The Benson Murder Case

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What to expect

It gives us considerable pleasure to be able to offer to the public the “inside” record of those of former District Attorney Markham’s criminal cases in which Mr. Philo Vance figured so effectively. The true inwardness of these famous cases has never before been revealed by S. S. Van Dine, Mr. Vance’s lawyer and almost constant companion, being the only person who possessed a complete record of the facts and has only recently been permitted to make them public.

After inspecting Mr. Van Dine’s voluminous notes, we decided to publish The Benson Murder Case as the first of the series—not because it was the most interesting and startling, nor yet the most complicated and dramatic from the fictional point of view, but because, coming first chronologically, it explains how Mr. Philo Vance happened to become involved in criminal matters, and also because it possesses certain features that reveal very clearly Mr. Vance’s unique analytic methods of crime detection. If you will refer to the municipal statistics of the City of New York, you will find that the number of unsolved major crimes during the four years that John F.-X. Markham was District Attorney was far smaller than under any of his predecessors’ administrations. Markham projected the District Attorney’s office into all manner of criminal investigations; and, as a result, many abstruse crimes on which the Police had hopelessly gone aground were eventually disposed of. But although he was personally credited with the many important indictments and subsequent convictions that he secured, the truth is that he was only an instrument in many of his most famous cases. The man who actually solved them and supplied the evidence for their prosecution was in no way connected with the city’s administration, and never once came into the public eye.

I am not permitted to divulge the man’s name, and, for that reason, I have chosen, arbitrarily, to refer to him throughout these ex-officio reports as Philo Vance. We now hear the story told by author S. S. Van Dine as though Vance were a real person.

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