A Yellowed Fatality, Anonymous (1958)
Let's start April off with a true rarity, a digest-sized British paperback from the relatively unknown publisher Thud and Blunder Press. To my knowledge it has never been reprinted and copies are nearly impossible to find through the usual dealers. In fact, Robert Adey completely missed this one in his standard and nearly comprehensive study Locked Room Murders. Adey may be forgiven because A Yellowed Fatality is not technically a locked room murder mystery; it is a locked car murder mystery!
Let me explain.
Police in the small village Totteringhamshire on Leeds are totally at sea with the discovery of a body found sitting erect in the back seat of an expensive town car parked in front of the village market. Because the car is locked, police cannot enter the vehicle to examine the corpse and, if foul play were done, they appeared to be no way for the murderer to exit the locked car! Luckily the body was discovered early in the morning by vacationing Dr. Gideon Fell who had gone to the village market to buy some Marmite. And with the introduction of Fell we have a hint of who might have been the anonymous author of this slim 96-page paperback.
The victim appeared to be a tall man in his late forties or early fifties. He was wearing a well-tailored business suit, was what one may consider handsome with dark hair, a somewhat high forehead, and a trim mustache. His face, however, was a rictus of pain, and his skin (what could be viewed from the outside of the locked car) had taken on a bilious yellow color! Who was this victim and how did he die?
In rapid succession we meet a motley cast of characters: a pair of star-crossed lovers, a young patrolman who might be more than the bumbling oaf he appears to be, the village vicar with a secret closet, a retired army colonel who goes hunting stray cats in the dark of night, the village "character" who collects trash, the prim matron with a hidden and scandalous tattoo, the wealthy industrialist suspected of having strong ties with Germany during the war, a seventeen-year-old nymphet who swims in the nude, a troop of suspicious Girl Guides, and a suspected felon. And what does a sheet of cancelled postage stamps have to do with the murder?
Gideon Fell has a lot to unravel in this case, but first he must determine the identity of the victim -- the man whose hideous death led Fell to describe the mystery as the Case of the Jaundice in Car.
An interesting though rather frenetic read with a shocker of a solution.
Good luck in trying to find this one.