Death Trap

Death Trap, first published in 1957, was a standard crime paperback. MacDonald here did not focus on a dozen different backstories, climbing the corporate ladder, or the high price of infidelity. He uses Hugh McReedy as his amateur detective in a small town where he is a stranger and everyone stands against him from the local police to the local leather-clad juvenile delinquents to the murdered girl’s broken-hearted father. The opening set up serves as the lead in to Hugh’s moral redemption and the passage of time.

The opening finds Hugh in Spain working as an engineer on a large construction project. He is a swashbuckling man about town, eager for his six weeks off to spend in Mexico with a woman mature enough to know it’s just a good time and nothing permanent. But he’s got guilt. He was once working a project in a small town, Warrentown, where he met Vicki, fell for her, and wooed her till a fateful night in a cheap motel when he failed to respond to her exclamation of love and now regrets leaving her behind.

It seems Hugh’s chance to re-open the romance comes in the form of his playing a knight in shining armor. Vicki is devoted to her odd brother who has, according to the news, been tried and convicted for murdering a young girl and now is just ten days from the electric chair. Vicki knows her brother is innocent, but is now shunned in this small town. Off Hugh rides to the rescue, with the ulterior goal of winning back her heart by his virtuous deeds.

Although the romance plays the opening gambit here, the tension between the two really isn’t maintained throughout. Rather, it’s a story of an out of town amateur detective bucking common sense and ducking it out with the local enforcer and the juvenile delinquents. There are a few solid fight scenes here as well as a dogged investigation against all odds.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s