Read Murder in the Gunroom by H. Beam Piper Online


The Lane Fleming collection of early pistols and revolvers was one of the best in the country. When Fleming was found dead on the floor of his locked gunroom, a Confederate-made Colt-type percussion .36 revolver in his hand, the coroner's verdict was "death by accident." But Gladys Fleming had her doubts. Enough at any rate to engage Colonel Jefferson Davis Rand--better knThe Lane Fleming collection of early pistols and revolvers was one of the best in the country. When Fleming was found dead on the floor of his locked gunroom, a Confederate-made Colt-type percussion .36 revolver in his hand, the coroner's verdict was "death by accident." But Gladys Fleming had her doubts. Enough at any rate to engage Colonel Jefferson Davis Rand--better known just as Jeff--private detective and a pistol-collector himself, to catalogue, appraise, and negotiate the sale of her late husband's collection.There were a number of people who had wanted the collection. The question was: had anyone wanted it badly enough to kill Fleming? And if so, how had he done it? Here is a mystery, told against the fascinating background of old guns and gun-collecting, which is rapid-fire without being hysterical, exciting without losing its contact with reason, and which introduces a personable and intelligent new private detective. It is a story that will keep your nerves on a hair trigger even if you don't know the difference between a cased pair of Paterson .34's and a Texas .40 with a ramming-lever....

Title : Murder in the Gunroom
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781598189292
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 168 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Murder in the Gunroom Reviews

  • Audrey Grant
    2019-03-24 12:32

    An old one I found online for free as an ebook. I enjoyed it. Lots of technical stuff about old guns. Wish he had written more in this style but so far I've only found si-fy that he has written. A good read with a cup of chocolate and some popcorn...

  • John
    2019-03-29 12:56

    I've long been familiar with H. Beam Piper's science fiction (Little Fuzzy, etc.), but it was only recently that I discovered he also wrote a detective novel, Murder in the Gunroom. Naturally I had to lay hands on this curio.Lane Fleming was a prominent collector of antique firearms. One night when he was working in his gunroom on a new acquisition, a shot rang out and he was found dead on the floor. The coroner somewhat hastily ruled that the death was an accident; more sober heads assumed it was suicide, but that the truth was hushed up for fear of scuppering a major takeover deal involving Fleming's company. Months went by.Now, Gladys, the dead man's trophy second wife, who loved and respected him even if never actually in love with him, suspects it was murder and wants to satisfy herself one way or the other, so she calls in PI and gun collector Jeff Rand, ostensibly to appraise Fleming's collection but in fact to do some detecting.Soon there's another murder, this time of a dishonest gun dealer whom Fleming had been preparing to sue over the sale to him of a faked-up item. Also, it's evident that someone has been stealing the choicest items of the collection to sell them elsewhere. Could all these crimes be related? Could Jeff himself be next on the killer's list?It's patently obvious, reading this book, that Piper was himself an avid gun collector and that Jeff Rand was an idealized version of himself. I'd like to say that I learned something about historic firearms, but I didn't; when I came to the passages that lovingly described the innards of a 1746 Throckmorton & Spinach with double-cartridge loading facilities plus emergency diaper (I may not have remembered that entirely accurately), I confess my eyes tended to glaze over. I did, though, learn something about the fascination gun collectors feel for the items of their desire; as I say, it's obvious Piper felt that passion, and he communicated it to me.As a mystery novel, this is no great shakes. The characterization is pretty rudimentary, the setup is fairly artificial, and the writing is competent but pedestrian. But it's short and it's readable, and it does have some historic interest -- not least in its depiction of the NRA, which in the early 1950s was apparently an organization of gun collectors rather than, as in its modern incarnation, a bunch of loonies who value the "freedom" to own hi-tech wank-aids as more important than the occasional massacre of schoolchildren. When I mentioned this aspect to my wife, she recalled how in her own childhood (more recent than 1953, I hasten to add!) the NRA was an educational institution whose main concern was teaching people gun safety.The text is enlivened with occasional libertarian drivel and with really quite a lot of drivel about General Semantics, the pseudopsychology that was popular at the time of Piper's writing (and was an obsession of another SF writer of the era, A.E. Van Vogt). Apparently Jeff Rand is such a whizzo detective because he knows to reject false Aristotelian equivalences such as assuming that, when a man's found dead on the floor with a bullet through his brain and a gun in his hand, the gun in the hand was the one that fired the bullet. Very clever. The average cop would, of course, stupidly pick up the gun and look at it and realize PDQ that it wasn't the right weapon.After finishing the book, I checked Piper in Wikipedia to confirm my suspicion (really, conviction) that he was a gun collector. Sure enough, I was right. But then things got a bit creepy. Apparently he committed suicide using one of the guns from his own collection of historic firearms. Life being deliberately made to imitate art, or what?

