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?

5 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Bev - Oh, I wasn't familiar with this one, although Palmer's Hildegarde Withers series was a good 'un. I'll be really eager to see what you think of this one when you read it.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Sounds great Bev - I've a copy of this somewhere too. Palmer did, as I unbderstand, also work in a circus at one point in his colourful career ...

Ryan said...

I love the cover, because that's what should happen to every clown :-)

TracyK said...

I am hoping to read some Stuart Palmer books next year ... maybe for the next Vintage Mystery Challenge? AT this point I only have some of the Hildegarde Withers series. This is a nice overview that gets me interested in finding this one.

Peggy said...

Not read any of Palmer's books! Another name to look for....