Facebook

PaperBackSwap Blog


Mystery Monday Review – The Case of the Daring Decoy

January 11th, 2021

 

The Case of the Daring Decoy by Erle Stanley Gardner

 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

It is 1957. Oil Man Jerry Conway is embroiled in a proxy fight with an ex-employee Gifford Farrell. We know Farrell must be a cad because he has a debonair manner and a pencil-thin moustache. Jerry stumbles into a trap involving a room in a threadbare hotel, a beautiful woman dressed in not much more than a mudpack. Hubba – as they used to say – hubba.

Rosalind – she of mudpack fame – coughs up a recently fired .38 to Conway before he hustles the heck out of there. Jerry high-tails it out of there. Driving away, he discovers one bullet has been fired from the .38 caliber revolver. Feeling legally vulnerable, he calls super-lawyer Perry Mason’s answering service.

Later in the same hotel room Perry and his PI Paul Drake discover the body of an un-mudpacked woman with a bullet in her chest, fired – of course – by the same gun. Mason phones Homicide and confuses the desk clerk with questions just for good measure. The obnoxious SGT Holcomb stomps his way in, suspiciously asking questions that assume Mason is guilty of something. Mason criticizes him for asking questions when he should be securing the murder scene. It’s a nice contrast to the usual unfailingly polite Mason on TV.

Is the frame-up of Jerry perfectamundo? With frank and inhuman glee, will DA Hamilton Burger hang a rap of accessory to murder on Perry?

As always, Gardner indulges his penchant for giving characters odd names. We get Norton Barclay Calvert, Dr. Reeves Garfield, Evangeline Farrell, and the melodious Myrtle Lamar. Another distinguishing point is that Della Street appears in only a couple of scenes – sad for us Della fans – but the one with a chivalrous Perry is a humdinger.

 

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – Dead Men Don’t Ski

December 28th, 2020

 

Dead Men Don’t Ski by Patricia Moyes

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

In the first Inspector Henry Tibbett mystery published in 1959, Henry and his wife Emmy take a vacation at a ski resort in the Italian Alps near the Austrian border. It’s in fact a working vacation because his superiors in Scotland Yard have asked Henry to be on the lookout for drug smugglers.

As in the second novel starring Tibbet, Down among the Dead Men, a seemingly accidental death has already occurred before the novel actually gets started. That is, one of the ski instructors ended up in a crevasse because of too much risk-taking.

But another hotel guest, detested by about everybody who had contact with him, is discovered shot dead on the ski lift. Henry joins a local copper and greenhorn Inspector Spezzi to investigate the murder.

Moyes likes to set her mysteries in different locations, such as Geneva (Death on the Agenda) and a London movie set (Falling Star). Like a cozy writer usually does , she employs stock characters: the bright young thing, the good guy with the dodgy past, the Lord Peter type, the mysterious woman, the emotional foreigner, the dumb colonel, the hideous Hun, etc. Henry and Emmy are reassuringly normal – no existential angst on them and Henry’s preternatural intuition (his “nose”) isn’t weird.

Moyes also has a Simenonian sense of the closed community, such as the locals versus the tourists and the local commercial fishers versus the weekend boaters (again Down among the Dead Men). Finally, though I’m not astute when it comes to puzzles, she unfolds the incidents smoothly with only a couple of too obvious techniques “to make ‘em wait,” as Wilkie Collins urged. This one, unexpectedly, did not have draggy spots although it goes almost 300 pages, long for a mystery in my book.

All in all, a strong effort for a first novel and well worth reading.

 

 

 

A Visit from St. Nicholas

December 24th, 2020

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
 – Clement Clarke Moore (or was it Major Henry Livingston, Jr.?)

 

Both Moore and Livingston are credited with having written this poem for their own children. Both men lived in New York. Henry Livingston was born in 1748, and Clement Clarke Moore some 30 years later in 1779. Both were prolific writers. And there the similarities seem to end.
Moore claimed to have written the poem in 1832. It was published the following year in a newspaper, but was not attributed to any author. In 1844, Clement’s book Poems was published, and included the poem A Visit from St. Nicolas.
Livingston, on the other hand, never mentioned that he wrote the poem. But he did write many poems and light verse. His great-grandson was instrumental in giving credit to Livingston for the poem.
In either case, the poem is here for you to enjoy on this Christmas Eve. Read it aloud. Read it to your children, to your grandchildren, to your partners or your pets. And

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

.

