Saturday, October 31, 2015

Challenge Complete: Super Password

I actually closed the Super Book Password Challenge back on September 1. It just wasn't getting at much participation as I had hoped for. But...since I posted two password clues for each category through the cancellation, I definitely think I can claim this as complete. Besides, I'm the challenge hostess so I can make the rules. Right? :-)
It's possible that I'll try to host this again in the future. I'll have to think about ways I might make it more attractive.

Monthly Categories and my reads:

January/February: Famous Person
Clue #1: Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B. Hughes (1/3/15)
Clue #2: A Dead Man in Istanbul by Michael Pearce (1/14/15) 
Clue #3: Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Revisited by Walter B. Gibson [adapted by] (1/20/15)
Clue #4: Pixie Tricks: The Greedy Gremlin by Tracey West (1/21/15) 
[William Shatner]

Clue #1 Death of a Tall Man by Frances & Richard Lockridge (1/31/15) 
Clue #2 Mystery! A Celebration: Stalking Public Television's Greatest Sleuths by Ron Miller (2/3/15)
Clue #3 I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America's Top Comics by Ritch Shydner & Mark Schiff (2/10/15)
Clue #4A 13 Steps Down by Ruth Rendell (2/15/15)
Clue #4B A Stitch in Time by Emma Lathen (2/17/15)
[Dick Van Dyke]

March/April: Historic Event  
Clue #1 Glenn Ford: A Life by Peter Ford (3/9/15)
Clue #2 Playground of Death by John Buxton Hilton (3/18/15) 
[Assassination of President Lincoln]

Clue #1 The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum (3/22/15) 
Clue #2 The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey (4/1/15) 
[1st use of telegraph to catch a murderer--the Crippen case]

May/June: Movie Title   
Clue #1 The Eye in the Museum by J. J. Connington (5/8/15)
Clue #2 The Great Dinosaur Robbery by David Forrest (5/15/15)
Clue #3 Bones in the Barrow by Josephine Bell (5/29/15) 
Clue #4 The Silver Leopard by Helen Reilly 
[Bringing up Baby]

Clue #1A Falling Star by Patricia Moyes (6/12/15)
Clue #1B The Diamond-Studded Typewriter by Carlton Keith (6/14/15)
Clue #2 The Riddle of the Traveling Skull by Harry Stephen Keeler (621/15) 
[Around the World in Eighty Days]

July/August: Musical Group  
Clue #1 Grammy Lamby & the Secret Handshake by Kate & M. Sarah Klise (7/3/15)
Clue #2 The Lack of the Irish by Ralph McInerny (7/11/15)
[The Chieftains]

Clue #1 Brighton Rock by Graham Greene (previous: 3/2/15) 
Clue #2 The British Invasion by Barry Miles (7/20/15)
Clue #3 Conundrums for the Long Week-End by Robert Kuhn McGregor & Ethan Lewis (8/7/15) 
[The Hollies]

October Wrap-up and P.O.M. Award

I'm enjoying another year of tracking reading progress and statistics for all things bookish on the Block. I will also be contributing to Kerrie's Crime Fiction Pick of the Month. Here's what happened here on the Block in August....
Total Books Read: 11 (gotta read more if I'm gonna finish those challenges)
Total Pages:  2,573
Average Rating: 3.27 stars
Top Rating: 5 stars 
Percentage by Female Authors: 27%
Percentage by US Authors: 45%
Percentage by non-US/non-British Authors:  18%
Percentage Mystery:  73%
Percentage Fiction: 91%
Percentage written 2000+: 18%
Percentage of Rereads: 9%
Percentage Read for Challenges: 100% {It's easy to have every book count for a challenge when you sign up for as many as I do.}  
Number of Challenges fulfilled so far: 25 (60%)

There are still way too many books that need reading for challenges and I'm still running a bit behind schedule if I'm going to get 40,000 pages done by the end of the year. And now for the P.O.M. Award in Mysteries.

As mentioned above, Kerrie had us all set up for another year of Crime Fiction Favorites. What she was looking for is our Top Mystery Read for each month. Of the eleven books read in October, eight were mysteries. Here are the mystery-related books read:

The Red Box by Rex Stout (4 stars) 
At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie (3 stars) 
Happiness Is a Warm Corpse as edited by Alfred Hitchcock (3 stars) 
The Ghost Writer by John Harwood (3 stars)  
Ax by Ed McBain (3.5 stars)  
Murder on Cue by Jane Dentinger (3 stars) 
There Hangs a Knife by Marcia Muller (3 stars) 
The Vanishing Corpse by Ellery Queen (3.5 stars)

October saw only one five-star book, Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Unfortunately, the Guide is not a mystery novel. And our only four-star winner is The Red Box by Rex Stout. It has
all the components for a delightful Wolfe and Goodwin mystery in place. Wolfe is prodded into taking on a case and Archie is in good form goading his boss and tossing off witty wisecracks. Saul Panzer and the boys see a little action, Cramer chews through a cigar or two, and a hapless assistant D.A. blusters and threatens to take away Wolfe's license. There's even a brave young heroine to root for. But I'm afraid I'm not going to hand the P.O.M. Award over to Mr. Stout. He's walked off with that prize at least twice over the past few years. No, this month's surprise winner is...

