Sunday, October 7, 2012
Crime Fiction Alphabet: Letter U
I have signed up for a second year of The Alphabet in Crime Fiction, a community meme sponsored by Mysteries in Paradise. Each week she'll be expecting participants to produce a post featuring a mystery/crime novel or novelist related to that week's letter.
We're closing in on the end of the alphabet--hard to believe that we're already up to U. And my choice for the Letter U is Unhappy Hooligan by Stuart Palmer. This is one of the huge haul of pocket size books that I brought home with me from our Route 66 summer vacation. Palmer is best known in vintage mystery circles for his series starring Hildegarde Withers, a schoolteacher who often gets mixed up in crime.
Unhappy Hooligan is a departure from that series and I'll be eager to read this once I get this year's pile of TBR and Challenge books out of the way. The story revolves around James McFarley, a retired businessman with a passion for the Big Top. He joins the circus for a few days...and he thinks for a few laughs. But his idea of clowning around doesn't seem to go over very well with the performers. He stars with the circus on Monday, between Monday and Wednesday he manages to become the most hated man in the circus, and on Thursday he is found in his apartment...dressed in full clown make-up and dead, quite dead.
The police call it a suicide, but McFarley's widow Mavis insists that it was murder. It has to be--because the insurance police won't pay up for suicide. She approaches Howie Rook, ex-newspaperman, collector of murder cases, and a pushover for damsels in distress. He figures the job may be trouble, but he doesn't expect that his own life will be in danger when he joins the circus as a clown to get a final verdict...murder or suicide?