Thursday, December 17, 2009

Murder In the Family - Leigh Brackett


Number of words : 12000
Percent of complex words : 4.3
Average syllables per word : 1.4
Average words per sentence : 9.4


Fog : 5.5
Flesch : 82.1
Flesch-Kincaid : 4.1


Los Angeles

La Brea Tar Pits

Fountain Avenue boarding house.


Danny Thayer

Young, unemployed and homeless man who stumbles upon murder, cash and multiple other crimes and criminals.

Frieda Rieff

Cicely's sister. Niece of Mrs. Rieff, so Teddy's cousin. A bad girl.

Teddy Rieff

Son of Mrs. Rieff. Blackmailer.

Mrs. Rieff

The matriarch of the house. One hard woman. Very likely would kill her own grandmother. Or mother.


Employee of Mrs. Rieff. Pretty much the only person in the house not contemplating killing anyone.

Cicely Rieff

Dead woman, corpse left impaled on the fangs of a sabre tooth tiger statue at La Brea. "I tell you he killed her in the Pits! He jammed her throat down into the mouth of that sabre-tooth cat. For God's sake, look!" Niece of Mrs. Rieff, so Teddy's cousin.

Mr. Halstead

Another corpse, one of the boarders. Also a nogoodnik.


The title pretty much says it, here. Danny stumbles across a murder and a big wad of cash, the latter very tempting as he is hungry. Ends up fleeing the police, but also has evidence in the form of the address of the Rieff house, where he goes and presents a bold charade. Doesn't last long, and violence erupts, and the scheming and slaying of the various family members is discovered.


"Danny lay flat on top of Teddy, grinding his fingers in, twisting the cloth tighter and tighter. He could feel the hard, straining cords of Teddy's throat, the softer spot beneath the Adam's apple. He began to get scared. He didn't want to kill."


"She said softly, "I want to kill you. I want to kill you myself, for killing my son. And even if I didn't, do you think I could let you leave this house alive after all you've learned this night?""

"Danny said, "Wait. Did you know Teddy was blackmailing Cicely and keeping the money? Your money?""


"I was mad anyway. I found out about Teddy. He made love to her while I was gone, and the fool fell for it. He found out all about me, and used Cicely's fear of me to blackmail her. Pretty little set-up, wasn't it, Aunt Grace? Me behind Cicely, Cicely blackmailing you and Halstead and a couple of others, and Teddy milking the lot of us.


""What do we do now, Aunt Grace? If you go ahead and shoot the boy, we're both in the clear on those murders. If you shoot me, the police will get you. If you don't shoot either of us, I'll spill all I know about Rieff Blackmail, Incorporated, before I die."

"But if I shoot both of you," said Mrs. Rieff gently, "the boy will be saddled with three murders, and I'll be clear."

Being young, quick and strong comes in handy here, Danny finds. This time he is happy to see cops.


Number of words : 13000
Percent of complex words : 5.5
Average syllables per word : 1.4
Average words per sentence : 9.5


Fog : 6.0
Flesch : 79.9
Flesch-Kincaid : 4.5

: Murder Is Bigamy - Leigh Brackett


Avenue 35

In Los Angeles where the story opens.

Santa Monica Boulevard

In Los Angeles where Sullavan meets the cops.

Bradbury's Small Animal Hospital

Orange Avenue, also in LA, where more than animals get dead.


Frank Sullavan

Ex-army man, partner of George Everetts in a small boat business and so knew Billie. Was involved with Frances Sparling in the past.

George Everetts

Husband of Billie, and one husband too many for some people where Frances is concerned.

Billie Everetts

Wife of George, a burlesque pony from San Francisco, and the one spouse too many. Also a blackmailer.

Frances Sparling

George Everett's second wife. Was very close to Sullavan in the past.

George Starke

Wants the second wife, but she doesn't want him anymore.

Lieutenant Fearon

Officer in charge of investigating this tangled web of matrimony and murder.


A veterinarian who has a seriously bad thing for Frances.


A cop on the case.

Mrs. Pawley

A visitor to the Bradbury's veterinary hospital.


Mrs. Pawley's terrier patient that didn't make it.


The title again is highly indicative. Two bigamists, two murders, and a single man gets involved who knew both the dead husband and wife, and the live wife, whom everybody seems to fancy.

"What did Billie think about the murder?"
"She was pretty sore about it. She'd had her hooks into Everetts for a pretty good income, on that bigamy score. But she wasn't crying over him."
"When did you find out," I said quickly, "that Billie had been peddling Frances to Everetts, the same as she had to you?"


"Billie had been George Everetts' undivorced wife, and George had married Frances Sparling anyway.

And now it was worse than bigamy. It was murder. Double murder."

This ends up with Sullavan having to work out who actually killed who, or is trying to kill who.

3.5 out of 5

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