Saturday, August 11, 2007

Where's the Beef?
"I was just thinking," [Sergeant Beef] continued. "How useful it is to be the kind of detective I am. Ex-policeman. Ordinary sort of chap. None of your ritzy types with titles and private incomes." (Murder in Miniature 40)
Over the years, Academy Chicago Publishers has showcased gems of mystery literature in inexpensive editions (e.g., Celia Fremlin's Edgar-winning The Hours Before Dawn). That's certainly the case with Leo Bruce's Murder in Miniature and Other Stories, introduced by Margery Allingham Society chairman B. A. Pike. Bruce, aka Rupert Croft-Cooke, created the stalwart Sergeant Beef as the deliberate antithesis of aristocratic sleuths such as Lord Peter Wimsey. This collection of tales—which largely appeared in the Evening Standard in the early 1950s—feature him, the equally shrewd Sergeant Grebe, or others in delightful puzzle mysteries. In "Murder in Miniature," the title story, Beef confronts the body of a dwarf that literally tumbles into his lap on a train. I particularly enjoyed "On the Spot," in which a detective inspector believes he can commit the perfect crime.

Sergeant Beef also can be seen in Academy Chicago's The Case for Three Detectives, where he is pitted against parodies of Wimsey, Poirot, and Father Brown.

In addition to producing his substantial fiction and nonfiction work, Croft-Cooke served as book critic for The Sketch. His play Banquo's Chair was adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1959).

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