Ed McBain with Ax, the eighteenth entry in the 87th Precinct series. This was a surprise for me too because despite Sergio over at Tipping My Fedora  and his fabulous reviews, Carella and company just never sounded like my particular cup of tea. But when I came across a few of the novels in the little pocket-size editions that I love, I decided to grab them up and find a way to work them into my reading schedule. This is the first novel I've read by McBain. Rumor has it--both from Sergio and Goodreads--that this is not McBain's best work. Well, if this isn't his best....then I've certainly got some good reading ahead of me. Because I enjoyed this thoroughly. There are false clues as well as genuine clues and they are all checked in a very nice police procedural. 

Reading Event Complete: R. eaders I. mbibing P. eril


Image used with permission, property of Abigail Larson.

Ten years ago Carl V. Anderson over at Stainless Steel Droppings introduced his R.eader's I.mbibing P.eril challenge which has since morphed into an event--with more fun than competition as its goal. For its tenth anniversary he asked his friends, Andi and Heather, of the Estella Society, to host.

But the goals remained the same: reading and/or watching all things Gothic, spooky and mysterious. Categories that may be included are Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, Supernatural or other closely-related fields. 
In the past, I have added some spooking viewing to the mix, but
this year I opted for reading only.


Peril the First: Read at least four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.

1. Jewelled Eye by Douglas Clark (9/1/15)
2. Murder by Death by Henry Keating (9/2/15)
3. The Fourteen Dilemma by Hugh Pentecost (9/3/15)
4. The Stowmarket Mystery by Louis Tracy (9/5/15)
5. The Brandenburg Hotel by Pauline Glen Winslow (9/7/15)
6. The Bat Flies Low by Sax Rohmer (9/10/15)
7. The Albert Gate Mystery by Louis Tracy (9/14/15)
8. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen (9/14/15)
9. The Gay Phoenix by Michael Innes (9/15/15)
10. Some Buried Caesar by Rex Stout (9/17/15)
11. Black Alibi by Cornell Woolrich (9/23/15)
12. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (9/23/15)
13. The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl (9/25/15)
14. Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (9/28/15)
15. Death Dines Out by Theodora Du Bois (9/30/15)
16. The Red Box by Rex Stout (10/3/15)
17. At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie (10/6/15)
18. Happiness Is a Warm Corpse as edited by Alfred Hitchcock (10/7/15)
19. The Ghost Writer by John Harwood (10/16/15)
20. Ax by Ed McBain (10/21/15)
21. Murder on Cue by Jane Dentinger (10/27/15)
22. There Hangs a Knife by Marcia Muller (10/29/15)
23. The Vanishing Corpse by Ellery Queen (10/31/15)

The Vanishing Corpse: Review

My edition of Ellery Queen's The Vanishing Corpse (first published as Ellery Queen, Master Detective, 1941) has a suitably spooky cover--just right for a Halloween night review. It should be noted that the story is based on the screenplay for the film (written by Eric Taylor). The title tells it like it is. John Braun dies under mysterious circumstances and then his corpse disappears. Not once--but twice.  

Braun, owner of the Home of Health health farm; possessor of a prime example of the body beautiful, receives the shocking news that his health advice, healthy diet, and exercise routines have let him down. He has cancer and has little more than six weeks left. Braun has never had a pleasant disposition and the news does nothing for his demeanor. He calls his Home of Health team, partner, on-site doctor,  and lawyer to his bedroom suite to let them know they're all out of a job. The health farm is closing down immediately. Everything connected with it will be sold and his will has been rewritten to exclude everyone but his wife. His estranged daughter, who was still in the old one, has been written out as well. This makes Dr. Rogers (the on-site doctor) very happy. He has been in love with the daughter for quite some time and wanted to marry her, but wouldn't because Braun called him a fortune-hunter. Now he feels free to make her his wife.

