Lt. William Weigand’s marriage to Dorian Hunt must be postponed yet again—this time by the discovery of a corpse in the West 45th Street Theatre. And naturally, the frustrated couple’s old friends Mr. and Mrs. North are on hand in this charmingly lightweight reprint from 1942.
Dr. Carney Bolton had such a reputation as a physician, theatrical angel, and man about town that he’s recognized even by the ambulance surgeon who’s come to haul away his corpse from the aisle seat where he was stabbed by an ice pick while taking in the latest run-through of Two in the Bush, a comedy by Penfield Smith, who’d imprudently planned to bring his latest production directly to Broadway without the obligatory out-of-town tryouts. Now Smith, director Humphrey Kirk, lead players Percy Driscoll and Ellen Grady, and assorted lesser performers, support professionals, and hangers-on must struggle to prove their alibis—especially for 1:18 p.m., the moment when actor John Hubbard says he got a glimpse of a cigarette falling from the aisle seat. All the leading discoveries in the case, including that of a second corpse, are made by Pam North, who comes across as both scatty and sharp-eyed even though, as she admits when she finally confronts the killer, “I never suspected you at all.” Pam and her publisher husband, Jerry, whose repartee provides a remarkably prescient template for that of contemporary couple cozies, are eclipsed this time by the cast and crew of Two in the Bush, though so many egos have to fight for attention that most of them leave only blurred impressions.
The biggest selling points are the story’s rapid pace—the culprit is identified barely 12 hours after the murder—and the unguessable but eminently logical motive, by far the most striking piece of this retro puzzle.