Sunday, July 31, 2022

Not I, Said the Sparrow

 Not I, Said the Sparrow (1973) by Richard Lockridge

This is the 21st entry in the Inspector M. L. Heimrich series. Heimrich and his wife Susan are surprised to find themselves invited to a birthday party for "King" Arthur Jameson. The Jameson family is one of the old, moneyed families in the Van Brunt area and have lived on a high hill at The Tor for years. Not the sort of people who mix with state troopers, but Susan used to be an Upton (who were one of those families before losing their money) and that name still means something, apparently. The inspector isn't particularly keen on this type of high-class party, but Susan actually wants to go and he dons his black tie accordingly.

It's an even bigger surprise when Jameson, who is 72 or 73 (no one seems to be sure), announces he's going to marry his secretary, a woman a third his age. The young man who came with Dorothy Selby is very surprised indeed. Heimrich had inferred from their behavior that Dorothy Selby and Geoffrey Rankin were more than just friends (despite what they said when introducing themselves). But the biggest surprise of all is still to come...

Arthur Jameson is found early the next morning in his fishing boat, shot through the neck with a steel arrow. Somebody has made sure that the wedding will not happen. Were his heirs, sister Ursula, son Ronald, and daughter Estelle, hoping to prevent a change in the dispersal of his fortune? If so, they were too late--Jameson made and signed a new will naming Dorothy Selby as his residual legatee the night of the party. Perhaps Dorothy knew about the new will and decided that she'd dispose of her elderly fiance and still get the cash. Or maybe Geoffrey Rankin thought he'd prevent his "friend" from throwing herself away on an elderly husband. 

As Heimrich and Lieutenant Forniss work their way through everyone's statements, they are looking for those with some prowess with a bow and arrow. But then there is another near-successful attempt at murder disguised as accident and their attention is drawn to a previous accident which resulted in the death of Jameson's second wife. Is the answer to the present murder to be found in the past? Heimrich begins to think it is.

It was great fun to return to a more standard mystery with some of the Lockridge series characters after a couple which were either more suspense-driven or missing the familiar faces. Watching Heimrich and Forniss go to work and get to the point where the light bulb goes off is always enjoyable.

Forniss said, "I suppose we're thinking pretty much the same thing, M. L.?"

And, of course, they are thinking the same thing. And they're right. I got there before they did, but they had to find some tangible evidence. Heimrich doesn't utter his standard "the character must fit the crime," but the solution does feature a bit of psychology--figuring out which character fits in with all of the elements. A good, solid read.  ★★

First line: By mid-September in the latitude of the town of Van Brunt, Putnam County, State of New York, one begins to snatch at mild sunny days, which soon will be in short supply.

Last line: He carried tray and a mixer and chilled glasses back to the brightness of the fire and the brightness which was around his wife.


Deaths = 3 (one shot w/arrow; one natural; one hit on head)

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Death in a Sunny Place

 Death in a Sunny Place (1971) by Richard Lockridge

Enid Towne's mother, who had been house-bound since an automobile accident five years ago, has died. Enid grew up expecting to be comfortably well-off in their large Connecticut house with acres and acres of wooded, hilly land. But her mother's doctor bills and efforts to "keep everything just the way your father always wanted" have eaten up most of the ready cash and Enid finds herself with almost nothing except the "potential" (her lawyer's word) earnings from a sale of the house and land. But the market isn't good. And nobody really wants big ol' houses far from the big cities right now. And spring in Connecticut hasn't quite hit yet and it's dismal and gloomy.

So...when "Aunt" Lillian (a courtesy aunt who was her mother's friend) writes from North Carolina and invites Enid to the private club in the sunny south owned by Aunt Lily and her second (much younger) husband, Enid is very tempted. And there is something oddly insistent about this invitation from a courtesy aunt she hasn't seen for years.

You can't guess what a favor you'll be doing us....How many things there are you can help me with....I need you, Enid.

When Enid arrives, she can't imagine what she can do to help Lily. The place seems to run like clockwork. The staff are so efficient. Neal Stanton, Lily's husband, is the perfect, genial host for Hilltop Club. But from the very beginning Enid senses that something is wrong. Aunt Lily is jittery and jumpy and drinking too much in an effort to calm her nerves. There is a group of men who seem oddly out of place in the middle of the country club atmosphere--a little too intense and little too stand-offish. And there is Mr. Hadley, young man with prematurely white hair, who also keeps himself to himself. There seems to be an air about the place that says something is about to happen.

And then something does. Samuel Thompson, brother of one of the intense men, has disappeared. He had kept to his room because he was supposed to be ill and now he's just not there. And, apparently, he's just not anywhere. After a search of the grounds finds no trace of him and none of the cars are missing, the state police decide to drag the lake. They find Mr. Thompson. And it's not an accident--no one accidently hits his head, gets tied up in a rope with a stone at the other end, and leaps into the middle of the lake. Murder has been done. Does it have anything to do with the men Enid saw talking in the darkness below her window? And what about the "nightmare" Aunt Lily says she had about a man being struck down on the terrace? Enid soon finds herself in a dark nightmare of her own in what was supposed to be a sunny retreat. And the worst of it is she doesn't know whom she can trust.

The Lockridge books definitely lost something when Frances died and Richard started writing on his own. Even the plots that should be a little more straight-forward mystery (like this one) wind up with a more melodramatic suspense feel. And, I have to say, I just don't appreciate the more suspense-oriented Lockridge books (whether written while Frances was still alive or not) as much as the more straight-forward mysteries. The stories written by Richard alone also have fewer instances of the lightness of tone and sparkling humor of the earlier books--I can only suppose that lightness was Frances's doing or Richard lost his firm grip on the light touch when he lost his first wife. 

This particular book has the additional disadvantage that the mystery really isn't much of one. Everything becomes pretty obvious about midway through the book even though Lockridge tries to muddy the waters by making one of the character's behavior and motives seem unclear. But it really didn't work--at least not on me. To be a true mystery there really needs to be more suspects with motives and that is missing here. 

All this negativity makes it seem that I didn't enjoy the book, but I did. This is one of the few Lockridge books that I had never (according to my haphazard record-keeping pre-blog) read before and I had searched for a reasonably priced copy for quite some time before getting my hands on it in 2020. So it was a good anticipation read. I enjoyed the sense of place. Lockridge gives a good look at the Carolina countryside as Enid is driven to the Hilltop Club by Aunt Lily's husband. And we are given a good description of the club itself and its grounds. The writing is good and crisp and the action flows well making this a quick, fun read. ★★

First line: She heard that slow thudding sound which meant that Mrs. Mills was coming downstairs, plodding down, holding carefully to the left hand rail.

Last lines: "Yes, Ted," Enid said, and wondered if she had said more than she meant to say. As he leaned down to her, she decided that perhaps she had not.