Mystery Monday – Bullets for the Bridegroom

December 7th, 2020


Bullets for the Bridegroom
by David Dodge

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

Dodge’s series hero was certified public accountant Whit Whitney. Contrary to the stereotype of an eye shade wearing Kaspar Milquetoast, Whitney does not hesitate to jump into conflicts with his fists, preferring them over handguns because they have the personal touch. He possesses smarts and class enough to attract Kitty, an attractive, intelligent, and game socialite. On display, then, is an amusing minimum of Nick and Nora-type byplay.

Walt and Kitty drive to Reno to get married by an old family friend who is a J.P. At the friend’s remote house, they meet two dodgy types. One is stout and suspicious, the other has gunsel written all over him. Walt and Kitty feel that something is wrong and ease themselves out of the house.

Thus begins their many adventures. I don’t want to give away what the dodgy types are up to, but note the book was written in 1944, during World War II. Whit and Kitty team up with a former buddy, Casey Jones, and his team to foil nefarious plans. The plot is mildly far-fetched, but the main attraction is Dodge’s deft characterization. Though Casey is a manly hero and Swede Larson is a noble savage both right out of the pulps, breathing with life are thug Jess Caldwell and casino-owner Lorenzo Colusa. Ditto for Pete Weston, a newspaperman and pal of Whit’s, and Gladys Warren, a “pocket-size taffy blonde.” Colorful too are the Greek restaurant owner John Masilikos, stable owner Alex Hotaling, dice croupier Harry Jackson, and Sheriff Andy.

Besides being a CPA himself, Dodge had the keen eyes and ready pen of a travel writer so his descriptions of scenes and landscape are clear and vibrant. The final shootout rocks the ending of the novel. His most famous book is To Catch a Thief because it was made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock. But fans and critics alike enjoy his other PI and crime novels, such as Plunder of the Sun, Death and Taxes, and The Long Escape for their crisp writing style, wild pace, and unpredictable plot twists.

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – More Work for the Undertaker

November 30th, 2020

More Work for the Undertaker by Margery Allingham

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

In this whodunit from 1948, taking a page out of Dickens, Allingham describes Apron Street. Though the blitz has left its scars, Apron Street still features street arabs, poky shops purveying archaic products, and horse-drawn hearses.

Too, the characters are Dickensy in their comicalness and over-the-topitude. Charlie Luke, a new young policeman, is a human dynamo. The Palionode family, though on hard times, pursue obscure scholarly interests as if it were still the wealthy indolent 1890s. The fawning yet sinister funeral director Jas Bowels has the motto “Courtesy, Sympathy, Comfort in Transit.”

The suspicious death of Ruth Palinode brings in series hero Albert Campion to investigate poison pen letters and an elaborate criminal enterprise. The story borders on a parody of a whodunit with nutty wills, an enormous coffin, young misunderstood lovers, shares in a defunct mine, and the government anxious to squelch public knowledge of dodgy machinations.

Highly recommended. For me, the professional finesse of her writing, her delicate wit, her lively imagination, and her complacent determination to stay with old-fashioned devices put Allingham in the first rank of cozy mystery writers.

 

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – The Big Bow Mystery

November 23rd, 2020

The Big Bow Mystery by Israel Zangwill

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

This 1892 novella may be the first genuine locked-room mystery. A landlady and ex-police detective bust open a locked door to find “the deceased lying back in bed with a deep wound in his throat… There was no trace of any instrument by which the cut could have been effected: there was no trace of any person who could have effected the cut. No person could apparently have got in or out.”

Zangwill tweaks the media of the day for its relentless pandering to the morbid curiosity of the ordinary reader. There are ironically melodramatic scenes of the arrest of the suspect and courtroom antics of the judge, lawyers, and jury. The explanations for the impossible crime range from the plausible (secret passages and trapdoors) to the hilarious (a razor-wielding monkey coming down the chimney). Red herrings abound. The suspect has a realistically rotten motive.

Zangwill’s prose will ramble, but this is made up for by its high-spirits and humor. He’s a master of the quip and wisecrack, in the traditions of Groucho Marx and Mel Brooks (I know my examples date me – Larry David, okay?). For readers into mysteries of all sorts or those into reading the occasional pre-Golden Age mystery.

I found this novella in a Dover Books collection from 1978, Three Victorian Detective Novels, which also included Wilkie CollinsMy Lady’s Money and Andrew Forrester’s The Unknown Weapon.

 

 

 

Free Book Friday Winner!

November 18th, 2020

 

 

The Winner of the brand-new copy of
The Mystery of Mercy Close
by Marian Keyes is:

Elaine B. (missouriangel)!

 

Congratulations, Elaine! Your book will be on its way to you shortly!
Thank you to everyone who entered.