Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Case of the Sapphire Brooch


 The Case of the Sapphire Brooch (1961) by Christopher Bush

Ludovic Travers is called in by a previous client. In the first case Paul Farrell had asked Travers to trace a missing wife who had run out on him. At that time, the detective had passed the case on to a colleague who remembers that Farrell suddenly called a halt to the investigation after very little investigation had been done. Now Farrell has asked for help again. This time there are mysterious goings-on in his apartment. Farrell, a talented photographer, was lured out of his apartment by a phone call purporting to be from an agent of an American television company wanting Farrell to do some photographic work. He was invited to the man's hotel to discuss details, but when he asked for the room number he was told that there was no one by that name staying at the hotel. He arrived home to find that someone had been searching through his things and decided to aske Travers to check things out.

Travers makes a more detailed search and discovers what looks like blood mixed with water in the sink and pinkish stains on a towel. Did the searcher cut his/herself in their haste to find whatever they were looking for? He also finds a sapphire and diamond brooch--at first he and Farrell take it to be costume jewelry, but Travers has a hunch and takes it to a friendly jeweler to have it valued. It's not worth a fortune, but the stones are real enough. The next day a dead man is found in the vicinity--shot--and something tells Travers that this is the man who searched the apartment. Who is he? Did he find what he was looking for? And did somebody shoot him for it?

Travers joins forces with his old friends Matthews and Jewle of Scotland Yard and finds himself sorting out these questions as well as five women with likely motives, a crippled nightclub operator and his male nurse/bodyguard, four doctors, a band leader, and a couple of French confidence men. There are also impersonations, blackmail, robbery, and suicide to go along with murder. So, there's plenty to keep Travers busy and out of trouble. 

This was a solid enough mystery--though I really think it took our detectives much too long to figure out the connection with the dropped sapphire brooch. The plot starts out very nicely with the mysterious search of Farrell's apartment, but drags a bit in the middle while we're sorting out the various women and figuring out who's who and how many names she might have gone by. I enjoyed Travers's interactions with Matthews and Jewle and wish that there had been a bit more of them. It would have helped to push this average mystery into a higher ranking. I thoroughly enjoyed an earlier Travers novel (1946) much more and I'm wondering if all of the later mysteries will lack the pizazz of the earlier stories. ★★

First line: Neither Norris nor myself has any set hours at the Broad Street Detective Agency.

Last line: That's why I muttered something to Matthews went quietly out of the room.

***********************

Deaths = 6 (two natural; one shot; one drowned; two drug overdose)

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Black Hand


 The Black Hand
(2008) by Will Thomas

Private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his assistant Thomas Llewelyn begin their fifth recorded case at the docks of London's East End. The bodies of an Italian assassin and his wife, who was just as deadly as her husband and never far from his side, are discovered floating in a barrel near the docks. Then Sir Alan Bledsoe, Director of the East and West India Docks, is found assassinated in a very Italian way. Soon Scotland Yard and the Home Office are asking Barker to take up the case, knowing his ability with out of the ordinary cases. More corpses appear around London--as well as notices from The Black Hand, the Sicilian mafia. No one wants the mafia to move into the British criminal classes and Barker must find a way to bring antagonistic parties--the tough dock workers, French Apaches, and the Italian (non-Sicilian, anti-mafia) Camorra together to fend off a common enemy. The job becomes very personal indeed when Barker's chef is attacked and even the home of his lady friend (Llewelyn isn't quite sure of her status in his boss's life) is invaded. Barker's ultimate goal is to bring the mafia mastermind behind all the killings out into the open. He has an idea who the man is, but unless he can flush him out it will be difficult to bring him to justice.

Thomas continues to expand on this new look at the Holmes and Watson/Wolfe and Goodwin detective team.  Lots more action than most of the Holmes stories and Barker is far more mobile and physically involved than Nero Wolfe generally is.  And I continue to enjoy the characters.  They are very  interesting and I particularly like the interaction between Barker and Llewelyn.  They have the chemistry necessary to create a duo to follow in such auspicious footsteps.  In the first book, we learned a lot about Llewelyn's background with more revealed in each installment, but we get just bits and pieces about Barker. Barker is a very private man and it's a good indication of their developing relationship that he finally introduces his assistant to the Widow (his mysterious lady friend). There is still plenty more to be revealed about Barker and I look forward to learning more in the next book.  The other members of Barker's staff from Mac the butler and general factotum to Etienne Dummolard, his French chef, are also well-drawn. We see quite a bit of Etienne this time, though the circumstances are unfortunate for the chef. He's stabbed twice and barely survives the attack, but recovers with full force (and plenty of vim and vinegar).

The book ends with a lovely scrap on the docks--Barker and company taking on the Sicilians. And Llewelyn gets to display his newly learned knife skills. Quite an action-packed final scene. Entertaining and very informative on the early years of the mafia.  ★★ and a half.


First line: I stepped across the sill of the conservatory, glass crunching under the heels of my boots, and steadied my Webley pistol with both hands, reluctant to step inside.

Last line: And so it began again.

**********************

Deaths = 9 (seven shot; two stabbed) [more--unnamed]

Haunting of Horse Island


 Haunting of Horse Island (1990) by Carolyn Keene

Nancy, Bess, and George are headed to the Steadman Resort at Triple Tree Lake for a fun vacation. Right--anyone who knows the Nancy Drew stories knows that the vacation will be put on hold a bit while Nancy gets to the bottom of another mystery. 

The resort is owned by friends of George Fayne's dad, Henry and Ruth Steadman. The place is beautiful with a large lake for swimming, fishing, and boating, a pool, and superior cooking in the lodge's dining hall. And the resort has thrived for years--until now. Rumors are dredging up old stories of the ghost who haunts Horse Island (in the middle of the beautiful lake) and there have been an outbreak of pranks--from a harmless snake found in a tackle box to ransacking of cottages. When vacationers begin to pack up and go home, George suggests that the Steadmans allow Nancy to investigate: "You won't find a better detective anywhere." 

The Steadmans agree and Nancy has barely begun to search for clues when the pranks turn more serious--the girls' canoe is spirited away while they investigate the "haunted island" (because Nancy is certain that the renewed haunting rumors occurring just when the pranks started can't be a coincidence) and then a fire is set in their cottage--destroying Nancy's camera and the pictures she took on the island. But Nancy refuses to be driven away and it isn't long before she's gathered enough clues to point out the guilty party.

