I mentioned recently an interesting and enterprising print on demand publishing venture called Langtail Press and I have now read one of their books. This was The Lenient Beast by Fredric Brown, first published in 1956.
I may not have said very much about Fredric Brown in this blog over the years, but I'm a huge fan of his work. I've read half a dozen of his novels, as well as some of his first-class short stories, and none have disappointed. And The Lenient Beast certainly lived up to my expectations, high as they were.
The first chapter gets the book off to an excellent start. John Medley, apparently a respectable bachelor with a taste for classical music, discovers a man's body in his backyard one morning and called the police. The dead man has been shot and a murder hunt is launched.
The story is short, crisp and fascinating and a clever feature is the way Brown uses multiple viewpoints, so that we see the same events from different perspectives. The characterisation, especially of a cop of Mexican origin, is excellent and the setting in Tucson, Arizona is vividly conveyed. I also thought that the depiction of racial prejudice was very well done. What is more, the murder motive is memorable – my only quibble is that I had a rather similar idea some time ago and am dismayed to discover that it is not as unique as I thought!
I can recommend this book, as well as Fredric Brown's crime writing in general (he also wrote science-fiction, but I have never read any of that.) Langtail Press have done modern readers a real service by making this book available.