Deaths = 3 (one natural; one plane accident; one hit on head)

Friday, July 29, 2022

Experiment with Death

 Experiment with Death (1981) by E. X. Ferrars

Guy Lampard, the Director of the King's Weltham Institute of Pomology, is a two-sided coin. To those he likes and those he can play Lord Bountiful to, he is a great man. He can be kind and generous--helping out a colleague whose wife needs to be kept in an expensive healthcare facility, for instance. But Dr. Jekyll has his Hyde and so does Lampard. To those he dislikes, he is everything from a mere hindrance to evil incarnate. He takes great delight in pitting certain colleagues against each other and watching the feathers fly. And when he hires an old "friend" Sam Partlett to join the institute, it becomes apparent that he just missed tormenting Partlett. Partlett is susceptible to alcohol and can get quite violent when in his cups. Lampard loves pouring the drinks and then watching the fur fly.  

When Lampard is found in his office with his throat cut, there are plenty of suspects--from Partlett to Bill Carver who was passed over for the position which Partlett was given to Roger, the Assistant Director, who some say was competing with Lampard for the affections of Dr. Emma Ritchie (and who the police seem to think would just step into the Director's shoes now that they're empty) to whomever Partlett thought was pilfering the drug supply and selling barbiturates on the side. But having plenty of suspects doesn't help when everyone seems to have an alibi and no one can explain who changed the clocks in the various labs and why. The police seem to have chose Roger as the hot favorite. Emma is sure that Roger didn't do it and Roger thinks he knows who did but can't see where the proof is. And then there's another death and Roger asks a simple question. He thinks his solution answers that question...but Emma isn't so sure.

An interesting closed circle mystery with an academic feel even though the institute isn't, strictly speaking, an academic institution. It is a research facility focused on apples--though it really could be any school or research center with the standard allotment of jealousy and grievances. We throw "pomology" about when speaking of the institute, but the only real reference to the work with apples is the running theme of Emma trying to write an article on the effects of carbon dioxide concentrations on apples (and not getting very far...). Otherwise, the purpose of the facility is pretty irrelevant to the story.

The issue of the clocks is a clever twist on the whole "change the time" thing. When is an alibi not an alibi and yet can prove that someone didn't do it? Ferrars is a competent plotter and produces an accurate portrayal of the insular world of the research facility. But somehow her books always lack a certain something that would propel them into the four or five star range. They're good, solid mysteries but the characters, while given distinct personalities, just don't make you care all that much about them. ★★

First line: At a few minutes before half past three on a drizzly afternoon in early November, Mrs. Fallow, whose function in the King's Weltham Institute of Pomology it was to oversee the cleaners and various other domestic matters, carried the tea urn into the common room to which the members of the scientific staff could come for a cup of tea, if they felt so inclined.

Last line: And now all that she wanted was something of which she knew there was no possibility whatsoever, a quiet evening alone with Roger.


Deaths = 2 (one throat cut; one hanged)

Murder at St. George's Church

 Murder at St. George's Church
(2018) by Lee Strauss

Ginger Gold's friend, the Reverend Oliver Hill, is finally ready to settle down with a wife. The church is decorated and the choir gathers for a final rehearsal before the big day--with Ginger and her friend Haley making up two of their numbers. But all is not well at St. George's Church. During an intermission in the rehearsal, the choir director, Mr. Theodore Edwards, plunges to his death from the organ loft in the balcony. He had gone up there to berate his wife (once again) over her poor organ-playing skills. When Haley examines him while waiting for the police to arrive, she discovers that Edwards was struck with a blunt object before he went over the balcony railing. This is not accident, it's now a case of murder.

When Scotland Yard shows up, Ginger is astonished to see Chief Inspector Basil Reed. At the end of the last book, Basil has been placed on leave due to his behavior during the investigation of the murder of his estranged wife and he had taken himself off to South Africa to "find himself" (my term, not his). Ginger was hurt at the way he left and the fact he had not written while he was gone. He hadn't even bothered to tell her that he was back and reinstated. So...she's been stepping out with the handsome Captain William Beale. In fact, Captain Beale has asked her to marry him. She likes the captain, but he just doesn't make her heart skip a beat like some people...Oh wait, we're still hurt and mad at him. Things are about to get complicated on the romance front for Lady Ginger Gold, 'cause Captain Beale knows what he wants...and so does Inspector Reed. But does Ginger? Ginger finds herself uncomfortably working with Basil again. The circumstantial evidence seems to point to Mrs. Edwards and Basil's superior officer instructs him to arrest her. Mrs. Edwards insists she's innocent. She may not have liked her husband much, but she is no killer. So, she hires Ginger to look for the real killer and clear her name. Ginger and Basil soon learn the Edwards was a philanderer with a taste for younger women. Could one of his conquests have done him in? There are also a few men interested in some of the choir members, perhaps one of them killed the director to protect a young woman's honor. my review of the previous entry in the Ginger Gold series I mentioned that there were two things about the series that were wearing thin. We seem to have taken care of item number one--the on-again, off-again romance between Ginger and Basil. It looks for all the world like they're finally going to get married. So, yay for that. The second problem (the chattering, self-absorbed, immature young woman in Ginger's life) also gets resolved, but none too soon.We get almost a whole book of Ginger's half-sister whining about being bored, making her maid's life a misery, and saying the most obnoxious things she can think of. You can't imagine my relief when Louisa suddenly announces that she's going back to America. Can I help you pack? Don't let the door hit you on the way out. Seriously, she was even more annoying than Felicia was before Strauss had her grow up a bit and that didn't seem possible. And, quite frankly, she served NO purpose in the story line other than to be annoying. I just hope we don't pick up yet another whiny little secondary character in the future.

