James Holding: Second Talent

May 18, 2009

Let’s have a mystery story today. Manuel Andradas, a photographer, surprises Senhor Martinho relaxing in a chaise in the back garden of his mansion. He produces a gun and tells Martinho that he has been hired by a corporation to kill him. The rich collector points to some antiquities lying around him and tempts the intruder to spare him and walk away with any of those valuable things instead. He then bluffs that those things are in fact worthless and lures the man with the gun to an inner room in his house to show him the most precious thing in his possession.

In no other story that I have read such a long conversation takes place between a hired killer and the prospective victim.

Did a murder take place? If so, who was it who died? Was the murderer brought to book?

Just as the photographer had a ‘second talent’ – for killing – the rich collector too perhaps had his own ‘second talent’.

An unusual story indeed by the American mystery writer. I read it for the second time. Included in A Treasury of Modern Mysteries, Vol 2 (Doubleday, 1973), a book that I retrieved this morning from a carton up in a loft in my room till now.


“I am here to kill you, and I shall do so. Never doubt it.”

“Then why not get it over?”