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George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

Mood for Murder

cover image By: Gruber, Frank (male)
Publisher: Graphic Publishing Co., Inc. (119)
Place of Publication: Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
Catalog #: Kelley Box 261: PS3513 .R866 M6 1956
Contributor: R. Tuohy


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Frank Gruber Geographic Locale: Los Angeles, California Date of Publication: 1956  |  Original Date: 1954 Setting: urban and suburban areas; parks, houses, apartment and office buildings Motives: three murders, all revolving around the lonely hearts club and the "badger" game Alternate Title: The Lonesome Badger

Plot Summary

Joe Peel is an employee of Otis Beagle's Detective Agency. In an effort to increase business, Beagle sends letters to a lonely hearts club in Peel's name. When Peel is sent to meet a woman, he becomes the potential victim of the "badger game" - a blackmail scam where the supposed husband (Dave Corey) walks in on the victim and the girl. In fighting his way out, Peel is knocked unconscious and wakes up next to a dead Dave Corey. Beagle's business booms when he finds himself unethically and illegally representing four interrelated clients in the same lonely hearts case. None of the clients are who they say they are. When Susan Sawyer is found dead also, Peel is arrested for the murder. He needs Beagle and his attorney "Pinky" to get him out. By following many of the suspects and digging into their past, Beagle and Peel finally untangle the situation and discover the murderer.

Major Characters

Otis Beagle 6'3", 210 lbs., "big, flashy and phony", middle-aged male, owner of the Beagle Detective Agency

Joe Peel employee of Beagle, male, age 32, good looking

Linda Meadows 5'4", young adult female, beautiful blonde, secretary

Charlton Temple middle-aged male, well-dressed

Mortimer Brown middle-aged overweight male, member of the lonely hearts club, raises rabbits

Seymour Case adult male, everyone is looking for him; a victim of the badger game a few years ago

Dave Corey 30ish male, purports to be the husband of a woman Peel has arranged to meet from lonely hearts club

Susan Sawyer tall, slender, gorgeous brunette who was married to Charlton Temple and also played the badger game on unsuspecting victims

Thaddeus Smallwood middle-aged businessman, killed at the lonely hearts club picnic

Sparbuck mid-forties, youthful looking despite his gray hair, assistant district attorney; they give him the hard cases

Douglas "Pinky" Devol


.38 caliber gun

Level of Violence

brief descriptions in a few scenes


brief descriptions of beautiful women when they are introduced; no sexual activity

Gender Roles

traditional; male characters are central to the plot and are given personalities. Female characters are peripheral figures and are only described by their physical characteristics.


presumed that all characters are white, although this is not stated specifically. No races or ethnic groups are maligned.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

social drinking; alcohol plays a very small role in the plot

Law Enforcement

police officers have no respect at all for the detective agency and its detectives. The police would love to have the chance to close down the agency and put the detectives in jail.

Added Features

although the plot is convoluted and contrived, there is a good deal of humor throughout the novel.

Subject Headings

Blackmail/ Detectives, Private/ Law and Lawyers/ Murder/California - Los Angeles/ Loneliness