Monday, November 27, 2017

Death for My Beloved: Mini-Review

Death for My Beloved (originally published as Enduring Old Charms; 1947) by Doris Miles Disney is a rather sordid little inverted crime novel. Inverted crime stories aren't my all-time favorite anyway. I prefer to have it all be mysterious and to try and gather the clues and discover the answer before the author reveals all at the end. Knowing who the culprit is at the beginning takes all the fun out of it for me--even when (as Disney does) the author throws a curve ball or two into the mix.

So...Charles Orr is just a low man on the company's office totem pole when he starts paying attention to the late boss's widow. There's not much of an age difference...just 20 years or so, so of course there isn't any gossip at all about his motives in dining so often with Mrs. Harris. Amelia Harris falls head over heels in love with the handsome young man who still finds her attractive. She blushes to think that he could want to be with her...and soon she's a blushing bride. 

Whether Charles had any affection for his new wife at all doesn't really matter, because he soon realizes how little he fits into the society he's married into and he also realizes that the bloom he brought to Amelia's cheeks with his first attentions can't really hide the fact that she's so much older than he. Then the whispers start about his gold-digging ways and Amelia begins to doubt him--indulging in jealous rants whenever he pays the least attention to a woman younger than her. She begins to drink, making herself even less attractive to her younger husband. And he begins to think about what life would be like without her. Thinking leads to planning and soon events are set in motion--ending with Amelia's death. But did Charles really kill her? That's the curve ball that Disney lobs at the reader. She sets everything up like a standard inverted mystery and then brings in the element of doubt. 

Some readers may like the inverted style. And some of those readers may especially appreciate the way Disney manipulates that style. I can see that. I'm just not one of those readers. For me, the ending fell flat and, honestly, I had to skim through the middle portions just to keep moving on the story and be able to read enough of it to claim it (and it's not even a long book). No rating on this one since I didn't fully read it all.

[Finished on 11/21/17]

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Trial by Terror: Review

We imagine that people have only one reason for things they do. So often, you know, they have several. Sometimes they even have reasons which seem to contradict one another.
~Captain Heimrich

Trial by Terror (1952), which was originally published as Death by Association (under which title I read this many moons ago from the library), is the sixth book in Frances and Richard Lockridge's series featuring Captain Merton Heimrich of the New York State Police. Heimrich is a fish out of water down in Key West where he has been sent to complete his recuperation from a gunshot wound received in a previous adventure. He arrives at The Coral Isles resort along with Dr. Barclay MacDonald who is also recovering--in his case from a car accident. Close on their heels is Mary Wister, who has been sent to this resort (among others) to "do pictures" to go along with text for "a thing" that several resort hotels want to do as advertisement.

The three find themselves enmeshed in a web of mystery when Bronson Wells, famous communist denouncer, is killed. Wells is connected to a Senator Joseph McCarthy type and he may have been on the verge of denouncing a few of his fellow vacationers--such as Judge Sibley who is being considered for a U.N. appointment and who might not be considered for the appointment if he's found to have communist connections. Or Bill Olsen, the pianist, who might not get near as many engagements if Wells has negative things to say about him. Or even MacDonald--whose brother was driven to suicide because of insinuations made by Wells. Of course, they aren't the only ones who might have wanted Wells out of the way. His associate, Paul Shephard doesn't seem too happy with him and Rachel Jones, the investigative reporter who had some tense moments with Wells the night before, has mysteriously disappeared. And then there's Garcia, a local musician who knew Wells long before he was famous, long before he was actually known by the name of Wells, and who doesn't have particularly fond memories of the man who ruined his sister.

Heimrich, though out of his territory, is drawn into the case when Mary discovers Wells's body when she goes out early in the morning to make sketches for her ad campaign. She can't say exactly what made her look among the small trees that made a thick hedge along the tennis courts. She just did. And noticed a bit of a man's dinner shirt. Upon investigation, it was a man's dinner shirt. Bronson Wells's dinner shirt to be exact; stained with blood where he'd been stabbed. She runs up to the hotel to summon help and Heimrich is the first person she sees. It doesn't take long for him to determine that Wells has been dead for some time and when the local police arrive he "naturally"* assists in every way he can. His assistance causes such problems for the murderer that he is attacked in dark outside the hotel--stabbed in his wounded shoulder (naturally). But it's Heimrich's dedication to "make the character fit the crime" that finally identifies the culprit and allows him to set a trap to catch the killer.