This is a decent Nancy Drew mystery--the culprit was rather obvious and even the effort to make another character seem suspicious didn't distract me. But it was a fun afternoon's read and I enjoyed visiting with Nancy and friends.

First line: "Just think," said Bess Marvin from the back seat of the car Nancy Drew was driving.

Last line: "I never want to hear the word ghost again!" Everyone laughed while the Burkle sisters sang on into the summer night.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Dead Little Rich Girl


 Dead Little Rich Girl (aka The Mouse in the Mountain; 1943)

The first of the Doan and Carstairs mysteries--Doan is a private investigator and Carstairs is his partner. Carstairs is also a very larger Great Dane. Doan has been sent to Mexico to track down a corrupt ex-policeman by the name of Eldridge. Eldridge is threatening to return to America and rat out the equally corrupt officials who have been getting along quite nicely in his absence. Our private investigator says he's been hired to make sure Eldridge stays put. So he and Carstairs plan to hop on a tourist bus headed to Los Altos. 

Luckily for him, a wealthy young woman by the name of Patricia Van Osdel also wanted to go to Los Altos. For you see, the bus is the only way for tourists to get there and the bus service was going to be cancelled--but American dollars in large quantities can change plans. The only question is, why was Patricia so set on visiting the out-of-the-way village in the mountains? Along for the ride is Patricia's maid and her "companion" Greg, the Henshaw family--harassed father, loud and overly coting mother, and bratty son, and Janet Martin, a teacher playing hooky on her first real vacation adventure. 

The group runs straight into murder and mayhem. There are dangerous banditos running about the town. There are hidden caches of weapons. There is an earthquake that shakes more than the ground. There are rattlesnakes. And Patricia Van Osdel manages to get herself murdered. Doan must try to complete his mission, avoid being put in jail by secret policeman who doesn't trust him, keep Janet from getting into difficulties, and solve several murders before he and Carstairs may return safely to the United States.

This is a wacky, sortof hard-boiled crime novel. Though Doan seems a little too short and round to be a hard-boiled private eye. A screwball private eye tale with lots of action and plenty of fast-talking on the part of Doan.  Norbert Davis paired up his private eye with an animal long before it was cool and pulls it off without making Carstairs too cutesy (as if a Great Dane the size of a Shetland pony could be cutesy).  The interactions between the two are funny and realistic....I can just see Carstairs harrumphing over some of Doan's shenanigans.  The dialogue is funny and witty and it's worth the price of admission just to take the bus tour with Bartolome the tour guide. Bartolome will tell you exactly when something is magnificent--"please admire this bit now" and "do not waste the astonishment" on those trivial fantastic scenes over there. And Davis takes you from one loony character to another and it all fits so nice and snugly in this lovely vintage mystery. 

First line: When Doan and Carstairs came down the wide stairway and walked across the pink-tiled floor that was the pride and joy of the Hotel Azteca, the guests in the lobby stopped doing whatever they were doing to pass the time away and stared open-mouthed.

Last line: "Timpkins sold me his damned old hotel!"

****************

Deaths =  8 (three shot; one hung; one killed by falling debris; one hit with stone; two stabbed)

Monday, April 25, 2022

Lieutenant Pascal's Tastes in Homicides


 Lieutenant Pascal's Tastes in Homicides(1954) by Hugh Pentecost

This collection features three short stories/novellas with cases handled by Lieutenant Dave Pascal. Overall, a strong selection of stories--though "Eager Victim" is not quite up to the caliber of the other two. Had it been of equal strength, the collection would have rated a full four stars. As it is-- and 1/2. 

"The Murder Machine": Lt. Pascal is spending his vacation at his Uncle Ben's home. Uncle Ben is the local sheriff and, in this re-election year, isn't shy about taking advantage of his big-city police connection. He asks Pascal to give a lecture at one of the local societies about crime and such. When Pascal obliges and ends his talk with comments on how he wished they all were better at crime prevention, a few of the locals ask him if he'd like to take a shot at doing just that. There has been a series of vandalism at the local stone quarry and Marshall Hewitt, the new owner, is preparing to do the spring blasting. Most folks in town believe that Tom Anderson, former owner of the quarry--as well as jilted fiancé of Hewitt's wife, is behind the vandalism. Now they are afraid that something deadly might happen at the blasting. When the blast goes off prematurely and Hewitt is killed, it looks like they were right. But Pascal believes that Anderson's been framed and he and Uncle Ben start investigating. When another death occurs things get personal and Pascal is even more determined to bring the guilty party to justice.

"Eager Victim": Lt. Pascal investigates the death (by ice pick) of a newspaper "editor" whose sole job seemed to be to drink martinis and wait around for someone to kill him. Probably the lightest-weight of the three stories. There's little observable investigation in the beginning--Pascal does a great deal off-stage--and a pretty heavy dose of office romance as our narrator (the man who discovered the body) tries to make up his mind between his high school romance/fiancée, who is nice and sweet and comfortable, and the lady who minds the newspaper's morgue, who gives him such a jolt of excitement. Things do get more interesting after the second death--but I have to say I wasn't enamored of the narrator's viewpoint on the story. Maybe if he hadn't been so distracted by girl-trouble...Also, the culprit seemed a bit obvious to me.

"Murder in the Dark": This one takes its name from the unusual diamond-buying procedure described in the story. Buying "in the dark" involves a diamond broker obtaining an allotment of rough diamonds with a set amount of carats and agreed upon types [there are various types of rough diamonds] but without seeing the actual stones. The sealed packet is then sold to a customer who is gambling on whether the stones will cut properly and be worth what she or he paid for them...or, hopefully, worth even more. A recently wealthy man comes to New York City to buy diamonds and, being a gambler by nature, decides to buy them in the dark--but before the night is over the man is dead and the diamonds have disappeared. The story turns into a Maltese Falconish tale--with people crawling out of the woodwork looking to find those diamonds. It's up to Lieutenant Pascal to figure out who thought the stones worth killing for and where those gems might be. Fairly good story albeit with one of the main suspects running in and out of the police investigation in a rather improbable way.

First line (1st story): The woods were peculiarly still.

Last line (last story): Kelly glanced at Carla, and he saw in her eyes that that was the way she felt about it, too.

