Wednesday, July 1, 2020

July Calendar of Crime Reviews




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July Virtual Mount TBR Reviews





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July Vintage Mystery Extravangza Reviews




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Blotto, Twinks, & the Ex-King's Daughter

Blotto, Twinks and the Ex-King's Daughter (2009) by Simon Brett

The Ex-King of Mitteleuropa and his entourage has come to stay at the country estate of the duke of Tawcester (pronounced Taster) for rest, relaxation, and to experience the English hunt. The group includes the Ex-King's trusted confidante Captain Schtoltz, twin body guards Bogdan and Zoltan Grittelhoff, various courtly hangers-on, the Ex-Queen, and the beautiful Ex-Princess Ethelinde. The Duchess of Tawcester is pleased to host the exiled royals--it gives her a whole group of new people to be condescending to. But she is less than delighted when her butler Grimshaw informs her that one of her guests has died in the library. She uses her social standing to put pressure on the Chief Constable to sweep the matter under the rug, but she doesn't reckon with her headstrong (and very brainy) daughter, Twinks (aka Lady Honoria Lyminster).

Twinks is jolly good at detecting and she enlists the aide of her less intellectually endowed brother Blotto (aka the Right Honorable Devereaux Lyminster) to provide any brawn needed in the adventure. From a few flakes of cigar ash, a whiff of cologne, white paint on a button, and a piece of wool, she easily pieces together the events that led to Captain Schtoltz's death. She's even sure who the culprit is. But Blotto (who was slightly blotto after drinking several Mitteleuropian toasts with his guests) manages to fall asleep in a cozy, out-of-the-way corner only to awaken to the sound of a whispered conversation. He may not be swiftest horse in the hunt, but he does pick up the gist of the conversation--namely that a plot is afoot to kidnap the lovely Ethelinde. 

Despite the best-laid plans of Twinks, the evil-doer manages to get away with the plot and the Duchess herself sends Blotto, his chauffeur Corky Froggett, and a mysterious Mitteleuropian interpreter Klaus Schiffleich off to Mitteleuropa to restore the family honor...oh and rescue the Princess as well. A few surprises are in store for our happy band of rescuers and Blotto just might find himself king of a foreign country and married to the Princess if he's not careful. Where's Twinks when he needs her?

My take: First of all just let me say, if I had had to read one more "Toad-in-the-Hole!" exclamation or "Twinks, me old muffin" or "Rodents!" (as an expletive, apparently) from Blotto I may have thrown this book out the window. I'm all for a good parody (with a definite stress on good), but there is, as you may know, such a thing as too much of a good thing. Brett really stretches the limit on muchness. Absolutely everything about this is just a shade too much. Too much period slang. Too many repetitions of the same period slang. Too much English self-centrism (as Blotto says, "If only you lot all played cricket, you wouldn't feel so foreign"). Too many WAY over the top caricatures. This could have been a delightfully fun send up of the Golden Age mystery--if only Brett had wielded his pen with a less heavy hand. A disappointing read--I felt like I could have liked these characters a lot, I had been given a chance to do so. One bright spot (thus earning all the stars given) was the exciting ending. I do like a nice wrap-up. ★★

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Deaths = 2 (one poisoned; one stabbed)


My Birthday and My Reader's Block Birthday


Well...my blogiversary (April 24th) came and went in a COVID-19 haze and I forgot all about the post I wanted to do to celebrate until it was a few weeks too late. So, I decided to wait and produce the fanfare on my birthday. This year My Reader's Block is ten years old! And I...well...I am older than ten (by a fair amount). As is fitting for a Book Blogger, I celebrated this morning in style with a gift bag full of bookish goodies


My husband came through with some much-desired vintage mysteries. Murder Wears Mukluks by Eunice Mays Boyd (Dell Mapback edition!), The Taste of Murder by Joanna Cannan, Nothing Like Blood by Leo Bruce, Murder by the Book by Frances & Richard Lockridge, and Spence & the Holiday Murders by Michael Allen (post-1960--but still much sought after).

 



Mom and Dad also sent some birthday funds which I promptly used to snap up some lovely editions of Lord Peter Wimsey that I just needed as well as About the Murder of a Startled Lady by Antony Abbot.

 
 


Two more birthday books are still making their way to the Hankins household. Over all, a very nice birthday indeed!

