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Posts Tagged ‘Mystery’

Mystery Monday – The Case of the Restless Redhead

Monday, April 9th, 2018

 

The Case of the Restless Redhead

by Erle Stanley Gardner

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

For starry-eyed Evelyn Bagby, Hollywood was the Tinsel Town without Pity. Her curves and red hair (but no freckles) attracted the shark Staunton Vester Gladden. He fed her the usual line that with his mentoring and agenting wizardry, “Baby, I can make you a star.” But under the guise of acting and deportment lessons, he embezzled her money. She ended up waiting tables.

Worse, she lands in court, charged with larceny. Her novice attorney recognizes ace lawyer Perry Mason, who chances to attend the trial. Perry’s solid advice enables the greenhorn to upend the testimony that would’ve sent Evelyn to the clink and obtains her grateful release.

Thanking Perry in his office soon after, Evelyn tells him and faithful assistant Della Street that she thinks Staunton Vester Gladden might be Steve Merrill, the second husband of a big Hollywood star. Perry gets her a waitressing job and promises to look into her case. Helping people who aren’t getting breaks is totally consistent with Perry’s way of doing business.

Staunton Vester Gladden ends up with a bullet in his head that he didn’t put there himself. The cops put the collar on Evelyn as the most obvious perp since she had a beef with old Staunton. I don’t think I’m giving away anything by revealing that the novel ends with a dramatic courtroom climax.

This is a better than average Mason story. The reason is that he boldly ignores evidence that exculpates Evelyn. He has figured out a key piece of the puzzle (that I won’t reveal here) which strips story-telling witnesses of their alibi.

A good one for both hardcore fans and newbies, this 1954 novel was the basis for the script for the first episode of the Raymond Burr television series. Whitney Blake, the mother of actress producer survivor Meredith Baxter, played Evelyn.

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

 

The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe

by Erle Stanley Gardner

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

This 1938 mystery opens with lawyer Perry Mason having lunch with his secretary Della Street in a swanky downtown department store. Della comments on the kindly appearance of an elderly woman apparently dining out with her niece. Perry observes that the little old lady is a shoplifter. A scene ensues whose upshot is that Perry gets the little old shoplifter off the hook because in fact she did not take the plunder out of the store.

The niece of the five-finger discount lady, Virginia Trent, later comes to Perry’s office for two reasons. She wants advice on how to get psychiatric help for her aunt Sarah Breel’s sudden-onset kleptomania. Gardner satirizes the psychoanalytic jargon and concepts (fixation, unconscious, etc.) that were taking the culture by storm in the thirties. Both Gardner and his creation Perry Mason were skeptics about complicated explanations of human nature.

Virginia Trent is also concerned with legal consequences. A handful of diamonds has disappeared from her uncle’s jewelry store, perhaps ripped off by her boosting Auntie. A bon-vivant named Austin Cullens promises to get the gems back. But he ends up shot. And her aunt is hit by a car while running away from the crime scene. When she wakes up, she claims she remembers nothing, but the cops charge her with murder-one anyway.

Later Virginia Trent and Perry find the body of her uncle. Ginny becomes utterly unglued, what with the stress of her aunt’s shoplifting, missing diamonds, one dead guy, and then her uncle being snuffed and put in a packing case. Gardner is hinting that studying psychology does not necessarily prepare one to meet the curveballs thrown by life.

Gardner does not play fair in this one, but the plot twists are ingenious. Slow down when reading the trial sequence because there is a Trent Gun and a Breel Gun. If you are not careful, you will get as confused as Sgt. Holcomb and Goodreads reviewers who get mighty frustrated with Gardner’s hocus-pocus with two guns, two bullets, two corpses and two crime scenes.

