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Joel Sloane is a rare book dealer and part time detective. He finds stolen or lost rare books for the insurance companies and gets a reward for their return. But this is a little different. Otto Brockler, a rare book dealer with questionable ethics, has been murdered. The list of suspects is long. Ned, who Otto sent to prison to get insurance money and keep him away from Leah. Leah, who is in love with the falsely convicted Ned. Elias, a silent partner in stolen and forged books. Sydney, a master forger of rare books. Julia, Otto's secretary who has expensive clothes and jewelry. Joel is the one who must find the murderer before he becomes the next victim. Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
This is one of several movies - more than just this one starring Melvyn Douglas as the husband/sleuth - that were made in the 30's trying to piggy-back off the success of 1934's "Thin Man". This one is pretty good, but it lacks what nearly all of the other Thin Man knock-offs lack - any perceived chemistry between the husband/wife sleuth team. In fact, I thought Douglas' scenes with Claire Dodd were more believable than the rather forced attempts at getting sparks to fly between Melvyn Douglas as rare book dealer Joe Sloane and Florence Rice as his wife Garda.
Apparently the Sloane book dealing business itself isn't doing that well,so Joe has been picking up extra bucks by finding stolen rare books and getting a 10% cut from the insurance company on what they would have had to pay had the books not been found. A friend of the Sloanes, Ned Morgan, has just gotten out of jail for stealing some rare books that were never recovered. He has always proclaimed his innocence, but after he's out of jail it seems the Sloanes and Ned's girl Leah Brockler are the only people who believe him - he can't find a job anywhere. Plus Leah's wealthy dad Otto Brockler (George Zucco) is threatening Ned with more jail if he doesn't leave Leah alone.
Well, next thing Otto is found dead, bludgeoned to death in his office by a statue on his desk. Joel gets involved because the police are already measuring a missing Ned for the electric chair. There are a multitude of suspects including Claire Dodd as Otto's secretary who dresses in expensive fashions considering her small salary, plus a couple of rare book counterfeiters played to perfection by Louis Calhern and Dwight Frye.
The pace is fast moving, the characters interesting, and Joel seems to move effortlessly through his sleuthing paces, just dripping with self confidence. This had me wondering - where did a rare book dealer come up with all of these detective skills? With a mystery film, the question I ask at the end is - would I watch it again, now that I know who did what? The answer in this case is yes - because the characters and just not the twists and turns of the plot make it memorable. Recommended.
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