I'm not normally a fan of mysteries that take the detective out of their normal habitat, so to speak. For example Nero Wolfe stories that take him out of the brownstone? Generally not my favorite. But this story that follows Heimrich to Florida is well done. Great descriptions of the area and the Lockridges use the political of the 1950s to great effect. They also play Heimrich's busman's holiday crime solving with just the right touch. Obviously, he's out of his jurisdiction, but he can't help but notice the characters and actions of his fellow resort guests. There are clues to be had, albeit slight and it's possible for them to slip on by with no notice, but the astute reader could get to Heimrich's solution. This--less astute--reader didn't, but it didn't mar my enjoyment. ★★★★

[Finished on 11/21/17]

*Fans of the Heimrich  stories will recognize this tribute to one of his signature phrases.

~Oh--and that cover? Not quite accurate--the hedge of trees was so thick that they had great difficulty getting to the body. She definitely couldn't step right through like that. And--I just now realize that they didn't adequately explain how the murderer got the body in there in the first place....

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Budapest Parade Murders: Review

(Francis) Van Wyck Mason spent quite a bit of time in Germany when he was young and then served in World War I as an ambulance driver when still a teenager. He later owned an importing business and traveled in Europe, Russia, the Near East, North Africa (nine weeks with his own caravan), the West Indies, Central Africa, and across Central America. His travel experiences around the world gave him the background to write his mystery/intrigue novels featuring Captain Hugh North, a smooth, capable Army Intelligence officer. The Budapest Parade Murders (1935) is the 10th in the series.

It begins on a train headed to Budapest where a huge Disarmament Conference is set to take place. Sir William Woodman, celebrated pacifist, is headed to the conference with a portmanteau full of letters and documents which he believes will prove to all the interested parties that certain businessmen and industrial leaders are maneuvering things so they can all make a bundle when nations distrust of nations leads to a grand re-arming. He's sure that all the leaders will see reason and stand down from their calls to arm themselves against their neighbors.

But somebody doesn't want Sir William to succeed and he is murdered on the train and his portmanteau stolen. Luckily, Captain Hugh North is on the train and immediately starts hunting for the culprit and the documents. He has to work his way through Russian agents, German nationals, American and British industry leaders and encounters a femme fatale or two along the way. He also has to work his way through the fine hotels and resting places of the diplomatic and social elite who have gathered in Budapest. The story combines all the intrigue of a spy thriller with a solid mystery full of traditional clues and red herrings. I have to say that I didn't expect that particular denouement.... 

This was my first experience with Mason and his Captain North series and I'm glad to say that I've got a few more of his adventures waiting on my TBR pile. This struck just the right balance between spy thriller and traditional mystery--lots of action and lots of clues. ★★★ and 1/2

[Finished on 11/18/17]

Friday Quote Memes

A little late to the party this week...but it's still Friday! Yay me--two weeks in a row. let's make this a habit, shall we?

BookBeginnings on Friday is a bookish meme sponsored by Rose City Reader. Here's what you do: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments section. Include the title and author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you are so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line and if you did or did not like that sentence. Link up each week at Gilion's place.

Here are the two first lines from The Christmas Murder (aka An English Murder) by Cyruk Hare (1951): 

Warbeck Hall is reputed to be the oldest inhabited house in Markshire. The muniment room in the northeastern angle is probably its oldest part; it is certainly the coldest.


The Friday 56 is a bookish meme sponsored by Freda's Voice. It is really easy to participate. Just grab a book, any book, and turn to page 56. Find a sentence that grabs you and post it.
Here is the mine from The Christmas Murder: 
  "Heavens, man don't you know digestive tablets when you see them?"