 The mystery is fast-paced and nicely plotted. I did spot the killer fairly early, but that didn't ruin my overall enjoyment. And, while Ginger may exasperate me at times, I do genuinely like her character and enjoy following her adventures. ★★

~~~~~~~~~~~Spoiler Alert!!~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PS: And may I just say that I'm none too happy about where this story has taken Haley. I was thinking we weren't seeing enough of her in these last two books...I guess Strauss was just preparing us her to head home.

First line: "Lady Gold, will you do me the honor of being my wife?"

Last line: Besides, what harm could befall them on a train?


Deaths = two hit with blunt object

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Badenheim 1939

 Badenheim 1939 (1980) by Aharon Appelfeld

A story of the last spring and summer in the resort town of Badenheim, Austria before Germany invaded Poland. Badenheim serves as a haven of culture for Jews. It is the site of a famous music festival and Dr. Pappenheim, the organizer, promises that this year will be bigger and better...something they will all remember. Everyone--from Dr. Schutz, with his weakness for teenagers; Frau Zauberblit who has run away from a sanitorium (apparently a tubercular patient); Dr. Fussholdt, who is finishing a draft of his most recent book; Mitzi Fussholdt, his beautiful and spoiled wife; the pharmacist and his sickly, delusional wife; the twins who recite Rilke; the child prodigy who sings like an angel; the musicians who believe practicing will spoil their music; and the powerful Princess Milbaum.

Each is caught up in their plans and troubles and Dr. Pappenheim thinks that the worst thing that can happen is for his festival schedule to go awry and the musicians to arrive late. But then a horde of mysterious inspectors from the Sanitation Department descend upon the town, conducting more intensive inspections than anyone can ever remember. The residents convince themselves that "something must be going around" and that it is all for their good. But why would sanitation inspectors need to know about your family history? And why do the Jews, and only the Jews, have to register in a Golden Book? And what does this relocation to Poland mean?

This is a slightly surreal allegory of what happened in Germany in the years leading up to World War II. Like the pharmacist's wife, the nation which was defeated and punished at the end of the "war to end all wars" is "poisoned and diseased." The people's need for direction and order make them vulnerable to the fascist regime. The victims unquestioningly follow the orders and believe the lies that they are headed to a better life in Poland. They all expect that anything bad will affect others and not themselves. The themes are powerful, but the surreal nature of the prose made reading it a little difficult for me. But one can't deny the power of the final scenes knowing what will happen next. ★★

First line: Spring returned to Badenheim.

Last line: Nevertheless Dr. Pappenheim found time to make the following remark: "If the coaches are so dirty it must mean we have not far to go."

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Crossword Mystery (spoilerish)

 Crossword Mystery (1934) by E. R. Punshon

Detective-Constable Bobby Owen is assigned undercover duty to protect a businessman who believes he's in danger. George Winterton's brother Archibald drowned in what was determined to be a swimming accident. But George is convinced his brother was murdered. There just can't be any way that such a champion swimmer could have drowned on such a calm day. So, while keeping a watchful eye on George, Bobby is also tasked with re-investigating the drowning (but strictly on the q.t.). He's got quite a bit to deal with--George refuses to give any real assistance to his protector (like reasons why he thinks his brother was killed and why he might be in danger OR whom he suspects OR anything useful like that); the alert little Airedale who barks at strangers has gone missing; and there are mysterious meetings in the dark. Then the dog's body is found and it isn't long before master follows his canine in death and this time it's definitely murder.

This is a rather dramatic little story. There is a running Shakespearean theme (almost a joke on the part of Superintendent Mitchell); there is the highly theatrical (really gruesome) death of the villain at the end; there is the somewhat farcical emphasis on two points which ought to make the motive and the culprit plain--especially to those who frequently indulge in mysterious reading. In fact, the overly-dramatic aspects of the story really didn't work for me all that much--in part because our supposed hero, Bobby Own (after all, his is the only name mentioned in the blurbs on the book and the series is labeled "Bobby Owen Mysteries), is not nearly the super sleuth who ought to be pitted against the "big brain" who's supposed to be the mastermind behind it all.

~~~~~~~~~~Definite Spoilers Ahead!!~~~~~~~~~~~


It takes Bobby an eon to spot the absolutely neon sign pointers. The second victim is all secretive about a crossword puzzle which he is devising. Yet he says to Bobby, in no uncertain terms, that he (Bobby) will want to give it his attention at some point. And when Bobby does gets his hands on the thing, there at the top, big as life is the phrase: Key Word: "Gold." And there are a bunch of words that have to do with digging and location and such. Somebody's been digging in the broken-down summer house. I wonder whatever they could have been looking for? Oh, my. What could it be?? Not to mention the fact that Mitchell, other police big-wigs, and the Chief Constable all keep rattling on about how the "big brain" behind it all is so wonderfully organized. Everything figured out to the last jot and tittle. Gee, Bobby, have we met anyone in this cast of characters like that? Anyone at all whom everyone says organizes and arranges absolutely everything? Honestly, when Owen, Mitchell, and company finally figure it out and get round to explaining everything, I wasn't much impressed--even though Mitchell hints that he's known a bunch of this for quite some time. (So, where were you, Mitchell? Off in the wings while the play was going on.) I was too tired of our hero's apparent obtuseness and frustrated that we hadn't got there sooner to be impressed. 

And can we talk about that ending? That has got to be one of the most gruesome ways that a villain has committed suicide in Golden Age crime fiction. Yikes.

This is the most disappointing of the three Punshon mysteries I have read so far. ★★

First line: It was one of the loveliest days of a lovely summer, and Detective-Constable Bobby Owens, B.A. (Oxon, pass degree only), as he jogged placidly along on a brand-new motorcycle (Government property) at a quiet forty or fifty m.p.h., with an occasional burst up to seventy or eighty when he was quite sure there were no traffic police about, was almost able to persuade himself that after all there are on this earth, though rare, worse jobs than police jobs.

Last line (can't give the full sentence or it would spoil the plot even worse than my spoiler above): ...nor was there one of them that could move a muscle, or utter so much as a cry, so held in utter stillness were they by the horror and greatness of the deed.


Deaths = 5 (one drowned; two stabbed; one hit on head; one burned to death [rather gruesomely])

Monday, July 25, 2022

Thrones, Dominations

 Thrones, Dominations (1998) by Dorothy L. Sayers/Jill Paton Walsh (read by Ian Carmichael)

I listened to the delightful Ian Carmichael read the first of the Lord Peter Wimsey continuation novels. It is always good to Lord Peter in his capable hands. And, as I mention in my previous, more thorough review HERE, his reading of the stories make them go down ever so much better. I don't have a lot more to say about this one, but I do have a few observations.

~I still feel like there is an incredible lack of Bunter in this. Bunter has always been Peter's right-hand man when it comes to investigations and beyond his brief appearance at the cottage he's given little to do.

~I'm still very fond of the appearance of the Countess of Severn and Thames and I love the way Harriet deals with her. That scene is perfect. 

~Also very appreciative of the way Harriet comes up with a solution to the problem of Bunter's marriage. It's ideal for the circumstances and allows Bunter to have his cake and eat it too. 

~Sayers's examination of the differences between the two marriages (Harwells/Wimseys) makes for interesting reading and a good foundation for the murder.

I enjoyed this outing in the world of Lord Peter and am growing more used to Paton Walsh's handling of the characters. While it is not quite up to Sayers's standards, it does become more evident to me that she was very fond of Sayers's work and endeavored to do her best by the characters. ★★

First line: "I do not," said Monsieur Theophile Daumier, "understand the English."

Last line: Must be reading the wrong book--will ask Harriet to lend me War and Peace.


Deaths  = 4 (two strangled; one drowned; one hanged)

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Striding Folly

 Striding Folly (1972) by Dorothy L. Sayers

This particular edition includes an introduction by Catriona McPherson which examines the stories in detail and a short essay by Janet Hitchman discussing Lord Peter and his creator. Each is very informative both for the Sayers novice as well as for those of us more familiar with the detective novelist and her sleuth.

It is a delightful collection of short stories to round out the Wimsey canon. Not much mystery, but lots of great characters and insight into life in the Wimsey household after Busman's Honeymoon. The first is slightly odd--more in the line of "The Image in the Mirror" found in Sayers's collection Hangman's Holiday. But I do so enjoy the first peek into Lord Peter's first experience at fatherhood and his family at Talboys. ★★★★

"Striding Folly": This one has a bit of the mystic about it. A man has a dream which appears to be strangely prophetic about the murder of his neighbor. Except it didn't predict that he would be accused! Lord Peter comes to the rescue, of course!

"The Haunted Policeman": The story of the poor policeman who saw a house numbered thirteen where no thirteen ought to be and a murdered man where no one has been murdered. Lord Peter helps him prove that he wasn't drunk nor delusional.

