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Archive for December, 2021

Mystery Monday Review – A Beam of Light

Monday, December 27th, 2021

A Beam of Light by Andrea Camilleri

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


Released in 2012, this book recounts the nineteenth investigation by Commissioner Salvo Montalbano in the fictional Sicilian town of Vigata. We long-time readers of the series are happy to meet the usual characters and the usual situations which, after all, combine to make the series enjoyable and successful. We fans like Officer Catarella’s inability to communicate, Fazio’s fussy enthusiasm for accuracy and completeness, Augello’s winning ways with females, and foodie Salvo’s dinners by housekeeper Adelina and lunches at Enzo’s followed by his walk on the jetty to play with the crabs.

The core of the narrative sees the skillful intertwining of three stories in which Montalbano is involved in a more or less direct way, but to which he must try to devise an explanation. The main thriller comes from the robbery of a beautiful young woman married to a wealthy middle-aged jealous man. A second story line is the hunt for three Tunisian immigrants suspected of arms trafficking. Again the characterization is economical and convincing.

The third story line is the love affair of Salvo with Marian, a fascinating gallery owner. Salvo feels guilty about cheating on his long-time GF Livia. No ninny, Livia has realized on some paranormal level that she has lost something. She then falls into depression marked by isolation, disturbed sleep, fatigue, loss of appetite, and slow-moving concentration and activity. Alarmingly to readers but not to Salvo the Knuckle-head, she also suffers the classic anxiety symptom of feeling that something dreadful is going to happen. Poor Livia! Dense Salvo!

The ending is a bit forced but Camilleri’s writing is so engaging the reader doesn’t care. Salvo is a brilliant character because he gets easily distracted and he does things his own way. Montalbano is an ordinary guy thrust into nutty situations brought on by other fallible humans.





Mystery Monday – The Case of the Daring Divorcee

Monday, December 13th, 2021

The Case of the Daring Divorcee by Erle Stanley Gardner


Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


The 72nd Perry Mason novel (1964) has its funny moments and the usual two-guns shenanigans. But you can hear the gears grinding. It’s too complicated for easy understanding, the dialogue is stiff, it hides crucial information, and it goes over a minor sequence of events three times.

A woman wearing big sunglasses leaves in Mason’s office Adelle Hastings’ purse with $3,000 and a recently fired .38 with two spent shells. When Mason tracks Adelle down, she explains that her purse was stolen from her car. Adelle explains that she, the third wife of Garvin Hastings, is in the process of obtaining a divorce. Garvin wants to keep things amicable even to the point of acting in such a way that it seems he’s having second thoughts about asking Adelle to go to Las Vegas for a quickie divorce.

The bullets from those two shells are found, one in poor Garvin’s brain pan, and the other having passed through his skull into the bed where he was sleeping. Both of his exes have shaky alibis and plenty of red herrings flop around on the dock.

The fun highlight is when Detective Tragg wants Mason’s receptionist Gertie to identify Adelle. Mason has her put on her big dark glasses while Della ushers in six women also with dark glasses for a surprise line-up. Tragg is mighty sore at Mason’s tactic.




Mystery Monday Review – Murder Without Icing

Monday, December 6th, 2021

Murder without Icing by Emma Lathen

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

Given the reputation Wall Street bankers have in our more savvy era, it’s hard to sell a mystery series starring a vice-president of the Sloan Guaranty Trust. But having read about half of the 37 books starring John Putnam Thatcher, I like them because they are set in various industries: real estate, garment making, and fast food franchising, to name just a couple, so there’s a strong feeling ‘this is the way the world works – or used to, anyway.’

In this 1972 mystery, the bank has changed its usual sponsorship from a symphony to a hockey team. When a potential partner of the team is killed at the airport after the team deplanes, the police get involved and Thatcher has to identify the perp.

This was written just a bit before the sports industry became the cultural and economic behemoth that it is today. So it is just as interesting to read as a cultural artifact – a shard of pottery, as it were – besides as a mystery. Recommended to fans of boxing on ice too, especially ones who know who Rocket and Pocket Rocket are.