******************

Deaths = 7 (two blown up; one stabbed with ice pick; two fell from height; one hit on head; one shot)

Saturday, April 23, 2022

The Black Mountain


 The Black Mountain
(1954) by Rex Stout

Nero Wolfe's oldest friend, Marko Vukcic is gunned down outside his apartment building and Wolfe immediately plunges into the case. It looks very much like a professional hit job. While Inspector Crames has his team rifling through Vukcic business contacts and love life (Vukcic, unlike Wolfe, enjoyed the ladies), Wolfe and his team are looking for Montenegran connections. He gets word through connections in Europe that "The man you seek is within sight of the mountain." For Wolfe, this means only one mountain: Lovchen--The Black Mountain--from which Montenegro gets its name.

There is another personal connection, Wolfe's adopted daughter, Carla Britten, was in the same political groups as Vukcic--supporting action in Montenegro. She doesn't get along well with her adopted father, but had asked him to look into Vukcic death as well. But she didn't trust him entirely and took herself off to Europe to look into matters. Now she's been killed as well. So Wolfe and Archie head to Europe to hunt down a killer in dangerous terrain. And Archie gets a bit of a shock--in these foreign lands, Wolfe becomes the man of action and his leg-man has to take a back seat. 

I've never been a very big fan of the stories that take Wolfe out of his element. When he leaves the brownstone it's a momentous occasion, but rarely an extraordinarily good one. His character isn't made to travel. So, it's no major surprise that I found this novel--which takes Wolfe's traveling to extremes--to be a major disappointment. My notes from the pre-blogging days say I read this and, apparently, enjoyed it way more than I did this time. But I've forgotten everything I enjoyed about it. 

The beginning is very good--Wolfe's close friend is shot and killed and he feels personally obligated to track down the murderer. He's going to take on a case with no hope of a fee (and he really doesn't want one since this is a personal matter). But it goes downhill from there--we get a travelogue of Wolfe and Archie going to Europe to take on Communist or Fascist or what-have-you bad guys. We get a stilted story--ostensibly because Archie isn't telling it verbatim as he normally would. You see, Wolfe speaks eight languages and Archie speaks one, so everything we get once we reach Montenegro (Yugoslavia) is translated through Wolfe to Archie. I'm not a big fan of Cold War politics/espionage/secret organization books and they need to be done well to keep me engaged. I just don't think Stout did that sort of thing well. Let's go back to the brownstone and solve some old-fashioned murders. 

[Full confession--I did not read every word. I skimmed a great deal because I just was not enjoying myself but wanted to count the thing for challenges.]

First line: That was the one and only time Nero Wolfe has ever seen the inside of the morgue.

Last lines: He flattened out and closed his eyes. The ham.

****************

Deaths = one shot (if we're told how Carla Britten died--other than "quite violently"--I missed it in my skimming)

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Only Yesterday


 Only Yesterday
(1931) by Frederick Lewis Allen

Frederick Allen was the editor of Harper's Magazine and a writer of recent (to him) and popular history. Here he provides an interesting look at the Roaring Twenties and adds personal, man-on-the-spot insight on most of the events that should have shown up in our school history books. 

Allen's book covers everything from Prohibition to Lindbergh's flight, from flappers and rum running to the Scopes trial, from the Teapot Dome scandal to prosperity under Coolidge, and from booming business to the stock market crash in 1929. He reports history from the vantage point of a mere ten years (at most), giving readers of today a contemporary view of the times. It is rather disturbing in a way to realize how much our own present reflects the history of 100 years ago. We still endure presidents who place cronies in positions--who rather than "draining the swamp," just added to the swampiness. We still have unions struggling to be relevant in the face of the rich owners who don't want to share prosperity with the little guy. We see the rise of book-burning and fear that schools are indoctrinating the children in some nasty ideology--whether that be the Red Scare of the past or the dreaded "CRT" of today. The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

An interesting history lesson from someone who lived through the First World War and the years that followed. ★★★★

First line: If time were suddenly to turn back to the earliest days of the Post-war Decade, and you were to look about you, what would seem strange to you?

In Mrs. Smith's mind, as in that of the manager of the Palm Garden, short-haired women, like long-haired men, are associated with radicalism, if not with free love. (p. 17)

Last line: The stream of time often doubles on its course, but always it makes for itself a new channel.

Have His Carcase


 Have His Carcase (1932) by Dorothy L. Sayer; read by Ian Carmichael 

As I have mentioned many times, the Lord Peter mysteries are comfort reads for me. I have read them numerous times and enjoy them thoroughly each time. I not only enjoy reading them, I thoroughly enjoy listening to them (when they are well read) and I love listening to Ian Carmichael read them. When I've had a long day at work, it's delightful to just listen to Lord Peter and Bunter and all the assorted characters unravel a mystery. 

There is so much wit and humor throughout that it really is a comfortable sort of book to sink into. Especially since this is the umpteenth reread and I really didn't have to use up brain power trying to follow all that "decipher the code" business. That would be one of my quibbles with this particular story--way too much time spent on the intricate methods of deciphering this particular cipher. I just let Carmichael's voice wash over me and ignored all the little details. I think the filmed version with Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter does an excellent job of condensing this scene down--although, it may make it seem a little too easy.

My favorite bits are when Peter finally gets to dance with Harriet, their stroll along the beach looking for clues, and when she thinks she may have been kissed by a murderer. I also like the wrap-up at the end when Harriet begins offering up various other fictional detectives (Roger Sheringham, Dr. Thorndyke, etc) and their methods as possible ways to find the solution. Exciting stuff all around and an excellent read. Four stars.

First Lines: The best remedy for a bruised heart is not, as so many people think, repose upon a manly bosom. Much more efficacious are honest work, physical activity, and the sudden acquisition of wealth. 

Last line: I always did hate watering places! 

*************

Deaths = one throat cut 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Take Two at Bedtime


 Take Two at Bedtime (aka Deadly Duo; 1950) by Margery Allingham contains two post-war short stories.

"Wanted: Someone Innocent": Gillian Brayton is struggling to make ends meet. Raised to be a lady, schooled in the art of figuring up a dress budget and making conversation but not how to make a living, she's working at millinery shop when she decides to attend a reunion at her old school. Imagine her surprise when Rita Raven--now Fayre latches onto her. She and Rita were never the bosom pals that the woman is now claiming. But Rita makes a point of saying so to anyone who comes near while they're together. And at the end of the day, Gillian finds that she's agreed to come home with Rita to be a companion at 300 pounds a year. But Gillian hasn't been there long before she feels that she's made a big mistake. The servants seem to think she's there for some devious purpose and there's a strong sense of foreboding. She makes up her mind to leave, but too late. Rita Fayre is found dead and everyone thinks Gillian killed her....

