I really didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to read this one. It first came to my attention on the fantastic page A Locked Room Library, a goto source for must read locked room titles. Scroll past the 1981 ranking of top 15 locked room mystery novels, and About the Murder of a Startled Lady is the alphabetical first on a list of 99 other titles to read. It’s a gorgeous vintage cover, and it caught my eye immediately. The problem is, it’s damn expensive. After several years of hunting, I’d given up ever getting my hands on the elusive title. And then, in an odd turn of luck, I stumbled upon the exact Avon Books edition that I had so desperately sought, a steal for a mere eight dollars (which is about the max that I’d pay for a paperback of this era anyway).
It’s a bit strange that About the Murder of a Startled Lady made an impossible crime list, as I don’t know that I’d quite classify it as such. We’re given an enticing premise: during a seance, Aa psychic projects the spectral voice of a young woman, relaying how she was killed, chopped up, and placed into box that was then thrown into a harbor. A body is indeed found at the location, and the details are accurate down to the bullet still lodged in the skull. And yet, if you pause and think about it, there are two plausible scenarios that immediately come to mind. The fact that the psychic isn’t immediately charged with murder may be the real mystery here, but hey, this is Golden Age, so we’ll have some fun the set up.