As far as blogging goes, the past ten years have been so much fun! I started out just wanting to have a place to log my books so my rapidly-more-sieve-like-as-the-years-go-by memory would have a resource to look back upon when books that I've read come up. It didn't take me long to realize that blogging was so much more. It's a place to let my reading challenge addiction run wild--both taking part and hosting. It's a place to meet the most amazing people who also love books...and especially those who love vintage mysteries just as much as I do. I've made virtual friends who I hope to meet in person one day (we came one COVID-19 outbreak short of making it happen this summer--I will make it to England one of these days!). 

I owe huge debts of gratitude to John @ Pretty Sinister Books, Kate @ Cross Examining Crime, the Puzzle Doctor @ In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, JJ @ The Invisible Event, Brad @ Ah Sweet Mystery Blog, Curtis @ The Passing Tramp, Moira @ Clothes in Books, Les @ Classic Mysteries, the departed and sorely missed Noah @ Noah's Archives as well as a host of others who have shared their knowledge about Golden Age mysteries and even, on occasion, have shared books with me. A number of us have taken part in the Tuesday Night Bloggers--sharing mysteries based on a mutually agreed theme--where I again I learned more about the genre I love.

More recently, I've had the great good fortune to be a participant in Kate's mystery quiz game and to host my own version under the title "Who Wants to Murder a Millionaire" where we whiled away the hours in the early stages of virus lockdown. And we've helped Brad with his continuing mystery saga Murder at Dungarees (and I even have a character running around the estate...). I'm on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens next.

I want to thank all of you who stop by the Block to see what I've been up to and especially those who have stuck with me through ten years. I've appreciated every comment and hope that everyone who visits finds something they like or even a new book to hunt down. Here's to another ten years of reading and having fun.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Foul Deeds (spoilerish review)

Foul Deeds (1989) by Susan James*

Charles College, a small posh liberal arts college, is beset by a series of murders that are based on deaths in Shakespeare. The first to die is a beautiful young English major who was playing the part of Cordelia in King Lear. She is found hanging in the theater's costume storage room. Next on the list was the department's Shakepeare expert--killed with a rapier in the fashion of Polonius in Hamlet. Victims forced into the roles of Othello and Desdemona soon follow and the killer has plans for more Shakespearean carnage. 

State Police Lieutenant Polly Winslade is assigned to the case and she and her sergeant Michael Camarata must try to establish if they have a nut with Shakespeare fixation, someone with a grudge against the English Department, or someone with a motive they can't yet see. The clues are few and far between and the information they pick up about the infightings and dalliances within the academic world seem to have little to do with the murders. Or if they do, there doesn't seem to be any proof. Winslade is going to need her well-established luck if she's going to solve this one....

Okay. That's my final analysis--this book is okay. Certainly not spectacular and definitely not going down on record as one of my all-time favorite academic mysteries. Publishers Weekly seemed to think this was pretty spiffy--saying "James neatly skewers the tight world of academia, particularly the foibles of administrators, and sharply limns the infighting of young scholars desperate for promotion and tenure." Well, I work in academia and I have a soft spot for academic mysteries and the representations here are pretty run-of-the-mill. 

The murder methods (and motive, quite frankly) are lifted wholesale from a 1973 Vincent Price film Theater of Blood. Credit is duly given when the villain of the piece admits as much in the final scenes. I recognized the connection early on, but didn't spot the criminal. Not because I didn't recognize clues when they came along (if they did), but because I really wasn't looking for them. I was too busy trying to find the thread of the mystery to be bothered with clues. You see, the plot idea was fine--I can go along with the whole let's take revenge on people and murder them in the style of Shakepeare deaths because reasons thing. But the book was littered and overflowing with affairs. Pretty much everybody was either having an affair with somebody else (and that includes Sergeant Carmarata) OR they were lusting after somebody else. It was difficult to keep up with the players--with or without a scorecard. I'm not sure if the James team thought dumping adultery in there left and right was the best way to provide red herrings or what, but they don't seem to have realized that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Less adultery and few other red herring motives would have been more effective.

The best part of the book was the characters of Lt. Winslade and Professor Tom Hammock, who was a mentor to first victim and who really is never a suspect. He helps Winslade with the ins and outs of the department and plays a semi-Watson part. And her interest in him helps her to eventually track down the culprit. The biggest disappointment was that their mutual attraction was obviously going to go nowhere. Amidst all those passions running amok, the two most sympathetic characters are left out in the cold.

I realize that this is a pretty lukewarm review. I didn't really plan it that way. I thought I was more enthusiastic about the book when I first started. But--no, actually, if you're looking for an engaging academic mystery, then this probably isn't it. ★★ and a half.