"Last Act": A nasty, manipulative French actress dies under mysterious circumstances. Our heroine and her boyfriend, the actress's heir, become the prime suspects though there are many options (given actress's nasty nature). The actress left clues behind to point to her killer...but do they mean what we think they do?

It's been a while since I've read any Allingham, but these short stories (which do not feature Albert Campion) come across as damsel in danger stories more than mysteries. If the menaces Gillian and Margot faced had seemed (more forcefully) to have come from their love interests, the stories would have had an even more gothic romance/thriller vibe. In all honesty, neither of these represent Allingham at her best, but of the the two "Wanted: Someone Innocent" is the stronger story. It has a much better twisty plot and the denouement is very good. There is a common theme here that ties the two stories together (which I can't mention because--spoiler!) that is used much more effectively in the first. ★★

First line (1st story): I didn't blame my uncle.

Last line (last story): If it's any comport to you, there are no stipulations.

********************

Deaths = 4 (two drowned; two poisoned)

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Brand Spanking New Day


Brand Spanking New Day
(2017) by Berkeley Breathed

Bloom County was one of my favorite places to visit back in the 1980s. Berkeley Breathed's world had fantastic humor, memorable characters, and a way of skewering the politics, trends, and celebrities of the day that was fresh and on-point. When he decided to bring back Opus and company with new comics on his Facebook page in order to take on the madness that was the world in the campaign and election of 2016, I was delighted. He mixed the usual Bloomian commentary on all the weirdness with a touching story about Sam the Lion--and he gave Steve Dallas a heart in the process.

Brand Spanking New Day is the second printed collection to come out of Breathed's return to Bloom County and it was a delight to read. The return of Bloom County was one of the few bright spots in the long, dark night that was the era of the Orange Menace.  ★★★★

First line (panel): Steve alert! Vodka-fueled existential crisis heading our way!

Last line (panel): Best nannies EVER.


Luck Be a Lady, Don't Die


 Luck Be a Lady, Don't Die (2016) by Robert J. Randisi

Eddie Gianelli, pit boss for the Sands hotel in Las Vegas, made himself useful to Frank Sinatra six months ago. Sinatra asked him to help track down a guy who was sending threatening letters to Dean Martin. Eddie came through then--at great risk to himself and his position in Vegas. Six months later, it's Dino calling on Eddie to help Frank. It seems the Chairman has lost a babe he was planning to meet on the downlow while in Sin City for the premier of Ocean's 11. Mary Clarke arrived okay. She checked into a hotel and promptly disappeared. Frank wants Eddie to find out what happened and make sure that "sweet girl" is okay. He also gives him Jerry Epstein, a hired gun from New York, for protection and help.

Eddie teams up with Danny Bardini, a local private investigator, and the three of them search the casinos and seedy hotels for a blonde babe who seems to have a habit of leaving dead bodies in her wake--no matter how "sweet" she may be. Things really heat up when Sam Giancana from one of the New York "families" arrives as well as Chicago mobster by the name of Balducci and everyone seems to thin that Eddie knows not only where Mary is, but also a missing hundred grand of mob money. The cops, who don't exactly love him, are also pretty interested in what he knows about the recent uptick in murdered men. He'll be lucky to stay out of jail...if he can stay alive.

This was a decent read--not outstanding, but decent. I like Jerry. Jerry may be a hired gun and hired muscle, but Jerry has a code of loyalty and he's smarter than most people give him credit for. He's assigned to keep Eddie Gianelli safe and that's just what he does--even if it puts him a bit at odds with the man who gave him the assignment. And Eddie's okay--he's a clean, honest Vegas pit man who's surrounded by dirty dealers, dirty cops, mafia bosses, and hit men. But he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer. It certainly takes him a good while to catch on to some of the neon bright clues strewn about and Jerry is ahead of him in many instances. While this was a fun look back at the 1960s and the era of the Rat Pack, I can't say that Randisi has hooked me and made me want to hunt down any more in the series. He name-drops a lot of stars from the era and works Frank, Dino, and Joey Bishop in pretty good, but George Baxt does the mysteries with a celebrity connection much better.  ★★

First line: The Chairman was dead.

Last lines: I never saw Barney Crane or the dealer again. Two more victims of  that summer's Ocean's 11.

*******************

Deaths = 5 (two hit on head; three shot)

Friday, April 15, 2022

Nancy Drew Ghost Stories


 Nancy Drew Ghost Stories (1983) by Carolyn Keene

Nancy and her friends, Bess and George, take on mysteries with a ghostly twist in these six short stories. Our heroines get to the bottom of the very live persons behind the ghostly appearances.

It's been a long time since I read these, but I think my feeling about the stories are about the same. Something happened to Nancy once we got past the original 56 stories. She just doesn't have quite the same courage and acumen. In one of these stories she gets locked in an outdoor ice house and she calls out to her friends, "Let me out! It's creepy in here." The stories also have a bit of the feel of a Scooby Doo episode--the mysteries are even more simplistic than the full novels and sometimes the solutions don't make sense. "The Ghost Jogger" jumps about from scene to scene in such a way that it's just confusing--there's no real logic about why the kidnappers behave the way they do. My quibble with "Blackbeard's Skull" is noted below (separated because it's a bit of a spoiler--so be warned). Overall, the stories were pleasant enough and most had a germ of a good plot. It just seems that they're miss a little something. ★★ and 3/4--not quite up to the full three star mark.

"The Campus Ghost": Nancy unravels the mystery of the professor's ghost that haunts the science labs at Clermont College.

"The Ghost Dogs of Whispering Oaks": Nancy helps a friend get to the bottom of the ghostly canines that haunt her family's ancestral farm. Are the dogs upset at their burial place or is there more to the story?

"Blackbeard's Skull": The ghost of Blackbeard is said to haunt and curse those who take his treasure. When the doubloons displayed at a North Carolina ranger station disappear, With the help of the British Mr. Hudson*, Nancy prove it's no curse and discovers where the treasure has been taken.

"The Ghost Jogger": A ghostly figure gives Nancy a message to "find them in the empty barn with the flaming horse on it." Nancy must figure out who "them" are and where the barn is before she can solve the mystery of the ghost jogger."

"The Curse of the Frog": Nancy investigates a fortune teller who may be running a very shady operation. There are threats of a curse--from a weird frog statue. And then she discovers that the frog may have a very different meaning indeed.

"Greenhouse Ghost": Nancy is asked to investigate a cottage with a haunted greenhouse. The owners want to sell the property, but prospective buyers keep getting scared off.

