I’ve read a lot of Jonathan Craig’s short stories in Manhunt and he is at his best in The Case Of The Laughing Virgin, even though this is a very quick read at 160 pages. Unlike his short stories, he seems to bring out some humor when Detective Pete Selby and Stan Rayder question suspects.
In this case, the murder victim is Larry Yeager. Selby and Rayder find him in a bathtub with several bullets to the chest. Outside the apartment building is Doris Hagen, sunbathing in the nude.
Of course, the clues to Yeager’s death seem to lead to a lot of suspects. In the story, Yeager is a con artist, a gigolo, a liar and someone who blackmails people for money. Selby and Rayder have their work cut out for them as this leads to a lot of suspects, questions, and some difficult answers.
The point of view is always with Selby, since he is the one questioning suspects while Rayder is working on questioning others or doing some paperwork. There were times when I didn’t believe in some of Selby’s reactions to questions from victims, especially when one of the victims said that he was stupid several times.
It was during that scene when Selby wanted to question the woman’s husband. When the woman thought he was at the door, she screamed for him to run and even tackled Selby when he went to the door. In any case, this lead to a great chase as Selby went after the husband. I thought it was a great challenge for Craig to describe the chase but he came through in several pages.
Craig is great at using Selby’s point of view because you really see how this is a police procedural story since Selby is referring to cases on the spike or using police jargon from the 1960’s during the investigation. The only writer that I’ve read that has done this as well would be Dan Mahoney in his books about his homicide detective, Brian McKenna.
By the time I finished Craig’s story, I was pleasantly surprised by who the killer was. Craig was great at leading me in a lot of directions, which included a stag film, but in the end, he managed to keep up the suspense and pick an unlikely suspect. More than happy to give this book five stars.