"Talboys": In which, Bredon, Lord Peter's eldest, steals peaches, is punished and wrongly accused of stealing peaches a second time. While Lord Peter helps track down the rightful culprits, Miss Quirk, guest of the Wimseys and an errant amateur psychologist, finds that practicing psychology on a family of Wimsey boys may not be the best of ideas.

First line (1st story): "Shall I expect you next Wednesday for our game as usual?" asked Mr. Mellilow.

Last line (last story): "It answers to the name of Cuthbert."


Deaths = one strangled

Friday, July 22, 2022

Cousin Kate

  Cousin Kate (1968) by Georgette Heyer

Late in her writing career Heyer decided to do something different--she combined a regency romance with gothic suspense and mystery. And unfortunately none of the elements are up to her usual standards. They're okay, but just not as strong as one would like.

Kate Malvern, our cousin of the title, is the daughter of Major Malvern, a British officer during the Napoleonic wars. Her mother died when she was twelve and when her father also passes on, leaving Kate with little more than will cover his debts, she is forced to earn a living. She takes up a post as a governess, but soon loses that position when the young man of the house forces his attentions on her and she rejects his offer of marriage. Finding that her youthful prettiness is a hindrance in finding another suitable situation, she returns to the home of her nurse, now Mrs. Sarah Nidd. 

Sarah is aghast when she learns that Kate is determined to take what employment she can find--even as a lady's maid or dressmaker, if need be. So, Sarah writes to Kate's Aunt Minerva (her father's half-sister) in the hopes that family will be willing to help. Lady Broome (as Aunt Minerva is) more than comes up to scratch. She arrives in person to take Kate to Staplewood for the summer, buys her niece fine clothes and trinkets, and generally showers her with gifts. 

Her aunt's family make her welcome, but there is a strange atmosphere about Staplewood. Her young cousin Torquil has fits of moodiness and temper. There is an odd doctor and groom who follow Torquil about as though he were still a small boy...or not to be trusted. Although the Broome's are the leading citizens of the area, no one comes calling and her aunt does little calling herself. There are rumors that Philip Broome--nephew of Sir Timothy Broome--has been behind certain accidents that have involved Torquil. And...there are odd noises and events in the night hours. What is going on at Staplewood? And what plans does Lady Broome have for her niece? For it soon becomes clear that Lady Broome does nothing without motives that would benefit Lady Broome....

I definitely think I like Heyer's work best when she is doing just one genre at a time. Her regency romances are top-notch. She has a few that have a slight edge of mystery, but no others with the gothic suspense feel. She also wrote a series of quite fine straight mysteries with a hint of romance. But this mix of romance-gothic suspense-mystery just falls short of her best work. The characters are very good and she gives them to us in deft little sketches. The one thing lacking in our heroine Kate is perception when it comes to her aunt. Kate, having lived a life "following the drum" and in close contact with all sorts certainly seems a bit naïve when it comes to the goings-on at Staplewood. You just want to give her a good shake and say, "Kate! Can't you see what's happening?" But, no, she can't.

But the reader can. The mystery isn't really about who is behind what--that's pretty plain. What one doesn't know is just how it's all going to work itself out. The ending does provide a nice little twist (though a bit of a melancholy one) before the happy ending that we all know is coming. ★★

First line: At no time during the twenty-four hours was the Bull and Mouth Inn a place of quiet or repose, and by ten o'clock in the morning, when the stage-coach from Wiebech, turning top-heavily out of Aldersgate, lumbered into its yard, it seemed to one weary and downcast passenger at least, to be crowded with vehicles of every description, from a yellow-bodied post-chaise to a wagon, with its shafts cocked up and the various packages and bundles it carried strewn over the yard.

Last line: I think we won't discuss anything that has happened today. We shall eat our dinner, and after that I shall challenge you to a rubber of piquet...


Deaths = one hit by a cart; one strangled; one drowned

Stories Not for the Nervous

 Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories Not for the Nervous (1965) as by Alfred Hitchcock [Robert Arthur (ed)]

Another collection of stories "presented" by Alfred Hitchcock (with an intro from Hitch and everything...). This collection is billed as particularly cold-blooded and disturbing and definitely not for the faint of heart or the easily spooked. Personally, I don't think they're all that chilling even though the mysteries are generally solid and interesting. ★★

"To the Future" by Ray Bradbury: A man and his wife, fugitives from the future--a future full of war and disease and despair--hope to find refuge through time travel to the year 1938. [Deaths = one hit by car]

"River of Riches" by Gerald Kersh: An Englishman walks into a bar, meets a smooth-talking fellow countryman with tales of riches in South American, and walks out again with gold. Or does he? [Deaths = one eaten by alligator]

"The Man with Copper Fingers" by Dorothy L. Sayers: A story of jealousy and a well-known sculptor's plan for revenge. Fortunately, Wimsey is on hand to prevent the artist from completing the second half of his masterpiece. [Deaths = two poisoned]

"Levitation" by Joseph Payne Brennan: A hypnotist dies of a heart attack in the middle of his levitation performance. What happens when a hypnotized, levitating man has no one to tell him to come down? [Deaths = one heart attack]

"Miss Winters & the Wind" by Christine Noble Govan: Miss Winters believes the wind to be evil and that it is out to get her. She may be right... [Deaths = one fell from height]

"The Dog Died First" by Bruno Fischer: The only way Dot Hall will be able to escape a murder rap is to convince the cops that she really did kill. [Deaths = one hit on head; one shot]

"The Twenty Friends of William Shaw" by Raymond E. Banks: William Shaw had always been generous with his friends. Now his butler has been sent to ask them all for a little favor in return. But our narrator isn't quite sure about what's being asked of him... [a death, but no cause given]

"The Other Hangman" by Carter Dickson: A man is convicted (on circumstantial evidence) of the murder of his partner and sentenced to hang. New evidence appears...but will it save him? [one hanged; one beaten to death]

"Dune Roller" by Julian May: An ecologist is studying life in the tide pools of Lake Michigan when he discovers the reality behind local legends of a ravenous beast that comes from the lake "in search of a man" to kill...and then retreats until its hunger forces it from the lake once again. [Deaths = one burned to death]

"No Bath for the Browns" by Margot Bennett: The Browns manage to find a house in London when houses are scarce. But the bath is most inconveniently placed. When they decide to move the the bath, they get a terrible surprise... [a death, but no cause given]

"The Uninvited" by Michael Gilbert: Mr. Calder and Mr. Behrens are old hands at the Great Game of spying. One of Mr. Calder's foes is planning to pay a surprise visit...the two elderly men may have a surprise or two of their own. [Deaths = one hit on head; one shot]

"The Substance of Martyrs" by William Sambrot: A mystery only in the religious sense. A golden crucifix is said to be the source of miracles. Does the power of the crucifix come directly from heaven or does it take a detour through the blood of the fallen? 

