The Z Murders by J. Jefferson Farjeon

The Z Murders

The plot The Z Murders occurs over a short time-span of a day and a half. The story starts at around 5 AM in the morning when Richard Temperley arrives at Euston station. Temperley is expected at his sister’s house, but he doesn’t want to go there too early and bother the servants. Instead, he decides to take refuge in a hotel near the station for a couple of hours, along John Amble, an elderly passenger who came on the same train. Within minutes after entering the hotel, Temperley notices that Amble who had snored his way through the journey and was sleeping in an armchair has stopped snoring. It turns out Amble has been shot dead through a window and the perpetrator has left a crimson piece of metal in the shape of a “Z.”

Who could have killed Amble? Before realizing Amble is dead, Temperley has a brief encounter with a beautiful young woman at the hotel who was also a passenger on the same train. She abruptly departs from the hotel raising suspicions of her behavior. But Temperley, smitten with her beauty, is convinced she had nothing to do with the murder. So Temperley goes in search of this elusive woman in order to help her, with the police in hot pursuit, and this bizarre mystery takes readers crisscrossing England, with a new murder at each stop bearing the same signature.

For an action-filled story, it is worth noticing how remarkably good the police was towards Temperley, considering the fact that Temperley was obstructing their investigation! But The Z Murders was written at a time when serial killers were uncommon – according to Martin Edward’s introduction the term “signature killer” hadn’t even been coined at the time – which might explain the good nature of police. If you are looking for a serious crime novel, this outdatedness might put you off. However, if you are looking for a vintage crime novel with skillful, old-fashioned writing, The Z Murders will do!

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