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Archive for December, 2020

Mystery Monday Review – Dead Men Don’t Ski

Monday, 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

Thursday, 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

Monday, 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.