Mmyoung's Reviews > The Bishop Murder Case

The Bishop Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine
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U 50x66
's review
Jul 10, 2010

did not like it
bookshelves: mystery
Read from July 04 to 10, 2010

The more I read Philo Vance the more the mystery lies not in the plots of the books but in the fact of their success. In this particular book, once again New York is gripped by fear as a series of blood tingling deaths sweep the public imagination. It is at this point that my ability to suspend disbelief becomes rather frayed. I doubt much that the general population of New York would be gripped by fear at the deaths of a number of well off mathematicians. Not the sort of thing that makes the average person lock their doors in fear at night.

Much of the books is, as is common in murder mysteries, smoke and mirrors used in order to distract the reader from the identity of the culprit. As is increasingly true in Vance stories the need for much smoke and many mirrors is exacerbated by the fact that little detection is carried out by the police. We hear little of the fundamental aspects of the solutions of crimes and so much of the book consists of effete characters bridling, bristling or breaking down when asked straight-forward questions and the investigators acceding to the requests/demands of potential murderers/witnesses to be allowed to delay answering questions. As is emerging as a pattern in these Vance stories the field of possible murderers is slimmed not by the efforts of Vance or the police but rather by their being successively murdered themselves.
Many of the details of the crimes/police responses are ludicrous such as the ME not feeling that the existence of a large blow on the back of man's head might have some relevance to the question as to whether he committed suicide -- indeed it is a fact only mentioned in passing. The motivation for the crime is frankly unbelievable and Vance's filibustering (as that is what it seems to be) sounds more and more like a man trying desperately to have others think him highly educated rather than a man who is actually comfortable in the worlds of mathematics, art, chess and anything else Vance runs into.
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