Sunday, June 19, 2022

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Month of Mystery

 Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Month of Mystery (1969) as by Alfred Hitchcock (but aided and abetted by Robert Arthur)

Thirty-one short stories divided up into sub-categories. We have (in order) a week of crime, a week of suspense, a week of detection, a week of the macabre, and "a short week of long ones." My biggest complaint about the collection is that too many of the stories leave the reader in suspense. Does the criminal get what's coming to him (whether that be a proposed death or jail time)? We'll never know. I do like my stories to have a good solid resolution. And some of the stories really aren't mysteries at all, so we really don't get a whole month's worth of mystery. 

As with all collections, this is a mixed bag. The pick of the stories as far I'm concerned are "The Dusty Drawer," "Drum Beat," "The Queen's Jewel," "The Twelve-Hour Caper," and "The Amateur. A decent selection of stories, but nothing that really just knocked my socks off.  ★★

"The Dusty Drawer" by Harry Muheim: Norman Logan finds an ingenious way to get revenge when a bank teller refuses to admit that he's made a mistake with Mr. Logan's account. It's all about the gun and the money that weren't there...

"Drum Beat" by Stephen Marlowe: A federal agent is accompanying a key witness in a major gangster trial to Washington D.C. Threats have been made against the witness and when the agent hears a distinctive ticking sound coming from the overhead compartment in the airplane, it looks like those threats may become reality.

"South of Market" by Joe Gores: Rick Moran finds himself in a world of trouble when he gives a down-and-outer a handout. Soon he has gangsters on his trail--gangsters who don't mind leaving a few corpses behind in their quest for $80,000.

****Deaths = four stabbed

"The Uses of Intelligence" by Matthew Gant: Who would want to kill an inoffensive banana peddler--and since when do banana salesman stroll around neighborhoods with a banana cart like the Good Humor man? Genius twins, Danny & Patty, who had befriended the man two weeks ago, plan to find out...for reasons of their own.

****Deaths = one hit on head

"Love Will Find a Way" by David Alexander: A man and his wife go on a second honeymoon to Switzerland to try and rekindle the flame in their dying marriage. While on an "easy" hike up a path called "God's Staircase" with a Swiss guide, an avalanche comes along and wipes out the stair above and below them. They're stranded and will probably starve before a rescue party can find them...unless love can find a way out. 

"Retribution" by Michael Zuroy: When two men discover that the same man has seduced one's daughter and the other's wife, they discard their initial plans for revenge and pool their resources. Sometimes murder isn't the best way to get revenge. Sometimes a little larceny goes a long way towards settling up debts. 

"The Queen's Jewel" by James Holding: A woman in South Africa believes herself to be the last of her family. Then a long-lost cousin shows up from America. And he's more interested than is good for him in the fabled jewel that's supposed to be in her possession. 

****Deaths = one poisoned

"Pool Party" by Andrew Benedict: Two hardened jailbirds come looking for a "pal" who has since made good after escaping from prison--a best-selling author with a lovely mansion in California and an even lovelier wife. They figure a bit of blackmail will set them up in style too. They maybe should check their sums...

****Deaths = two drowned

"That Touch of Genius" by William Sambrot: When Ed McKelvin, famous photographer, spies a young man out on the ledge of a nearby high-rise building he sees an opportunity. An attempt at heroism and perhaps an award-winning photo. But at what cost?

****Deaths = one fell from height

"The Crooked Road" by Alex Gaby: When a couple from New York go driving on a twisty country road, they're pulled over by a couple of forceful law enforcement officials. A routine traffic stop doesn't quite go the way anyone expects...not the officers, not the judge, not the tow truck operator. Well...that's not quite true. Somebody does know exactly what they're doing.

"A Taste for Murder" by Jack Ritchie: A man who has been having an affair with his employee's wife turns the tables on the cuckolded husband who plans to kill him.

****Deaths = two stabbed; one shot

"The Twelve-Hour Caper" by Mike Marmer: A mild-mannered clerk in a stocks & bonds firm plans the perfect bonds robbery down to the last detail. His confederates in the caper need some reassurance that it really is perfect, so he gives them every detail....except one. Fortunately, they don't notice.

"The Amateur" by Michael Gilbert: Inspector Hazelrigg relays a story from his early days about kidnapping and one of the most dangerous men he'd ever encountered: an amateur in violence with a great deal to lose. He was even more dangerous than the kidnappers he was up against.