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday Quote Memes

It has been forever since I participated in any bookish memes and I miss it. I still haven't figured out what happened with my time. I don't feel like I'm busier than when I first started blogging....But anyway, here we go. We'll see if I can keep it up weekly.

BookBeginnings on Friday is a bookish meme sponsored by Rose City Reader. Here's what you do: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments section. Include the title and author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you are so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line and if you did or did not like that sentence. Link up each week at Gilion's place.

Here are the two first lines from The Budapest Parade Murders by Van Wyck Mason (1935): 

The passport controller saluted vaguely and, with a final official clank of his saber, departed through the first-class compartment's sliding door. Sighing, Major Bruce Kilgour, D.S.O., M.C., extended an amazing length of tweed-clad legs and moodily regarded his rubber-cleated oxfords.



The Friday 56 is a bookish meme sponsored by Freda's Voice. It is really easy to participate. Just grab a book, any book, and turn to page 56. Find a sentence that grabs you and post it.
Here is the mine from The Budapest Parade Murders: 
  "Oh, dear, I at least expected soemthing that would--" she smiled faintly--"that would make governments totter. That's the usual phrase, I believe?"

Thursday, November 16, 2017

2017 Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

Michelle of Seasons of Reading is once again sponsoring her Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge. In short, the challenge runs from November 20, 2017 through January 6, 2018. The books read must be Christmassy in nature--novels, short stories, books of poem, etc.
There are various levels:
--Candy Cane: read 1 book
--Mistletoe: read 2-4 books
--Christmas Tree: read 5 or 6 books (this is the fanatic level...LOL!)

Additional levels:
--Fa La La La Films: watch a bunch or a few Christmas's up to you!
--Visions of Sugar Plums: read books with your children this season and share what you read

*the additional levels are optional, you still must complete one of the main reading levels above

For more details and to sign up, please click the link above.

As usual, I am signing up for the Mistletoe level.

1. The Christmas Murder by Cyril Hare (11/25/17)
1.5. Murder in Ordinary Time by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie (11/29/17) This book fooled me--it advertises itself as a "Christmas" mystery with its cover photo and the mention of Christmas cookies on the back--but it takes place in January.
2. Crime for Christmas by Richard Dalby, ed. (12/3/17)
3. Mistletoe & Mayhem by Richard Dalby, ed. (12/8/17)
4. The Corpse in the Snowman by Nicholas Blake (12/20/17)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Alphabet Soup: A-Z Reading Challenge

January 1, 2018 – December 31, 2018

The Alphabet Soup Challenge means that by December 31, 2018
your bowls must be full of one book for each letter of the Alphabet.
Each Letter Counts As 1 Spoonful

Basic Details
You can join anytime.  You do not have to review the book.
For those pesky Q, X AND Z titles the word that starts with the challenge letter can be anywhere in the title.

For full details and to sign up, click on the link above.

List of possible books--will confirm as I go:

A: Act One, Scene One by A. H. Richardson (1/30/18)
B: Beverly Gray's Secret by Clair Blank (2/13/17)
C: Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay (1/11/18)
D: (The) Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (2/14/18)
E: Enter a Murderer by Ngaio Marsh (2/7/18)
G: Green for a Grave by Manning Lee Stokes (3/13/18)
H: (The) Hound of the Baskervilles [Illustrated Classic] by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (4/11/18)
I: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (8/5/18)
J: Just Around the Coroner by Stuart Brock (12/1/18)
K: (The) Killing Strike by John Creasey (10/28/18)
L: Lament for a Lady Laird by Margot Arnold (2/3/18)
M: Murder at Midnight by C. S. Challinor (7/23/18)
N: (The) Nursing Home Murder by Ngaio Marsh (3/10/18)
O: Odor of Violets by Baynard Kendrick
P: Partners in Wonder by Harlan Ellison [& others] (1/19/18)
R: Red Warning by Virgil Markham (1/25/18)
S: (The) Sign of the Book by John Dunning (3/23/18)
T: Table D'Hote by Douglas Clark (11/14/18)
U: Untidy Murder by Frances & Richard Lockridge (5/9/18)
V: Vow of Penance  by Veronica Black (4/11/18)
W: World's Best Science Fiction: 1966 by Donald A. Wollheim & Terry Carr, eds (1/9/18)
X:  Station X: Decoding Nazi Secrets by Michael Smith (8/10/18)
Y:  (The) Yellow Fairy Book by Andrew Lang [ed by Brian Alderson] (7/25/18)
Z:  (The) Zero Trap by Paula Gosling (4/8/18)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Deal Me In: Catch-Up Post

I'm really struggling to stay on track with Jay's 7th annual Deal Me In Challenge. So, here I am again playing catch-up on my stories.

