Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Unholy Dying

I am not a policeman but as an avid reader of detective stories, I don't want anyone to be wrongly suspected if I can help it. [Professor John Stubbs; p. 36]

Unholy Dying (1945) is the first of a series of mysteries featuring Professor John Stubbs, the larger-than-life botanist-cum-amateur sleuth, by R. T. Campbell. This initial outing is told primarily from the point of view of Stubbs' "Watson," his nephew Andrew Blake. Blake, who earns his keep selling "culture" pieces to the Daily Courier newspaper, has joined Stubbs at a formal Congress of geneticists where he is expected to come up with interesting stories on such things as blood groups and taste tests. But soon something far more exciting than genetic presentations happens.

Dr. Ian Porter, a vastly unpopular scientist who is well-known for stealing the ideas of others, is found dead from cyanide poisoning in the middle of the taste-testing exhibit. Pretty much everyone who ever met the man disliked him and had a motive to murder him--from Dr. Stubbs himself to Porter's unfortunate assistants to fellow scientists in his field and even Blake has the police's interest as a suspect. Ever the knight-errant, Blake had taken a swipe at Porter the evening before when the scientist pushed his unwanted attentions on one of his students, the lovely Mary Lewis. 

Mary, of course, is also a suspect having had to fend off such advances repeatedly with more and more evident dislike. Her current beau, Dr. Peter Hatton naturally hates Porter for making Mary's life so uncomfortable. There is also the American Dr. Swartz who has even more reason to hate Porter. While in the States, Porter had snagged the affections of the girl Swartz loved and then promptly dropped her like a hot potato when she found herself "in trouble." She couldn't bear the heartache and dishonor and shot herself. And finally, there is Dr. Silver, Porter's right-hand man. Silver claims to be devastated and to have been Porter's only friend--but he was also in the position to have had the most intellectual property stolen.

The police in the form of Inspector Hargrave provide the foil for Professor Stubbs' efforts at amateur detecting. In fact, Hargrave makes a pretty poor showing for the official force, repeatedly wanting to arrest people on the slimmest of suspicion. Fortunately, Stubbs is digging up honest-to-goodness clues and is able to lay a trap that will catch the real villain of the piece.

So...my reading log tells me that I read this once back in the mists of time, but I honestly don't remember a thing about the book. Which is actually a good thing--I got to approach this absolutely delightful and funny mystery as if I were reading it for the very first time. I love collecting good quotes from the books I read but I would be copying whole pages at a time if I tried doing that with this one. But I will give a small selection at the end of the review. 

Stubbs is a wonderful character. I can't imagine wanting to long be in the same room as a man described at various times as everything from an elephant to a tank and noted for hooting, shouting, rumbling, and "whispering" in one's ear loud enough to make the teeth rattle. But he is great fun on paper. Campbell's character descriptions in general are quite vivid and interesting. And his plotting was well done for a first attempt at mysteries. Most enjoyable.★★★★ and 1/2.

Deaths = 4 (three poisoned; one shot)

Conversation in this car was an impossibility. All one could do was to hang on to the sides and hope for the best, thanking God that there was no boom to swing over suddenly and catch you a crack on the head when Uncle John brought her to, rather too suddenly. (p. 4)

Uncle John concentrated on his driving with the grim concentration of a chess player.  I have an idea that he really is rather frightened of it, but is determined that he will show it who is the master.  His idea of showing it consists of driving as fast as he can and braking just in time to avoid disaster. (Ibid.)

