The “Canary” Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine

If you’re a fan of old-time and old school detectives like The Thin Man, Charlie Chan, Ellery Queen and the many others, you may be familiar with S. S. Van Dine’s detective, Philo Vance.

This year, Poisoned Pen Press recently re-released The “Canary” Murder Case featuring (you guessed it) Philo Vance.

It’s the 2nd book in the series. Vance is a wealthy New York bachelor with extremely good taste. It’s the jazz age and he moves among the rich and famous with no apologies. While he isn’t a police officer or even an official detective, he loves dabbling in solving cases, often working with the District Attorney and the homicide department.

The story is quick to open with the murder of Margaret Odell, also known as The Canary. Two years before her death, she rose to become the most popular figure of the city’s nightlife. She was a performer and a star. She ran with gentlemen, as well as with gangsters. By today’s standards she’d be considered a sensual siren that could drive a man to do desperate deeds. And apparently she did.

The murder of the Canary is major headlines. NY District Attorney Markham and the police are on the “hot seat” to get this solved and get it solved “real quick.”

But it’s hard to solve a crime when you can’t even figure out how the killer got in and out of the Canary’s bolted apartment. How did anyone slip by the desk clerk that was there 24/7? Jewels appear to be missing – but even that seems “off.”

The more Philo Vance hears about the murder, the more intrigued he becomes. The DA and police are totally baffled. Vance steps in to access the murder, assuring District Attorney Markham that he can crack the case.

When the suspect list is whittled down to 4 suitors, things get interesting. Vance knows one of them is guilty, but which one? The catch? They ALL have rock solid alibis. And as the mystery unfolds, Vance’s psychological profiling begins. His nonchalant, almost dismissive attitude, gives him an air of well-deserved superiority. He’s quietly crafty and steadfast in his theories even though the DA finds them questionable.

The enjoyable banter between Vance and Markham add to this velvety smooth and highly engaging mystery. The way Vance uncovers which of the 4 suspects is the cold-blooded killer and the motive, is pure brilliance! I was mesmerized with his “impossible” theories that were, in fact, “possible.”

The “Canary” Murder Case is a Library of Congress Crime Classic. This mystery is sure to whet the appetite of armchair detectives – it’s that good! Fans of Philo Vance will want to grab a copy. For those who’ve never heard of Philo Vance or S. S. Van Dine, this book is the perfect intro.

A copy of this book and cover photo were provided by Poisoned Pen Press/Sourcebooks.

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