*Pseudonym for an academic husband/wife writing team. I wasn't able to find much more than that on the internet. 


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Deaths = 5 (one hanged; two stabbed; one smothered; one shot)


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Partners in Crime

"...you have no expert knowledge whatever."

"Well, I have read every detective novel that has been published in the last ten years."

~Tommy Beresford; Tuppence Beresford
Partners in Crime (1929) by Agatha Christie

When Mr. Carter (The Chief from their debut in The Secret Adversary) suggests that Tommy & Tuppence Beresford take over a detective agency that has been receiving odd Russian-stamped letters in an effort to track down those behind some international mischief, he also opens the way for the Beresfords to put the skills of fictional detectives into practice. Tuppence's reading is going to come in handy. In a series of short story adventures, the couple employ the methods of everyone from Sherlock Holmes to Hercule Poirot to the Old Man in the Corner. They successfully solve murders and forgery and robbery cases; find a hidden legacy; break an unbreakable alibi; foil the doings of several gangs; and, of course, help round up the group responsible for the mysterious Russian letters.

Some of the solutions may seem quite obvious to today's reader (I spotted the solution to the alibi story immediately), but that doesn't diminish the enjoyment to be had reading about Christie's young adventurers. And I'm sure they were very interesting to the readers of the late 1920s/earl 1930s--before everything was so immediately available to everyone. I've had a soft spot for Tommy and Tuppence since I was first introduced to them back in the early 1980s. With their banter and their enthusiasm, they just seemed to be having so much fun. They are really quite brilliant in their own way--with a healthy dose of luck mixed in as well. Good, light reading from the 1920s.

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Deaths = 8 (two stabbed; one electrocuted; one hit on head; three poisoned; one heart failure)
Mystery Bingo
Card #2: Clues & Cliches(Magnifying Glass)

Monday, June 22, 2020

Murder in a Hurry

Murder in a Hurry (1950) by Frances and Richard Lockridge

Liza O'Brien is hired by Jerry North to draw illustrations of cats for a soon-to-be published book. She begins with the Norths' three Siamese cats and plans to use a black, longhair kitten from a pet store she knows. She makes arrangements with the owner, J. K. Halder, to come one afternoon, but when she arrives the shop is closed. A gentleman from the neighborhood who is a friend of Halder's lets her in with a key and the two of them make a terrible discovery...Mr. Halder has died and his body has been stuffed into a dog cage. The older gentleman seems to take it hard and Liza goes in search of brandy or something to help him. When she returns, the man is gone. Liza winds up rushing away from the scene too--urged to do so by her boyfriend whom she has called for help and who just happens to be Halder's son. She accidentally leaves her sketchbook behind.

Halder is a famous eccentric millionaire who, after marrying twice and having three children, sold his money-making business to buy the little pet shop, left his home to the family with a suitable allowance to keep them in style, and takes up residence in the back of the shop. He said he preferred the company of animals to people and devoted his life to caring for strays and sick animals. He's had little contact with anyone since then, so who could have wished the old man dead?

Lieutenant Bill Weigand and Sergeant Mullins are called upon to investigate and as soon as he sees the old man crammed into the dog cage, Mullins knows it's going to be a screwy one--which of course means the Norths must be in it somewhere. Weigand proves him right when he glances through the sketchbook left on a chair and recognizes some familiar feline faces. Soon the Norths are in it and Pam will follow the clues from man's best friend to what she thinks is the answer. Weigand meanwhile is looking at the age-old questions: who benefits and how? Is it the younger wife who has found a "friend" more her age and might want freedom without divorce? Is it the friend who wants his lady to inherit? Or perhaps one of the children wanted a rush on their inheritance? Because one thing is certain--somebody was in a hurry to get Halder out of the way.

Small spoiler ahead--though if you are like me you'll pay attention to the wrong moment and the spoiler won't spoil the plot for you at all. Nonetheless...proceed at your own reading risk.


This is another fun entry in the Lockridge's light mystery series. As per usual, there are lots of cats but this one is made more interesting with the introduction of a young Scottie who helps Pam and Bill discover the catalyst which sets murder in motion. I absolutely knew the dog was important, but I paid attention to the wrong thing and managed to suspect the wrong person. But I was in good company, so did Pam (for different reasons). 