****Deaths = one burned to death (actually more--but either named with no method OR method but unnamed victims)

"Death Wish" by Lawrence Block: A man uses the idea of the death wish as an unexpected method of revenge.

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

"The Singing Pigeon" by Ross Macdonald: Lew Archer winds up in the middle of a shootout with racketeers on one side and the beautiful daughter of a hotel owner on the other.

****Deaths = three shot

"Justice Magnifique" by Lawrence Treat: An artist and his wife go to France. She speaks the language and he doesn't. But he decides to take side trip without her--for local color. She worries that he won't be able to make himself understood and won't be able to get anything to eat. She should worry about him being framed for's even harder to prove yourself innocent when you don't speak a word of French.

****Deaths = one hit on head

"The White Hat" by Sax Rohmer: An unusual bit of murder committed by a man who wasn't there...with the aid of a white hat.

****Deaths = one fell from height

"Hard Sell" by Craig Rice: John J. Malone is hired by the owner of a company that sells magazine subscriptions to find out who is murdering his salesmen. Why would anyone murder magazine salesmen? I mean, door-to-door salesmen may be pushy and annoying, but surely that's not enough to kill over.

****Deaths = one hit by car; one fell from height; one hit by train; one shot

"Greedy Night" by E. C. Bentley: Bentley's classic (and, I'm afraid, not very good) parody of Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey. Lord Peter rushes off to the country to discover how poor old Dermotwas killed.

****Deaths = one poisoned

"A Twilight Adventure" by Melville Davisson Post: A group of cattlemen are ready to dispense vigilante justice when one of their own is shot and his cattle stolen. Uncle Abner serves them up a lesson in real justice and the reasons for following the law.

****Deaths = one shot

"Murder Matinee" by Harold Q. Masur: Peter Crown is a trouble shooter asked to get to the bottom of recent events at a movie theatre which has caused sales to be bad. Things go from bad to worse when he finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation.

****Deaths = one stabbed; one shot

"A Humanist": A toymaker in Hitler's Germany believes that the human spirit will triumph over evil and that Hitler's reign can't last. When things look bleak, he finds evidence of the human spirit in his two servants and an arrangement is made for them to hide him and keep his business running until the war is over. But is the milk of human kindness as sweet and fresh as he thinks?

"The Oblong Room" by Edward Hoch: How far would you go for someone you worshipped as a god? Would you die for them? Would you do murder?

****Deaths = one stabbed

"Love Me, Love Me, Love Me" by M. S. Waddell: Not really a mystery. Just a ghost story about a girl who wants to be loved.

"Special Handling" by John Keefauver: A mailman learns that a reduction in the workforce means exactly what it says. Again--not really a mystery.

"Dead Man's Story" by Howard Rigsby: All about the game warden who took his job so seriously that even his own murder couldn't prevent him from seeing that one last  poacher get his comeuppance.

****Deaths = one shot

"The Legend of Joe Lee" by John D. MacDonald: Another non-mystery about the lawmen out to catch a speeding teenager in a strawberry-red fast car and the realization that no earthly lawman will ever be able to catch this particular automobile...

****Deaths = two drowned

"Crooked Bone" by Gerald Kersh: A story of a prisoner who, ultimately, does not want to be set free.

"The Janissaries of Emilion" by Basil Copper: A scientist dreams of an ancient land near sand and sea and wakes with sea water and sand upon him. Each night his dreams draw him closer to a city where he believes his love as well as a horde of warriors awaits. He knows that if they find him, they will kill him....

****Deaths = one stabbed

"Chinoiserie" by Helen McCloy: A tale of obsession and revenge set in Peking before the Boxer Rebellion. And all because 17 year old Olga Kyrilovna disappeared from the New Year's Eve ball.

****Deaths = one poisoned

"Soldier Key" by Sterling E. Lanier: Brigadier Donald Ffellowes tells an incredible story of a religious sect on Soldier Key (a little-known Island near the [now] Dominican Republica. An incredible story of crabs and sacrifice...

First line (1st story): Norman Logan paid for his apple pie and coffee, then carried his tray toward the front of the cafeteria.

Last lines (last story): Williams managed to grunt. We would hear from him later on, no doubt.

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