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Week #40 gave me the three of hearts which matched up to "The Age of Miracles" by Melville Davisson Post: a story which features Post's colorful American sleuth Uncle Abner. Here Uncle Abner saves a young woman from being cheated out of her inheritance by a man using the law to do so.

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In Week #41, I drew the eight of hearts which gave me "The Little Dry Sticks" by Cora Jarrett. A reporter accompanies his host Danby to visit a female friend who wants advice about her property. They arrive to find that the woman's husband has been murdered while they made they chilly way to the house and Mrs. Elderson was showing them the area of property in question. A key phrase by Danby leads the reporter and the police to the culprit.

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Next up in Week #42 was the Queen of Diamonds or "The Locked Room" by John Dickson Carr. Carr is well-known as the master of locked rooms and impossible crimes. This one involves the attempted murder of Francis Seton--hit over the head with a piece of lead-loaded broomhandle and his safe robbed while his secretary and librarian sat outside the only door and the window was locked.

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Week #43 the Ten of Spades "Mount Olympus" by Ben Bova: This is a story about two men who are the first to land on top of the tallest mountain on Mars. What begins as a quest to get their names in the record books becomes a struggle for survival--nobody told them that the carbon dioxide that makes up so much of the atmosphere will freeze on the cold, bare rock, covering it with a dangerous invisible layer of dry ice. They learn much about Mars, but even more about themselves as they have to work together to get back to their ship.

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Week #44 the Four of Hearts "The Witness for the Prosecution" by Agatha Christie. This is Christie's premier courtroom drama. Leonard Vole is accused of murdering an old woman who took him under his wing, but his wife can prove he didn't do it. Or can she? And better yet--if she can, will she?

Hound of the Baskervilles cards!

Week #45 gave me the Five of Hearts and "The  Hound" by William Faulkner. "The Hound" is a grim tale of crime and guilt, not unlike Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart"--only this time Ernest Cotton, a "mild man" driven to murder by bitterness, rage, and fear, is hounded by the victim's dog...

[All but one of the above stories may be found in Murder by Experts by Ellery Queen, ed.' the Ben Bova story may be found in The Year's Best Science Fiction 17th Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois, ed.]

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Week #46 King of Spades: "A Hero of the Empire" by Robert Silverberg is an Alternate History story set in a world where the Roman Empire never fell. Here, a  Roman nobleman is sent as punishment to a remote corner of the Empire--to a city we might recognize in our timeline as Mecca. And we learn how history can sometimes be made or unmade through a chance meeting.

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And now in Week #47, I have drawn the Jack of Diamonds which is "Son Observe the Time" by Kage Baker. A time travel story set in the world of The Company--a group, one of whose functions is to travel to periods of destruction in the history of mankind and salvage works of art and other irreplaceable objects from the wreckage. This particular episode takes us to the days and hours leading up to the great San Francisco Earthquake.

[The last two stories may be found in The Year's Best Science Fiction 17th Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois, ed.]

Challenge Complete: My Kind of Mystery Challenge

February 1, 2017 – January 31, 2018
Carolyn at Riedel Fascination is tempting us again with her My Kind of Mystery Challenge. And of course I'm joining--Because you know I have a thing for mysteries. Her mystery challenge allows for all sorts of mystery-related reading from crime novels to true crime; from author biographies to writing tips for wanna-be authors. If it's related to mysteries, it counts. She has made a few adjustments to the challenge rules, so there are more details to be found...check them out at the link above.