I read most of the North books back when I first returned to mysteries (early 1990s) and our local library still had quite a number of them on the shelves. I've since spent my time trying to collect all of the Lockridge books and I have enjoyed rereading them. Fortunately, my memory is much more sieve-like than it used to be so I can reread and still be fooled by red herrings. The thing I enjoy most about these books, though, is how comfortable they are. They're perfect for when I want something light and fun and not too complicated. ★★★ 

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Deaths = 2 (one poisoned; one strangled)


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Murder, She Said: The Quotable Miss Marple (mini-review)

Murder, She Said: The Quotable Miss Marple (2019) by Tony Medawar (ed)

I have a great affection and weakness for quote books. I love reading little snippets from books, movies, or just from famous people. I collect quotes myself--jotting down phrases and paragraphs that grab my attention as I read. I also love Agatha Christie's mysteries. So what could be better than a little quote book entirely devoted to the words of Miss Jane Marple, spinster sleuth extraordinaire? Nothing...except maybe also having a companion book devoted to the words of Hercule Poirot (which I do).

I thoroughly enjoyed spending time this evening reading Miss Marple's thoughts on everything from Men & Women to Crime & Detection to Human Nature & Life. This is a lovely little volume that I am glad to add to my quote book collection. I wasn't quite as enamored with her essay at the end of the book ("Does a Woman's Instinct Make Her a Good Detective"). Dame Agatha seems to think women are less methodical and less likely to enjoy the thrill of the hunt than men. Well...maybe some women, but not all women...or even most women as she implies. Christie seems to have subscribed to several gender stereotypes of her day *at the time the essay was written. 

 ★★★  for the book overall. If it had been quotes only, I'd most likely have given it five.

*amended 6/22/20

Dreamsnake

Snake went back to bed, musing about Center, which gave chains to slavers but refused to talk to healers. (p. 127)
Dreamsnake (1978) by Vonda N. McIntyre

In a post-apocalyptic world, healers have evolved techniques using a combination of nature and the little bit of off-world technology to treat and cure the people left outside the sealed City. Snake is a young healer who has been honored with a special name--her family believes she will make a strong healer and the name Snake has only been given three times before. She has begun her probationary year as a fully equipped healer and makes a trip into the desert with her three medicinal snakes. Two offer ways through their medically changed venom to treat cancers and other diseases. The third, a dreamsnake named Grass, has the ability to give soothing dreams and ease a dying patient's last moments. 

A misunderstanding among the desert people results in the death of Grass and leaves Snake crippled in her abilities to fully function as a healer. She dreads returning to the Center and telling her people that she has allowed one of the precious dreamsnakes to be killed. For dreamsnakes are rare and it is difficult to get them to reproduce. She doesn't fear punishment, but she knows that there won't be a replacement for Grass and that she may have to give up her profession. And that would be punishment enough.

But then a chance comes to travel to the City where she might find a replacement. The journey will be hard and there are dangers she can't imagine--from the crazies (half-mad from the effects of radiation) to thieves and the storm season is coming bring dangers of its own. Its a risky quest, but one that Snake knows she must take up. She makes friends along the way--helping a mayor's son named Gabriel to start his own journey to find his own path and rescuing a young girl named Melissa from an abusive guardian. If she's successful, she will have proved herself worth of her name. 

Dreamsnake was one of the first science fiction novels I read that was written by a woman and which had a strong female protagonist. Snake is a strong, well-rounded character. She is grounded morally and is at her best when relating to others--whether during healing sessions or through other means. Her care and concern for the others she encounters from Arevin and the desert people to Gabriel and Melissa are her strongest characteristics. She is a healer--not just by profession, but in her very nature. And seeing a woman on a quest was a great thing as well. So many quest stories are about men and boys. It was empowering for this preteen to read such a story about such a forceful personality.

I knew this book had made a strong impression on me when I first read it over 30 years ago. When I sat down read it again, it was like I had never left it. I knew what was going to happen next because it came back so clearly. But that didn't spoil this reading at all. It was more like it amplified it. It will sound very mystical (kind of like the "magic" medicinal changing of venom to cures), but it seemed as though I was both reading it as I had before as well as reading it now. I remembered the excitement of discovering a strong female character--strong and yet with flaws; strong enough to learn from her mistakes; strong enough to take responsibility for those mistakes and find a way to make things right. But I also read it with a sense of nostalgia, knowing that I had already read it and felt that way. It was an extraordinary reading experience. ★★★★★