  • Checkman
    2019-04-13 19:53

    Roughly thirty-two years ago I went through a time of reading any and all H. Beam Piper books that I could get my hands on. Over a period of one year (1983-1984) I read approximately a dozen of his books. However it was all his science fiction works. Never found a copy of "Murder in the Gunroom" and probably wouldn't have liked it back then anyway. I was into military science-fiction and a murder mystery revolving around gun collecting would not have caught my interest back then. However we all change as the years go by (at least we should) and in the past fifteen years I've turned into an enthusiatic gun collector as well as a fan of murder mysteries. I have known for years about this novel (talk about a perfect blending of interests) and a few days ago I found a copy at one of my local used bookstores. I didn't hesitate to buy it......not that the asking price was all that steep. Having finally come across a copy of Piper's solitary foray into the murder mystery genre I found myself opening the cover with a little trepidation. I have fond memories of Mr. Piper's writings, but as I stated at the beginning of this review, it's been over thirty years and all too often revisiting a cherised memory from younger days can result in disappointment. Well ,fortunately, I wasn't disappointed this time. "Murder in the Gunroom" was written in the early fifties and is filled with what is now politically incorrect ideas and sterotypes, but it's still a fun little book. Right off the bat I have to say that Mr. Piper (who was an enthusiatic collector of weapons in real life) knew the subject matter very very well. He writes with an authority that can only be had from actual experience. It never feels like the writing was derived solely from research. There are too many little nuances ,details, that would go by even the best researcher because they're things that one experiences, but rarely are they documented. Such as when our hero is griping about people putting stickers on pistols and the work that goes into removing those stickers. I've actually experienced that myself and I appreciated that little bit of expert detail. That's the type of thing you experience through doing. Piper is equally knowledgable about the sometime shady world of collectors and dealers. In this respect the book reminded me of the first Lovejoy novel The Judas Pair. There have been immense changes in the past twenty years thanks to the Internet and auctions are now actually an excellent way to liquidate a sizable collection, but the overall sub-culture is still the same. I've waded up to my ankles in that world a few times and this novel captures it perfectly.Now having heaped all those laudations I have to say that the actual mystery isn't really all that difficult to figure out and Piper's attempts at throwing red herrings into the story are only mildly successful. However I think the mystery was secondary for Piper. I believe Piper wanted to write a novel about the world of gun collecting, but (probably) figured out that nobody would publish such a novel. So he spiced it up with a murder. This isn't really so unusual. I've read many a genre novel over the years in which it's obvious that the writer was more interested in something else, but also wanted to be paid, so he/she shoe-horned their real passion into the confines of a western, murder-mystery and so on and so forth. All in all an entertaining little mystery novel made even better by the addition of gun collecting. However ,as other reviewers have pointed out, if you're not into firearms you might find the very impressive details to be rather mind-numbing after awhile. Similar to when I read a hard science fiction novel written by a physicist who just loves theoretical physics. After awhile I just skim over whole pages. So something to keep in mind if you are considering reading this book. If this doesn't deter you then "Murder in the Gunroom" is an old-fashioned novel that will help you burn up a couple hours.

