Friday, January 1, 2016

Donald Westlake, "The Sound of Murder" (1962)

Westlake, Donald, "The Sound of Murder," Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, December 1962. pp. 102-130
______, "The Sound of Murder," This Day's Evil, London: Four Square, January 1967
______, "The Sound of Murder," Death Can Be Beautiful, New York: Dell, May 1972
______, "The Sound of Murder," Academy Mysteries #2: Police Procedurals, ed. Martin H. Grenberg & Bill Pronzini, Academy Chicago Publishers, 1985
______, "The Sound of Murder," Levine, NY: Tor, May 1993
______, "The Sound of Murder," Playing Detective, ed. Robert Eidelberg, Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2014

Rating:     7/10

The Sound of Murder at ISFdb (though I'm not sure why)
The Sound of Murder at IBList

For more of this week's FFBs, Please visit Todd Mason's blog.

In four years four Donald Westlake novelettes featuring Detective Abraham Levine of Brooklyn's Forty-third Precint were published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (1959-62). Only two other stories were later published: one for Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine in 1965, and the final Levine story in the collection Levine (Tor, 1993). Abraham Levine is an aging, neurotic detective, overly conscious of his mortality.

In "The Sound of Murder," while obsessing over his heart rate and struggling with quitting smoking, Levine investigates a murder based solely on hearsay. The precinct is visited by nine year-old Amy Thornbridge Walker, who claims her mother murdered her stepfather, and likely many years ago killed her father as well. The girl believes her mother generated some great sound that gave her step-father a heart attack, and though the story appears weak and phone calls to coroners indicate there is nothing to indicate any foul play, Levine and partner Crawley feel there might be something to the story. They receive permission to investigate for two days only, and there is little at this point they can do but research Amy's reliability. This develops the story's plot and makes for an interesting procedural.

Yet while the investigation is interesting, it is Levine's response to the scenario, as he is obsessing with his own weakened heart and impending death, that makes this piece a strong read. The denouement is genuinely tragic and helps to illustrate that Levine's down-beaten view of life stems directly from his work and the cases he investigates. Levine is very much a victim of the urban landscape and its skewed morality, of the tragedies engendered by people, and the tragedy of this investigation is quite extreme.


Todd Mason said...

And here's what should be the link to the Levine stories in the Crime Fiction Index...looks like EQMM reprint the last story from the book in one of the next year's issues.

Todd Mason said...

Or, even, reprinted.

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