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Archive for November, 2017

Mystery Monday Review – Not Quite Dead Enough

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Not Quite Dead Enough by Rex Stout

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

During WWII Stout devoted most of his time to war work, writing for the government. But he did write some Nero Wolfe shorties. This contains a pair of novellas that first came out in The American Magazine (1906 – 1956), “Not Quite Dead Enough” in December, 1942 and “Booby Trap” in August, 1944.

Stout makes them topical, given the nation is at war against fascism, so Wolfe’s sidekick, Archie Goodwin, serves in the Army. Like Conan Doyle coyly hinted things in the Holmes stories, Stout is adept at throwing out tantalizing hints as to what Archie is doing to serve. A counter-intelligence officer, perhaps?

The WWII backdrop is unique in the canon. Archie is driven to set himself up for arrest in order to snap Wolfe out of a patriotic frenzy. The wartime fever has driven the agoraphobic and gastronomic Wolfe to actually go outside and do some brisk walking. Well, as brisk as the rotund Wolfe (and the poor cook Fritz) can manage. This will delight long-terms fans of the series, believe me.

The book has plenty of funny characters. The reveal and the ending, too, depart from the norm in that the climax occurs not with all suspects gathered in the office, but with only Archie in attendance, with Wolfe proposing and disposing. Hey, whaddaya want, there’s a war on!

I highly recommend this one to both Wolfe fans and novices

Mystery Monday Review – Appleby’s Answer

Monday, November 6th, 2017

Appleby’s Answer by Michael Innes

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

Like Nicholas Blake, Cyril Hare, Mary Fitt and Josephine Tey, Michael Innes wrote mysteries with bookish people in mind. His vocabulary makes readers run to their dictionary: weedy, embrocation, and inamorato. Being a scholar of Shakespeare, his allusions are learned. His veddy English Dickensianism depends on farce, satire, faux pas, and zany characters in bizarre situations. All in all, a pleasure for hard-core readers, the kind of people who read Swift, Defoe, and Smollett for sheer pleasure.

This one opens with Innes’ poking gentle fun at mystery writers who write cozies like Murder in the Cathedral and Vengeance at the Vicarage. Authoress – steel yourself – Priscilla Pringle is gratified to spy a fellow train passenger reading one of her books. Her curiosity is quickened when the fellow passenger seeks her advice on how to commit murder, blackmail, and arson. She gets the feeling that the passenger indeed has nefarious plans. As the plot unfolds, lucky coincidence takes a hand and enter our series hero John Appleby.

Now a 60-year-old retiree of the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, Appleby and sculptress wife Judith investigate what may be a complex criminal plot or silly damn malice. Published in 1973, this is very much a late entry in the canon, which began in 1936 with Seven Suspects (aka Death at the President’s Lodging). Appleby’s Answer is a novelette, which is okay with me. With age, I grow impatient with mysteries that seem more otiose the longer they are. New readers of Michael Innes would do better to test the early ones; fans of Innes – readers who want a break from Sterne and Fielding – will like regardless.

 

 

Thriller Thursday – The Allingham Case-Book

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

The Allingham Case-Book by Margery Allingham

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

Readers and critics place this mystery writer among the best old time cozy writers such as Sayers, Christie, and Tey. She was a professional writer down to her toes, able to construct solid plots peopled with peculiar characters in the Dickenesque tradition. Allingham’s series hero was the mildly eccentric Albert Campion.

This is a collection of 18 short stories that were collected in 1969 after her early passing in 1966. Some of the stories feature Campion though mainly as a listener to crime stories told by his policeman buddy Charlie Luke. In a collection this large, there will be stories any reader likes a lot better than the others. But overall, the stories are charming, ingenious, and readable. Some do not turn on a murder, but a con game or clever theft. Her spirit of fun appeals to me.

The edition I read was the 1972 Macfadden-Bartell one. It has a good introduction written by her widower. But, as is usual with cheapskate publishers, it gives no indication when the stories were written or which magazines published them. Some of them feel pre-WWII, but some are oddly timeless. I know that most readers don’t care, but I like to know what year or era a story is taking place.