cover image A Gentle Murderer

A Gentle Murderer

Dorothy Salisbury Davis. Poisoned Pen, $14.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-7282-7195-8

First published in 1951, this solid if somewhat dated mystery from MWA Grand Master Davis (1916–2014) opens on a sweltering August evening in New York City. Father Duffy, assistant pastor of St. Timothy’s, one of Manhattan’s largest Catholic parishes, is winding up his stint in the confessional when a final parishioner comes in, a hammer in his hand. “I think I killed someone,” he tells the priest, and goes on to reveal clues to his identity and that of his victim. Duffy believes he has persuaded the young man to go to the police. When, the next day, the body of a young woman is discovered and no one comes forward to confess to the murder, Duffy decides to find the killer himself. His investigations run parallel to those of NYPD Det. Sgt. Ben Goldsmith, and eventually the two converge. A third strand of the story follows the murderer. The pace can be slow in places, and as a study in psychology it’s rather simplistic by today’s standards. Crime fiction scholars will best appreciate this entry in the Library of Congress Crime Classics series. (Mar.)