After the announcement, Braun dismisses everyone, locks the main room door and goes into his bedroom (off the outer room used as an office) to rest. Little does he know that Nikki Porter, friend of his daughter, has managed to sneak into the suite while the will-changing festivities were going on and is now trapped inside. Then a phone starts ringing in the bedroom and Nikki waits for him to answer it. But he doesn't. She reasons that there must be another door and if Braun left, then she should be able to leave as well. Except he didn't leave. He's lying behind the smaller desk in the bedroom with his throat cut and no weapon in sight. 

Nikki somehow keeps herself together enough to find the key and get out of there...running into Ellery Queen in the process [they met earlier in the story and she fooled him into thinking she was Braun's daughter...that's how she wound up at the house]. He can tell she's shaken and when she explains he can also tell that she's telling the truth. She didn't do it. But if she didn't, who did? And how did they manage it with the door locked, bars at the windows, and Nikki in the anteroom? And why does someone steal the body (from right under the nose of Inspector Queen) twice?

This is a short, fast-paced, highly entertaining story full of quick-witted dialogue and banter between Ellery and Nikki. It provides an interesting locked room mystery. I do think it's fairly obvious who the murderer is--but there's enough distraction figuring out how everything was accomplished that it makes up for the quick identification. I really enjoyed the interactions between Nikki and Ellery--and the elaborate charade they went through to keep her identity from the Inspector. Lots of fun. ★★ and a half.

I haven't read as widely in the stacks of Queen novels as I have others (Christie, for instance), so I wonder if Nikki shows up in other tales? I hope so.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

There Hangs the Knife: Review

"All right," she said, "I agree that revenge has always been around and is probably here to stay. What else is fascinating about it?"

A long pause. "I'd say the consequences. They're almost always bad."

There Hangs the Knife (1988) is the second book in a trilogy by Marcia Muller which features art lover and co-owner of an art security firm, Joanna Stark. The short series revolves around her efforts to track down Anthony Parducci, a brilliant art thief who has managed to elude the authorities for years. Parducci is also Joanna's former lover and father of her son. Joanna is determined to catch the master criminal as well as deal him a hefty dose of revenge for the pain he's caused her over the years. 

This time she thinks she has the perfect plan. There have been several recent thefts of Pieter Bruegel paintings in his famous Proverbs Series. Joanna is sure that Parducci is behind the disappearances and commissions a painting that could be passed off as a recently discovered member of the series. There's no way the daring art thief will be able to resist the temptation. She calls on favors from various connections in the London art world and underworld, arranges for a member of New Scotland Yard to be prepared to aid in the capture, and her plans are set.

But when she finds an unidentified corpse in her friend's apartment and discovers her friend has disappeared with the painting, she realizes that her crarefully laid plans have gone murderously awry. The more she tries to untangle the mess, the more she realizes that revenge carries a heavy cost. She better hope it won't cost her life as well. If she stays out of danger long enough to recover the painting and spring the trap on Parducci, will revenge be as sweet as she hopes? And will she have anything of value left afterward? 

"We concluded--or at least I concluded--that revenge entails terrible costs. It diminishes one, Joanna. But I suppose our friendship was one of the costs you were prepared to pay."

Joanna reminds me a bit of Ahab. She's very single-minded in her mission--not to kill a whale, but to take down the man who hurt her and tried to destroy her life with her son. She goes through a period where it just doesn't matter whose friendship she loses and what price she has to pay. She must see Parducci behind bars. This gives the book a much darker flavor than most mysteries I read. Written in the 1980s, it definitely represents a step towards the troubled, introspective detectives that seem to flourish in current crime fiction.

After reading The Cavalier in White (first book of the series) and finding it to be a solid beginning, I had hopes that Muller would build on this foundation to provide an even better outing in book two. Despite the fact that I like the character of Joanna and this is fast-paced novel with plenty of double-dealing and double-crossing with a high-powered confrontation scene at the end, it didn't seem to me that there was much advancement in the story-telling. There is little mystery--it's quite obvious what's happened as soon as the dead man appears and the painting disappears--and the ending is obviously left open-ended so we could have the third book in the trilogy. Joanna shows some growth over the course of the novel, which is promising, and I hope that book three fulfills the promise in storytelling that I can see glimpses of in the first two. ★★ for another solid outing with interesting characters and plenty of action.

This fulfills the "Murder Method in the Title" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo Card.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Murder on Cue: Review

Murder on Cue (1983) is Jane Dentinger's debut novel in the Jocelyn "Josh" O'Roarke mystery series. Josh is an aspiring actress who hopes her diaper commercial days are soon to be behind her when she lands a job as understudy to the leading lady in what promises to be a smash Broadway play. She prepares to make the most of her small part as court recorder, but would kill for the chance to step into the part of the female prosecutor. It doesn't help that she has to watch Harriet Weldon, the temperamental star of the show, make a hash of a simply superb part.