In a pub like this you should never get anything with a French name, it only covers the fact they are using up the things that were left over from yesterday. (Professor John Stubbs; p. 5)

[after a mini-lecture from Peter Hatton on genes and how everything we are is due to bits and pieces we've inherited from our parents and other ancestors...back to the primordial goo unless one is a mutant (freak)] I did not like to think that if I had any individuality it was the result of my being a freak and I told him so and he went on to wound my vanity even further by telling me that, after all, I was only something frothed up around an egg, by that egg in order to guarantee its continued existence. Having reduced me to the level of a milk-shake, I wondered whether the hot tea would not melt the froth but decided I would risk it. (p. 7)

I thought the whole affair was developing into a melodrama and, while I can stand my melodrama on the stage or in one of my favourite gothic novels, I do not feel comfortable when I am, however remotely, mixed up in it.... (p. 9)

[the janitor--when the police arrive after the murder] "Is one of you gentleman, Mr. Blake? Did you ring up for the police?" I assured him that I had indeed telephoned the police and his face cleared a little; anything, I could see, was better than that he should be the victim of a practical joker. (p. 28)

Like one of those crocodiles in which schoolgirls enjoy their ration of fresh air, we followed him. First came my uncle and Professor Silver, then Dr. Swartz and myself, his assistants, and Mary and Peter. One of the detectives walked at the tail of this procession, as if to see that none of us evaporated in the journey. (p. 29)

I think we'll go back to the White Lion. No one can interrupt us there, and you can give me a full list of your  indiscretions and misstatements, for I've no doubt but that you've been tyin' yourself  up in a net under the impression that you makin' things sound better. (Stubbs; p. 34)

Don't be afraid to tell me anythin' you like. I don't mind if one of you did murder Porter, but if you did  I hope you managed it in such a way that you won't be found out. [Stubbs; p. 36]

Now, then, I'll  make a list of everyone that we know about at present, just to see who had the opportunity, motive and so on to murder Porter. I'll put myself at the top of the list so that no one can say that I'me being unfair. This business of making a list is common to many of the best detective stories, so I don't see why we should not follow their examples, do you? [Stubbs; p. 39]

Well, I don't know what you think, but for the present I'd like to keep our friend X out of it. He's such a strange chap, and he only appears in the worst detective stories when the author cannot hink of a way in which to link up one of the suspects with the murder, havin' provided him with too good an alibi. [Stubbs; p. 40]

I want to relax. And I relax best when I am reading. [Stubbs; p. 42]

I may tell you that I wouldn't bother to find Porter's murderer if he had not done his murder in such a way as to spread suspicion among several people, and general suspicion clings to the innocent no less than to the guilty if we can't prove the guilt of one person. [Stubbs; p. 45]

I told [the reporter from the Courier] that I was going to write up my notes on the [tasting and blood grouping] demonstration and he seemed to think they would make a popular article and one that would be of educational value as well, for the Courier liked even its murders cultural. The murder of a scientist among scientists would receive far more notice than the murder of a grocer by common burglars. [pp. 45-6]

Inspector Hargrave looked at him with the sympathy which one gives to an unfortunate lunatic who gives no real reason for certification, and Dr. Flanagan shook his head with the air of having known John Stubbs for a long time but of having rarely seen him as eccentric as he was now. [p. 51]

There's you reason for the murder takin' place at this congress. It's the opposite of the sealed room mystery, anyone could have done it and the murderer was trustin' to the fact of Porter's unpopularity to spread suspicion as widely as possible. [p. 66]

I've been readin' about murders, the most impossible murders, the more impossible the better, for donkey's years, and now I have a good plain murder dumped down under my nose with plenty of nice suspects, and I wan to be clever about it. I would like a murder of a man in a sealed room, so the only murder I get is the opposite of that. A man in a room to which about twelve hundred people have had free access. [Stubbs; p. 74]

Mystery Reporter's Challenge 2020

Sponsored by Ellie at Dead Herring 
Thru Goodreads Group: The Challenge Factory

The challenge runs from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.

Who? What? Where? When? How?
Why? – because it’s fun to read!

Cub reporter: 5 books (1 from each category) [Finished 1/31/20]
Columnist: 10 books (2 from each category) [Finished 2/20/20]
News Anchor: 15 books (3 from each category)
Editor: 20 books (4 from each category)
Newspaper Mogul: 25 books (5 from each category)

BONUS CATEGORY: Pulitzer Prize Winner
(Newspaper Mogul plus Bonus Category) = 30 books

I'm back for another round! I'm going to go for News Anchor as my official goal this year and hope to do them all again.