  • Gillian
    2019-04-12 17:56

    A well-paced murder mystery. Rand is called in ostensibly to inventory and negotiate the best price for the firearms collection of Lane Fleming, recently deceased, by his widow. Does she mean him to investigate the death too? Could a serious amateur expert like Fleming accidentally kill himdpself while cleaning a new gun? A second death follows, this time most decidedly murder, and Rand is retained to find his killer. But is he looking for one killer or two?

  • B.Barron
    2019-03-30 16:48

    Interesting.It was nice to read a story by Piper that was NOT science fiction - the only slight SF element was one of the minor characters is a science fiction writer and discusses a story idea with the protagonist.

  • Rebecca
    2019-03-26 12:43

    This was all kinds of bad. First, and foremost, the description of the book blatantly lies: “Here is a mystery, told against the fascinating background of old guns and gun-collecting”… not fascinating whatsoever. The author was clearly fascinated about old guns (to the point of it being a borderline fetish!), but to the average reader, it was thick, cumbersome, and droll. “Rapid-fire without being hysterical, exciting without losing its contact with reason”… There was no rapid-fire! There was no excitement! The book moved at such an agonizing pace, it wasn't until the 9th chapter (about midpoint through the book) that the storyline started moving forward. I kept wondering when the author would just get to the point. “It is a story that will keep your nerves on a hair trigger even if you don't know the difference between a cased pair of Paterson .34's and a Texas .40 with a ramming-lever.” Complete fabrication. There was so much about guns in this book… makes, models, calibers, history, firing capabilities, cleaning rituals, etc. It read like a technical manual! I found it clouded up the storyline and caused me to lose focus very often. It took me a month to read this book that’s less than 200 pages!The tone was very Noir-y. I love Noir, and you can tell the author was definitely influenced by that genre. I just don’t think he did it very well. There were so many people in the works the whole plot seemed superficial. There was no room to spend time developing characters. (Or, rather, the time that should have went to character development was poured into antique gun descriptions) And every single woman in the story was insipid, weak, or used purely as a backdrop. By the time I was finished I was angry to the point of flailing. I definitely do NOT recommend this book. Not ever. Run from it.

  • Elisabeth
    2019-04-13 15:38

    2.5 stars. Not too bad, but not exactly great either. The sole murder mystery written by a science-fiction author, its chief interest lies in its rather unique theme of antique firearms and their collectors. (I found it somewhat amusing that there were so many of these enthusiasts and collectors living in one single unremarkable small town!) It's evidently written in emulation of the "hard-boiled" American detective stories of the '40s and '50s (with occasional bewildering tangents into wordy discussions of philosophy among a few of the characters), which makes for some wryly amusing one-liners in dialogue and description; but on the other hand there's a smattering of profanity that detracted from the overall reading experience for me. Judged by traditional murder-mystery standards it's a bit lacking, since (view spoiler)[instead of a twist at the end we have the field of suspects gradually narrowed down until the only question left just before the climax is which one out of two or three is the culprit. (hide spoiler)] There was one clue that was so patently obvious it seems very hard to believe that the police missed it—the detective's explanation of why they jumped to the conclusion they did is not very plausible.

  • Keith Jones
    2019-04-12 17:40

    Entertaining. It's rather obsessed with the minutia of antique guns. By the half-way point, I was really starting to worry it was going to be nothing but the minutia of antique guns, but then the plot started to kick-in. I liked that the detective wasn't overly obsessive about discovering the identity of the guilty person. He narrowed it down to a short list and simply tried to engineer a situation that would force the guilty to reveal him or herself. It was not a matter of stumbling across some last little clue or having some sudden last second revelation. Also, there wasn't a stupid dining room "you're probably wondering why I gathered you all here" kind-of thing. So bonus for skipping that. There was enough info presented that you could work out who was guilty way ahead of time if you felt like trying to work it out.