*So...the ending of "Blackbeard's Skull" is weird. We're supposed to believe that Hudson was really a ghost. But he talks and interacts with Nancy and the Coast Guard and the crooks. He gets tied up. He shares a meal with Nancy, Bess, George and the ranger. Pretty bizarre ghostly behavior.

First lines (1st story): "We've just seen her, Nancy! The spook that haunts Clermont College!"

Last line (last story): Kiki smiled. "I'd be honored too--on one condition--no more lawn parties and no more ghosts!"

******************

Deaths = 3 (two natural; one shot)


Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Guest List


 The Guest List (2020) by Lucy Foley

Cormorant Island off the coast of Ireland is set to be the scene of the wedding of the year. Will Slater, the handsome, golden star of the reality show Survive the Night, and Jules Keegan, owner of the online fashion magazine The Download, are getting married in a huge extravaganza on the secluded island. With only the best of everything--an exclusive setting at The Folly, which looks like an Irish castle; a made-to-order wedding gown and gold crown for the bride; a spectacular wedding cake; expensive drinks and wedding breakfast....and enough secrets to make the tabloids go wild. But one of the secrets is worth killing for and it winds up many of the guests have a reason to kill. But who will the victim be? And, in the end, who will wield the weapon? As a terrific storm bears down on the island, the tensions among the wedding party and special guests build towards a splendid, twisty climax.

This was a wild ride--just over 300 pages and I read it all in one day, and nearly all in one sitting. It's always interesting to read a thriller where the group is cut off from civilization or whatnot by weather; when you just know something's going to happen because help is going to be so long coming. Foley provides lots of motive and plenty of twists and turns to keep the plot moving in this real page-turner. I did figure out the primary motive, though I wasn't sure to whom it belonged. The one real drawback is how few of the characters are really likeable and it was difficult to find anyone worth rooting for. But overall a good, well-plotted story. ★★★★

First line: The light go out.

See, mine is a profession in which you orchestrate happiness. It is why I became a wedding planner. Life is messy....Terrible things happen....Bu no matter what happens, life is only a series of days. You can't control more than a single day. But you can control one of them.

Last line: I am only sorry I didn't get the chance to plunge the knife in myself.

************************

Deaths = 4 (one overdose; one drowned; one stabbed; one heart attack)

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The 1954 Club

 


From April 18-24th, Simon at Stuck in a Book is sponsoring a read/blog-athon featuring books published in 1954. All you have to do is read at least one book from 1954 and post about it--that's it. I've got a list of '54 books sitting on the TBR stacks, we'll see which ones strike my fancy.

1954 Books Read
1. The Black Mountain by Rex Stout (4/23/22)
2. Lieutenant Pascal's Tastes in Homicide by Hugh Pentecost (reviewed--4/25/22)


The Curse of Maleficent (mini-review)


 For all the "good" and all the "bad" creatures in the world. For as the saying goes, the difference between a hero and a villain often depends on perspective.
~The Curse of Maleficent (2014) adapted by Elizabeth Rudnick

Sleeping Beauty has always told the story from the side of the "good guys." Princess Aurora and her true love Prince Phillip vanquishing the curse from the evil fairy. This book--based on the movie--gives us the story from the "villain's" point of view. And shows us that things aren't always black and white; that evil has deep roots and sometimes love gets twisted into hate. And, if we're lucky, just might get another twist that will bring it back to love.

The artwork in this story is gorgeous and the motivations behind Maleficent's actions are interesting. There is a good basic plot here, but it didn't feel like it was realized as fully as it could have been. The characters should have been flushed out a bit more and a bit more action and less telling would have gone a long way. ★★



Evan's Gate


 Evan's Gate (2004) by Rhys Bown

Big changes are in store for Constable Evan Evans. He has recently been accepted into the plainclothes division of the force and he's making preparations to marry Bronwen and make a home in shepherd's cottage that needs renovation. But he's just started working on getting the building clearances when Evans is called in to help with a missing child case. A five-year-old little girl has disappeared from the seaside caravan park where her mother had brought her for health reasons. The prime suspect is the little girl's estranged father, but an extensive campaign fails to find him...and exhaustive searches in the area fail to find any trace of the girl.

Evans snatches time when he can to make progress on his cottage. One of the tasks is to did a new water line. And when he digs he finds the skeleton of another child. It appears to be about 20-25 years old and Evans remembers another little girl who went missing on the mountain. A little girl by the name of Sarah who looked a lot like the current missing child--small, fragile, blonde, and very pretty. When he finds out Sarah's family is back in the area--celebrating the birthday of an aged grandfather, he wonders if the two incidents are connected. He's had hunches in the past that panned out and he hopes that if he can find some clues from the past that it just might help solve the current case as well.

I first started reading the Evan Evans mysteries back in the late 90s/early 2000s when they were published. I found them charming, enjoyed the Welsh characters, and the descriptions of the Welsh countryside. And then other books caught my attention (as so often happens) and I wandered off and didn't read this one (that I had picked up at the library's used bookstore) or any later installments. Returning to the series, I still enjoy the Welsh setting and find the characters interesting--though there are fewer appearances of the locals than I remember in earlier stories. The mystery is decent, though the solution to the two cases is a bit dissatisfying--I had hoped they would tie up differently and I thought the explanation of Sarah's death and place of burial to be anti-climactic. I realize that this is a more cozy police procedural, but the answer really was a bit of a let-down. ★★ for setting, characters, and interesting set-up. Would have been higher had the ending been stronger.

First line: The small girl moved over the springy turf of the mountainside, her light feet making so little impression on the grass beneath her that she appeared to be weightless, a bright spirit only barely connected to solid earth.

Last line: "I was right all along," he said in a low voice. "She was taken by the fairies."

**********

Deaths = 2 (one drowned; one fell from height)

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Death & the Professor


 Death & the Professor
(1961) by E. & M. A. Radford

Professor Stubbs is a gatecrasher at the Dilettantes Club. He once held a Chair in Logic and Philosophy at the University of Bonn and has heard about the exclusive club whose members debate all sorts of topics, including the odd mystery or two when the Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, one of the members, brings an interesting case to their attention. The members are shocked at first that anyone would come to their meeting uninvited--but the professor is well-known in academic circles and his bona fides are soon established. At once he begins contributing regularly to the discussions, waiting until the others have asked questions or advanced theories before showing them all how to unravel mysteries using the power of logic. 

