Trial By Fury (1941) by Craig Rice

Jake and Helene Justus were only in Wisconsin in the Jackson County Courthouse to get a fishing licence, when they find themselves temporarily stranded by a storm. And then stranded for a considerably longer time when ex-Senator Joseph Peveley is murdered. After upsetting the local sheriff, Jake finds himself facing jail and hence Helene summons John H Malone, lawyer extraordinaire from Chicago to help sort things out.

After quickly establishing the method, and finding the murder weapon, all Malone wants to do is get back to Chicago. Events quickly transpire to keep the three of them in Jackson, and it soon becomes clear that unless Malone can find the real killer, there is a good possibility that nobody will be leaving town at all…

My first experience of Craig Rice’s work and I wonder – should I have started at the beginning of the series? The characters seem established here, but there is clearly history between the three of them – history that is briefly recapped – but perhaps a better knowledge of that history might have made the Justus couple appeal to me a bit more. I did like Malone, however, especially his relationship that develops in the book.

To be honest, I felt I should have enjoyed this more than I did. I admire the book – it’s an entertaining, well-plotted mystery – but for whatever reason, it just didn’t grab me. It might be the oft-mentioned (by me) problem that I seem to have at the moment with concentrating on a book at the moment, as this seemed to be a very busy narrative. I had to keep reminding myself who the second tier characters were – early on, when Malone announced that the murderer had to be one of the six characters who were on the second floor at the time of the killing, it took me three re-reads of what had gone before to establish who the sixth suspect was. And even then, I wasn’t exactly sure…

It’s a very busy book, funny at times (although not quite on the same wavelength at other times with me) and as I said, I can see that it’s a good book. For whatever reason, it just didn’t resonate with me. At some point in the future, when things are more settled, I’m going to give it another go, as I feel it deserves it. Who knows, maybe it will click next time…


  1. I can see how reading Rice when you’re tired might be tricky, as a lot tends to happen. Activity tends to be a bit frantic too. I enjoyed this one more than you, but I had read earlier books in the series. The first book shows how Justus and Helene meet, but I think the plots of The Wrong Murder and The Right Murder are stronger. N. B. It’s important to read those two books in that order.
    Or if you’re wanting to try a non-series book, Home Sweet Homicide is also very enjoyable.


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