Unfortunately, when someone decides to bring the curtain down on Harriet's performance--permanently--the police suspect that she just might have killed for that chance after all. Especially when they learn how she stepped into the role one night in Boston and owned the part...saving the show when Harriet's chronic leg pains prevent her from appearing. After doing so well, she just might not have wanted to give up the part. There is also the fact that she had a major run-in with Harriet just prior to the star's death and Josh had fully expected to be given her walking papers.

With the NYPD looking to fit her for the role of prime suspect, Josh decides to play Sherlock Holmes instead and track down the real killer herself. After all, there are plenty of other people who might have wanted Harriet dead--from the son she tries to dominate and whose friendships she tries to control to the leading man who used to be her lover to Josh's friend Austin Frost, the playwright and someone who has an inheritance stake in Harriet's death. In fact most of the cast and crew of Term of Trial, have had their run-ins with the volatile star.

Fortunately for Josh, Detective-Sergeant Phillip Gerrard who leads the investigation isn't quite as keen to jump to the obvious conclusion as he fellow officers. As he works his way through the evidence, he discovers many of the secrets that Josh's fellow actors and others in the theater would like to keep hidden. Together, Josh and Phillip finally pinpoint the killer....while discovering a few secrets to share themselves.

This was definitely written in the classic tradition. There are plenty of clues to follow up and red herrings to clear out of the path. There is a closed circle of suspects with motives simply crawling out of the woodwork. A very solid debut mystery novel at ★★.  I will definitely be on the lookout for more in this series.

Dentinger was a successful stage actress herself, debuting in Joe Papp’s production of Pericles at the Delacorte Theatre, and later appearing off Broadway in All My Sons at the Roundabout Theatre and in Jack Heifner’s Vanities. Her website tells us that "by the time Vanities finally closed, there were a lot of people she wanted to kill, and hence, she wrote her debut mystery, Murder on Cue, on a grant of sorts from the New York State Department of Labor." She uses her stage experience to good effect in the novel--giving readers an authentic look behind the scenes of a major production.

For another take on Dentinger's first mystery starring Josh O'Roarke, stop by In Search of the Classic Mystery by the Puzzle Doctor.

This counts for the "Author Never Read Before" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card and gives me two more Bingos!

The Tuesday Night Bloggers: Christie & the Art of Disguise (Spoiler Alert!)

It's Tuesday and it's time once again to gather round the table with my fellow GAD-ers* for a cozy session of The Tuesday Night Bloggers, brain-child of Curtis at The Passing Tramp. We will continue our discussions of all things Agatha Christie throughout the month of October. Noah has suggested a year's worth of authors to keep us busy in the months to follow. If you're a fan of Golden Age mysteries, we'd love to have you join in. Please check out his post (HERE) for background and details.
This week, in honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday, I'm going to take a look at Agatha Christie's use of disguises (or costumes) in some of her stories. Please know that in most cases it will be impossible to discuss the disguise in question without offering up spoilers. So--reader be warned, there be SPOILERS ahead!
While it is true that Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple were not the masters of disguise that Sherlock Holmes was and that Christie did not make the use of disguise a regular feature in her novels, there are instances of cloaked identity sprinkled throughout her work. A prime example is the novel, The Big Four, a tale of international espionage and intrigue. Poirot, Hastings, and Inspector Japp take on the the titular Big Four of super criminals--resulting in many close shave encounters for our heroes. It features, as one of the Big Four, Number Four: known as the Destroyer. The Destroyer is a master of disguise (having been an actor) and appears in multiple identities throughout the book. Poirot also takes up an alternate identity, bringing to life Achille who is purported to be his "less handsome" twin brother. Achille is just as smart as Hercule, but has a deeper voice, no marvelous mustaches, and a scar on his lip. In this same story, he and Hastings dress up in "filthy blouses" in order to remain inconspicuous.

