The Benson Murder Case: A Philo Vance Story

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Author: S. S. Van Dine [PSEUD Willard Huntington Wright (1888-1939)]

Year: 1926

Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons

Place: New York


348 pages. Small octavo (7 1/2" x 5 1/4") bound in original publisher's black cloth with Art-Deco style printing in red lettering to spine and cover with "Scribner's seal" appearing at the bottom of the copyright page and same year is listed to title and  copyright page in facsimile jacket. (Firsts, volume 14, Number 9 page 29)  First edition.                  
The Benson Murder Case is the first novel in the Philo Vance series of mystery novels by S. S. Van Dine, which became a best-seller. New York dilettante Philo Vance decides to assist the police in investigating the death of another man-about-town because he finds the psychological aspects of the crime of interest, and feels that they would be beyond the capacities of the police, even those of his friend District Attorney Markham. Vance investigates the circumstances under which the body was found and reconstructs the crime sufficiently to determine that the murderer is five feet, ten and a half inches in height. Together, Vance and Markham investigate Benson's business associates and romantic interests until Vance manages to pierce the murderer's alibi for the time of the murder and force a confession. 

The novel was very loosely based upon a real-life case that had made headlines, the unsolved 1920 murder of bridge expert Joseph Bowne Elwell. It was considered a roman à clef because the circumstances under which Elwell's body was found—he was shot to death in a room in his home which was found to be locked from the inside, and he was not wearing his toupee—are duplicated in the novel. Modern knowledge of ballistics reveals that one of the central premises of the novel is fanciful, because the reconstruction of the height of the murderer is impossible

Paramount Pictures released The Benson Murder Case (1930) a film version directed by Frank Tuttle and starring William Powell as Philo Vance. The film was moderately faithful to the plot of the novel. (Wikipedia)


Spine sunned, some soiling to boards, corners gently bumped else a very good copy in a fine facsimile jacket. 


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