The Shoemaker Murder by George Schuyler

Spooks, Spies, and Private Eyes
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The Shoemaker Murder can be found in the anthology “Spooks, Spies, and Private Eyes” edited by Paula L. Woods. A collection of mystery, crime, and suspense fiction by Black authors

The Shoemaker Murder is a locked room mystery set in Harlem in the early 1900s. Johnson, the shoemaker, lies dead on his shop floor. He was hit brutally in the back of the head with a hammer. The door of the shop was locked from the inside, the transom was nailed shut, and everyone around the shop swore that no one entered or exited the shop before and after the murder.

Detective Sergeant Henry Burns oversees the case. A tall Black man with a keen eye for details. He begins questioning everyone in proximity of the scene of the crime and thoroughly inspects the building. He discovered a possible way in the shop but how did the murderer exit without leaving a trace and leave all the doors locked from the inside? Detective Sergeant Burns strikes upon the answer, brings his suspect in for questioning and sets a trap that leaves the murderer no choice but to confess.

This is a quick read and overall, an enjoyable story. It is not the most complex locked room mystery you will read. It helps if you are familiar with the types of access points homes in the 1900s would have had. You definitely see how Detective Sergeant Burns has a gift for observation and deductive logic. When he explains how he knew who to bring in for questioning it will make sense.

This story is significant because of its author. George Schuyler is a noted writer of the Harlem Renaissance and beyond. Known for his scathing articles and fiction, which exposed corruption and fraud among whites and blacks. I first became aware of Mr. Schuyler from his book, “Black No More.” This book satirizes American racism, and no one is safe from his biting wit. Schuyler was also the author of several mysteries and crime fiction that were published under his name and pen names. “Black No More” is widely available but many of his other works are a little harder to find. In the 1930s, he wrote some of the earliest known political thrillers by a Black author. I found one collection of these political thrillers on Another collection of stories “Ethiopian Stories” is harder to find and can be quite expensive. Let’s hope as these works become part of the public domain they can be reprinted and made available for all people interested. His autobiography is widely available. where he details his life as a conservative.

Black Empire
Black No More
Ethiopian Stories