"Don't Look Behind You" by Frederic Brown: Two men run a counterfeiting business in New York City and it's going well until one of them gets murdered. Then things start to get interesting for the remaining man...[one shot]

First line (1st story): The fireworks sizzled across the cool-tiled square, banged against adobe café walls, then rushed on hot wires yo bash the high church tower, while a fiery bull ran about the plaza chasing boys and laughing men.

Last lines (last story): Don't look behind you. Don't believe this--until you feel the knife.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

And Left for Dead

 And Left for Dead (1961) by Frances & Richard Lockridge

Will the real Mary Smith please lie down? And die...preferably.

Someone keeps trying to kill Mary Smith. The first attempt left her for dead on the wrong side of New York City. But her head was harder than her assailant thought and she woke up several weeks later, healing from a "depressed fracture." She returns to her apartment to find a man living there. He's former investigative reporter, turned novel writer, Martin Hale. When she asks what he's doing in her apartment, he replies, "renting it." And when she tells him her name is Mary Smith and that the apartment is hers (and where is all her things, by the way...), he smells a story. He's just not sure whether she's cooked one up or if there is more going on than even she realizes. After all, just after she says she was admitted to the hospital, a woman by the name of Mary Smith was beaten to death in that apartment. She was beaten so severely that she couldn't really be identified, though the general description--height, weight, hair and eye color--seemed to be right.

For whatever reason, his instinct is to believe her. At least for now. Then she's attacked again while in the apartment. This time a bag of shopping blocked the blow and Marty's immediate arrival caused the assailant to flee. Now it really looks like there's something to her story. Especially when she finally reveals who she is. Oh...she's really Mary Smith all right. But not just any Mary Smith--a very famous one who is missing. Now they just need to find out who wants this Mary Smith dead and why. When Mary disappears, Martin enlists the help of his friend Bernie Simmons, assistant D. A. There are some doubtful characters hanging about who seem awfully interested in Mary--a private eye and blond man who has been identified as a former jailbird. Will Marty and Bernie be able to find her before the killer becomes "third time lucky"?

This is another of the more suspense-driven stories by the Lockridges. They're just not my favorites. I think I was more inclined to read this girl-in-trouble/on-the-run; unknown threats; menacing people from the past kind of nove when I was younger. But as I've grown older, it just doesn't appeal as much. Give me a nice little murder mystery with suspects and clues and detectives--oh my! I do like that this one brings in Bernie Simmons and Detective John well as Trooper Crowley from the Heimrich books. It would have been nice to have more of all of them, but they do make appearances when it counts. 

As is generally the case, the Lockridges write with a light touch, so even the menacing atmosphere isn't quite so menacing. We've got a personable young man all interested in our girl in danger--so, of course, we know that everything will be all right in the end. The wrap-up is a bit contrived, but since it is happy I shan't complain. ★★ and 1/4

First line: It had been easy to walk out of the enormous hospital, once she decided to walk out.

Last lines: "Yes, you could, Marty," Mary Smith said. "You could come and get me."


Deaths = 3 (one beaten; one shot; one poisoned)

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Secret of the White Rose

 Secret of the White Rose (2011) by Stefanie Pintoff

The third (and final, it seems) installment in the Detective Simon Ziele series set in early 20th Century New York. Ziele generally works with with criminologist Alistair Sinclair to hunt down answers that the more unimaginative members of the force can't even begin to discover. This story begins with Judge Hugo Jackson feeling edgy on the evening before the verdict is expected in the high-profile trial of Al Drayson. Drayson is an anarchist accused of attempting to blow up the Carnegie family wedding. But the anarchists' mistimed their bomb and it went of in the street killing innocent bystanders. Most affecting were the pictures of a single child's shoe the only thing remaining from a four-year-old boy caught in the blast.

The public has been divided between those howling that Judge Jackson, in his efforts to make sure the trial was scrupulously fair so there would be no cause for a mistrial or hope of an appeal, was being too soft on the prisoner and those, who favor anarchy, claiming that Drayson was being railroaded. Jackson will be relieved when it's all over. Little does he know that it's all going to be over for him...well before court opens the next day.

Jackson is found murdered in his study, his throat cut, his hand on a bible, and a white rose before him. No one in his household saw anyone enter or heard any noises whatsoever from the study. Alistair Sinclair was friends with the Jacksons and the judge's wife asks him to investigate. Alistair, in turn, asks for Ziele's help even though the murder took place well outside his jurisdiction. Fortunately, the case is so important that the commissioner is pulling in police from all over to hunt down the anarchists who must be behind this. When a second judge, also well-acquainted with Sinclair, is killed--this time shot and found with his hands bound in front of him and a bible and white rose nearby--Ziele begins to suspect that there is more to the case than anarchists. He's also certain that Sinclair is keeping something from him. But that isn't unusual. The criminologist has always preferred to play certain cards close to his chest in order to make the maximum effect when he reveals a solution. But this time keeping Ziele in the dark may cost Sinclair his own life....

It's been not quite ten years since I read the first two novels in this trilogy, but I find my response to the final installments has mirrored my reviews of the previous books. It's a fine plot with a very interesting explanation for the white rose and other clues found around the victims. I still find Ziele to be a good lead character and astute investigator and...I still can't figure out his relationship with Sinclair. The man will not trust him with all he knows and Ziele finds it hard to completely trust Sinclair. The relationship just doesn't make sense to me. You'd think after their work together, Sinclair would have figured out that Ziele is a good cop and a good man and that, especially now--in this particular case, it would be a good idea for him to have all the facts. It was also interesting to learn a little more about the anarchists of the early 20th Century in America. The historical background is explained well and woven into the story without overburdening the plot with info dumps. 

My primary complaint with the plot is that there is no way to have seen the solution coming. There isn't a single hint what the white rose means until the end...and if you don't know what the white rose means, then you can't possibly figure out who did it. However, the story is still entertaining and packed with action--making for an enjoyable read. ★★

First line: Judge Hugo Jackson was on edge--and had been, ever since the trial began.

Last lines: The lies and half-truths, the betrayals and double-dealings, that I had witnessed were simply a part of life. But perhaps not always. Perhaps not tonight.


Deaths = 6 (one stabbed; one blown up; two shot; one natural; one fell from height)

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Case of the Gilded Lily (spoilerish)

 The Case of the Gilded Lily (1956) by Erle Stanley Gardner

Full confession. I didn't read every word of this one because, unfortunately, the story just did not grab me. I started it for a challenge I was doing, but had to change my selection (for the challenge) because I knew I was going to be skimming. And I did--skim that is. Just so I could actually use it for a few other challenges and so I can move it permanently off the TBR pile.

