Laura opens with NYC Detective Mark McPherson arriving at the home of Waldo Lydecker, a famous columnist and the close friend of Laura Hunt, who has just been murdered. McPherson isn't usually a homicide detective -- he specializes in taking on corrupt businesses and organized crime, but he got stuck on this case by a spiteful superintendent. He's a working-class guy and snobbish about the high-class people he's investigating, who in turn look down their noses at him.
Laura Hunt was a career girl, important in the advertising industry, and also a member of "good society" thanks to Waldo taking her under his wing. She was engaged to Shelby Carpenter, who worked for the same advertising firm as she did, and who was something of an opportunist. According to everyone McPherson interviews and investigates, everyone loved her. No one had any motive for killing her. She was beautiful, gracious, generous, kind, talented, and warm-hearted. So much so, that McPherson begins to fall in love with her, even though she's gone.
This story was first released as a serial in Colliers magazine in 1942, then released in book form in 1943, made into a movie in 1944, and re-released as a book that same year too. I have the 1944 edition, which I picked up at a library book sale for probably 50 cents years ago. Mine doesn't have the cover I pictured here, it's a plain brown hardback. I just looked it up on Abe Books and there's an identical one selling for $75, so that's pretty cool. Not that I'd sell mine -- I love this story too much.
But anyway! Why do I love this story? First, of course, it's a mystery, and I love those. Second, it's got a forbidden love thing going on, with Mark in love with the memory of Laura. Third, Mark McPherson. Which is pretty much due to Dana Andrews in the role, because I saw the movie first. (My equally spoiler-free review is here.)
|(Dana Andrews as Mark McPherson)|
Like I mentioned last week in my Inkling Explorations post, this book starts out being narrated by Waldo Lydecker. Then it switches to other narrators, including Mark McPherson, which is my favorite part of the book. Him trying to reason his way through falling in love with a dead person is just a wonderful bit of character development. Love it!
Particularly Good Bits:
Although I spread butter lavishly on my brioches, I cling religiously to the belief that the substitution of saccharine for sugar in my coffee will make me slender and fascinating (p. 11.)
Whereas a detective may be a unique and even trustworthy friend, one must always remember that he has made a profession of curiosity (p. 46).
Clues to character are the only clues that add up to the solution of any but the crudest crime (p. 220).
I'm not reporting our actual language because, as I mentioned before, I haven't had a college education and I keep my writing clean (p. 223).
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: a light PG-13 for murder, very vague allusions to sexual activity, and some mild curse words and several instances of taking the Lord's name in vain.