  • Randy
    2019-04-10 19:43

    Lane Fleming had been found shot in his gunroom amid his collection of 2,500 antique pistols. Ruled an accident, his widow didn't believe it and hired Jefferson Davis Rand, PI and gun expert, to evaluate the collection for sale.Unsaid, but obvious in what she said, was her belief that it was murder.Jeff moves in temporarily and begins his evaluation, also looking into the death on the side.Plenty of suspects, two daughters and their husbands, as well as a crooked gun dealer, and plenty of motive. The dead man stood in the way of a merger of the family business with a larger company, a profitable merger, and the crooked gun dealer was about to be sued for two counterfeit pistols by the dead man, which would do hid already shaky reputation no good. A locked room murder mystery.

  • Gillian Kevern
    2019-04-01 19:40

    2.5. I have really mixed feelings about this. Rand, the hero, is introduced as an over the top he-man, instantly attractive to women, who men instinctively want to befriend or fear, and who strangled nazis with his bare hands during the war. There is no small amount of post WW2 era wish fulfillment here -- he even talks knowledgeably about science fiction with a writer. Meanwhile, the writer of this story spent a lot of time writing sci-fi. Please, at least try and disguise the self-insertion, Mr. Piper! All the women are caricatures or stereotypes, and the men are not much better. The racism is blatant. It's a product of its times in the worst possible way -- and then towards the end, the author let off showing off how much he knew about guns to deliver an actually interesting ending. I think part of the 2.5 rating is just my relief that it wasn't worse than it already is.

  • Lance Keashly
    2019-04-13 11:42

    Very disappointing read for me. I have been poking around Piper's stories for the last several months and being quite fascinated by his sci-fi tales that seem to be continually flavored by the Piper's real life social world (I'm talking about smoking tobacco everywhere by everyone, drinking of hard liquor at every chance by everyone everywhere, and women being background objects while the men do the real stuff)Well this story is around 1938, after WW1 and before WW2 and is set in a world of gun collectors. Nothing sci-fi, just guns detailed way too much for my liking. The private detective and murder solving seem almost secondary to the gun collection discussions at times.It took me ages to get thru this book, not something I would recommend unless you like gun history.

  • Jan C
    2019-03-22 14:29

    This was okay. Not great.Post-WWII. Lane Fleming is found dead in his gunroom. He had been fiddling around with his newest gun. The police think it is suicide. Mrs. Fleming doesn't think so. One of her sons-in-law has arranged for a sale of Lane's collection. She hires the former Colonel, and now private investigator with his own firm, Jefferson Davis Rand, to analyze the collection and determine the actual work. Jeff believes, although it is unspoken, that she actually also wants him to look into the circumstances concerning Fleming's death.This is the author's only mystery story. He primarily wrote science fiction. I think his real reason for writing this book was to show off his knowledge of guns. It did seem extensive.

  • J. Boo
    2019-03-23 14:50

    Not exactly hard-boiled, but at least semi-firm mystery. And not Piper's usual genre -- he's best known for science fiction. The man definitely knew (and liked) his guns - the private detective is a gun expert, looking into the death of a famous gun collector, amidst his gun collection. Would it be a spoiler to add that people shoot each other occasionally as the plot winds its way to a conclusion?One of those books where the author bleeds his personality/preferences/foibles over every page. Still, a decent enough read.2.7/5. Freely available on Project Gutenberg, as with most of Piper's oeuvre.

  • Bobscopatz
    2019-04-18 12:34

    First published in 1953, this reads like a period piece today. Lots of references to the two World Wars, and seriously detailed information on a variety of antique and collectible firearms. It's a detective story and pretty much standard fair. The detective, the bimbo, the butler, and so on. There's good writing here, but nothing sublime, clever, or outside the box, even for the time it was written. Good, not great. No mistakes, but no chances taken either.The usual dose of male chauvinism for the times and for this author.