Friday, June 19, 2020

Death-Wish Green

Death-Wish Green (1960) by Frances Crane

Cozy mystery series with a hook in the title--whether it be a pun on cooking (Wonton Terror by Vivien Chien in the Noodle Shop Mysteries) or book-related (Bookmarked for Murder by V. M. Burns in the Mystery Bookshop series) or plays on gardening or scrapbooking or knitting or sundry other hobbies--have been the rage for quite some time. Periodically there are series with colors in the title. The Travis McGee series begun in 1964 by John D. MacDonald is a well-known series in this vein. Betsy Allen wrote a girls' mystery series (with the first book published in 1948) starring Connie Blair using this hook. Frances Crane beat them both--publishing her first book, The Turquoise Shop, in 1941. It was set in New Mexico and starred Jean Holly and her eventual husband Pat Abbott. I'm not sure if Crane's series is the first to feature a rainbow of titles, but it is the earliest I have read.

Death-Wish Green takes place nearly 20 years after that first book and is set in San Francisco amongst the beatnik-wannabes. Bored sons and daughters of the city's elite dress up in black and mix in with the artsy, grittier crowds at North Beach. Mostly it's just fun and meant to spice up the lives of kid with too much money and too much time on their hands...occasionally it leads experimentation with marijuana and other drugs. But it's never been dangerous for Katie Spinner's crowd...until her white Model A topless Ford is found abandoned in the middle of Golden Gate Bridge. The police take the view that Katie got really bored with life and decided to jump. But those who know Katie, including Jean Abbott, all say she would never do such a thing. Jean becomes convinced it's murder--or at the least kidnapping and soon the Abbotts' sleuthing will discover both crimes are involved. But was Katie killed or kidnapped? Or both?  You'll have to read to find out. Oh..and what does death-wish green have to do with it all? Well, it's the color Katie's friend Celeste is wearing when something unpleasant happens to her as well.

This book has a more serious feel to it. The Abbotts have never been the wise-cracking, humorous pair found in the Thin Man movies or even the slightly wacky pairing of Pam and Jerry North, but there has been humor and a light touch. Here we have a grittier setting. There's a more deliberate cruelty behind the murderer's motives and the drugs give another edge to the drama. The plot is still enjoyable and I did like how Crane kept us guessing on whether Katie was murdered or kidnapped--both or neither. She also provides a nice peek at San Francisco at the beginning of the Sixties.  ★★★


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Deaths = 2 (one fell from height; one shot)

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Colorado Kid

The Colorado Kid (2005) by Stephen King

"The Colorado Kid" is the name given to an unknown man who shows up dead on a Maine island beach in 1980. the autopsy indicates that he died from a lack of oxygen (steak lodged in his throat) that may have caused a stroke (or vice versa). At first it looks like there are no clues to the man's identity--no wallet or papers on his person and no one comes forward to even say they saw him arrive on the island. The State Troopers assigned to the case have more important fish to fry (a real live murder case!) than an accidental death. Two newspapermen on the island and a grad student intern assigned to the Troopers dig up a few meager bits that lead to Colorado and ultimately the identification of the man as James Cogan.

But that's it. The investigation can't tell them why a mild-mannered advertising man who to all appearances was devoted to the wife and son he left behind in Colorado should have walked out of the office one fine morning on an errand for coffee and traveled across country to die on a lonely Maine beach. The newspapermen believe there is more to it than meets the eye--but can't find any leads or evidence to tell them what. And they never do. Years later, they tell their whole--incomplete--story to a young woman working as an intern for them. [I'm guessing that's supposed to be her there on the cover....]

Say hello to the mystery novel that really isn't a mystery novel. Is there a dead body? Sure. Do we ever really find out anything about what happened to him and why--other than he choked to death on a piece of steak? Nah. That wasn't King's point. King's point is how odd things happen all the time in real life that never get explained--so just deal with the fact that he doesn't explain what happened in his story either. And what's particularly annoying is that he know full well that mystery readers expect a resolution and he just thumbs his nose at them in the afterword:

Mystery is my subject here, and I am aware that many readers will feel cheated, even angry by my failure to provide a solution to the one posed. Is it because I had no solution to give? The answer is no.

So--he could have played by the mystery fiction rules. He just didn't want to.