The set-up has been used before by Anthony Berkeley in The Poisoned Chocolates Case and by Isaac Asimov in his stories about the Black Widowers. We have a group of experts in various fields (or a group dedicated to mysteries) and there is one member who shines at solving the puzzles. Miss Marple does it in the Tuesday Club stories as well. The classic outline is well done in the eight interconnected stories given here...and the Radfords put their own special twist on it. ★★★★

The first problem: Fred Banting, a rude and obnoxious man who is disliked by all his fellow lodgers, is found shot to death in his own room. The room was locked and no one got in the window--which was under casual observation by a street organ player. The other residents in the lodging house were all still seated at dinner. Did he kill himself? If not, how was it done? And by whom?

Problem two: Partners in a jewelry business get on a train to finalize a deal over a diamond necklace. Mr. Benton, one of the partners, has the necklace in a case in his pocket. The two men share sandwiches and coffee--bought while on the train. Mr. Benton dies of poison and the diamonds are found to be fake. Did he commit suicide because he knew they were fake. Or was he murdered and the diamonds taken? If so, when and by whom?

Problem three: Three Englishmen are suspected of smuggling stolen goods out of the country and into Italy, but searches are made at Customs at both ends and nothing is ever found. Then the police get a break and are ready to pounce on a meeting of the three men and the Italian at the other end...but when they pounce, they find the four men dead (poisoned) at a table where fifteen large rubies lie in the center. Who killed them?

Problem four: "Lady Dan," a famous safe cracker is found dead on a train to Nice. He is supposed to have had nearly 20,000 pounds of jewels on him. There are no jewels and no clue to who killed him.

Problem five: The professor, who has solved the previous mysteries, brings up a case of murder--claiming that the convicted man is innocent. It is a case of the other woman having been poisoned. The poison used was readily available to the married man and it is supposed that he tired of her and she was going to be difficult. The evidence seems to point to him. But the professor asks to be given the chance to provide the defense that the man's counsel did not. Will he prove that someone else did it?

Problem six: The case of the strange sleepers. Several people who are in possession of valuables--ranging from money to priceless jewels--suddenly go to sleep for no apparent reason. When they awaken, the valuables are missing and there seems to have been no one who could have taken them 

Problem seven: Miss Alicia Menston has been known to go out and about with various men. She comes home to her apartment with her latest escort, is heard to say goodbye to him, and the porter observes no one else going into the flat. The next day her cleaning woman finds her strangled. Who got in and out without being seen? And why was everything in the apartment disturbed as if in a whirlwind search--except for one cabinet?

Problem eight: Marcus Silver, notorious as a moneylender, is found stabbed to death. He was killed at 7:30 pm...that's what the doctor says. So, how could he have been seen later that night at ten and ten-thirty? And by people who apparently knew him well?

First line (1st story): The Dilettantes' Club meets on the first and last Thursday of each month (except in August, when the members are scattered for their holidays).

Last line: (encoded in ROT13 because it would give away a major plot point otherwise) Vafcrpgbe Xrajnl zbirq gb uvf fvqr. "Znephf Fghoof, nyvnf Urezna Rvfqnyr," ur fnvq, "V neerfg lbh..."

To decode, copy and paste the coded portion as directed at the link.

***************

Deaths = 10 (one shot; six poisoned; one heart attack induced by sleeping drug; one strangled; one stabbed)

Sunday, April 10, 2022

The Body in the Fog


 The Body in the Fog (2012) by Cora Harrison

Alfie and his "gang" are a group of children trying to make a living on the streets of Victorian London. There's Alfie, the leader, and his brother Sammy as well as his cousins Jack, Tom, and Sarah. Oh--and there's Musty their loyal guard dog. Sarah works in a pub, serving dinners. But the boys do everything from singing songs, providing rides on what sounds to me like a surfboard on the ponds, working for anyone who could use an extra hand--from tradesmen and fishermen to dockworkers needing help unloading cargo, and having Musty perform tricks for the crowds around Trafalgar Square. They just manage to make ends meet so they can keep their small home near St. Giles. They also have a way of stumbling into mysteries and Inspector Denham at their local police station often provides them with a few coins for assistance to the police.

This time they just might earn  tenpounds....if they live long enough. Alfie and Jack are in Trafalgar Square one night when the come across the body of Jemmy, a well-known beggar, lying at foot of the statue in the square. Jemmy has been killed by a blow to the head. Just as they're discussing who would want to kill a beggar, cries of fire break out and in the confusion the post office cart is stolen. Alfie catches a glimpse of the masked man driving the cart and instantly recognizes a scar marking one Flash Harry, the leader of a hardened mob of criminals who have no second thoughts about eliminating those who get in their way. A piece of paper flies out Harry's hand and flutters to Alfie's feet. It's a scrap of very posh paper with no writing but containing a picture of a clock with hands pointing to 12 and a picture of the moon. The boys have no time to wonder about the paper because they see two rough men making their way towards them. Alfie quickly rolls the scrap into a little ball and shoves it into the carved pattern at the base of the statue. And the boys take off running. 

When Alfie checks in with Inspector Denham, he's told that there is a reward for information leading to the arrest of the criminals. But he wants the boys to concentrate on the death of Jemmy. Denham is convinced that the beggar must have gotten in the way of the Flash Harry's plans, so he's sure that solving that mystery will lead them to where Flash Harry has hidden himself, his gang, and the diamonds that were in the stolen mail bags. And he thinks it's safer for the boys to ask questions about Jemmy than to try and hunt down Flash Harry. Harry has a way leaving the bodies of those who ask too many questions behind him. But Alfie is determined that his gang will do what they must to earn that 15 pounds.

This is a fun, fast-paced middle grade book. It introduces readers to Victorian England and has plenty of adventure and mystery to keep young readers interested. The gang all use their various gifts to help solve the mystery. Alfie and Jack are more adventurous and get involved in scrapes--picking up clues that they bring back to Sammy to help unravel. Sammy is blind--but very intelligent and very perceptive. Occasionally, Sammy goes along with Alfie and his perceptive hearing and sensitive nature picks up on clues that others would miss. He can also repeat overheard conversations with great accuracy and even can mimic voices he hears. Sarah's job in the pub gives her access to a lot of gossip, allowing her to overhear conversations that the others wouldn't. And Tom also has connections among some of the tradesmen he does odd jobs for. It all makes for a logical co-operative endeavor that allows the gang to bring vital information to Denham--just in time to catch Flash Harry before the gang can remove the diamonds from England for good. ★★★★

First line: Alfie saw the body just before all hell broke loose in Trafalgar Square.

Last line: And wherever he went, everyone would call him "sir."

