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Posts Tagged ‘Mystery’

Mystery Monday – Murder on Safari

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Murder on Safari by Hillary Waugh

Review by Matt B. (buffalosavage)


Waugh was the author of Last Seen Wearing (1952), the first of the police procedural genre.

Members of a safari to Kenya are divided into two groups: bird watching senior citizens and employees of a large privately held company. The mean racist owner-president is poisoned, then his son and daughter-in-law are dispatched in gruesome fashion.

The story is told from the point of view of a member who is also a journalist on the story of vacationing in game parks. He teams up with a burnt-out PI named Col. Dagger. This unfortunately brought to my wayward mind, “Col. Mustard in the library with the candlestick.”

As an example of the classic whodunit model published as late as the late 1980s, this was just okay. The characters are even more wispy than in usual genre novels. The unfolding of events and climax are unrealistic. As spiteful racists and cheats get knocked off, we feel no fear that a killer on a loose but callously relieved that the world is shut of thems that needed killin’


Mystery Monday – The Boy from Reactor 4

Monday, November 9th, 2015

The Boy from Reactor 4 by Orest Stelmach

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

When I finished The Boy from Reactor 4, I went to Twitter and tweeted: “@oreststelmach Finished ‘The Boy from Reactor 4’ today. Loved it! Action-packed, suspenseful & unique. Can’t wait to read more!”  I think ‘unique’ is the best word I can use to describe it, the book really is unlike any other I’ve read.  And the good news is it is book one in the Nadia Tesla series so I have the opportunity to read more!

There is nothing mundane or cliche about this mystery novel. From New York to Ukraine to Russia and back again, it is full of suspense, manipulative characters, organized crime, corruption, with some familial obligation thrown in for good measure. Nadia Tesla’s father died when Nadia was just thirteen but recent events throw her into a quest for information and answers about her father’s life. Nadia discovers cryptic clues and meets people who send her on a quest she never imagined. Nadia allies herself with Adam, a teenage hockey phenom who has grown up practicing his hockey skills on the frozen ponds at Chernobyl.  Yes, Chernobyl…things just took a crazy twist.

I think this novel was expertly written but contains tons of details and information that could get to complicated if a reader isn’t paying attention. It reminded me of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in that they are both dark, intricate stories that take a lot of focus to not confuse the plot angles and details.

If you’re interested in a mystery that can take you around the world and explore dark secrets of areas little explored (ie: Chernobyl), check out The Boy from Reactor 4.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the author responded to my tweet: ‘@MirahWelday Thank you, Mirah! Happy Sunday.’  Happy reading, PBSers!



Thriller Review – The Savage Dead

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

The Savage Dead by Joe McKinney


Review by Kelsey O.


A Mexican drug cartel hell bent on assassinating Senator Sutton for her unwavering war against them unleashes a deadly bacteria on the cruise ship she is on. This bacteria turns the humans into ravenous carnivores destroying all in their path. For those that aren’t affected they must fight for survival among the many undead. Juan Perez, former Delta Force and current secret service, must use his training to keep the few left alive. With the help of several other interesting characters such as Tess, another secret service agent, they begin to wage their battle only to find that not only are the fighting the undead but they are battling an assassin named Pilar and have to stop all this before they land in the U.S.

It has been awhile since I’ve enjoyed a straight up zombie book. With a bit of a twist Joe McKinney puts the reader in a state of panic along with the survivors. From the very beginning the reader is drawn into each character. The plot is laid out cleverly making it a fast past storyline.

Zombie fans will not be disappointed and as a first time Joe McKinney reader I will definitely not hesitate to pick up another great thriller by him.




Mystery Monday – You Die Today

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

you die today

You Die Today by Baynard Kendrick


Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


In this mystery from 1952, Captain (US Army) Duncan Maclain, blinded in WWI, comes to the aid of Ted Yates, blinded in combat in Korea. The police think Yates ran amuck with a pistol. Maclain has become a PI. He is aided by his seeing eye dog Schnuke and his bodyguard dog Driest. His assistant is Spud Savage (now there’s a name for the pulps) and his driver Cappo.

The plot and action are too varied to get into in a short review. A lawyer and business executive before he was a full-time writer, Kendrick was sighted but he worked with blind vets in real life. So, he has insight into the challenges of the blind having to adjust. The blindness is decidedly not only a feature to set Maclain off from other whodunit sleuths. Maclain has sharpened not only his four remaining senses, he also does jigsaw puzzles to help him focus his concentration on the problem at hand. I will say that readers who dislike contraptions a la Rube Goldberg may want to steer clear, though Intricate Engines of Death are a Golden Age Mystery standby.

I liked the story because of the unique characters and clear prose. Not being a mechanical kind of guy, I was less captivated with the reveal.



