The Crime Of The Century (1931) by Anthony Abbot

The Reverend Thomas Beazely was an upstanding member of the New York community, until his body was found floating in a boat in New York Harbour, along with the body of Evelyn Saunders, a married woman from his congregation. Both the bodies had been shot at close range, and, just to make sure she was dead, Evelyn’s throat had been cut. Is it possible that the Reverend was having an affair with his parishioner?

Enter Police Commissioner Thatcher Colt, assisted by his scribe Anthony Abbot, but the case presents far more questions than answers – such as where the victims were killed, or where the boat they were found in came from? Meanwhile there are a hoard of suspects – Beazely’s wife, Evelyn’s husband and a host of the church community. Will the so-called Crime Of The Century ever be solved?

Well, it hasn’t quite been a week since my last review, but things are still slow on the reading front round here. Just too many distractions, I’m afraid, so I’m picking books that I’m not expecting too much from. There are certain books that I want to savour – Under Lock And Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian and The Merchant Murderers by Michael Jecks for example – so I’m saving those for when I have time to enjoy them properly. Hence this random grab from the shelf.

No idea when I got this, but I probably should. The Anthony Abbot books aren’t that easy to get hold of – in the UK, at least, there were the originals and then Collins White Circle paperbacks of some of them, but generally nothing else. I’ve a pretty decent first edition which some nice soul bought a replica dustjacket for. Pretty sure I paid less for the whole thing than they would have paid for the DJ…

Abbot at this point – it’s his second book, released in the US as About The Murder Of The Clergyman’s Mistress – was writing very much in the same style as S S Van Dine or early Ellery Queen, the primary difference is that his sleuth is not a gifted amateur but the actual Commissioner of the New York Police Department. Thatcher Colt is one of those perfect heroes – refined, cultured, well-dressed and with that special ability to know when things are just that little more complicated than they might seem.

It does seem odd that the Commissioner should focus everything on this one case – at one point, a colleague rattles off a long list of the other crimes that need dealing with, like mob wars and drug dealing, but he seems much more interested in a dead vicar. Fair enough, the other crimes wouldn’t make a good murder mystery.

All in all, this is a pretty good read. The mystery is a decent one, with hints, if not clues, as to where it might be going. The characters are nicely distinctive, even if some of the attitudes are somewhat dated – sexism more than anything else, but I’ve read significantly worse over the years. All in all, this is one of the stronger early GA titles that I’ve read in a while – and I wish like the other books I mentioned that I’d been able to focus on it a tad more. It’s another author to go on the “somebody should reprint them” list, because that’s the only way anyone is going to able to afford to read them…


  1. There’s a wonderful Thatcher Colt film of 1932, The Night Club Lady, starring Adolph Menjou. Unfortunately, it’s a bit difficult to come by. A sequel, The Circus Queen Murder, was made the year later, and though well directed and acted, the screenplay (by Capra’s primary screenwriter, Robert Riskin) really screws up the plot, leaving the final plot twist out.


  2. I have only read one book by this author, About the murder of Geraldine Foster (1930). Whilst it was not a 5/5 read, I would give him a further go. In the book I read I felt Colt didn’t help us to connect the dots. Bit of a peripheral choice of killer too. He also uses a truth serum and a lie detector in his investigation. Not sure how much of this is present in the book you read.


  3. Anthony Abbot was an excellent mystery writer and plotter, About the Murder of a Night Club Lady and About the Murder of a Circus Queen are both great GAD novels, but, regrettably, often contain material that would make publishers today think twice about reprinting them. A shame as Abbot was an important name during the early Golden Age in America. I honestly don’t see his work come back into print until it enters the public domain.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.