Protagonist is in the medical profession: Deep Lay the Dead by Frederick C. Davis (2/14/20)
Protagonist works with animals
Protagonist is writing a book
Protagonist is happily married
Protagonist is a male: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (1/15/20)

Title is 1 word
Title is at least 6 words: The Death of a Joyce Scholar by Bartholomew Gill (1/31/20)
Title starts with a vowel (Not the word ‘A’): Information Received by E. R. Punshon (2/6/20)
An event in the title (example=Wedding Bell Blues)
Any measurement in the title (example=inch, minute, mile, cup, quarter, etc)

Set in a beach town
Set in a big city: Murder on the Waterfront by Michael Jahn (1/20/20)
Set on an island: Curtain for a Jester by Frances & Richard Lockridge [Manhattan Island] (4/3/20)
Set in a state beginning with the letter ‘M’: The Crying Sisters by Mabel Seeley [Minnesota]
Set on foreign soil (NOT America or England): Death in Kenya by M. M. Kaye (2/20/20)

Set in the 1900s: Spin Your Web, Lady! by Frances & Richard Lockridge (2/8/20)
Set in the 1800s
Set in the future (2021 or beyond)
Set during a storm
Set during summer: The Haunted Pool by Phyllis A. Whitney (1/3/20)

(Method of Murder)
Poison: Good Luck to Corpse by Max Murray (3/30/20)
Drowning: The Big Four by Agatha Christie (2/27/20)
Gun/shooting: The Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson (1/26/20)
Blunt object: Red Threads by Rex Stout (2/14/20)
Accident: The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers (1/28/20)

WHO – Not your typical protagonist (deaf, blind, wheelchair-bound, ADHD, Aspergers, etc.)
WHAT – The protagonist’s first name starts with your first or last initial
WHERE – Set in a hotel: Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers (1/13/20)
WHEN – Whole book takes place within a week: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1/9/20)
HOW – Mistaken identity – wrong person killed

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Deal Me In Reading Challenge

In 2017, I joined in on Jay's Deal Me In Challenge for the first time and after a year off I've decided to do another round. If you'd like to join in please click the link for a full run-down. Here's the short version of the rules:

~Compile a list of 52 short stories
~Match each story to a card from a regular deck of cards
~Have a deck of cards handy throughout the year
~Read one short story per week
~Choose your weekly story by drawing a new card from the deck. I plan to draw my card on Sunday.

Image credit
Clubs (all but King from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine July 1958
A: "Hunting Day" by Hugh Pentecost
2: "Investigation by Telegram" by Agatha Christie
3: "The Silent Informer" by Helen McCloy
4: "The Man Who Lost His Taste" by Lawrence G. Blochman
5: "Dead Boys Don't Remember" by Frances & Richard Lockridge
6: "Lioness vs. Panther" by Q. Patrick
7: "Tea Shop Assassin" by Michael Gilbert
8: "Chicago Nights' Entertainments" by Ben Hecht (1/19/20)
9: "An Official Position" by W. Somerset Maugham (1/10/20)
10: "Wanted: An Accomplice" by Frederick Nebel
J: "For Tom's Sake" by Sheila Kaye-Smith
Q: "Carnival Day" by Nedra Tyre
K: "How Mr. Hogan Robbed a Bank" by John Steinbeck (from Ellery Queen's Anthology 1966 Mid-Year Edition (Vol. 11)

Bonus Read (to complete the 1958 magazine):
Nothing Is Impossible by Clayton Rawson (novelette)

image credit

(All but King from Ellery Queen's Anthology 1966 Mid-Year Edition (Vol. 11)
A: "You Can't Love Two Woment" by L. A. G. Strong
2: "I Killed John Harrington" by Thomas Walsh
3: "The Grave Grass Quivers" by MacKinlay Kantor
4. "The Crime by the River" by Edmund Crispin
5: "£5000 for a Confession" by L. J. Beeston
6: "Karmesin & the Crown Jewels" by Gerald Kersh
7: "Black Mail" by Stephen McKenna
8: "Murder on St. Valentine's Day" by Mignon G. Eberhart (2/11/20)
9: "A Piece of String" by Clarence Budington Kelland
10: "The Tragedy of Papa Ponsard" by Vincent Starrett (2/4/20)
J: "The Silver Curtain" by John Dickson Carr (2/4/20)
Q: "Bride in Danger" by Ellery Queen (2/26/20)
K: "Angel Fix" by James Tiptree, Jr. (from Out of the Everywhere & Other Extraordinary Visions by Tiptree)

