George Dyer. The Long Death (1937) 250 pp.
The Catalyst Club—a publicity-shy group of six amateur detectives in San Francisco—tackles a triple mystery. John Gregory Hunter, a renowned physicist and close personal friend of Club president T.M. Lempereur, has died, seemingly of natural causes. However, the symptoms of his illness were very strange and doctors could not provide an adequate explanation for them. Combined with the fact that his research notes are now mysteriously missing (he had built a cyclotron—“much more efficiently designed than [Lawrence’s] pioneer apparatus across the Bay”—and was experimenting with splitting atoms), the circumstances of his death attract the Club’s attention. Before they can get the investigation started, though, Lempereur receives a threat from the editor of The San Francisco Star, a rival newspaper to The San Francisco Times (employer of Club member Buzz Drake and frequent benefactor of the Club’s activities). Since the Club operates in secret, giving all credit for their work to the police, the local news media has an unofficial agreement to keep the Club out of the papers. The Star threatens to break that agreement—thereby exposing the Club members to unwanted attention from the criminal element that they routinely thwart—unless the Club agrees to give them exclusive scoops on any new stories. When Club member Cyriak Brill-Jones is then kidnapped and a Star reporter is murdered, the Club has to marshal all of its collective forces to save one of its own. Is there a connection? Lempereur arrives at the answer during a gun battle between federal agents and the desperate Collighan brothers at their hideout near Mount St. Helena in Sonoma County.
Setting: San Francisco; South San Francisco; Sonoma County
Baird & Greenwood 723