Plot Tops Characterization in Bishop Murder Case

Philo Vance is an unemotional,  suave, intellectual of independent means who solves mysteries for fun.

His sidekick relates the tale of how Vance assists the district attorney to solve a bizarre series of murders patterned after a nursery rhyme:  First Cock Robin is shot with an arrow, then John Sprigg is shot through the head, and then a hunchback dies in a fall from a wall.

After each murder, newspapers receive a note from the murderer pointing out the nursery rhyme similarities and signed, “The Bishop.”

One thread ties all the suspects: They are each mathematicians or mathematicians’ relatives.

S.S. Van Dine plots the mystery well. There are enough clues to let readers eliminate some suspects but not enough for them to solve the mystery.

As heroes go, Vance is not particularly interesting. He knows something about everything from Greek literature to astrophysics, and is all too willing to share his knowledge with people who couldn’t care less.

The other characters are no more striking. Professor Dillard may have been alarmed by his daughter’s romance with his protégé, but the lovers’ relationship is scarcely noticeable to readers.

If you don’t mind mysteries with plastic characters, you’ll find The Bishop Murder Case a good read.

The Bishop Murder Case: A Philo Vance Mystery
by S. S. Van Dine
My grade: Grade: C-
© 2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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