Bonus stories (to complete the anthology):
All at Once, No Alice by Cornell Woolrich (short novel)
The Girl Who Lived Dangerously by Hugh Pentecost (short novel)
The Clue of the Scattered Rubies by Earl Stanley Gardner (novelette)
Blind Man's Bluff by Roy Vickers (novelette)
That Was Will's Day by Aaron Marc Stein (novelette)
Taboo by Geoffrey Household (noveletre)

image credit

Hearts (from Out of the Everywhere by Tiptree and 6 X H by Robert A. Heinlein)
A: "Beaver Tears" by Tiptree
2: "Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light" by Tiptree
3: "The Screwfly Solution" by Tiptree
4: "Time-Sharing Angel" by Tiptree
5: "We Who Stole the Dream" by Tiptree
6: "Slow Music" by Tiptree
7: "A Source of Innocent Merriment" by Tiptree
8: "Out of the Everywhere" by Tiptree
9: "With Delicate Mad Hands" by Tiptree
10: "The Man Who Traveled in Elephants" by Robert A Heinlein (2/11/20)
J: ""All You Zombies"by Heinlein
Q:"They" by Heinlein"
K: "Our Fair City" by Heinlein

Bonus reads (to finish the book): "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" (novella)  and "And He Built a Crooked House" by Heinlein 

Diamonds (from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine October 1965)
A: "Flair for Murder" by Frances & Richard Lockridge
2: "The Three R's" by Ellery Queen
3: "The Japanese Card Mystery" by James Holding
4: "Baskets of Apples & Roses" by Victor Canning
5: "The Cherub Vase" by Alice Scanlan Reach
6: "The Labor Day Mystery" by Lloyd Biggle, Jr. 
7: "Jericho & the Dying Clue" by Hugh Pentecost (1/26/20)
8: "Want to Buy a Cat?" by Gerald Kersh
9: "The Course of Justice" by Hugh B. Cave
10: "The Great Glockenspiel Gimmick" by Arthur Moore
J: "The Theft of the Black Jupiter" by Margaret Austin
Q: "Devil to Pay" by J. F. Pierce
K: "The Sound of the Peepers" by Caroline Breedlove

Bonus stories (to finish the magazine): 
"The Right Way & the Wrong" by Sonora Morrow
Not Easy to Kill by Philip Wylie (complete short novel)

2020 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

When the 2020 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge first came out, I resisted the temptation because I had this silly idea that I would limit my challenges to only 20 in 2020. Well...that thought has now gone out the window and I've decided to give in....

For some reason, the graphic above appears much bigger on his site than it does here. He also has links to spreadsheets and downloadable lists to make following the categories easier. So, click on the link above for more info.

I'm going to sign up for the Baker's Dozen (13 books). I may do more, but my commitment will be met at 13.

