A review of A Gentle Murderer by Dorothy Salisbury Davis – new e-book edition coming soon

A classic psychological mystery…

I’m not usually a big fan of psychological thrillers, but even I can recognize that A Gentle Murderer is a classic of the genre.    Although it’s actually not clear whether it’s a psychological thriller as much as it’s a psychological mystery, with two different “detectives” on the trail of the man who bludgeoned a high-class call girl to death with a hammer.       

The first investigator is the priest who heard the murderer’s confession late one evening – and also accidentally caught a glimpse of his face, which seemed to resemble that of St. Francis.   Although Father Duffy tries to encourage the penitent to turn himself in, and offers to come with him while he does, the man flees the church instead.   Because Duffy is a priest, and can’t violate the “seal of the confessional” by going to the police himself, he begins instead to try to find the “St. Francis man” on his own.

The second detective, on the other hand, is actually a real detective, assigned to investigate the murder.   And as Sergeant Goldsmith follows clues and does his legwork, he begins to become aware of Father Duffy’s efforts, and eventually their paths cross.       

A Gentle Murderer is a somewhat unusual murder mystery, because the author, Dorothy Salisbury Davis, lets the readers in early on the identity of the perpetrator.   But even after telling us whodunnit, she skillfully keeps the tension level high (and keeps readers reading) as Duffy and Goldsmith try to catch up to the culprit before he kills someone else.    And he does seem to have another victim in his sights…

As I mentioned, I’m not usually a big fan of psychological thrillers/mysteries, but A Gentle Murderer is so well plotted and written that I ended up liking it quite a lot.   I’m giving it five stars, with the small caveat that folks who expect a lot of action (i.e. a thriller) may find it a bit slow.  Instead, it’s all about the psychology of the perpetrator, and also about the painstaking investigations of the two very different men pursuing him.   My thanks go to Poisoned Pen Press, who have re-issued this title in e-book as part of their Library of Congress Crime Classics series, and to NetGalley, for providing me with an advance review copy of the new edition.  

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