This isn't the only time that Poirot goes about in disguise. In "The Chocolate Box" (found in
Poirot's Early Cases), he assumes the identity of a plumber to break into a house and find evidence which he believes will solve his case. In "The Lost Mine" (same collection) Poirot's client suggests (to Poirot's outrage) that they disguise themselves and investigate an opium den which seems to be a focal point in the mystery. Poirot refuses this suggestion--particularly the suggestion that he lose the mustache, but does obscure his identity enough to pretend to be a customer and overhear important information relating to the case. 
"The Adventure of the Clapham Cook" (same collection, as well as The Underdog & Other Stories) finds another criminal donning a disguise to get his way. This time the disguise is used to fool a cook into running away from her mistress without giving her notice...and leaving a crucial item behind. But Poirot sees through the costume to find a bank thief.
Mary Durrant and her aunt use a disguise in "Double Sin" (Double Sin & Other Stories) to successfully run an antiques scam...until Poirot and Hastings decide to take the same bus tour as Miss Durrant. Poirot isn't fooled at all by the description of a "tall woman, middle-aged, grey hair, blotchy complexion and a budding moustache."
Of course, one of the most interesting use of disguise by a criminal occurs in Three Act Tragedy. A rare Christie story where one can say that the butler did it. Except not really. Because the butler in question isn't really a butler at all--he is simply the murderer impersonating a butler and using the disguise to pass poison right under the nose of Poirot himself. Impersonation is useful form of disguise and it is also employed to good effect in Lord Edgeware Dies. Without someone to play her part at a dinner party, the murderess would be without an alibi.
And then there is Murder on the Orient Express with a whole train full of people--most of whom are covering their true identities, either through misdirection (the loss of one letter of a name, for instance) or with a full display of artistic talent. Christie also provides us with the "woman in the scarlet kimono" and the "small man with the womanish voice" who may have been incognito as a Wagon Lit conductor. Plenty of red herrings and disguises to fool all but the most perceptive of detectives, Hercule Poirot.

I'm sure I'm missing some costume changes in Christie. I have a recollection of Poirot as an Irishman (or some such thing) in "The Third Floor Flat," but I'm not sure if that's from the story as written or if it somehow got shoved into the televised version.  Please feel free to jog my memory in the comments.
*Golden Age Detection aficionados 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Challenge Complete: Adam's TBR Pile


Each year I join Adam from Roof Beam Reader for a round of TBR Tower Taming with his 2015 TBR Pile Challenge. I love challenges and I'm all about the ones that will help me knock out some of those stacks in my back room. We sign up to read at least 12 books (one for each month) from our TBR list. And we are allowed two alternates just in case we just can't finish a book for whatever reason. Each of these books must have been on your TBR list for AT LEAST one year. None of the books may have a publication date of 1/1/14 or later (yes, Adam will be checking).

I just finished my 12th book--eleven from the original list and one alternate--so my commitment is complete.

Here's my list:
1. The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov (pub 1951; on my TBR since 1993) [5/31/15]

2. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon (pub 1966; on my TBR since 2013) [7/8/15] 
3. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (pub 1996; on my TBR since 2010) [8/16/15] 
4. Lost Laysen by Margaret Mitchell (1st pub 1996 [written 1916]; on my TBR since 2006) [2/17/15]
5. The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle (pub 1974; on my TBR since 1999) [4/12/15]
6. Robert F. Kennedy: His Life & Death by American Heritage, eds (pub 1968; on my TBR since 1991) [4/15/15]  
7. The Humphrey Bogart Murder Case by George Baxt (pub 1995; on my TBR since at least 2011) [6/26/15]  
8. Dine and Be Dead by Gwendoline Butler [pub 1960; on my TBR since 2009] (3/29/15)
9. Who Is Lewis Pinder? by L. P. Davies (pub 1965; on my TBR since January 2014)  
10. Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home by James Tiptriee, Jr. [pub 1973; on my TBR since 1988] (1/2/15)  
11. Death in Kashmir by M. M. Kaye [pub 1953; on my TBR since 2011] (8/25/15)  
12. The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl [pub 2007; on my TBR since 2009] (9/25/15)

Alternate: 1. A Pound of Paper Confessions of a Book Addict by John Baxter (pub 2002; on my TBR since 2012) [10/24/15]

I usually try to read all twelve as well as both alternates and I may still do so....but I wouldn't bet on it this year. Too many other challenges still to finish.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Pound of Paper: Mini-Review

John Baxter's A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict is a deceptive little thing. I went in expecting a book about books and about someone with an all-consuming passion for books. Which this is...more or less. Actually more less than more. This is a far cry from 84, Charing Cross Road or The Yellow-Lighted Book both books that wonderfully represent the book lover and collector and their relationship to the printed page.