1. Mystery of the Haunted Pool by Phyllis A. Whitney [Body parts--nose on cover] (1/3/20)
2. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie [Singles--single figure on cover] (1/9/20)
3. Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers [Quick Decisions--author you always read] (1/13/20)
4. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Scott Turton [Selfies--written in 1st person] (1/15/20)
5. Murder on the Waterfront by Michael Jahn [TBR Crushers--have to dust off (on TBR since 2013)] (1/20/20)
6. The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer (1940) [How Old?--written before I was born] (1/24/20)
7. The Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson (John Dickson Carr) [Hidden: pseudonymous author] (1/26/20)
8. Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer [Seconds--bought from second hand store] (1/27/20)
9. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers [Inspirations--place I want to visit this year (England)] (1/28/20)
10. Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh [Birds of a feather--feathers/wings on cover] (2/6/20)
11. Silver Wings for Vicki by Helen Wells [Places: book about traveling] (2/15/20)
12. The Beatles--Yellow Submarine story adapted by Bill Morrison [Movie Quotes: I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way: graphic novel] (2/20/20)
13. The Crying Sisters by Mabel Seeley [Recovery: Missing Person] (2/23/20)
Commitment Complete!
14. The Big Four by Agatha Christie [Reading Cliches: By an author "everyone has read."] (2/27/20)
15. The Clue in Blue by Betsy Allen [Reading Women: Children's book with strong female lead] (2/28/20)
16. Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow [Music Genres: Book that should have a jazz soundtrack] (3/15/20)
17. Good Luck to the Corpse by Max Murray [Careers: Written by a journalist] (3/30/20)
27. The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie [Selfies #2 Narcissistic character (Mirelle)] (3/1/20)

2020 Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks

January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020
Hosted by Robin
The rules are simple. Just read one book per week for a total of 52 books in the year. This will be my sixth year joining in.  I generally have no problem reading at least one book a week...so this is one of my slam dunk challenges.  I will list my books below as I read them.  If you'd like to join as well, just click on the link below the picture.

1. Mystery of the Haunted Pool by Phyllis A. Whitney (1/3/20)
2. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Scott Turton (1/15/20)
3. Murder on the Waterfront by Michael Jahn (1/20/20)
4. The Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson (1/26/20)
5. Information Received by E. R. Punshon (2/6/20)
6. Deep Lay the Dead by Frederick C. Davis (2/14/20)
7. Death in Kenya by M. M. Kaye (2/20/20)
8. The Big Four by Agatha Christie (2/27/20)
9. The Clue in Blue by Betsy Allen (2/28/20)
10. The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie (3/1/20)
11. Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow (3/15/20)
12. Good Luck to the Corpse by Max Murray (3/30/20)
13. Stand Up & Die by Frances & Richard Lockridge (3/31/20)

Challenge Complete: European Reading Challenge




Once again, I joined Gilion on a tour of Europe with her European Reading Challenge – where participants tour Europe through books.  I actually finished my announced travel commitment back in April and thought I might add a few more countries to the journey before the year's end. But--I wound up spending most of my time in England and roaming around the US. I think I may take a year off from virtual European visits--I have a first-time ever real-live trip to England in the works for this summer! But will plan to rejoin again in 2021, if Gilion keeps sponsoring.

FIVE STAR (DELUXE ENTOURAGE): Read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

Books read:
1. Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers [UK] (1/12/19)
2. Hitler's First Victims by Timothy W. Ryback [Germany] (1/24/19)
3. Blind Corner by Dornford Yates [Austria] (1/27/19)
4. Monsieur Lecoq by Emile Gaboriau [France] (2/27/19)
5. When in Rome (with Opening Night) by Ngaio Marsh (4/11/19)

Commitment Complete

Challenge Complete: Monthly Keyword

I've now completed December's keyword book and with Star Over Bethlehem, I have now completed the Monthly Keyword Challenge for 2019. I'm looking forward to working on next year's version--which is back in the hands of the original sponsor.

January: The Winter Women Murders by David Kaufelt (1/5/19)

February: Where the Snow Was Red by Hugh Pentecost (2/15/19)
March: The Lucky Stiff by Craig Rice (3/1/19)
April: The March Hare Murders by Elizabeth Ferrars (4/23/19)
May: Death on a Warm Wind by Douglas Warner (5/8/19)
June: The Father Hunt by Rex Stout (6/18)
July: The Mystery of the Fire Dragon by Carolyn Keene (7/29/19)
August: The Swimming Pool by Mary Roberts Rinehart (8/21/19)
September: The Murder Book of J. G. Reeder by Edgar Wallace (9/28/19)
October: The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (10/16/19)
November: The Eel Pie Murders by David Frome (11/13/19)
December: Star Over Bethlehem by Agatha Christie Mallowan (12/23/19)