****************

Deaths = one hit on head; one strangled; one shot

Literary Ball Game: Another Abra Cadaver Season


Rick Mills, that crafty creator of reading challenges and sometimes literary team captain, is once again calling for team members for one of the finest ball clubs around...the Abra Cadavers. If you'd like to join the team, just prove your skills by fulfilling the following plate appearances (reading requirements). You too could be an All Star! For full details, check out Rick's page: HERE


I've got my cleats on and have already started swinging.

My Plate Appearances
Single: Always Lock Your Bedroom Door by Roy Winsor
 
Double: 2 books by Agatha Christie
   Easy to Kill 
   And Then There Were None 
 
Triple: 3 books by Charles Finch
   An Old Betrayal
   The Laws of Murder
   Home by Nightfall

Homerun: 4 titles by George Bellairs
   The Case of the Famished Parson
   He'd Rather Be Dead
   Death Stops the Frolic
   Surfeit of Suspects
 
Cycle: completed previous four

Foul: The Black Mountain  by Rex Stout (DNF--but skimmed so I could count for other challenges)

Bunt: "Exit Before Midnight" by Q. Patrick in Bodies from the Library 2 by Tony Medawar (ed)
 
Walk: Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers (book on CD)
 
Stolen Base: Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers (read by Rick Mills 2020)
 
Strike Out: The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips (donated to the library)

Always Lock Your Bedroom Door


 Always Lock Your Bedroom Door (1976) by Roy Winsor

Addie Hill, an elderly neighbor of professor-detective Ira Cobb, calls on the erudite sleuth and his guest Steve Barnes (also a professor) to witness her new will. It seems that a house guest of her husband's, a certain Robey Pearson, has been blackmailing Ellis Hill and when he wouldn't pay up began to demand money from Addie. She also refused to pay blackmail money and Pearson turned around and threatened her life--knowing full well that Ellis would inherit the bulk of her rather hefty estate. Addie has already had difficulties with other greedy relatives and has decided that making a new will that cuts out both her husband and the rest of the money-grubbing clan will protect her from any unfortunate accidents.

She would be wrong. The will gets signed, Cobb and Barnes head back to Cobb's place--taking the will with them for safety. The plan is to mail it to Addie's lawyer. Cobb hands an envelope addressed to the lawyer to Barnes, who promptly sets out to mail it. He's later found knocked out cold and the envelope missing. Cobb is certain that Addie's life is in danger and they rush back to her house to check on her. They're too late. Someone has already hit her over the head as well...doing a more thorough job and killing her. Pearson is also lying dead in her room, but evidence shows that he didn't kill her.  It only makes sense that whoever hit Barnes over the head and stole the envelope also killed Addie to prevent her from replacing the will. But everyone with a motive also has an alibi for at least one (if not both) of the attacks. It's up to Cobb to figure out who really had time to do the deeds...and also why Pearson was killed as well.

This turned out better than I thought it would. I picked this up at one of our Red Cross Book Fairs back in 2014. Never heard of Roy Winsor before, but, by golly, he had a professor acting as sleuth and you know how those academically-inclined mysteries grab me. And then--I kept picking it up and thinking I might read it, but the opening paragraphs just never did much. And then--this year I fixed myself up with a Reading Randomizer reading challenge that was meant to get books off the ol' TBR pile whether you wanted to or not. And the randomize prompt brought this one up for April. So now, if I wanted to complete the challenge, I HAD to read the Winsor book

I'm glad I did. Once I got past those first few pages (that still didn't excite my reading heart), it got interesting. I really like Addie and was sad to see her killed. But I knew it was coming as soon as I heard about those greedy relatives and she decided to cut them out of her will. I also enjoyed the two professors working together and the fact that Cobb likes to drop quotations here and there. Though I must point out--he doesn't do it quite so effortlessly and adroitly as Lord Peter Wimsey. The ending is a little clumsy (which is why I didn't give a full four-star rating) and anti-climatic. Even though I didn't get why Cobb immediately knew who hit Steve Barnes over the head as soon as they found the weapon, the complete solution was telegraphed a little too plainly two-three chapters from the end. So when the "big reveal" came in a gather all the suspects moment in the final chapter...well, it really wasn't all that big. 

But overall I enjoyed my introduction to Ira Cobb and I'm looking forward to reading the other title I picked up at that same book fair. ★★ and 1/2.

First line: Below the high bluff at Siasconset on the northeastern coast of Nantucket and as far out as I could see, the ocean lay motionless, iron-gray under the dark overcast of the mid-August evening.

Last line: And that's just what we did do, closing both the house and our minds to the aftermath, the sweeping up of ashes of the two murders on that Thursday night and of those who had committed the crimes.

********************

Deaths = 3 (one hit on head; two poisoned)

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Lodger


 The Lodger (1913) by Marie Belloc Lowndes

The Lodger is the first known novelization based on the murder attributed to Jack the Ripper. Last fall I read a volume which contained two shorter fictional pieces (The Hypno-Ripper edited by Donald K. Hartman), but this is the first novel-length story. Here the terrifying murderer signs himself "The Avenger" and seems to have a fixation on drunken women. His murders take place when the streets are fairly empty and come in pairs--either one murder on two nights close together or two murders in a single night. But the story doesn't focus on the murders themselves, rather it focuses on Mr. and Mrs. Bunting, former servants--butler and maid--who have fallen on hard times and have decided to take in lodgers to bolster their dwindling finances. But they've had little luck and have just about given up hope when Mr. Sleuth arrives at the door. 

He's looking for somewhere very quiet and is pleased that he will be the only lodger. In fact, he pays well over the asking price so the Buntings will not take in any other lodgers. And Ellen and her husband believe their luck has turned at last. But then...they each begin to suspect that there may be more to their reclusive, rather odd tenant than first appeared. Could it be possible that they are harboring the villainous creature who preys upon women at night?

The story is full of psychological suspense. We watch the effect Mr. Sleuth's presence and the onslaught of news about the murders have on the Bunting's--particularly on Ellen. Ellen is the one who has the most contact with Sleuth--serving his meals and cleaning his rooms. It isn't until Mr. Bunting encounters Sleuth when returning home late one night that he begins to have doubts about the man. But the first time Mr. Sleuth is out late, Ellen is wakeful and hears him moving about. From that moment on her fears and suspicions grow. She tells herself that if he is the killer, then he isn't responsible. Obviously, he's a bit odd--what other man sits up reading the Bible at all hours, reciting all the cruel bits about women? How many people talk to themselves in that bizarre manner? His oddness serves as a shield--and an excuse for her to accept his money for the lodging. She believes he must be The Avenger, but she doesn't want to have to accept it. 

