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THE FRIGHTENED STIFF
by Kelley Roos
Rue Morgue Press, January 2005
159 pages
$14.95
ISBN: 0915230755


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jeff and Haila Troy have moved into the basement apartment at 39 Gay Street in New York's Greenwich Village a couple of days ahead of schedule. Charley the janitor had forgotten the change of date and they arrive to find a dirty apartment without a lock on the door. Jeff finds something oddly familiar about the place, which Haila had chosen alone, and is amused to realise it used to be a speakeasy he spent a lot of time in.

Trying out one of the neighbourhood restaurants on their first evening, they hear someone using the phone to arrange a meeting that night in their new apartment. Thinking the caller must be drunk and has forgotten the speakeasy no longer operates, they try to deter him, without success. The Troys return home to find water emptying out their bath, but no sign of the man. He doesn't turn up until the next day, dead and naked in their garden.

The police are convinced that the murderer is living in one of the apartments in the house, and Jeff agrees with them. But whilst he tops their list of suspects, Jeff sets out to identify who the real murderer is, with a little help from Haila, who narrates the tale.

Written in 1942, THE FRIGHTENED STIFF is billed as mystery comedy in this new publication by Rue Morgue Press. Whilst the murder and its investigation are centre stage throughout this short novel, it is the slapstick wit and repartee of the Troys that is its strongest feature. The humour is very much of the wise-cracking Hollywood kind, and reading the book is like being transported into a very entertaining black and white movie -- very enjoyable, quite silly, and very self indulgent. I loved it.

Clearly I am not alone, for within a year of it being published originally in 1942, it was adapted into the movie A Night To Remember, with Loretta Young and Brian Aherne playing the Troys. I'll be keeping a look out for it, and also eagerly anticipate Rue Morgue's reprint of the first Troy novel, MADE UP TO KILL, when it is published in May 2005.

Reviewed by Bridget Bolton, January 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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