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When ad man Victor Dean falls down the stairs in the offices of Pym’s Publicity, a respectable London advertising agency, it looks like an accident. Then Lord Peter Wimsey is called in, and he soon discovers there’s more to copywriting than meets the eye. A bit of cocaine, a hint of blackmail, and some wanton women can be read between the lines. And then there is the brutal succession of murders – 5 of them – each one a fixed fee for advertising a deadly secret.
433 pages, with a reading time of ~6.75 hours (108,285 words), and first published in 1933. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2015.
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“And by the way,” said Mr. Hankin, arresting Miss Rossiter as she rose to go, “there is a new copy-writer coming in today.”
“Oh, yes, Mr. Hankin?”
“His name is Bredon. I can’t tell you much about him; Mr. Pym engaged him himself; but you will see that he is looked after.”
“Yes, Mr. Hankin.”
“He will have Mr. Dean’s room.”
“Yes, Mr. Hankin.”
“I should think Mr. Ingleby could take him in hand and show him what to do. You might send Mr. Ingleby along if he can spare me a moment.”
“Yes, Mr. Hankin.”
“That’s all. And, oh, yes! Ask Mr. Smayle to let me have the Dairyfields guard-book.”
“Yes, Mr. Hankin.”
Miss Rossiter tucked her note-book under her arm, closed the glass-panelled door noiselessly after her and tripped smartly down the corridor. Peeping through another glass-panelled door, she observed Mr. Ingleby seated on a revolving chair with his feet on the cold radiator, and talking with great animation to a young woman in green, perched on the corner of the writing-table.
“Excuse me,” said Miss Rossiter, with perfunctory civility, “but Mr. Hankin says can you spare him a moment, Mr. Ingleby?”
“If it’s Tom-Boy Toffee,” replied Mr. Ingleby defensively, “it’s being typed. Here! you’d better take these two bits along and make it so. That will lend an air of verisimilitude to an otherwise–”
“It isn’t Tom-Boy. It’s a new copy-writer.”
“What, already?” exclaimed the young woman. “Before those shoes were old! Why, they only buried little Dean on Friday.”
“Part of the modern system of push and go,” said Mr. Ingleby. “All very distressing in an old-fashioned, gentlemanly firm. Suppose I’ve got to put this blighter through his paces. Why am I always left with the baby?”
“Oh, rot!” said the young woman, “you’ve only got to warn him not to use the directors’ lav., and not to tumble down the iron staircase.”
“You are the most callous woman, Miss Meteyard. Well, as long as they don’t put the fellow in with me–”
“It’s all right, Mr. Ingleby. He’s having Mr. Dean’s room.”
“Oh! What’s he like?”
“Mr. Hankin said he didn’t know, Mr. Pym took him on.”
“Oh, gosh! friend of the management.” Mr. Ingleby groaned.
“Then I think I’ve seen him,” said Miss Meteyard. “Tow-coloured, supercilious-looking blighter. I ran into him coming out of Pymmie’s room yesterday. Horn-rims. Cross between Ralph Lynn and Bertie Wooster.”
“Death, where is thy sting? Well, I suppose I’d better push off and see about it.”
Mr. Ingleby lowered his feet from the radiator, prised up his slow length from the revolving chair, and prowled unhappily away.
“Oh, well, it makes a little excitement,” said Miss Meteyard.
“Oh, don’t you think we’ve had rather too much of that lately? By the way, could I have your subscription for the wreath? You told me to remind you.”
“Yes, rather. What is it? A bob? Here’s half-a-crown, and you’d better take the sweep-money out of it as well.”
“Thanks awfully, Miss Meteyard. I do hope you get a horse this time.”
“High time I did. I’ve been five years in this beastly office and never even been placed. I believe you wangle the draw.”
“Indeed we don’t, Miss Meteyard, or we shouldn’t let all the horses go to those people in the Printing. Wouldn’t you like to come and draw for us this time? Miss Parton’s just typing out the names.”
“All right.” Miss Meteyard scrambled down leggily and followed Miss Rossiter to the typists’ room.
This was a small, inconvenient cubicle, crowded at the moment to bursting-point. A plump girl in glasses, with head tilted back and brows twisted to keep the smoke of a cigarette out of her eyes, was rattling off the names of Derby runners on her type-writer, assisted by a bosom-friend who dictated the list from the columns of the Morning Star. A languid youth in shirt-sleeves was cutting the names of sweep-subscribers from a typed sheet, and twisting the papers into secretive little screws. A thin, eager young man, squatting on an upturned waste-paper basket, was turning over the flimsies in Miss Rossiter’s tray and making sarcastic comments upon the copy to a bulky, dark youth in spectacles, immersed in a novel by P. G. Wodehouse and filching biscuits from a large tin. Draped against the door-posts and blocking the entrance to all comers, a girl and another young man, who seemed to be visitors from another department, were smoking gaspers and discussing lawn-tennis.
“Hullo, angels!” said Miss Rossiter, brightly. “Miss Meteyard’s going to draw for us. And there’s a new copy-writer coming.”
The bulky young man glanced up to say “Poor devil!” and retreated again into his book.
“Bob for the wreath and sixpence for the sweep,” went on Miss Rossiter, scrabbling in a tin cash-box. “Has anybody got two shillings for a florin? Where’s your list, Parton? Scratch Miss Meteyard off, will you? Have I had your money, Mr. Garrett?”
“No money till Saturday,” said the Wodehouse-reader.