Even though Carolyn didn't require a commitment to participate--and doesn't list challenge levels this year as she has in the past, as a personal challenge I'm set my sights on the "Invisible Floor" level (41-70 mysteries) from previous years again in 2017.  I passed that up quite a while ago and have now completed 110 mysteries. I'm sure there will be more mysteries before the end of the year, but I'm claiming the challenge as done and focusing on getting myself up Mount TBR--I'm hoping to reach the top of Mount Olympus this year.
Thanks to Carolyn for hosting this one!

Here is my list of books read:
1. Death Takes a Bow by Frances & Richard Lockridge (2/5/17)
2. All for the Love of a Lady by Leslie Ford (2/9/17)
3. Spice Island Mystery by Betty Cavanna (2/10/17)
4. Deception Island by M. K. Lorens (2/13/17)
5. The Thursday Turkey Murders by Craig Rice (2/13/17)
6.  Episode of the Wandering Knife by Mary Roberts Rinehart (2/17/17)
7.  A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion by Ron Hansen (2/18/17)
8. Zadok's Treasure by Margot Arnold (2/22/17)
9. Search for a Scientist by Charles Leonard (2/24/17)
10. Death in the Wrong Room by Anthony Gilbert (2/27/17)
11. The Body Missed the Boat by Jack Iams (3/6/17)
12. Thrilling Stories of the Railway by Victor L Whitechurch (3/9/17)
13. Murder at Government House by Elspeth Huxley (3/13/17)
14. Miss Christie Regrets by Guy Fraser-Sampson (3/15/17)
15. Dread & Water by Douglas Clark (3/15/17)
16. Trixie Belden & the Gatehouse Mystery by Julie Campbell (3/16/17)
17. The Green Turtle Mystery by Ellery Queen, Jr. (3/19/17)
18. Fit to Kill by Hans C. Owen (3/22/17)
19. Silence Observed by Michael Innes (3/28/17)
20. Nun Plussed by Monica Quill (3/30/17)
21. Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-Fifth Street by William S. Baring-Gould (4/4/17)
22. I Could Murder Her by E. C. R. Lorac (4/7/17)
23. A Grave Case of Murder by Roger Bax (4/10/17)
24. Murder Comes First by Frances & Richard Lockridge (4/11/17)
25. Stroke of Death by Josephine Bell (4/12/17)
26. Coffin's Dark Number by Gwendoline Butler (4/16/17)
27. They Tell No Tales by Manning Coles (4/19/17)
28. Death With Blue Ribbon by Leo Bruce (4/20/17)
29. Who Is the Next? by Henry Kitchell Webster (4/24/17)
30. Grounds for Murder by Kate Kingsbury (4/26/17)
31. The Fennister Affair by Josephine Bell (4/28/17)
32. The Vanishing Violinist by Sara Hoskinson Frommer (4/30/17)
33. Storm Center by Douglas Clark (5/1/17)
34. The Polka Dot Nude by Joan Smith (5/2/17)
35. The Invisible Intruder by Carolyn Keene (5/4/17)
36. The Shivering Sands by Victoria Holt (5/6/17)
37. Murder at Teatime by Stefanie Matteson (5/9/17)
38. Blind Man With a Pistol by Chester Himes (5/10/17)
39. Death Cracks a Bottle by Kenneth Giles (5/13/17)
40. The Mystery of the Talking Skull by Robert Arthur (5/13/17)
41. Murder in Mount Holly by Paul Theroux (5/15/17)
42. Deadly Nightshade by Elizabeth Daly (5/19/17)
43. The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Payton (5/23/17)
44. Decision at Delphi by Helen MacInnes (5/28/17)
45. If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O by Sharyn McCrumb (5/29/17)
46. The Case of the Seven Sneezes by Anthony Boucher (5/31/17)
47. Where There's Smoke by Stewart Sterling (6/4/17)
48. Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon (6/11/17)
49. Death Finds a Foothold by Glyn Carr (6/14/17)
50. The Ghost & the Dead Deb by Alice Kimberly (6/16/17)
