Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday's Favorite OTR

Mr and Mrs North: "Fool's Gold" 10/14/52

Most mystery series need two elements to survive: a well-crafted mystery AND a likeable and/or interesting protagonist.

Pam and Jerry North were certainly likeable enough. He was a publisher and she a housewife, but they seemed to stumble over corpses with alarming frequency. Fortunately, Pam (despite seeming a bit scatterbrained) has a talent for deductive reasoning and usually manages to point out the killer by the end of any one episode.

The show was based on an equally entertaining series of mystery novels. Initially played by Alice Frost and Joseph Curtain, the Norths are an appealing pair--witty, smart and obviously in love with each other. Dropped into reasonably clever whodunits each week, they usually managed to deliver a satisfying half-hour of radio each episode.

"Fool's Gold," though, kind of emphasises yet another aspect of murder mysteries that is always in the background in just about any entry from the genre. The episode is works as an almost classical tragedy as well as a whodunit.

A man is serving on a jury. His greedy adult daughter convinces him to take a bribe to insist the gambler on trial is innocent. When the man's wife later learns about this, she feels obligated to report it.

But the wife soon turns up dead. Convinced the gambler is responsible, the husband attempts to kill him in revenge. But is the gambler the killer? Pam North soon helps clarify that matter.

It is indeed both a well-written whodunit and a tragedy. The poor sap who takes the bribe gives way to greed just once. This snowballs out of control and by the end of the episode, his family has been destroyed and he's off to jail. It's his own fault, of course, but you can't help feeling sorry for him.

That's something that's in the background of just about every murder mystery ever written--just about all of them are on some level morality plays as well as mysteries. That's probably one reason the genre always remains popular.

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