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – The Second Confession

Monday, March 26th, 2018

The Second Confession By Rex Stout

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

A millionaire father doesn’t trust his daughter’s boyfriend, a lawyer with iffy clients. He calls in PI Nero Wolfe and his sidekick Archie Goodwin to prove that the BF is a member of the CPUSA (Communist Party of the USA), a very bad thing to be in 1949. Nero Wolfe doesn’t like the smell of the case. He half-sympathizes with the daughter, who naturally resents her father’s interference, but suspects that the BF has a shadowy connection with Arnold Zeck, who is to Wolfe as Prof. Moriarty was to Sherlock Holmes.

Stout was a progressive, always interested in new ideas and gadgets, but he trusted the tried and true as well. Consequently, action occurs at the millionaire’s sprawling country estate where posh is the byword. After lots of curious goings-on, the BF’s corpse is found near the estate’s driveway.

Much to his consternation, Wolfe finds himself hired by his nemesis Arnold Zeck to find the BF’s killer. Zeck regrets the killing of a most promising protégé. Wolfe uncharacteristically motivates himself to overcome his agoraphobia and go outside to solve the mystery.

The plotting is brilliant. The length of 200 pages is about perfect. The reveal is neatly done, though I had qualms by the wrap-up. At the end, Wolfe has a crackpot radio yakker yanked from the air, which hardly seems in keeping with Stout’s usually generous and fair-minded impulses. I guess the specter of Communism was deeply frightening then, when nobody suspected that it would keel over of a coronary the way it did in our time.

 

 

Fiction Review – Truly Madly Guilty

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

 

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

Liane Moriarty is one of the authors I have really fallen in love with over the past couple of years.  I’ve read five of her books so far and each one has a gripping, need-to-read feel.  I know many readers have not been overly complimentary of Truly Madly Guilty but I tend to disagree.

Mirah gets a book signed by Liane Moriarty

Mirah gets a book signed by Liane Moriarty

I had the pleasure of attending a book event with Liane Moriarty during her promotional tour for Truly Madly Guilty. She was funny, personable, and self-deprecating. I could instantly see how her personality had come through in her books.  Moriarty said one common theme for all of her books is guilt and what different people do when they carry a burden of guilt. I thought back to her books I had read and realized that guilt did, indeed, have a some role in every story but in Truly Madly Guilty, guilt is front and center in the plot.

Truly Madly Guilty is about six characters who attend a barbecue where ‘something’ happens that changes their lives.  But what happened?!  Moriarty does drag out the story and leave the readers wondering for quite a while.  I admit, I felt very uncomfortable reading this book most of the time.  I had a sinking feeling in my gut during all of the chapters that took place at the barbecue…what was about to happen?  I felt nervous and apprehensive the more I read and even though I didn’t really like the characters, I had to keep reading. I had a similar reaction while reading Gone Girlcheck out my review to that novel here on the blog.  I think when an author has the ability to create such a visceral reaction to a story then she must be doing something right!

The characters in Truly Madly Guilty were not my favorite literary characters. I had a difficult time relating to any of them and that did make it more complicated for me to really care about what happened to them. However, the mystery of the barbecue kept me reading so I decided to give this novel 4 out of 5 stars.  For a 5 star Moriarty recommendation, I would suggest The Husband’s Secret.

 

 

 

 

 

Fiction Review – All the Little Liars

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

All the Little Liars by Charlaine Harris

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

Aurora Teagarden is back! Charlaine Harris has returned to her series about the librarian and amateur sleuth after more than 10 years.  I was very excited to meet Charlaine during her promotional tour of All the Little Liars.  Listening to her describe her career as a writer and her writing process was so interesting.  Charlaine was very down to earth and approachable. I would describe her personality as Southern charm meets Southern sass.  I think Charlaine was absolutely delightful!

Mirah and Charlaine Harris

Mirah and Charlaine Harris

But back to the book….

Aurora (Roe) is now married, pregnant, and her brother Phillip is living with her and her husband Robin.  Roe and Phillip have developed a close relationship and he is excited about being an uncle soon.  In the days before the Christmas holiday, four teenagers go missing and Phillip is one of the missing.  It seems understandable that two of his friends are also among the missing, but why would an 11-year old be with them?  What was her connection to what was happening?  The cops are trying to find out what is going on but, in typical fashion, Roe is determined to get involved, as well.  In her own investigation she uncovers school bullying, gambling debts, and serious family dramas.