Baxter takes us on a meandering tour of his life--long, boring bit on his childhood which leads up to his discovery of science fiction which launched his love for books and his fledgling attempts at book collecting. We follow him through a bit more book collecting then we get side-tracked by movies and the theatre and collecting screenplays and whatnot. Lots of fixation on Graham Greene and Kingsley Amis and his ways and means of getting hold of autographed copies of their works. Yeah, we can tell he loves books, but it seems far more important for him to name drop all the famous people he met and got autographs from and to to tell us how much he paid (or how little, as the case may be) for spectacular first editions of tasty little literary tidbits. Which might impress me more if he didn't come across as so darn full of himself. His writing is good, but not congenial. The words flow nicely from the pen (or the keyboard...), but they don't compel the reader to keep reading. I started and stopped and started again so many times that I wondered if I were ever going to come to the end. It starts well, lags terribly in the middle 200-50 pages and ends well. I did enjoy the lists of collectible books and the responses from his literary friends to the question "What would you save if your house were on fire..." Overall--just barely decent with ★★ given for pretty prose with bursts of interesting nostalgic book-collecting instead of compelling memoir about a book lover (which is what I hoped for).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Challenge Complete: Mount TBR

I just planted my flag atop Mt. Everest in my very own Mount TBR Reading Challenge). I've been whittling away at my teetering TBR stacks and managed to read my goal of 100 books from the mountain range in my home. I've hopped in my rocket ship and am headed to Mars for an attempt at Mount Olympus, but my challenge commitment is complete.

Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s

1. Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home by James Tiptree, Jr. [on TBR since 6/10/88] (1/2/15)
2. Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B. Hughes [on TBR since 12/1/12] (1/3/15)
3. The Case of the Painted Girl by Frank King [on TBR since 10/18/14] (1/6/15)
4. Police Procedurals by Martin H. Greenberg & Bill Pronzini, eds [on TBR since 9/23/13] (1/9/15)
5. Asimov's Choice: Black Holes & Bug-Eyed Monsters by George H. Scithers, ed [on TBR since 6/1/13] (1/9/15)
6. Mother Finds a Body by Gypsy Rose Lee [on TBR since 10/3/14] (1/12/15)
7. A Dead Man in Istanbul by Michael Pearce [on TBR since 9/2/13] (1/14/15)
8. Alpha 2 by Robert Silverberg [on TBR since 12/1993] (1/18/15)
9. Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Revisited by Walter B. Gibson (adapted by) [on TBR since 6/14/14] (1/20/15)
10. Death of a Dwarf by Harold Kemp [on TBR since 5/24/15] (1/25/15)
11. Mystery! A Celebration: Stalking Public Television's Greatest Sleuths by Ron Miller [on TBR since 10/25/14] (2/3/15)
12. One Touch of Blood by Samm Sinclair Baker [on TBR since 11/10/14] (2/5/15)
Pike's Peak!
13. Death Over Deep Water by Simon Nash [on TBR since 12/31/11] (2/8/15)
14. Caught Dead in Philadelphia by Gillian Roberts [on TBR since 7/24/14] (2/11/15)
15. Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon [on TBR since 7/26/14] (2/13/15)
16. 13 Steps Down by Ruth Rendell [on TBR since 2/10/11] (2/15/15)
17. A Stitch in Time by Emma Lathen [on TBR since 3/1/12] (2/17/15)
18. Lost Laysen by Margaret Mitchell [on TBR since 2006] (2/17/15)
19. Panic by Helen McCloy [on TBR since 6/27/12] (2/22/15)
20. The Secret of Magnolia Manor by Helen Wells [on TBR since 9/23/14] (2/24/15)
21. The World's Best 100 Detective Stories Vol. 1 by Eugene Thwing, ed [on TBR since 10/25/14] (2/26/15)
22. Into the Valley by John Hersey [on TBR since 6/9/12] (2/28/15)
23. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene [on TBR since 3/1/12] (3/2/15)
24. Death & Mr. Prettyman by Kenneth Giles [on TBR since 3/18/11] (3/6/15)
Mount Blanc!
25. Top of the Heap by A. A. Fair [on TBR since 10/4/13] (3/11/15)
26. Night Train to Paris by Manning Coles [on TBR since 10/4/13] (3/14/15)
27. Playground of Death by John Buxton Hilton [on TBR since 4/10/11] (3/18/15)
28. The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum [on TBR 11/24/14] (3/22/15
29. Malice Domestic by Sara Woods [on TBR since at least 3/2011] (3/26/15)
30. Murder Fantastical by Patricia Moyes [on TBR since 9/28/12] (3/29/15)
31. Dine & Be Dead by Gwendoline Butler [on TBR since 2009] (3/29/15)
32. The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey [on TBR since 11/16/12] (4/1/15)
33. Poison Jasmine by Clyde B. Clason [on TBR since 10/4/13] (4/5/15)
34. The Murder of Sir Edmund Godfrey by John Dickson Carr [on TBR since 8/12/12] (4/8/15)
35. The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle [on TBR since 1999] (4/12/15)
36. Murder in the Wind by John D. MacDonald [on TBR since 9/28/13] (4/13/15)
Mt. Vancouver!
37. Flying to Nowhere by John Fuller [on TBR since 1/18/14] (4/14/15)
38. RFK His Life & Death by Editors of American Heritage [on TBR since May 1991] (4/15/15)
39. The Cavalier in White by Marcia Muller [on TBR since 11/13/14] (4/18/15)
40. The Wilberforce Legacy by Josephine Bell [on TBR since 12/1/12] (4/19/15)
41. The Smiler with the Knife by Nicholas Blake [on TBR since 3/15/12] (4/21/15)
42. Call for Michael Shayne by Brett Halliday [on TBR since 9/30/11] (4/22/15)
43. The Case of Colonel Marchand by E. C. R. Lorac [on TBR since 3/8/14] (4/27/15)
44. The Eye in the Museum by J. J. Connington [on TBR since 1999] (5/8/15)
45. Spock, Messiah! by Theodore R. Cogswell & Charles A. Spano, Jr. [on TBR since 1986] (5/8/15)
46. Dead Lion by John & Emery Bonett [on TBR since 3/10/12] (5/13/15)
47. The Great Dinosaur Robbery by David Forrest [on TBR since 9/22/13] (5/15/15)
48. The Three Fears by Jonathan Stagge [on TBR since 5/31/13] (5/17/15)
Mt. Ararat!
49. Strange Wine by Harlan Ellison [on TBR since 6/1/13] (5/21/15)
50. Deep Lake Mystery by Carolyn Wells [on TBR since 5/31/13] (5/25/15)
51. Bones in the Barrow by Josephine Bell [on TBR since 7/30/11] (5/29/15)
52. The Abominable Man by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö [on TBR since 3/29/12] (5/29/15)
53. The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov [on TBR since 9/17/93] (5/31/15)
54. Penny Allen & the Mystery of the Hidden Treasure by Jean McKechnie [on TBR since 3/28/14] (5/31/15)
55. Double Cross Purposes by Ronald A. Knox [on TBR since 3/22/13] (6/3/15)
56. The Line-Up by Helen Reilly [on TBR since 12/1/12] (6/8/15)
57. Falling Star by Patricia Moyes [on TBR since 4/13/13] (6/12/15)
58. The Diamond-Studded Typewriter by Carlton Keith [on TBR since 10/3/14] (6/14/15)
59. The Riddle of the Traveling Skull by Harry Stephen Keeler [on TBR since 10/4/14] (6/21/15)
60. Whisper Murder! by Vera Kelsey [on TBR since 9/28/12] (6/24/15)
Mt. Kilimanjaro!
61. The Humphrey Bogart Murder Case by George Baxt [on TBR since at least 3/5/11] (6/26/15)
62. Murder on Her Mind by Vechel Howard [on TBR since 11/11/14] (6/27/15)
63. The Turquoise Shop by Frances Crane [on TBR since 10/4/13] (7/3/15)
64. Young Mrs. Cavendish & the Kaiser's Men by K. K. Beck [on TBR since 12/28/13] (7/4/15)
65. Hand of Fate by Michael Underwood [on TBR since 9/6/14] (7/5/15)
66. The Case of the Borrowed Brunette by Erle Stanley Gardner [on TBR since 7/26/15] (7/6/15)
67. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon [on TBR since 9/1/13] (7/8/15)
68. The Crime & the Crystal by Elizabeth Ferrars [on TBR since 10/4/13] (7/9/15)
69. The Witch & the Hysteric by Alexander Doty & Patricia Clare Ingham [on TBR since 11/17/14] (7/14/15)
70. Two & Two Make Twenty-Two by Gwen Bristow & Bruce Manninng [on TBR since 5/24/14] (7/23/15)
71. Shadow of a Doubt by June Thomson [on TBR since 7/30/11] (7/27/15)
72. The Bookfair Murders by Anna Porter [on TBR since 8/7/11] (7/29/15)
73. The Penny Murders by Lionel Black [on TBR since 9/28/13] (7/31/15)
74. The Avenging Parrot by Anne Austin [on TBR since 10/3/14] (78/4/15)
75. Conundrums for the Long Weekend: England, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Lord Peter Wimsey by Robert Kuhn McGregor & Ethan Lewis [on TBR since 12/25/06] (8/7/15)
El Toro!
76. The Old Die Young by Richard Lockridge [on TBR since at least 8/2011] (8/9/15)
77. The Cases of Susan Dare by Mignon G. Eberhart [on TBR since 10/4/13] (8/10/15)
78. Antony & Cleopatra by William Shakespeare [on TBR since at least August 2011] (8/12/15)
79. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood [on TBR since 11/27/10] (8/16/15)
80. Keep Cool, Mr. Jones by Timothy Fuller [on TBR since 12/25/14] (8/24/15)
81. Death in Kashmir by M. M. Kaye [on TBR since 9/17/11] (8/25/15)
82. Glass on the Stairs by Margaret Scherf [on TBR since 9/20/13] (8/27/15)
83. Jewelled Eye by Douglas Clark [on TBR since 12/31/11] (9/1/15)
84. Murder by Death by Henry Keating [on TBR since 5/16/14] (9/2/15)
85. The Fourteen Dilemma by Hugh Pentecost [on TBR since 6/26/12] (9/3/15)
86. The Brandenburg Hotel by Pauline Glen Winslow [on TBR since 7/26/14] (9/7/15)
87. The Bat Flies Low by Sax Rohmer [on TBR since 3/29/14] (9/10/15)
88. Swing Low, Sweet Harriet by George Baxt [on TBR since 10/3/14] (9/13/15)
89. The Gay Phoenix by Michael Innes [on TBR since 9/30/11] (9/15/15)
90. Some Buried Caesar by Rex Stout [on TBR since 6/9/12] (9/17/15)
91. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss [on TBR since 8/31/13] (9/19/15)
92. Black Alibi by Cornell Woolrich [on TBR since 10/4/14] (9/23/15)
93. The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl [on TBR since 12/18/09] (9/25/15)
94. Death Dines Out by Theodora Du Bois [on TBR since 11/1/14] (9/30/15)
95. The Red Box by Rex Stout [on TBR since 3/22/13] (10/3/15)
96. At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie [on TBR since 1990s] (10/6/15)
97. Happiness Is a Warm Corpse as edited by Alfred Hitchcock [on TBR since 1/14/12] (10/1/15)
98. Paris in the Twentieth Century by Jules Verne [on TBR since 4/29/10] (10/11/15)
99. The Ghost Writer by John Harwood [on TBR since 12/17/11] (10/16/15)
100. Ax by Ed McBain [on TBR since 3/26/11] (10/21/15)
Mount Everest! Commitment Complete

