Murder in Miniature: The Short Stories of Leo Bruce

Leo Bruce, Author, B. A. Pike, Introduction by Academy Chicago Publishers $20 (208p) ISBN 978-0-89733-367-2
All but one of these 28 short-shorts by a pseudonymous master crime writer (really Rupert Croft-Cooke) originally appeared in the London Evening Standard between 1950 and 1956. Most capers cover five to seven pages and focus on plot puzzles; the characterization is deft but stripped to the bone. Ten of the tales feature taciturn, proletarian copper Sergeant Beef; eight more follow the insightful thinking of Sergeant Grebe. Crimes are mostly cozy fare: murders by poison, blunt instrument, or a long walk off a high, remote cliff. The dead are circus midgets, spouses, stingy drunks or quiet neighbors. Justice usually prevails, at least indirectly, as most of the puzzles are solved. In one tale, a husband plots for years to fake his wife's suicide, then she beats him to it and sets him up for the fall. In another, a greenhouse murder is solved by the keen horticultural eye of the esteemed Beef. Though dated, these stories are perfect for readers capable of covering only a few pages before bedtime. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/29/2005
Release date: 08/01/2005
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