Monday, July 30, 2018

Women Sleuths: Review

Women Sleuths (1985), edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Bill Pronzini, features three novellas from the 1930s and one first published in 1985. It is the first in a five-volume series of Academy Chicago anthologies*.  I enjoyed this small collection even though two out of the three (Eberhart & Woolrich) were rereads for me. In fact, I just read "The Book That Squealed" this year in Rear Window, a collection of pre-1969 Woolrich stories. It was definietly nice to see the women take center stage in all of these. My favorite of the four novellas is "The Book That Squealed." ★★ for the collection.

"The Toys of Death" by GDH & Margaret Cole: When her son James (a private detective) has to run off to France, Mrs. Warrender, an elderly sleuth, is pulled into the puzzling case of Crampton Pleydell's death. It's first thought to be suicide, but then suspicion falls on an innocent man and Mrs. Warrender gets curious--especially when she finds out that Pleydell liked to make replicas of Renaissance glass baubles containing poison. A different sort of justice prevails in the end.

"The Calico Dog" by Mignon Eberhart: A woman who knows Christabel (from an earlier story) asks Susan Dare to help her decide between two men who claim to be her long-lost son. Derek Lasher disappeared when he was four years old--apparently kidnapped by his nursemaid. Now that Idabelle Lasher's husband has died leaving behind 30 million dollars, Dixon and Duane have each arrived with plausible stories and memories that only Derek could have. Will the real Derek Lasher please stand up? Murder and theft take place before Susan can get to the bottom of it.

"The Book That Squealed" by Cornell Woolrich: [adapted for radio on Suspense in 1945 as "Library Book" with Myrna Loy!--found HERE on youtube.] A rather uptight librarian finds herself in the middle of a mysterious adventure when a best-seller (please hear that with all of Prudence's disapproval) is returned to the library with pages missing. Though she disapproves of trashy best-sellers, she disapproves of book vandalism even more. Her determination to hunt down the culprit leads her into much bigger things.

"The Broken Men" By Marcia Muller: Sharon McCone is hired as a body guard for two famous performers at a clown festival. One of them comes up missing and a body is found wearing his costume--but it's definitely not him. Who is the man in the costume? Was he killed by mistake? Where is the missing clown? McCone will have to answer these questions and more in this solid detective story from the 1980s with ties to more classic plot lines.

[Finished on 7/21/18]

This particular collection has also been reviewed by Curtis over at The Passing Tramp and John at Pretty Sinister Books has given a very good review of all of the Mrs. Warrender stories (collected in Mrs. Warrender's Profession).

*I have also read the 2nd and 4th books, Police Procedurals (Greenberg & Pronzini, eds) and Great British Detectives  (Greenberg & Edward D Hoch, eds).

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