Wednesday, January 12, 2011

5 Bullets: Review

5 Bullets by Lee Thayer (1944) was a nice little treat. I discovered Lee Thayer many years ago through the local library. They had only two books by this author--whose name grabbed me, I must admit, because of its similarity to Sayers. I read one (Dusty Death) and was in the midst of the second (title escapes me) when a very Twilight Zone-y thing happened. The hubby, small son (at the time) and I were getting ready to take a trip. Small person decided to be difficult about getting into the car and Mama put her books (yes, two, whatever we were doing I knew that there wasn't enough book left in the one to provide me with enough reading material) on the top of the car, got the boy settled, and got in the car herself (forgetting all about the books on top of the car). We backed out of the drive-way and went exactly one house-length down the road, when Mama realizes that the books are not in the car. Hubby & I looked all over the yard, in the bushes, along the street, under the cars parked along the street, and even in the wheel-wells of the cars. No books. Gone. Disappeared into the fourth dimension.

But, back to the reveiw....I didn't realize or had forgotten that this particular Thayer book took place at a college. It was a pleasant surprise to find that I was not only reading a vintage mystery, but a vintage academic mystery. Set at a small college in Florida, we have Peter Clancy, Thayer's primary detective, arriving on a top-secret mission just in time to help his friend Zingara Hartley get to the bottom of a local murder. The son of Zingara's friend has been accused of murder with malice aforethought. It appears that he has shot a rival during a psychological experiment gone wrong. Did he replace the blank cartridge with a live bullet and shoot his rival in cold blood? Is it some kind of horrible mistake? Was there actually a second shot timed for the experimental shot? And was the slain man really the target? There seems to be evidence that the real target may have been the German professor who designed the experiment. Perhaps a "real" American has decided to eliminate the "alien" during this time of war.

This was, as I mentioned, a pleasant little read. A decent mystery and fairly well-written. Not the absolute best example of its kind and the language (particularly references to African Americans) is very dated and jarring. But only to be expected from a book from the time period. It's good to know how far we've come...even though we all know we still have a good ways to go. I do like the character of Peter Clancy as well as his right-hand man, Wiggar. And I remember liking
Dusty Death a lot. I wish the library still had that one...I'd go back and re-read it just to refresh my memory. Three stars.


J F Norris said...

Zingara Hartley! Sounds like a character from a Harry Stephen Keeler book. Enticing review.

I have a Lee Thayer book in the TBR pile for this challenge, and will probably get to it at the end of this month. It's her very first: The Mystery of the 13th Floor written in 1919!


Armchair_Archives said...

I was unfamiliar with Thayer until I read your post. It's always great to discover a new vintage mystery author! Thank you!