About the author: Rufus King was an American author of Whodunit crime novels. He created two series of detective stories: the first one with Reginald De Puyster, a sophisticated detective similar to Philo Vance, and the second one with his more famous character, the Lieutenant Valcour. (from Goodreads). Also see this article.
- Herbert Endicott, the victim
- Mrs. Endicott, his wife
- Mrs. Siddons, their gaunt housekeeper
- Miss Roberts, a maid
- Dr. Sanford Worth, their personal physician
- Nurse Murrow
- Nurse Vickers, who chose a bad time to go make coffee
- Marge Myles, the other woman
- Madame Miramar Velasquez, her mother
- Thomas Hollander, the old war buddy, Herbert's only friend
- Jerry Smith, Hollander's roommate
- Lieutenant Valcour, police detective
Synopsis: Mrs. Herbert Endicott fears for her husband Herbert's safety, although he has only been gone two hours - but to see his girlfriend Marge Myles. Mrs. Endicott calls the police and Lieutenant Valcour stops in. He looks around and discovers Endicott's body stuffed in his closet, the door closed. Mrs. Endicott takes it quite calmly, as if it happens every day.
Dr. Sanford Worth is summoned to pronounce him dead, and he attributes the death to his poor heart (but if so, how did he get shut in the closet?). Apparently someone startled him, causing his death. They move the body to the bed. Dr. Worth decides to try to revive him with a shot of adrenaline to the heart, which works.
Endicott's old war buddy, Thomas Hollander, is called in to sit at bedside until Endicott regains consciousness. The police keep a close watch, and Hollander produces a stiletto and begins to approach Endicott with it. The police shoot and wound Hollander. Endicott is found dead - again - this time from a gunshot wound. Hollander didn't have a gun, and it wasn't a police bullet, so what happened?
Well, this was my first read of Rufus King, and hopefully not my last. This book is a lot of fun with some crazy happenings, plus exquisite use of language:
"There it was again: that wretched wave of hearsay showing its baffling crest above the placid sea of established fact."
and this one wins the Best Simile award: "Her voice was as disagreeable as the clash of dishes in a cheap restaurant."
The entire story takes place over a 24-hour period, as we watch the authorities deal with an investigation instead of getting some sleep. First the police respond to a call from Mrs. Endicott because her husband has been missing for two hours - plus she knows just where he is - with the "other woman" (try that and see what happens). Then Endicott is found dead, revived, and murdered all in the space of a couple hours. His wife isn't too concerned about it anyway, just another day. It takes a long time for the doctor to prepare for the "operation" which consists of giving the dead man a shot; and requires a big cast of nurses and others to administer.
It is enjoyable to follow the thoughts of Lieutenant Valcour, whose mind wanders away a lot. He likes to challenge suspects with made-up explanations just to see their reaction.
The ending is quite ironic and enjoyable, and brings up deja vu for the reader.
The "Murder By The Clock" title only refers to the various time stamps on the chapter titles, and has nothing to do with the plot.