Monday, December 16, 2019

Murder in Room 13

Albert Conroy was a pseudonym used by Marvin Albert for much of his crime-fiction and western paperback output during the 1950s through the 1970s. Sadly, most of his work hasn’t been reprinted and isn’t available digitally, so modern readers are left to pay collector prices for the old paperbacks with lurid covers. Murder in Room 13 was a stand-alone mystery published as a Fawcett Gold Medal paperback original in September 1958. It was adapted into a French TV movie called Adieu is Marin!.

Our narrator, Steve, is an ex-boxer and current trucker who meets Maude while passing through the seedy town of Riverton. Dinner with the beautiful stranger evolves into a one-night stand in Maude’s motel room - Room 13 from the title. After giving Maude the good pickle-tickle she desires, Steve leaves the sleeping nude behind in the motel and is arrested the next morning for her murder. And if you didn’t see that coming, you didn’t read the title.

Steve is whisked into a police interrogation room where he’s grilled by cops about what he supposedly did to Maude. Sometime after Steve left Room 13, Maude was beaten and strangled to death. Steve admits to having consensual sex with her that evening - she was alive at the time - but he maintains he didn’t kill the girl. Because of the overwhelming physical evidence against Steve, the cops aren’t buying his claims of innocence, and he is placed under even more intense pressure to confess. Of course, the opportunity arises for Steve to solve the crime himself to clear his good name, and Steve the boxer/trucker becomes a man-on-the-run investigating a serious homicide.

The basic plot of the innocent man accused of a murder he didn’t commit has been done a million times, but the author brings some new twists to the story throughout the lean 159 pages. There’s also a good bit of intense violence along the way and well-written, propulsive action. Overall, the paperback was a decent one written in a straightforward and compelling voice, and although Marvin Albert has done better, there’s plenty to enjoy in this fairly formulaic vintage paperback. Buy a copy of this book HERE

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