- First published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, April 1972.
- Reprinted in Alfred Hitchcock's Tales to Be Read with Caution, ed. Eleanor Sullivan, NY: Random House, 1979; The Best of Mystery, ed. Alfred Hitchcock, NY: Galahad Books, 1976; Leopold's Way: Detective Stories, eds. Francis M. Nevins, jr. & Martin H. Greenberg, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985.
- Rating: 4/10.
- "A Melee of Diamonds" at the Internet Book List.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Casual Shorts 2: Edward D. Hoch, "A Melee of Diamonds" (1972)
A man walks by a jewelry store, smashes its glass display case with a cane and rushes off, only to be caught a few feet away by a bystander with a policeman in sight. Despite the fact that $58,000 worth of diamonds are missing from the showcase, the thief is found empty-handed. Captain Leopold is brought in to investigate.
The opening scenes are set up in an attempt to focus the reader on the Samaritan bystander. Since the most obvious suspect is usually innocent, I found myself quickly considering the other alternatives. The initial thought that passed through my head was: "What happened to the cane?" as the item seems to have all-too conveniently dropped off the page. Oddly the cane is not mentioned during the initial investigation, and it turns out Leopold has completely forgotten about it. Half-way through he remembers the item and blurts out, "Why didn't I think of it before?" I asked the same thing; aren't weapons & tools involved in a crime examined early on and shouldn't professional inspectors be interested in what clues these items can yield?
Leopold is led to solving the case by a woman who walks up to him in the middle of the street, telling him she knows where the diamonds are. Great deduction work, Leopold! Brave Leopold then sets up a little scheme in order to learn the true thief’s identity, a scheme that results in getting a middle-man killed. Despite this unnecessary death, Leopold is pleased at having figured out the identity of the glass-smasher’s accomplice, while I was left to mourn the pointless death of the small-time crook.