A noteworthy soccer match becomes even more memorable when a player dies halfway through in this 1939 reprint from prolific golden-age veteran Gribble (1908-1985).
Everyone involved thought the most distinctive feature of the match between the Arsenal Football Club and the Trojans was the all-amateur status of the second team, whose members play their hearts out in the hope of besting the pros. But those hearts seem to go out of the Trojans after their right half, John Doyce, is carried off the field shortly after kicking a penalty goal that ties the match. Not only do they end up losing, but Doyce never recovers consciousness and dies. Arsenal owner George Allison calls on Scotland Yard, who sends out Inspector Slade, a Gribble regular, along with Dr. Meadows, who at length indicates that Doyce was poisoned subcutaneously with aconitine. Even though whatever device poisoned him arrived along with an anonymous note that makes elliptical reference to a girl’s drowning, Slade initially focuses his investigation on Doyce’s teammate Philip Morring, who, as the partner in Doyce’s insurance business, is suddenly 10,000 pounds richer because of his death. The plot thickens with the news that Morring’s fiancee, Pat Laruce, has lied about her relations to Morring and Doyce, her whereabouts on the night a mysterious woman was seen at his flat, and almost everything else she’s ever done. Unfortunately, delectable Pat’s star fades almost as dramatically as Doyce’s, leaving Slade and Sgt. Clinton to wait until they’re in a position to unmask a killer who’s both unguessable and routine.
A truly arresting first act—murder on the field of play, with 70,000 witnesses!—followed by a slow slide into the humdrum. If you’ve ever wondered why the golden age came to an end, Gribble provides some persuasive evidence.