Gore Vidal is a historical and social novelist. His three detective novels, Death in the Fifth Position (1952), Death Before Bedtime (1953), and Death Likes It Hot (1954), published under the pseudonym Edgar Box, were written early in his career and are not considered to be among his best work. Nevertheless, all three detective novels demonstrate his skill at social criticism and solid command of the murder mystery genre. Although not exactly a classic example of the hard-boiled detective, Peter Cutler Sargeant II is an objective, shrewd observer of humanity. Like other rationalistic detectives, he pays close attention not only to material evidence but also to human motivations. He likes to proceed by a process of elimination, examining the most obvious suspects before realizing that the case is far more complex than he had initially imagined. As is so often true in murder mysteries, Sargeant has a mind that is much more supple than that of the police officers and other fatuous characters who try to outwit him in his cases.