I have an on-again, off-again relationship with Perry Mason. When I was younger, I didn't care for the TV show and, later, when I started collecting the pulp-era, digest-size mysteries I seemed to run across tons of Erle Stanley Gardner books. Probably because he wrote tons of them. So, I decided to give Perry a chance in print and have found that I have to be in the right mood for him. I don't think I am right now--the whole Burger & company objecting to everything Perry does in the courtroom thing seemed really irritating this time. Especially when I knew Perry was going to win. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~Spoiler Ahead~~~~~~~~~~~

The story line isn't all that compelling either. Rich older guy marries beautiful, younger woman. Woman has shady past. Bad guys decide to blackmail the rich guy based on the little woman's tarnished halo. Blackmailer gets bumped off and the rich guy is suspect number one and on trial. Perry's his lawyer--so you know he's going to get off and there will be a surprise reveal at the end about who really did it. And the real culprit was a real disappointment. At least to me--I would have found it much more satisfying if the rich guy's secretary (who he dumped in favor of the younger gal) had thought this all up so she could set the young wife up to take the fall and then she could comfort the rich guy when the little woman was convicted. But no. Definitely not one of my favorite Perry Masons. ★★

First line: Stewart G. Bedford entered his private office, hung up his hat, walked across to the huge walnut desk which had been a birthday present from his wife a year ago, and eased himself into the swivel chair.

Last line: Mason's answer was laconic. "Just write thanks underneath your signature when you make out the check."


Deaths = one shot

Monday, July 18, 2022

The Suspect

 The Suspect (1985) by L. R. Wright

Wright's book is an inverted mystery. We know from the outset that eighty-year-old George Wilcox has bashed his not-so-very-near neighbor Carlyle Burke over the head. What we don't know is exactly why and whether or not Canadian Mountie, Staff Sergeant Kurt Alberg will discover the evidence to prove he did it. Oh, we have a vague sense of the trouble between the two men--something about Wilcox's sister and some dark secret about Wilcox that Burke was about to blurt out. But it will take the entire book to get all the details.

Wilcox didn't go to Burke's house that day with murder in mind. If he had, well, as he says in a posthumous letter to Alberg

...just think how much harder [to try an pin it on him] it would have been--MIGHT have been--if I'd planned it--if I'd planned the whole thing. I'm a pretty good planner.

But he didn't plan it. Oh, he never like Burke. Not since he first met him. He'd always stayed out of the man's company as much as possible and kept the irritation to a minimum. And then Burke called him and asked him to come visit. He told Wilcox he thought he was dying and had something he just had to say to him before he died. And for whatever reason Wilcox went. Burke talked...and wouldn't shut up. So, Wilcox picked up a handy little WWII souvenir and bashed the man over the head. 

At first he just assumes the police will catch him, but then he realizes that he just might get away with it. So he grabs the murder weapon and its match (it's one of a pair of shell casings) and heads home. He deals with what blood stains he's acquired; has a bit of a nap; and then arranges to discover the body. From then on it's a cat and mouse game between Wilcox and Alberg...along with Wilcox's wrestling match with his own sense of justice. He knows he's committed murder and shouldn't get away with it...and, yet, he also feels justified in having dispatched Burke. It's an interesting psychological study and description of the whys of murder and the "what happens next" of investigation and cover-up.

I am not a huge fan of inverted mysteries. I much prefer being presented with the evidence, clues, and suspects along with the detective and then trying to beat him or her to the solution. But I have to admit to the power of the characterization and the motivations behind the crime. It was, I am sure, even more powerful for the time it was written. If I found inverted mysteries as compelling as the characters, then I would have been willing to up the rating a bit. ★★ and 3/4

First line: He was a very old man.

It's a good thing, in the main--responsibility. But I've a feeling, now, that you can carry it too far, or get it all wrong. (George Wilcox; p. 181)

Last line: He grinned. "I'll be right down."


Deaths = 4 (one hit on head; three car accident)

An Extravagant Death

 An Extravagant Death (2021) by Charles Finch

Charles Lenox and his detective agency are just coming off a big case--a corruption case that has rocked Scotland Yard and put the aristocratic backers of some of the Yard men involved. While Prime Minister Disraeli wants the corrupt men brought to justice, he wants to mitigate the damage to the government as much as possible. His solution, have Lenox's evidence given in a written affidavit rather than live and person (for a drier, less sensational effect). He plans to send Lenox to the United States with all the pomp and circumstance of the Queen's representative. The reason for the trip shall be that Britain is looking to set up reciprocal relationships with the police forces and detectives of other countries to share practices and to give assistance when possible. 

Lenox has barely begun his tour in the States when a request comes from one of the wealthiest families in the wealthy enclave in Newport, Rhode Island. A beautiful young woman named Lily Allingham has been found dead on the beach below the "cottage" owned by William Stuyvesant Schermerhorn IV. It would be most convenient if the woman had committed suicide, but the wound in her head and the position of the body seem to rule out anything but murder. Lily was in her last season as a debutante with her choice of beaus and had been expected to announce her engagement very soon. The front-runners in the marriage race were Schermerhorn's son and a nephew of "the" Vanderbilt. Had she turned one of them down and received a killing blow in a moment of outrage? Or are there others with a reason to kill the almost too beautiful woman? 

Lenox will need to find out who knew Lily best and examine the timeline for a society ball before he can find the answer. His task is made more difficult because he is out of his element and without his usual helpers. A young scion of another of the leading families fancies himself as an amateur detective and lends Lenox a hand. But it's just not the same as having Dallinger or Graham at his side. And how much real help can the young man give anyway?

It was interesting to see Lenox in a different setting and watching him adapt from Victoria's England to the Gilded Age in the States. But I have to admit I'm not overly fond of stories that take the detective out of his usual environs. Especially when they don't have any of their usual companions around--he didn't even get to take Lady Jane along. After having read one of the prequel novels, I was very excited to get back to the "current" Lenox. I like him better as a seasoned detective even though it was nice to see his beginnings in the trade--and, to be honest, I enjoyed the stories where Graham was more Lenox's right-hand man rather than following his career in Parliament and only appearing occasionally. 

The plot is a good one. Mystery fans with a lot of reading under their belts may see the particular twist coming, but Finch handles it well and readers who haven't encountered that type of solution before will be surprised. I'm not sure that I like the overall ending, however. The culprit has escaped justice and though Lenox is assured that s/he will be no further threat, I do wonder if we'll see them crop up again at a later date.

I appreciate Finch's research and the way he uses it to bring the times and places alive. We definitely get a feel for the opulence that existed during America's Gilded Age. And he underlines the differences between the U.S. and Britain during the same time period without making too much of them and without making the reader feel like they are sitting through a history lesson. Highly enjoyable read. ★★★★

First line: It was a sunny, icy late morning in February of 1878, and a solitary figure, lost in thought, strode along one of the pale paths winding through St. James's Park in London.

Last line: When it was gone, she turned inside--for of course there was much to do, and experience had mad her a practical sort of person; and she knew that whatever else you might think you know about life, something else always came next.


Deaths = 2 (one stabbed; one hit on head)



Saturday, July 16, 2022

Mycroft Holmes

 Mycroft Holmes (2015) by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse

Mycroft Holmes is 23 years old and looking to make his mark in the British Government. Currently the secretary to the Secretary of State for War, he hopes to rise higher. His intelligence and acumen would bode well for his hopes. He is also engaged and looks forward to earning enough to afford a home for his bride. Holmes would seem to be your average up-and-coming civil servant....but....