This is an excellent example of early psychological suspense--it mounts steadily until the final scenes and provides a satisfying ending. ★★ and 1/2.

First line: Robert Bunting and Ellen his wife sat before their dully burning, carefully-banked-up fire.

Last line: Mr. Bunting and his Ellen are now in the service of an old lady, by whom they are feared as well as respected, and whom they make very comfortable.

*****************

Deaths = two stabbed (there were several more--but the names were not given for those)

Monday, April 4, 2022

The Sunburned Corpse


 The Sunburned Corpse (1952) by Adam Knight

New York private eye Steve Conacher thinks he off on a simple little skip trace case--with the bonus of a free cruise to Puerto Rico and a bevy of beautiful babes to fraternize with along the way. Nancy Scott's father has hired him to track down his daughter and convince her to come back home to New York. Conacher's first contact is a pleasant one--at least temporarily--a lovely young woman who knows Nancy and just may know where she's at...as well as having a definite yen for anything in trousers. But Conacher gets one night with her and only manages to learn part of what she knows before Nancy is strangled and her body dumped overboard. Steve's the only who believes she's been murdered and the captain "sadly" notes her down as a suicide. So, while looking for Nancy, Steve is also on the track of a murderer. And the trail leads him to one San Juan's night spots as well as to a picture gallery. He winds up mixed up with artists and gallery owners, drug smugglers and killers. But his nosy little questions and tendency to follow the cast of characters about soon leads him into trouble. And maybe this time he's in too deep to get out.

I hate to spoil things....but there isn't...a sunburned corpse, that is. Corpses we got--plenty of 'em. One's a little bit tanned. But no sunburns to be had. Hope you weren't counting on it. 

I do wish that sellers on Ebay would stop grouping this kind of thing in with a lot of Golden Age Detective novels. For several Christmases and birthdays now my husband has picked up an Ebay offering with several books in it (books on my To Be Found list) and the seller--desperate to get rid of them, I guess- will shove in a Steve Conacher private eye or something totally off-the-wall like The Ugly American. And I keep hoping the Conacher books will get better--because I can't resist reading books that come into my house. After three, I can tell you--they don't. In fact, this fourth entry drops back to the level of the first book in the series. It doesn't have a very interesting plot and unlike I'll Kill You Next! (book 5) the motive isn't particularly exciting either. We've got drugs and diamonds...and high class gangsters and their gunsels as well as low-class swindlers trying to muscle in on the racket. Conacher gets knocked out a few times--which seems to be one of the things he's good at; it happens in every book. I'd think the man would be permanently brain damaged. It's all too dreary for words. 

First line: The girl with the straw-colored hair was beautiful.

Last line: I ran to the telephone and called them.

**************

Deaths = 4 (one strangled; two hit on head; one shot)


Sunday, April 3, 2022

March Pick of the Month

 


Another month in the books (😉) and it's time to see what I've read and which mystery stands out among the crowd. I'm delighted to see that I'm keeping up the reading pace--even though things have picked up considerably at work. I managed another 23 books in March and all 23 had a mystery flair. As long as I keep marching along at this rate, I'll be planting a flag on Mount Olympus on Mars (in my Mount TBR challenge) before the year is out. The quality this month was better than February--the lowest rating is three stars. But I'm still looking for that elusive five-star rating for a new-to-me book. Strong Poison by Sayers and The Devil in Music by Kate Ross are our only five-star winners this month and I've read that Sayers so many times I could probably recite portions in my sleep. She has also won the coveted P.O.M. Award in the past, as has Ross (in January). But before we hand out the shiny prize, let's take a look at the stats.

Total Books Read: 23
Total Pages: 5,504

Average Rating: 3.74 stars  
Top Rating: 5 stars 
Percentage by Female Authors: 22%
Percentage by Male Authors: 74%
Percentage by both Female & Male Authors: 4%
Percentage by US Authors: 83%

Percentage by non-US/non-British Authors:  0%
Percentage Mystery: 100%
Percentage Fiction: 100%
Percentage written 2000+: 26%
Percentage of Rereads: 43%
Percentage Read for Challenges: 100% {It's eas
y to have every book count for a challenge when you sign up for as many as I do.}    
Number of Challenges fulfilled so far: 10 (32%)

Mysteries Read
Clue by Paul Allor (3 stars)
The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot by Robert Arthur (4 stars)
The Mystery of the Talking Skull by Robert Arthur (3 stars)
Calamity at Harwood by George Bellairs (4 stars)
Death Treads Softly by George Bellairs (4 stars)
Home by Nightfall by Charles Finch (3 stars)
The Inheritance by Charles Finch (3.5 stars)
The Laws of Murder by Charles Finch (3 stars)
Death of an Angel by Frances & Richard Lockridge (4 stars)
Inspector's Holiday by Richard Lockridge (3.5 stars)
Murder for Art's Sake by Richard Lockridge (4 stars)
Murder Roundabout by Richard Lockridge (3.5 stars)
A Plate of Red Herrings by Richard Lockridge (4 stars)
With Option to Die by Richard Lockridge (4 stars)
The Castle Island Case by F. Van Wyck Mason (3 stars)
The Man in the Moonlight by Helen McCloy (4 stars)
The Ghost Finders by Adam McOmber (4.5 stars)
The Cat Saw Murder by D. B. Olsen [Dolores Hitchens] (3.5 stars)
The Devil in Music by Kate Ross (5 stars)
Whom the Gods Love by Kate Ross (4 stars)
Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers (5 stars)
Clue: Candlestick by Dash Shaw (3 stars)
The Corpse with the Grimy Glove by R. A. J. Walling (3.5 stars)


When we take out our five star winners (Sayers and Ross), we are left with one book which garnered a four and a half star rating. Adam McOmber's The Ghost Finders is (as I noted in my review) a wonderfully gothic, horrifically fun and mysterious adventure. He creates a nifty puzzle behind the gaslit world full of supernatural creatures and humans with extraordinary powers. The three main characters are vividly drawn with interesting backstories that are at once disparate, yet also fitting together so perfectly to provide friendship and kinship among these three wildly different individuals. The separate histories weave together to create the fabric necessary for the final scenes. It was interesting to watch these three work their way through various layers of loyalty and betrayal to discover what is necessary to save themselves...and perhaps all reality.  Definitely worth of the P.O.M. Award for March.