51. Deed Without a Name by Dorothy Bowers (6/18/17)
52. The Wailing Siren Mystery by Franklin W. Dixon (6/18/17)
53. The Secret of the Wooden Lady by Carolyn Keene (6/19/17)
54. Publish & Perish by Sally Wright (6/22/17)
55. Mink Is for a Minx by Leo Margulies, ed (6/23/17)
56. Tree House Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner (6/23/17)
57. Frame Work by Anne G. Faigen (6/26/17)
58. The Arctic Patrol Mystery by Franklin W. Dixon (6/26/17)
59. The Killing of Katie Steelstock by Michael Gilbert (6/30/17)
60. Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly (7/7/17)
61. Death Before Bedtime by Edgar Box (7/9/17)
62  Murder in Little Shendon by A. H. Richardson (7/13/17)
63. Quick Curtain by Alan Melville (7/14/17)
64. Juliet Dies Twice by Lange Lewis (7/17/17)
65. The Barker Street Regulars by Susan Conant (7/20/17)
66. Room for Murder by Doris Miles Disney (7/22/17)
67. Your Turn, Mr. Moto by John P. Marquand (7/25/17)
68. Lie of the Needle by Cate Price (7/28/17)
69. The Mirror Crack'd by Agatha Christie (7/29/17)
70. Murderer's Choice by Anna Mary Wells (7/29/17)
71. Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan L. Howard (7/30/17)
72. The Big Grouse by Douglas Clark (8/4/17)
73. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy (8/8/17)
74. The Happy Valley Mystery by Kathryn Kenny (8/16/17)
75. Best Max Carrados Detective Stories by Ernest Bramah (8/17/17)
76. What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! by Agatha Christie (8/18/17)
77. Every Second Thursday by Emma Page (8/20/17)
78. Salt Is Leaving by J. B. Priestley (8/22/17)
79. Dead as a Dummy by Geoffrey Homes (8/26/17)
80. Honeybath's Haven by Michael Innes (8/29/17)
81. Murder Is Served by Frances & Richard Lockridge (8/30/17)
82. Natural Suspect by William Bernhardt et al (8/31/17)
83. The Far Traveller by Manning Coles (9/2/17)
84. Let Dead Enough Alone by Frances & Richard Lockridge (9/3/17)
85. The Title Is Murder by Hugh Lawrence Nelson (9/5/17)
86. Case With No Conclusion by Leo Bruce (9/9/17)
87. Coffin from the Past by Gwendoline Butler (9/11/17)
88. McGarr at the Dublin Horse Show by Bartholomew Gill (9/13/17)
89. The Menehune Murders by Margot Arnold (9/16/17)
90. The World's Best 100 Detective Stories Vol 7 by Eugene Thwing (9/19/17)
91. My House Gathers Desires by Adam McOmber (9/19/17)
92. The Gloved Hand by Leigh Bryson (9/21/17)
93. Mr. & Mrs. North & the Poisoned Playboy by Frances & Richard Lockridge (9/23/17)
94. The Small World of Murder by Elizabeth Ferrars (9/25/17)
95. Journey's End by Evelyn Berckman (9/25/17)
96. Stag Dinner Death by John Penn (9/26/17)
97. To Wake the Dead by John Dickson Carr (9/30/17)
98. Night Walk by Elizabeth Daly (10/3/17)
99. Sherlock Holmes & Mr. Mac by Gary Lovisi (10/8/17)
100. Death in the Doll's House by Hannah Lees & Lawrence Blochman (10/9/17)
101. The Sound of Murder by John & Emery Bonett (10/11/17)
102. Case with Three Husbands by Margaret Erskine (10/15/17)
103. Casebook of the Black Widowers by Isaac Asimov (10/20/17)
104. Ghost of a Chance by Kelley Roos  (10/28/17)
105. Fire Will Freeze by Margaret Millar (10/29/17)
106. Blue Ice by Hammond Innes (10/31/17)
107. Penelope Passes or Why Did She Die? by Joan Coggin (11/4/17)
108. Murder at Beechlands by Maureen Sarsfield (11/7/17)
109. Maniac Rendezvous by Marc Brandel (11/9/17)
110. Murder by Experts by Ellery Queen (11/13/17)