He is a white man who has befriended a black man. Cyrus Douglas, half African and half Indian, born in Trinidad, owns the tobacco shop where Holmes gets his cigars. Not that anyone knows that a black man is so affluent--he has placed a nice, correctly colored couple as "shop keepers" and he appears to all but the most trusted customers as the "hired help." Holmes's fiancée Georgiana also hails from Trinidad, though she is the daughter of a plantation owner. These connections to Trinidad will turn Holmes's world upside down.

Word comes to Douglas from Trinidad that children have been dying. The legend of evil spirits that lure children to their death at the hands of vampiric-like creatures has been revived. Georgiana, a very socially conscious young woman, is alarmed at the reports and insists that she must leave at once for home. Holmes is worried and arranges for reports of unrest to reach his boss and makes it only logical that the Secretary send Holmes as a scout to investigate the situation. He and Douglas set sail immediately and as soon as they are onboard they run into trouble. Holmes is nearly poisoned to death, both men are beaten up, and ritualistic warnings are left in their cabin. Someone doesn't want them to visit the islands...but who could have known they were going?

Things get more intense once they land at Port of Spain. Deaths seem to follow them wherever they go and Douglas's old home is burned to the ground. It isn't long before Holmes, whose mind is even sharper than his younger brother's, discerns the horrible truth behind the deaths of the children as well the more recent murders. But will they be able to put a stop to it before the culprits put a stop to them...permanently?

It took me a little while to reconcile myself to a Mycroft Holmes who is athletic and willing to travel. It seemed absurd to me that the man described by Watson as 

"tall and portly, heavily built and massive, there was a suggestion of uncouth physical inertia in the figure, but above his unwieldly frame there was perched a head so masterful in its brow, so alert in its steel-grey, deep-set eyes, so firm inits lips, and so subtle in its play of expression, that after the first glance one forgot the gross body..." 

could possibly be teaching Sherlock how to box. And when we meet him in the original Holmes stories, he is unwilling to venture beyond his regular schedule and environs--from home to government offices to club and back again, with very occasional and brief outside adventures with Sherlock. I simply couldn't imagine him actually boarding a ship and taking off for Trinidad. I do hope that Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse have a plan to explain when and how Holmes changes from the more adventurous man to the one who only travels in his circumscribed paths. I assume that part of it has to do with his health (he apparently has a groggy heart), but surely there is more to it than that. Or perhaps the unfortunate events of his trip to Trinidad will prove to be the catalyst that will begin his extreme aversion to travel and exertion. 

Overall, this is an interesting addition to the Holmesian works. And it is a solid opening to a new series featuring Sherlock's more intelligent, more observant older brother. Good deductions and lots of exciting action make this a page-turner. I would have liked a bit more clues laid down for the reader--but the Holmes brothers do like to keep things up their sleeves. ★★ and 1/2.

First line: The old man had heard of them, of course everyone on the island had heard of them.

"There are three poisons to sound judgment," he [Douglas] said, "love, hate, and envy. I do not see that you are much in thrall to the latter two, but I do ask that you be careful with the first." (p. 45)

"If there is a moral insanity," he [Sherlock] said in a conspiratorial whisper, they there may be the reverse, a moral sanity, if you will, that comes upon one suddenly, like a fever. In thrall to this moral sanity, Sherwood may have been compelled to come clean. (p. 77)

Last line: And of course, Mrs. Hudson would make a very fine landlady...


Deaths = 9 (Five stabbed; one trampled by a horse; one poisoned; two blown up)

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Relative Fortunes

 Relative Fortunes (2019) by Marlowe Benn

Synopsis (from the book flap): In 1924 Manhattan, women's suffrage is old news. For sophisticated booklover Julia Kydd, life's too short for politics. With her cropped hair and penchant for independent living, Julia wants only to launch her own new private press. But as a woman, Julia must fight for what's hers--including the inheritance her estranged half brother, Philip, has challenged, putting her aspirations in jeopardy.

When her friend's sister Naomi Rankin, dies suddenly of an apparent suicide, Julia is shocked at the wealthy family's indifference toward the ardent suffragist's death. Naomi chose poverty and hardship over a submissive marriage and a husband's control of her money. Now, her death suggests the struggle was more than she could bear. 

Julia, however, is skeptical. Doubtful of her suspicions, Philip proposes a glib wager: if Julia can prove [to his satisfaction] Naomi was in fact murdered, he'll drop his claims to her wealth. Julia soon discovers Naomi's life was as turbulent and enigmatic as her death. And as she gets closer to the truth, Julia sees there's much more at stake than her inheritance...

My take: There are several things to like about this historical novel. The time period, for one--Jazz Age America is an appealing setting for me. In this first novel, Benn doesn't make quite as much out of it as she might have done, but overall a good showing. Julia is, in the main, a great main character. I really like her--except when she's bickering with Philip and when Benn makes her shrill. In fact, most of the female characters turn shrill when they're upset. The shrillness was rather tedious, surely to goodness these women have different personalities and just might react in ways other than shrill when they're angry. The plot is pretty interesting. We know the family is covering up--but we have to figure out just what it is they are covering. Is it merely an unpleasant suicide? Perhaps Naomi's last effort to bring shame to her unpleasant relations? Or had one of her relatives had enough of her and so decided to end the outrageous behavior permanently. There's a nice little twist to the motive.

But...I'm still trying to figure out why Benn dragged in Willard Huntington Wright, other than to keep pointing out what an obnoxious man he supposedly was. Supposedly, we're setting up the idea that Wright (as S. S. Van Dine) based Philo Vance and his friend Markham on Philip and the lawyer Jack Van Dyne. That's fine. That's just dandy. Okay...then make Philip the detective. And funnel the tidbits about the murder to Wright so he can slap together his first detective novel. But--no. Julia is the amateur detective and the whole solution is hush-hush, top secret and Wright never learns a word of it. He just wanders on scene periodically so Philip can talk about what a nuisance he is and Julia can despise him. Wright serves no real purpose.

And back to Philip--he really is a piece of work. Putting Julia through the mill over her inheritance because he was bored and wanted to spice things up? And then prolonging it because she wouldn't just let him run roughshod over her and he thought she was a worthy adversary? Really? It just didn't go down well. 

I can see the makings of a good series. IF we ditch the whole Wright thing. There's a nice bit at the end which promises that Philip may just turn over a new leaf and maybe he'll become tolerable if he shows up in future installments. ★★ and 1/2 --with hopes that future stories will build on good bits.

First line: Two bankers--one gray and stout, the other pink and merely soft about the jowls--conferred in low voices outside the office door, flicking pained glances through the window's gold lettering.

Last line: "Would you happen to know how I might go about registering to vote?"


Deaths = 2 (one hanged; one stabbed)

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Murder Off the Books

 Murder Off the Books (2007) by Evelyn David (Marian Edelman Borden & Rhonda Dossett)

Synopsis (from the back of the book): 

Is your tuition paid up?

College finals are killers--or maybe it's just the people who count the money.

A retired Irish Cop and a fast-food loving Irish Wolfhound search for the campus murderer while dealing with a scooter-riding senior citizen with dreams of trench coat adventures, a crazed exterminator looking for his ride, and a makeup artist whose mid-life crisis isn't any less stressful because her clients never complain.