  • Joshua McGee
    2019-04-12 11:48

    A charming effort by Piper at a hard-boiled detective story. Very much reflective of its time; the stereotypes in it would send all but a Tea Partier today into hysterics if they were uttered in conversation. But it's a great, old-fashioned mystery, if taken as a product of its era.Copyright has expired, so you should be able to find it for your reader for free (at Project Gutenberg or whatever).

  • Ailish
    2019-03-31 19:45

    This is a murder mystery/detective fiction story that reflects the post World War II period in which it was written. It is a gentle attempt at the 'hard-boiled' genre that you find in something like Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. If you are interested in firearms and their history, you will really enjoy this story. If, like me, you don't like guns, you can still read past them to enjoy a good detective story.

  • Pioden
    2019-04-01 19:51

    A good murder mystery ala early 50's style - very descriptive of guns, people talked the way they might have back then, and the mystery was well thought out, planned and executed (ha, ha)Also, the first I read on my new toy, an ebookwise - might have lent to some of the charm, but I really did enjoy the story.

  • Jim
    2019-04-13 17:32

    It was hard to judge Jeff Rand's age from his appearance; he was certainly over thirty and considerably under fifty. He looked hard and fit like a man who could be a serviceable friend or a particularly unpleasant enemy. Women instinctively suspected that he would make a most satisfying lover.' (Excerpt)

  • Paul
    2019-04-14 14:37

    I finally got the chance to read this last year...the last story by Piper that I had never read. While not quite up to his science fiction stories, this is still a well constructed mystery with a believable plot and well-developed characters. The resolution works, and was actually a amusing. A solid story.

  • Annette
    2019-04-17 12:50

    Downloaded this expecting sci-fi; found a quite engaging little murder mystery with a sub-plot of antique gun collecting that would do Dick Francis proud. Enjoyed.

  • Judy
    2019-04-03 13:28

    An interesting mystery -- the "bad guy" was not obvious. This was a free download to my Kindle. It was good enough to read again, and the info about old guns was fascinating (I actually leaarned a bit).

  • Brenda Davis
    2019-04-08 19:47

    I always enjoy a good murder mystery. There is thrill in seeing if I can figure out "whodunit" before the author reveals the perpetrator. I don't think I ever changed my mind more often than I did while reading this. It was an easy read and pretty enjoyable.

  • Susan
    2019-04-13 11:34

    Found this when searching on Libri-Vox to see if a James Bond book was there. A gem of a find. Learnt a lot about guns, and enjoyed the whodunit. Pity that this is the only non sci-fi that the author has written.

  • Bitty
    2019-03-30 14:32

    I got this book for free on my kindle. It was interesting to read such an old book, it had references to WWII and outdated sayings that I had to look up. There was a bit too much detail about the guns that I got lost in, but over all, it was an amusing and simple period piece mystery (and free!).

  • Jeff Crosby
    2019-03-22 16:57

    Clearly intended as the start of a series, this remains Piper's only mystery. While the solution to the murder is fairly predictable, the characters and the information on gun collecting keep the story's interest level up.

  • Beth Quittman
    2019-04-11 17:43

    A neat little mystery clouded by obscure philosophical references. But hey, it's public domain = free.

  • Candy Sparks
    2019-03-28 14:40

    I got to chapter seven and decided that this book was so boring. I don't know much about guns and well there was no depth to this book. It was not worth my time and I yawned the whole time.

  • Elena
    2019-04-11 15:41

    Too many gun descriptions which could've been avoided. Other than that, a well-put book that is quite enjoyable to read.

  • Sparrow Alden
    2019-04-06 13:32

    Classic private eye - showcasing Piper's extensive knowledge of firearms. I love me a good murder!

  • Lindsay
    2019-04-05 15:57

    I'm not a huge mystery fan, and so I wasn't enthralled by this story. That said, the characters were interesting, even if exaggerated in parts and the mystery wasn't obvious.