As straight fiction--I liked this a LOT more than 11/22/63 (the only other King book I've ever read--also for a challenge). Quite possibly because it's a heck of a lot shorter. But also because I enjoyed the interactions between the main characters. And I enjoyed the way the two old newshounds told their story. I even enjoyed the build up of the story...which explains why I've given this ★★★. As a mystery or crime fiction novel--it leaves a LOT to be desired...which explains why it's not getting even a partial star more. Don't fly your story under the mystery/crime fiction flag and then refuse to play by the rules. Quite honestly, I'm confused as to why this was included in the Hard Case Crime editions. My only conclusion is they thought King's name would draw attention to the series.

Am I sold on King as an author? No. I probaby won't read another one unless I run into him in another challenge that requires one of his books.

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Deaths = one (asphyxia)

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

This Is Paradise (mini-review)

This Is Paradise (2013) by Kristiana Kahakauwila

Kristiana Kahakauwila is a native Hawaiian whose debut collection of short stories gives the reader a vivid look at what life on the islands is really like. This is no travel guide. No pretty overview of the beautiful landscape. These stories focus on the lives of the Hawaiians--those who grew up there and whose ancestors have been there for generations and who feel bound to the islands; those who feel the need to leave but who always hear the call of the land of their forebears; those who are of Hawaiian descent and born elsewhere but who are drawn back by invisible ties; and those whose ancestry lies elsewhere but who can't feel at home anywhere else. More than anything the stories are about knowing or finding the place where you belong.  ★★★★ and 1/2.

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Seven Dials Mystery (spoilerish)

The Seven Dials Mystery (1929) by Agatha Christie

Sir Oswald and Lady Coote had rented Chimneys with the idea of enjoying country estate living. In their last days at the secluded country house, they did what all country house owners do--they hosted a country house party. It was all going so well--lively young people all over the place. But then the young people decide to play a great joke on Gerry Wade. Gerry had proven himself to be a champion sleeper--rising for "breakfast" in time for luncheon. So, his friends decide that it would be great fun to go out and buy an alarm clock each (and a few more for good measure) and line them all up under Gerry's bed after he'd gone to sleep. Eight alarm clocks, all set at incremental intervals are put in place and the group eagerly await the moment when Gerry will shoot out of his bed like a rocket after hearing the noise.

Only...he doesn't. Because during the night he had a lethal dose of chloral hydrate. The inquest brings in a verdict of "death by misadventure" but Gerry's sister doesn't really believe it. After all--she'd never known her "champion sleeper" of a brother to need a sleeping draught. 

When Lady Eileen Brent, "Bundle" to her friends, and her father come home to Chimneys after a trip to the Continent, she finds an unfinished letter from Gerry Wade to his sister in her desk drawer. She's heard all about the unfortunate death and believes that it just might need a bit of looking into. As she's rushing into town to consult a friend, she (as she thinks) runs over a man and kills him. But when the doctor examines the body he finds that the car didn't touch him and the man was actually shot. The man's dying words had been "Seven Dials...tell....Tell...Jimmy Thesinger." Now Bundle is sure something must be done. She teams up with Jimmy Thesinger (friend of Gerry Wade and the dead man, Ronny Devereaux) and Gerry's sister Loraine and the three set out to find the Seven Dials and get to the bottom the mystery.

Bundle also consults Superintendent Battle, whom she met previously in the incidents related in The Secret of Chimneys. After due consideration of the letter written by Wade, she is convinced that he (as a member of the Foreign Office) had run across a secret society and was killed for his pains. She wants the superintendent to give her the names of all the secret societies in the Seven Dials. He complies, but tries (unsuccessfully) to warn her off. The secret society is found, some secret plans are nearly stolen, and much mayhem ensues before the secret of the Seven Dials is finally revealed.

******Spoilers ahead in my reactions to the story. Continue at your own risk.*******

This semi-sequel to The Secret of Chimneys is a bit of a toss-up for me. On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the light-hearted, near-Wodehousian atmosphere of the country house party and their build-up to the alarm clock hi-jinks. The characters are quite good fun. And if I had kept that tone in mind throughout the book, I might not have a rating dilemma on my hands. But Bundle gets downright serious about her search for the secret society and when she found it, I was all for getting down to mystery business and capturing the evil mastermind behind it all. Except...that's not what we've got. The secret society is really on the side of the angels and the culprit is....someone I didn't expect.

I suppose I should hand it to Dame Agatha for pulling the wool over my eyes on this reading, especially since I read this once back in the mists of time. I believe I enjoyed twisty ending much more that first time round. After a bit of thought: ★★★ for this reading. Good solid fun and high-spirited adventure. 

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Deaths =  (one poisoned; one shot)