In his first case, William Crane goes undercover in a private sanatorium to solve a theft, and makes no secret of the fact that he believes himself to be a great detective, even presenting himself as Edgar Allan Poe s C Auguste DupinIndeed, he manages to dazzle the picaresque staff with his feats of deductive reasoning while consuming alcohol, including martinis and absinthe, in such copious quantities the plot almost feels like filler for a cocktail menu It comes as some surprise that he is able to stand upright, let alone perform feats of detection that would put famous literary detectives to shame But perform he does, and with the greatest aplomb


10 thoughts on “Murder in the Madhouse

  1. Bill Kerwin Bill Kerwin says:

    This first novel in the Bill Crane series is the kind of 30 s murder mystery Ben Hecht might have written breezy style, snappy dialogue, the occasional outrageous metaphor, casual sexism and racismand an extraordinary amount of hooch It is a lot of fun, and almost as trashy as its title promises.


  2. Still Still says:

    Fast and Fun From 1935, the 1st entry in the breezy Jonathan Latimer series featuring his zany but brilliantly astute alkie detective William Bill Crane.I recommend this one to fans of Frederick Nebel and Norbert Davis and yes Chandler and Hammett if only for the wisenheimer quips that this hardboiled dick drops every now and then between drinks and getting knocked unconscious by the usual assortment of villains.


  3. Glenn Zorpette Glenn Zorpette says:

    Jonathan Latimer managed to do something unusual and wonderful he made hard boiled mysteries that were funny Not dry and witty like John Dickson Carr and Hammet in the Thin Man series, but rather bawdy and loopy and sometimes laugh out loud funny Murder In The Madhouse, Solomon s Vineyard, and The Dead Don t Care are three of his best.Latimer s characters occasionally refer to booze as panther spit If you think that s funny, you ll probably like Latimer.


  4. Craig Pittman Craig Pittman says:

    My grandfather was a huge fan of Perry Mason He saw every episode of the TV show, and read all the books by Erle Stanley Gardner He must have noticed, at some point, that many of the TV show scripts were written by Jonathan Latimer, because when he died he left behind a box full of paperback thrillers, and one of them was Latimer s The Lady in the Morgue I inherited that 1930s book and reading it blew my young mind It s what you might call screwball noir There s a terrific opening scene My grandfather was a huge fan of Perry Mason He saw every episode of the TV show, and read all the books by Erle Stanley Gardner He must have noticed, at some point, that many of the TV show scripts were written by Jonathan Latimer, because when he died he left behind a box full of paperback thrillers, and one of them was Latimer s The Lady in the Morgue I inherited that 1930s book and reading it blew my young mind It s what you might call screwball noir There s a terrific opening scene and a slam bang denouement, both in the Chicago city morgue In between are some indelible scenes at a taxi dance joint, a high society party, a jazz club where the musicians all smoke marijuana and, best of all, a cemetery where perpetually half drunk detective Bill Crane leads a pair of his colleagues and a civilian in exhuming a body in the middle of the night There s a laugh on nearly every page It was, as the Saturday Evening Post called it when it was first published, rough, rowdy and rum soaked Needless to say, I wanted to readof Crane s adventures, but finding them has been difficult before e books came along This book, Murder in the Madhouse, is the first one in the series and while it has some points to recommend it, it s not nearly as much fun as The Lady in the Morgue Crane is his usually hilarious self, constantly on the lookout for booze and a good place for a nap, frequently getting beaten up and accused of committing the very crime he s investigating He passes out some good quips But unlike in The Lady in the Morgue, Crane has very few people to bounce off of He s working solo, going undercover in a sanitarium to figure out who robbed one of the wealthy patients Then people start dying violently, and he s right in the thick of it.The other problem is that the whole book takes place in the sanitarium, so we get no succession of vivid scenes in diverse locales The sanitarium is kind of a boring setting The one exception comes when one of the women freaks out, strips off her clothes and refuses to come out of her room The method used by a doctor to get her to come out stuns the local sheriff And of course because the book was written in the 30s there s a spot of casual racism that s hard for a modern reader to swallow.The one other thing this book has in common with The Lady in the Morgue is the solution In both books, Crane s solution a pretty good one, and you realize in retrospect that Latimer has kept you so busy watching all the craziness going on that you missed the key clue This was his first Bill Crane novel, so he was still warming up I ll have to track down the others and see how well he did with those


  5. Lisa Lisa says:

    Not up to his better books, I just lost interest Or maybe I finished it Who knows.


  6. Tom Britz Tom Britz says:

    The Bill Crane series of screwball mysteries, has so far hit on all cylinders with me These were written in the mid 1930 s, so probably to some readers today, they will probably seem crude, maybe even a bit racist, most assuredly not politically correct, but they are a product of the times In some spots they are laugh out loud funny, which is fine with me.Bill Crane is sent incognito into a mental hospital in order to retrieve some missing bonds and monies totalling over a million dollars, how The Bill Crane series of screwball mysteries, has so far hit on all cylinders with me These were written in the mid 1930 s, so probably to some readers today, they will probably seem crude, maybe even a bit racist, most assuredly not politically correct, but they are a product of the times In some spots they are laugh out loud funny, which is fine with me.Bill Crane is sent incognito into a mental hospital in order to retrieve some missing bonds and monies totalling over a million dollars, however as soon as he gets in, the bodies start falling


  7. Regine Regine says:

    Dated.


  8. Pamela Pamela says:

    Not a bad read Dated, but that s to be expected.


  9. Nick Jones Nick Jones says:

    A few years ago I read Jonathan Latimer s Headed for a Hearse and wasn t convinced by its mixing the hardboiled detective into a whodunit plot I had no ambitions to read another Latimer until I recently noticed I had this one, the first of the P.I Bill Crane series, sitting in a pile of books I have no memory when I bought it and as it has three second hand prices scrawled over it it seems to be well travelled and I hope I paid the cheapest amount This one begins with Crane being committed t A few years ago I read Jonathan Latimer s Headed for a Hearse and wasn t convinced by its mixing the hardboiled detective into a whodunit plot I had no ambitions to read another Latimer until I recently noticed I had this one, the first of the P.I Bill Crane series, sitting in a pile of books I have no memory when I bought it and as it has three second hand prices scrawled over it it seems to be well travelled and I hope I paid the cheapest amount This one begins with Crane being committed to a sanatorium for the wealthy mentally illbut we soon find out he is on a case there has been a robberybut then there is a murderand anotherand another Crane is the tough talking, tough hitting detective if he is not as witty as Philip Marlowe he gets the occasional good lineand he was around several years before Marlowe But Crane is contained within a dreary whodunit plot For a while the plot seems unsettlingly absurd the sanatorium s authorities are bizarrely nonchalant about their murdered patients, but there is a sort of rational explanation of this the whodunit cannot abide the absurd Again I wasn t convinced by the tough private detective operating within the whodunit world And matter of fact racism is startling Crane dismisses the two African American staff as potential culprits because they would be incapable of the necessary thought or organization to carry out the murders


  10. Leslie Leslie says:

    Not sure why I bothered finishing this one I think I was hoping it would get better But it never really did The plot made no sense, the characters were collections of tics, and the casual sexism and racism were just icing on the thrown together cake This was perhaps my favourite ahem line I m not considering either of the two coloured women because I am positive they are racially incapable of such purposeful crime.