Ax: Review

Ax (1964) by Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter, born October 15, 1926) is the eighteenth entry in the 87th Precinct series. It finds Steve Carella and Cotton Hawes investigating the gruesome murder of an elderly man in the basement of an apartment building.

Danny Gimp was a stool pigeon....He was a gossip supreme, his ears keenly attuned to every stray piece of information that wafted his way on the unsuspecting air. His mind was a complex of compartments and cubbyholes, each storing kernels of seemingly worthless in formation which, when evaluated, added up to a meaningful fund of knowledge. He was an expert at sifting and sorting, collating and cataloguing.... (pp. 52-53)

But can Danny's well of knowledge help Carella and Hawes answer their most pressing question: Who would want to kill an eighty-six year old building superintendent by the name of George Lasser? And if they did want to kill him, why did they think it necessary to attack him with an axe--delivering several blows before burying the hatchet (sorry, horrible cliche) in his head? 

There are several possibilities. There is the powerful, but somewhat slow-witted veteran of the Korean War who chopped wood for the victim and who well knows how to wield an ax. There is Lasser's unbalanced wife--a former actress with a paranoid schizophrenic diagnosis. There is Lasser's agoraphobic son who just might have had a motive powerful enough to overcome his fear of leaving the house. There are the habitués of the regular craps games which Lasser hosted in his basement. And then there is the source of this janitor's mysterious wealth--enough funds to allow his son to have attended an exclusive private school and his wife to be treated at an expensive mental home. 

Sergio over at Tipping My Fedora has been dangling Ed McBain in front of me for quite some time. He's been reading his way through all of the 87th Precinct novels and just recently finished #39 in the series. Despite his fabulous reviews, Carella and company just never sounded like my particular cup of tea. But when I came across a few of the novels in the little pocket-size editions that I love, I decided to grab them up and find a way to work them into my reading schedule. This is the first novel I've read by McBain. Rumor has it--both from Sergio and Goodreads--that this is not McBain's best work. Well, if this isn't his best....then I've certainly got some good reading ahead of me. Because I enjoyed this thoroughly.

And I enjoyed it in spite of  myself. The murder is rather more gruesome than I like. The talk is a bit more rough than I appreciate. But, my goodness, McBain can write! He picked me up and threw me into the story and I couldn't stop reading until I was done. I enjoyed Carella's interactions with Hawes and with Danny. I enjoyed the way Carella and Hawes worked as a team when interviewing suspects and witnesses. There are false clues as well as genuine clues and they are all checked thoroughly in a very nice police procedural.★★  and a half. I look forward to reading more of the series.

This counts for the "Out of My Comfort Zone" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card.