While I enjoyed All the Little Liars, it did not seem to be as tight in the delivery as the earlier books in the Aurora series; there were some consistency issues and it felt a little incomplete in regards to the mystery. I like the characters in the Aurora series and I’m glad Harris wrote this book as if the past years really had passed, trying to pick up where things left off would have felt awkward. Overall, this installment wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped after my long Aurora drought but I’m glad she’s back and I hope Charlaine writes more.   In the end, I give All the Little Liars 3.5 out of 5 stars for being enjoyable but not quite polished…but I give Charlaine 5 out of 5 stars for being a class act!

 

 

 

 

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Mystery Monday – Boiled Alive

Monday, December 26th, 2016

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Boiled Alive by Bruce Buckingham

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

An obnoxious American mogul, John Belton, visits a remote Mexican hot-spring hotel in order to negotiate mining rights. Also with visions of wealth dancing in their heads are a ruthless British mining baron and the Mexican owner of the land supposedly laden with silver. The beginning leads us to expect a story of skullduggery among international business executives in the late 1950s.

But no. Mercifully, the story morphs into a classic murder mystery. Even Belton’s wanton daughter Linda, no prize herself, marvels at her father’s ability to make enemies in a jiffy. Belton manages to alienate gentle Lady Kendal, an English aristocrat, who has named her Aberdeen terriers Scotch and Soda. Belton lands in the doghouse of Melvin, a stereotypical American journalist; Miss Cloud, an eccentric North Carolinian; Hollywood starlet Gloria and her strong-minded galpal named – steel yourself – Butch; to mention only the most curious of the bunch.

When Belton disappears, on the scene is Don Pancho, the retired chief of police of Mexico City. He’d been hired by the insurance company to keep an eye on the jewels of Mrs. Belton. The fast-moving story provides ingenious incidents, with a brilliant Mexican background of Tuxpan, north of Veracruz. The hotel’s thermal hot pools are rendered well and play a part in the grisly goings-on.

Bruce Buckingham was the pen-name of Dane Chandros, which was the pseudonym used by Peter Lilley and Nigel Stansbury-Millett (aka Richard Oke), then, after 1946, by Peter Lilley and Anthony Stansfeld, according to the blog GA Detection. “Dane Chandros” was used for travel books about Mexico and “Bruce Buckingham” for a couple of detective novels starring Dan Pancho.

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Mystery Monday Review – Still Life

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Still Life by Louise Penny

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

Prior to a recent trip to Canada, I wanted to find a book set in Canada or written by a Canadian author to read during my journey. My local bookseller had a column in a recent newsletter about an upcoming author event featuring Louise Penny…and I found a new-to-me Canadian author!

Penny has created a mystery series with her character Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.  I found Still Life, the first in the series, to be a refreshing mystery read. ‘Refreshing’ hardly seems a typical word to describe a mystery but it’s how I felt.  Gamache is a morally upstanding member of the police force who sees things in a different way than other inspectors.  A man not given to loud or violent outbursts and dedicated to his wife of many years, Gamache is respected by his peers and many wish to imitate him. Young officers want to work with him to learn and hone their detective skills.  His fresh take on crime scene and witness observation is unlike other mysteries I’ve read.

In Still Life, Gamache and his team are sent to a sleepy rural village south of Montreal, where they are based.  Jane Neal was killed with an arrow but was her death a tragic hunting accident or something more?  Penny lets us get to know the quirky, stubborn, heartbroken residents of Three Pines and, while I thought I had the culprit in my sights, she changes things at the last minute and I was caught a bit unawares.

I am so glad I saw that newsletter from my local bookseller.  After reading Still Life I decided to purchase tickets to Ms. Penny’s book event coming up in September where she will discuss her newest Gamache novel!  If you’re looking for a new type of mystery hero, I encourage you to give Gamache a try.

 

 

 

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