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Archive for May, 2015

Mystery Monday – Accounting for Murder

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Accounting for Murder by Emma Lathen

 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

Mary Jane Latsis and Martha Henissart, attorney-banker and economic analyst respectively, had to write under the pen name of Emma Lathen, lest their Wall Street superiors and colleagues take umbrage. Heaven knows they’d be put out, wondering if they were the models for delicate male egos and whiny baby boys that posture as formidable captains of industry. For instance, in this one, a composed secretary has learned to bring her boss, the president of a computer company, what he, an ex-quarterback for Harvard, craves most in times of stress: a glass of milk.

In this 1964 mystery, an accountant is found strangled with his own adding machine cord. He was an outside auditor that was hired by a bunch of disgruntled stockholders so there are plenty of suspects inside the company. Series hero John Putnam Thatcher, senior VP for Sloan Guaranty Trust, an investment banking concern, is dragged into the investigation because his bank is heavily and foolishly invested in the data processing company in question. As in comic mysteries generally, Thatcher, though canny and quick-thinking, finds himself haplessly caught in zany situations. I can’t assert that the humor is of the LOL – knee-slapping variety, but readers who savor James Thurber’s quiet satirical bomb-throwing will enjoy dry and wry Emma Lathen. In fact, in 1965 this novel was a runner-up for the Golden Dagger Award given by the Crime Writers Association, taking second to the still-readable The Far Side of the Dollar by John Macdonald.

Between 1962 and 1997 (when Latsis passed away), the duo wrote as many as 24 novels featuring Thatcher’s adventures. They are marked by highly literate writing, genial satire of Wall Street and the business world of Madmen, and concise plausible descriptions of how big business used to deal with government contracts, logistics, R&D, production in those bygone days when our financial titans actually focused on investing in making things instead of crashing the housing market.

 

 

 

 

Sci-Fi Saturday Review – Time and Again

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

Time and Again by Jack Finney

Review by Dianne (gardngal)

 

If you live and work in NYC, or are very familiar with it, you could enjoy this book immensely.  In Time and Again,  Jack Finney provides detailed pictures and descriptions of a New York during the 1880’s. I loved the premise of the story. A man, Simon Morley, is sent back in time by scientists and the government in a highly classified experiment.  He is told only that they want to see if they can accomplish such an amazing fete, in order to observe the events of history.  They believe that history and the present exist simultaneously in the here and now.  They have warned him to be observant only.  He is told he must be extremely cautious in what he says and does, so that there will be no changes or consequences to the future. He then undergoes weeks of training in preparation.  However, they are unaware that he has a personal agenda as well. He plans on observing two men in order to solve the mystery of their interactions, based only on an ancient cryptic note he’s read in modern times.

The plot is somewhat thin, so the book is filled with a tourist’s eye view of New York in the 19th century.  It is a fascinating look at history, and the author took great pains to be completely accurate, even for very little known events woven into his story.  I would have personally enjoyed more of the mystery and less of the city.  But there is also romance when he meets and falls in love with a girl from “her” time.  Together they pursue her fiance, Jake, and his associate, barely escaping with their lives.

Eventually, the mystery is sorted out and solved.  Then Morley finally realizes the true meaning behind the experiments in which he has so willingly participated.  The time travel is the core of the story, and what Morley does in the end is fantastic.  Can’t wait to read the sequel to find out what he does next!

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – The Missing Man

Monday, May 4th, 2015

The Missing Man by Hillary Waugh

 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Critics credit Hillary Waugh as a pioneer in the mystery genre that is described as “police procedural set in a small town.” The series hero Police Chief Fred Fellows and his sidekick Detective Sergeant Sidney Wilks starred in nine novels, with the initial one, Last Seen Wearing, ending up on many lists of best mysteries of all time.

In The Missing Man (1964) Fellows and Wilks piece together clues to determine the identity of and find the killer of a young woman whose body was found on a Connecticut beach. They use good old-fashioned police work as they unleash operatives to do the tedious review of hundreds of documents and lists. They also use their experience, imagination, and reasoning to reach conclusions. Fellows is an every-man type of character, subject to slips and goofs but creative and compassionate to the victims’ families as well. Waugh himself grew up in small town Connecticut so the setting of Stockdale feels authentic. A Yale man, he gets in some digs at posing Yale men.

Waugh passed away in 1988 at the age of 88. His obituary in the New York Times ends with Waugh’s advice to mystery writers: “Authenticity is the key to good mystery writing. Not only must you be able to write well, but you must also possess the instincts of a good reporter who has witnessed firsthand the darker side of human nature.”