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Archive for November, 2020

Mystery Monday Review – More Work for the Undertaker

Monday, 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

Monday, 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!

Wednesday, 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.



Free Book Friday!

Friday, November 13th, 2020

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes

Helen Walsh doesn’t believe in fear—it’s just something men invented to get all the money—and yet she’s sinking. Her private investigator business has dried up, her flat has been repossessed, and now some old demons are resurfacing. Chief among them is her charming but dodgy ex-boyfriend Jay Parker, who offers Helen a lucrative missing-persons case. Wayne Diffney from boyband Laddz vanished from his house in Mercy Close—and the Laddz have a sellout comeback gig in five days.

Helen has a new boyfriend, but Jay’s reappearance proves unsettling. Playing by her own rules, Helen is drawn into a dark and glamorous world, where her own worst enemy is her own head and where increasingly the only person she feels connected to is Wayne, a man she has never even met.

ISBN 9780142180792, Paperback

To enter, simply leave a comment on this Blog post. You must be a PaperBackSwap member in good standing to win.

We will choose 1 winner at random from comments we receive here on the Blog from PBS members.

You have until Monday, November 16, 2020 at 12 noon ET, to leave a comment.

Good Luck to everyone!


Note: This book and thousands of other titles are available in the PBS Market. Some of the prices are amazing – and you can use a PBS credit to make the deal even better!




Mystery Monday – Which Doctor

Monday, November 9th, 2020

Which Doctor by Edward Candy

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

The story of this 1954 mystery revolves around the kidnapping of a nine-year-old boy who witnessed the grisly murder of a disliked pediatrician. It is set in the early 1950s in the English Midlands at the fictional Bantwich-Bannister Hospital for Children, “The Fairy Land for Sick Children.” Professor and Doctor Fabian Honeychurch, in keeping with his robust name, is a combination of Falstaff and Santa Claus who is visiting the hospital for a conference. He teams up with explosive London cockney Inspector Burnivel from Scotland Yard to unpack the mystery of which doctor dunnit.

Red herrings abound in this relatively short novel. We meet the tried and true devices such as the seemingly obvious culprit, adultery ending in a seemingly apparent suicide, the seemingly friendly and open American. To balance improbabilities in the plot, the professional rivalries and jealousies feel familiar to any reader who’s been paid to smooth administrative skids for brilliant but flawed professionals and scholars. Plus, the drug trial involving children will engage readers into the regulatory protections of human subjects in research (I know – all two of them and one of them is me).

I recommend this one. Like Edmund Crispin but not as silly, more like a lighter P.D. James (given the medical settings), if that can be imagined. Although it is short on action, Tom the nine-year-old isn’t in it much, and Honeychurch holds forth too much, the red herrings are diverse, and the language is pleasingly Dickensian. For instance, perfectionist Professor Pemberton reports the murder to the cops thusly:

One of my staff has been found dead in the grounds. He has been struck on the back of the head. …. I’d be grateful if you’d make your arrival as inconspicuous as possible. We’ve an important meeting here today. I shouldn’t like any fuss.

Edward Candy was the pseudonym of Barbara Alison Neville (1925-1993). She was born in London and educated in Hampstead and University College, and later earned a medical degree. She practiced medicine and had a family of five children while writing about a dozen books, three of which are medical mysteries, besides this one, Bones of Contention and Words for Murder, Perhaps.




Mystery Monday Review – Chords and Discords

Monday, November 2nd, 2020

Chords and Discords by Roz Southey

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


In this 2008 mystery, self-contained parallel dimensions co-exist with each other, connected by portals accessible by individuals with second sight to use them as windows to view other planes. Apparently – and this assumption of mine may be wrong – reality varies in different planes. For instance, in the reality of this story’s setting, supernatural beings such as talkative spirits are a normal part of daily life, carrying messages (though it’s like the telephone game) and being questioned by the authorities about crimes.

Still with me? I didn’t used to be down with paranormal historical mysteries but “current conditions” have challenged a lot of my preferences and prejudices.

Anyway, not only occult aspects make this story unique. The hero, Charles Patterson, is an impoverished musician and teacher in Newcastle during the early 1730s. In the first book in this series, Broken Harmony, Patterson established his reputation as a puzzle-solver. He is therefore offered 30 guineas by a rude organ builder to identify the culprit who has been sending threatening letters. In the organ builder’s factory, a young apprentice has been killed under mysterious circumstances. For the sake of the badly needed dough and to give justice to the victim, Patterson, a mere tradesman, endures the rudeness of the organ builder and his shrewish wife and the interfering ways of spirits.

With the distinctive setting, supernatural elements, unorthodox hero, there’s no denying this unique historical mystery will appeal to mystery readers who are looking for something different. Southey is a historian and musicologist so her details ring true. She captures the rough lot of music teachers, who are caught between the high expectations of parents and their unwillingness to pay for lessons rendered. She also includes curious asides about the role of playing music in church, drinking places, guild halls and private residences.