A half-million dollars has vanished and a college comptroller is dead. Mackenzie Sullivan, recently retired DC cop and newly-minted private detective, really has no interest in the murder. Mac just needs to find the embezzled money for the university's insurance company. Finding the killer is a bonus that he's not sure he wants to earn.

My take (spoilers involved--read ahead at your own risk): I don't have a whole lot to say about this one. I picked it up at the Friends of the Library Bookstore because it's one of those academic mysteries and I have a real weakness for those. I've read some of the most godawful things just because I couldn't resist an academic setting or academic sleuth or what-have-you. This isn't quite that bad--there's a half-way decent plot in there and I might actually like the characters better if they didn't seem to be intent on irritating each other repeatedly. I have two main thoughts:

1. The Wolfhound is a better detective than Mac. If he had only paid attention to Whiskey, he would have found the police's prime suspect--not just once, but twice. Not to mention that she was much more aware of others roaming around than he was. Whiskey is also the best character in the book. Followed by J J, the secretary that Mac never knew he needed until she just showed up.

2. If the prime suspect suspect--who swears he's innocent--would have just fessed up to the police about what he'd really been doing, then we'd probably have two less corpses and those nearest and dearest to him would never have been in danger. And, sure, that's often the case in mysteries. If only so-and-so had told what they know...or whatever. But generally speaking the reasoning makes sense (of a sort) and helps drive the plot in good way. I just find Dan really annoying and had to put the book down several times because I was disgusted with his self-centered behavior and the way he treated his big sister.

Overall, there are glimmers of good characters (when they're not shouting at one another) and the plot is decent. If another in the series comes my way, I might give it a shot. ★★ and 1/2

First line: The pop of a human head cracking against rock sounded surprisingly loud.

Last line: "I'm just fine."


Deaths = three shot

June Pick of the Month (Running Late Again...)


 And...just like last month..I just realized that another month is in the books (😉) and I haven't posted my reading stats or chosen June's mystery star. I've managed to keep the reading mojo going and have met my stated Mount TBR challenge goal (100 of my own books). We'll see if I can keep going and plant that flag on Mount Olympus on Mars. I managed another 20 books and all but three had a mystery flair. I'm totally counting Hans Brinker in the mystery ranks--there are definite mysteries to be solved including a mysterious disappearance and a death. We'll take a look at the mystery star ratings in a moment, but before we hand out the shiny prize/s, let's take a look at the stats.

Total Books Read: 20
Total Pages: 4,834

Average Rating: 3.46 stars  
Top Rating: 5 stars 
Percentage by Female Authors: 40%
Percentage by Male Authors: 50%
Percentage by both Female & Male Authors: 10%
Percentage by US Authors: 85%

Percentage by non-US/non-British Authors:  5%
Percentage Mystery: 90%
Percentage Fiction: 95%
Percentage written 2000+: 10%
Percentage of Rereads: 20%
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: 16 (50%)

Mysteries Read:
Give the Little Corpse a Great Big Hand by George Bagby (3.5 stars)
John Smith Hears Death Walking by Wyatt Blassingame (2.5 stars)
Murder Gone Minoan by Clyde B. Clason (4 stars) 
Hans Brinker by Mary Mapes Dodge (4 stars)
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Month of Mystery as edited by Alfred Hitchcock (3 stars) 
Bullets for Macbeth by Marvin Kaye (3 stars)
The Bluebeard Room by Carolyn Keene (3 stars)
The Scarlet Slipper Mystery by Carolyn Keene (3.75 stars) 
The Secret of the Golden Pavilion by Carolyn Keene (3 stars)
Trixie Belden & the Black Jacket Mystery by Kathryn Kenny (3.5 stars)
The Golden Man by Frances & Richard Lockridge (3 stars)
The Queen & The Corpse by Max Murray (3 stars) 
Still Life with Crows by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (4 stars) 
Death Among the Sunbathers by E. R. Punshon (3 stars) 
The White Elephant Mystery by Ellery Queen, Jr. (4 stars) 
Cat's Paw by Roger Scarlett (3.5 stars) 
All Hallows' Evil by Valerie Wolzien (1.5 stars)
And now it's time to identify our P.O.M. Award recipient. The only five star winners in June were non-mysteries: The Trouble With Tribbles by David Gerrold, a photo-novel telling the story through stills from the Star Trek episode, and What Just Happened by Charles Finch, a diary-style account of the pandemic year. Both are absolutely excellent in different ways, but they're not mysteries. In the mystery ranks, we have four which garnered four stars. Murder Gone Minoan by Clyde Clason, Hans Brinker by Mary Mapes Dodge, Still Life with Crows by Preston & Child,and The White Elephant Mystery by Ellery Queen, Jr. 
I can hear the crowd getting a bit restless--Hans Brinker is not a true mystery; what are the judges thinking?--they mutter. Well, you might have a point. However, while the story may be a charming children's story focused on family, loyalty and friendship, there is a mystery at the heart of it. Two mysteries, in fact. First, there is the missing savings of the Brinker family. A large sum of money--all of their savings--went missing on the same night that Mr. Brinker had his fall from the dyke. The second mystery involves Dr. Boekman's missing son. The answers to both mysteries are locked in Mr. Brinker's brain and it isn't until Hans convinces Dr. Boekman to treat his father that the mysteries will be solved. 

I do agree, however, that we should look elsewhere for our P.O.M. Award. Murder Gone Minoan was an interesting entry in the Westborough series. It has a very epistolary set-up--beginning with letter exchanges and with intermissions for transcripts of the written statements from the various witnesses each time there's a murder. Clason drops clues in the documents and in conversations so adroitly that I definitely did not spot the important ones which would have told me what the letters Westborough sent (which we didn't get to see...) contained. I also would have known who did it. But Clason kept that secret till the very least from me. Another pleasant puzzler featuring an academic. I can't resist those. Still Life with Crows is another excellent thriller from Preston & Child. I don't generally gravitate to thrillers, but they do seem to keep me coming back for more and they certainly know how to write an edge-of-the-seat, scare-the-crap-out-of-you thriller that is so absorbing and fast-paced that even I (the biggest coward when it comes to horror and grisly murders) can read the thing straight through, hanging on every word, and impatient to find out what it's all about. Pendergast is an interesting, nuanced character. We get hints that his is an unusual back story and I certainly hope that we learn more about him as the series goes along. I appreciated seeing his softer side as he plainly wants to give Corrie Swanson (the assistant he takes on from Medicine Creek) a way to make a new start in life (if she gets a chance...). The White Elephant Mystery is a fun adventure in the Queen, Jr. series. Djuna is a well-drawn, intelligent, independent young boy who maybe takes a few chances that perhaps he shouldn't (but where would the drama be if he didn't?). He's very good at picking up on clues that the adults don't notice. His dog, Champ, isn't as prominent as in other stories, but Champ does help provide the vital clue that leads Djuna to the solution of the mystery. It's all great fun in a perfect setting for kids of all ages--the circus! it's time to see what the judges have decided. Envelope, please....And the winner of the June Pick of the Month Award is.....