Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Jade Venus by George Harmon Coxe (1945)

About the author: George Harmon Coxe (1902-1984) began writing in the nickel and dime pulps for pennies a word. He was a particularly prolific author, writing a total of 63 novels, his last published in 1975. The Mystery Writers of America named him a Grand Master in 1964. (condensed from fantastic fiction)

Major characters:

  • Kent Murdock, Army captain, former news photographer
  • Lt. Bacon, Homicide
  • Erloff and Leo, the abductors
  • Professor Albert Andrada
  • Louise Andrada, widow of the Professor's nephew, Donoto
  • Carl Watrous, theatre producer
  • Arlene, the Andrada maid
  • Barry Gould, newspaperman
  • Gail Roberts, niece/assistant to Professor Andrada, girlfriend of Roger Carroll
  • Roger Carroll, artist
  • George Damon, owner of the Art Mart gallery 
  • Tony Lorello, guitar player, the messenger
Locale: Boston, Massachusetts

Synopsis: Kent Murdock is coming home to Boston on leave by train. Murdock is in the Fine Arts Division of the AMG (Army Materials Group) which inventories artwork in Europe for restoration after the war. He is briefly abducted by Erloff and Leo, who borrow his ID to impersonate him to Professor Andrada; who has acquired three odd paintings shipped from Italy. However, Andrada knows Murdock by sight, and sees through the imposter. Erloff and Leo were after one specific painting, called The Jade Venus.

Erloff and Leo smack the professor and make off with the painting. Soon after, the professor is found dead. Murdock finds a letter describing the shipment, which implies that The Jade Venus was a diversion painted over a map showing the location of an art treasure trove in Italy. Tony Lorello, the messenger who delivered the letter is then also found dead.

The Jade Venus shows up in a gallery, the Art Mart, a gallery owned by George Damon. However, it turns out to be a copy painted by Roger Carroll. The hunt for the original continues.


Kent Murdock is a believable character, and the story takes place during WWII when he is home on leave. His search for a painting turns into a search for a murderer. His newspaper background and contacts provide the experience for him to chase down the murderer. The action is nonstop, and the book is a page-turner. The book also provides much insight into the Nazi plundering of European artworks, and the efforts that were made to protect them for posterity. 

Also see this review by Bev Hankins.

No comments:

Post a Comment