John J. Malone, defender of the guilty, is notorious for getting his culpable clients off. It’s the innocent ones who are problems. Like Holly Inglehart, accused of piercing the black heart of her well-heeled and tyrannical aunt Alexandria with a lovely Florentine paper cutter. No one who knew the old battle-ax liked her, but Holly’s prints were found on the murder weapon. Plus, she had a motive: She was about to be disinherited for marrying a common bandleader. With each new lurid headline, Holly’s friends and supporters start to rally. There’s North Shore debutante Helene Brand; Holly’s groom’s press agent, Jake Justus; the madam of a local brothel, and Alexandria’s hand-wringing servants. But not one of them can explain the queerest bent to the crime: At the time of the murder, every clock in the Inglehart mansion stopped dead. And that’s only the first twist in a baffling case of “aunty-cide”―because Alexandria won’t be the last to die.
The first novel in Rice’s John J. Malone series, Eight Faces at Three introduces the hard-drinking Chicago-based attorney that made the author a household name. Comic, witty, and lush, the Malone books are a throwback to a time when alcoholism was commonplace and murder (or, reading about murder) was fun. Fans of Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man series and Richard and Frances Lockridge’s Mr and Mrs North will find much to enjoy in the witty banter of Malone and his constant companions, Brand and Justus.
Penzler Publishers, 2021 (1939)