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Archive for March, 2022

Mystery Monday Review – Settled out of Court

Monday, March 28th, 2022

Settled out of Court by Henry Cecil

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

The English judge Henry Cecil (1902 – 1976) wrote comic legal fiction. Think of John Mortimer’s Rumpole stories. Cecil is more intellectual and less acerbic, but just as clever, funny, and enjoyable.

In Settled out of Court, Cecil examines the odd case of Lonsdale Walsh. The wealthy self-made financier has been sentenced to life upon being found guilty of masterminding the hit and run killing of his business partner Adolphus Barnwell. In prison he turns his acute mind to getting out of his predicament.

Money is no object to him so with his daughter and a recently released pal Lonsdale arranges for a versatile crook to help him break out of chokey and kidnap a judge, two attorneys, the dodgy witnesses and Barnwell’s feisty widow, Jo. Lonsdale’s goal is to re-examine the parties and prove he was convicted on perjured evidence.

Henry James said that Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs had a “hard lucidity.” Cecil’s lucidity is light, with plain prose, dazzling dialogue, and difficult legal points explained gracefully and comprehensibly. Fans of courtroom fiction and dry English humor will enjoy this short novel.




Mystery Monday Review – The Wreck of the Mary Deare

Monday, March 21st, 2022

The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

This 1956 mystery and adventure story gets off to an exciting start. One cold March night, in the English Channel, the three-man crew of the yacht Sea Witch doesn’t have enough on their hands dealing with a rising gale. They look up see the Mary Deare, a 6000-ton freighter, looming over them, almost capsizing their yacht. The skipper of the Sea Witch – our narrator – boards the Mary Deare, but finds that she has been abandoned by its crew.

The only one aboard is the captain who is half-crazed with anxiety and lack of sleep or chow. The Sea Witch’s skipper gets some information out of him, such as the desperate actions the captain took to put out a fire and keep the freighter floating. But more will have to come out during the tense courtroom scenes later.

This book was a best-seller when it was released in the middle Fifties. It gave Innes, a British writer, a solid reputation as a writer the reader could trust for an imaginative and well-crafted tale of suspense and adventure. He always presented a mystery to solve, too. Innes creates plausible characters who are human beings, not super-heroes. Counterparts in his own time were Geoffrey Household, Victor Canning, and Alistair MacLean and in our era James Rollins and Clive Cussler.







Mystery Monday Review – Death and the Dutch Uncle

Monday, March 14th, 2022

Death and the Dutch Uncle by Patricia Moyes

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


Released in 1968, this is the eighth mystery starring Henry and Emmy Tibbett. Having recently been promoted from Inspector to Superintendent, Henry is getting used to his new duties and his office in New Scotland Yard bit by bit.

A petty hood who worked in hotel kitchens between temping on individual heists gets himself shot dead in the restroom of a private bar. Henry is assigned to the investigation.

It happens, however, that Henry and Emmy host a dinner with the brother of the victim in Death on the Agenda. Gordon Trapp is suspicious over the sudden deaths of two judges on an international board which adjudicates border disputes between countries. He tells Henry the two judges were to vote on a case between two newly independent African countries. I’m giving nothing away because the veteran reader of mysteries already knows the two sudden deaths turn out to be murders.

Because Henry and Emmy find themselves immersed in an international conflict, this feels more to me like an out-and-out thriller than a detective story. Though stable middle-class people, the Tibbets didn’t mind getting into breathless action. So this thriller reminded me of Margery Allingham in Traitor’s Purse or Nicholas Blake in Smiler with a Knife or Victor Canning in The Python Project.

Moyes was a traveler so sometimes her mysteries are set in England touristy areas or foreign climes. For instance, Down Among the Dead Men had the backdrop of sailing on England’s East Coast and Dead Men Don’t Ski was set in the Italian Alps. This one is set in rural Holland with scenery and houses rendered vividly. Moyes’ second husband was a linguist, so the character of the interpreter Gordan Trapp is persuasive.

There’s a diverse variety of people and places in Moyes’ books that makes them different from many mysteries. But she still retains the deft characterization, plot twists, exciting climaxes and surprising reveals that we like in traditional police procedurals, before whodunnits got socially conscious, regional, lengthy and dark in the Seventies.





Thriller Review – A Dragon for Christmas

Monday, March 7th, 2022

A Dragon for Christmas
by Gavin Black

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

For readers wanting to something different, try this thriller set in Peking in 1963. Canny Scotsman Paul Harris is a salesman of engines for marine craft the size of Chinese junks. Based in Singapore, he is assigned to the People’s Paradise to sell the commissars a thousand engines. But he meets with many situations that threaten to take his life.

Convincing characterization and an authentic background make the 250 pages, longer than I like for a thriller, go by in just a couple of nights. Paul Harris has a background that makes him a tough, clever and resourceful businessman and action hero. He and his older brother were born in China. During World War II he and his family were interned by the occupying Japanese. He had to become hardened and smart to deal with deprivation and violence in the camps. After the war, he and his brother started an import/export business that included a little smuggling to freedom fighters in places like Sumatra.

The real name of the author of the 13 books in the Paul Harris series was Oswald Wynd (1913 – 1998). He is most well-known for the excellent novel The Ginger Tree, a novel about a young English girl dealing with an unsettled personal life and turbulent times in China and Japan at the turn of the 19th and 20th century. That novel was made into a Masterpiece Theater production in the late Eighties.

Wynd was familiar with Asia because he was born a missionary child in Tokyo. He was captured during the war in Malaya and did time in a POW camp run by the Japanese. He has keen insight into the psychological effects captivity, semi-starvation, torture, and prolonged stress have on its sufferers.