponed vacation,
Cardona heads towards Midvale. There, he is soon captured by the gang of
cutthroats and thrown into a hidden underground cell. No one knows he's
missing; he's supposed to be on vacation. So who can save him? Yes, it's
The Shadow!

Only The Shadow can discover Joe Cardona's mysterious absence. Only The
Shadow can uncover the underground lair wherein Cardona is imprisoned.
Only The Shadow can track down the murderer of Cyrus Brockbright. And
only The Shadow can uncover the sinister secret of the seemingly bucolic
country glen. Yes, it's The Shadow to the rescue!

We see The Shadow in this story working mostly alone. Detective Joe
Cardona plays a large part, and is joined briefly by Detective Sergeant
Markham. There are brief appearances by Rutledge Mann, Clyde Burke and
Harry Vincent, but for the most part, this story features The Shadow
working by himself. He appears in his oft-used disguise as millionaire
man-about-town Lamont Cranston. He also appears as country bumpkin Hiram
Robinson. But most often, he appears in his black cloak and slouch hat.
Also appearing in this story is Federal Agent Vic Marquette. The Shadow
sends for him, and he appears at the end of the story to help mob up the
gangsters that The Shadow has routed.

There are a few things worth noting in this story. We get to see The
Shadow acting the part of Lamont Cranston at Cranston's New Jersey
mansion. In most stories, we don't get to see the The Shadow at "home."
It's a nice change of pace to see the supposed Cranston at the mansion
with his chauffeur Stanley and valet Richards.

And then there's Morse code. Does anybody know Morse code, anymore?
Well, back in 1937, it would seem that everybody did. Certainly The
Shadow and Joe Cardona. They use it to communicate while Joe is still
prisoner of the criminal gang, and before The Shadow can effect his escape.

Have you ever wondered just how expensive that fancy high-powered
limousine of Cranston's was? In this story, we're told that it cost six
thousand dollars. Wow, that was pretty expensive by 1937 standards!

Even if the "Murder House" is only seen briefly, and only involves a
single murder, it still makes for an intriguing story. I found it worth
my while to read. But if I hadn't been taking notes as I went along, I
doubt if I could have remembered most of the plot. It's just not all
that memorable. While not all that remarkable, it still is an enjoyable
way to spend your hours reading The Shadow.

John
--
"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!"
The wonderful old pulp mystery stories are all reviewed at:

http://home.comcast.net/~deshadow/
Offramp
2013-04-26 19:14:46 UTC
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John - your reviews are superb, literate & very enjoyable.
John Olsen
2013-04-27 16:27:55 UTC
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John - your reviews are superb, literate& very enjoyable.
Thanks for the kind words. I've been reading The Shadow, and writing
reviews, for the past 17 years. In that time, I've read all 325 of The
Shadow pulp stories, and have started reading them for a second time.
That gives me a chance to update my reviews in light of having seen the
entire body of work and having a basis for comparison. At my current
rate, I'll complete the second reading in a year and a half. It will
seem strange to cease reading The Shadow... strange to stop writing the
reviews.

Glad you are enjoying them for now, though.

John
--
"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!"
The wonderful old pulp mystery stories are all reviewed at:

http://home.comcast.net/~deshadow/
Joe Pfeiffer
2013-04-28 03:59:38 UTC
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Post by John Olsen
John - your reviews are superb, literate& very enjoyable.
Thanks for the kind words. I've been reading The Shadow, and writing
reviews, for the past 17 years. In that time, I've read all 325 of
The Shadow pulp stories, and have started reading them for a second
time. That gives me a chance to update my reviews in light of having
seen the entire body of work and having a basis for comparison. At my
current rate, I'll complete the second reading in a year and a half.
It will seem strange to cease reading The Shadow... strange to stop
writing the reviews.
Wait, what? Cease? NOOOOOOOOO!
Post by John Olsen
Glad you are enjoying them for now, though.
John
J
2013-04-29 23:14:17 UTC
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Wait, what?  Cease?  NOOOOOOOOO!
There must be some other pulp series worthy of your attention...

Chuck
2013-04-28 12:00:24 UTC
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Post by John Olsen
John - your reviews are superb, literate& very enjoyable.
Thanks for the kind words. I've been reading The Shadow, and writing
reviews, for the past 17 years. In that time, I've read all 325 of The
Shadow pulp stories, and have started reading them for a second time. That
gives me a chance to update my reviews in light of having seen the entire
body of work and having a basis for comparison. At my current rate, I'll
complete the second reading in a year and a half. It will seem strange to
cease reading The Shadow... strange to stop writing the reviews.
Glad you are enjoying them for now, though.
John
I always read your reviews, I have for many years. Plus, when I am reading
a Shadow (which is quite often at the moment), I always check out your
review for that novel at sometime during the reading. Sometimes during the
reading, if I think I spotted something; and if not - always afterwards, in
case I missed something. You are a beacon of light in the shadows. Sorry,
I could not help myself.

Chuck
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