Saturday, December 28, 2019

A Bevy of Big Little Books

In a mad rush to try and reach the peak of Mount Everest (100 books) in my Mount TBR Reading Challenge, I decided to tackle the small stack of eligible Big Little books that had accumulated pre-2019. I have very fond memories of similar books that I owned when I was a young'un back in the day--specifically of Road Runner and the Lost Road Runner Mine. I'm pretty sure I had a few others, but I'm not as sure of their titles. So, now whenever I see these books at our annual Book Fair or for decent prices in used book stores I scoop them up. I nabbed another small set (not in nearly as nice condition, unfortunately) at this year's Book Fair--so they'll have to wait for another year's Mount TBR Challenge. Below is a brief run-down of the books read this year. They were all fun little reads and well worth it in nostalgia value.★★  for each book.

Huckleberry Hound Newspaper Reporter: Pixie and Dixie overhear the editor of the Bugle talking about how he'd like to hire a dog reporter to give him stories from the dog world. So, they convince Huckleberry Hound that he would be perfect for the job even though he has no experience whatsoever. After Huckleberry's first few failed attempts at newsgathering, Mr. Pastepot isn't sure that he's hired the right dog. But then Huck manages to get a scoop from a movie star's pooch that lands the Bugle a hot story on a kidnapping and--eventually--a spectacular rescue by Pastepot, Huck, and a few cowboys and their dog Tex.

Mickey Mouse Mystery at Disneyland: The security chief of Disneyland has a puzzle on his hands. Small portions of food and tiny toy-sized furniture and tools have been disappearing from the restaurants and toy shop in the amusement park. He calls on Mickey and Goofy to solve the mystery of how the culprit is getting in and out of locked buildings--building that remain locked and sealed up tight even after the things disappear. The pair find a surprising answer in the miniature village in Storybook Land.

Bugs Bunny and Klondike Gold: When Porky Pig takes Bugs downtown for Frosty Fred's* annual gold coin give away, Bugs is bitten by gold fever. He schemes a way into Frosty Fred's mansion for himself and Porky and congratulates himself on convincing the man to tell him where to look for gold in Alaska. (After all, figures Bugs, Fred's so rich he doesn't need much more....) Fred agrees on condition that the boys give him a percentage of whatever they find. Bugs and Porky are in for more adventure than they bargained for when they uncover an underground kingdom that's so full of gold that the inhabitants consider lead (far more rare for them) to be of more value....

*Frosty Fred is a local millionaire whose generosity is well-known to all but Bugs apparently.

Goofy in Giant Trouble: In this outing Mickey and Goofy are working for the World Police Organization and are sent to investigate a garbled message received from a famous archaeologist who had been working in some ruins in the Tanga Straits. All that came though clearly was a mention of Black Pete (an old nemesis of Mickey and Goofy's) and that "activities indicate that a great menace is being established." Pete definitely has some diabolical plans cooked up. He's setting up a "country store" where all the bad guys will be able to buy smuggled guns. As Pete says: 

I got great plans for all these goodies. When we get this load to the hideout, we'll have a regular country store for crooks, murderers and--heh--general no-good troublemakers....And the more trouble we peddle, the more customers we'll get. Dat's the way it is when everybody gets guns to use.

Along the way, Mickey and Goofy find an out-of-this-world gadget that can make Goofy grow to gigantic proportions. Fortunately, they're able to put this this to good use and foil Pete's plans before he can stir up too much trouble.

The Pink Panther at Castle Kreep: The Pink Panther is bored and in need of a vacation and a change of scenery--but when he confuses a plane ticket for Tinselvania for one to Pennsylvania he gets a bigger change than he planned on. Tinselvania is the home of all sorts of scary monsters--everything from the Fish Man of the swamp to the Weird-Wolf to Count Batula of the titular Castle Kreep and his newest invention, the clumsy robot Klankenstein. But these fiends are more bad-tempered than ghoulish and just need someone to show them how to solve their problems. Our friendly Panther manages to find a happy ending for all the monsters...and himself.