Mystery Monday – The Case of the Spurious Spinster

Monday, September 8th, 2014

The Case of the Spurious Spinster by Erle Stanley Gardner

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


The later Perry Mason novels are organized like the TV episodes featuring the super-lawyer. That is, the action opens with what really happened, usually to a plucky working girl who’s just trying to do her best in a strange situation. The situation deteriorates ethically and legally to the point where the protagonist is driven to consult Perry Mason, who is intrigued by whatever kind of scam is afoot.

A demure secretary, Susan Fisher, suspects her boss of funny business when the boss’ young son comes up with a shoebox full of benjamins. Also, the owner of the company – the kind of blunt astute business woman Gardner respected – disappears along with accounting evidence that defalcations have been occurring.  Seeing herself in a vulnerable position, Susan consults Perry Mason.

So, the first chapter of Spurious Spinster is one of the longest set-ups in the Gardner canon of 80-some Perry Mason novels.  Usually I would feel impatient with this (I like a vic right away in a mystery), but Gardner, wielding narrative magic  in a story of embezzlement, kidnapping,  and impersonation, builds suspense by getting us veteran fans wondering when the heck the murder is coming off and who is going to be the vic. When Perry and Della finally come upon a gasoline-doused corpse, the tension is just about unbearable.  The trial sequence is thus delayed and seems a tad rushed. Though dour Lt. Tragg and Perry have some fine exchanges, DA Hamilton Burger does not get a chance to make an exasperated outburst.

Other exceptional scenes: Della uses her femininity to open up a crusty prospector and Paul flatly predicts, “The evidence points so unerringly and so damningly that there isn’t a ghost of a chance she’s innocent. And what’s more, I’m betting that within twenty-four hours Amelia Corning’s body will be discovered somewhere and you’ll find your client charged with another murder.” Boy, you’d think after 60-some novels (this was published in 1961), Paul would have as much faith in Perry as Della does.

As we fans do….

Mystery Monday – Blues for the Prince

Monday, August 25th, 2014



Blues for the Prince by Bart Spicer


Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

Published in the early Fifties, this hard-boiled mystery was the second in a series of about a dozen novels starring Philadelphia PI Carney Wilde. Wilde investigates a murder among the members of a band that still plays hot jazz (aka Dixieland) in the face of up-and-coming bebop. Admittedly, this novel has little action or detecting, but its setting, scenes and characterization make this an outstanding read. It is included on many “best mystery” lists.

Spicer was a journalist so that implies he valued an organized plot and fluent understandable language. His style is neither simple like James Cain nor complex like Raymond Chandler, but he strikes a balance between concise and literary. His dialogue is authentically hard-boiled without being cheesy (Cain’s failing, on his bad days), and his similes and metaphors are not self-conscious or over the top (Chandler’s failing, at times). The character of Wilde doesn’t crack wise nor is he given to mordant urban folk wisdom. His portrait of the weary homicide detective is realistic and humane.

Interesting to readers who like music would be the asides about Early Jazz, the kind of music that Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, and Joe Oliver played. Obviously, in a book about jazz, race is an unavoidable topic. Spicer makes clear that among the musicians, it was not an issue compared to the artistic judgments of “plays good music” versus “plays lame music.” The critic for the New York Herald Tribune Book Review said that Spicer does an “excellent job . . . showing the relationship between whites and Negroes both in the unbiased world of jazz and the more deeply biased outside world.”


Mystery Monday – The Underground Man

Monday, July 28th, 2014

The Underground Man by Ross Macdonald

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


Ross Macdonald’s complicated plots hinged on PI Lew Archer’s investigations into family backgrounds. Social class, economic hardship, mental illness, and substance abuse pressure families, leading moms to snap, dads to disappear, and kids to dabble in trouble. Macdonald’s stories are all virtually the same, but the concise style plus the social and psychological insights keep us fans reading these uniquely American tragedies.

In The Underground Man, Archer is hired by a distraught mother whose child has possibly been kidnapped by two crazy, mixed up teenagers. Set in about 1970 in California, two specters haunt the setting. The psychedelic drug LSD drives kids to places their minds probably shouldn’t go. Environmental damage is caused by deforestation and wildfires and subsequent landslides as well as oil spills and chemicals  such as DDT. Referring to DDT damaging the eggs of seabirds, he mentions “a generation whose elders had been poisoned … with a kind of moral DDT that damaged the lives of their young.” Indeed, the moral rot and cowardice among the California rich go far beyond one character’s bald advice to small business owners, “The rich never pay their bills.”

The wonder of Macdonald, though, is his Agatha Christie-like talent at misdirection. We readers get so immersed in the calamities that these families must face that the reveal of the perp comes as a complete surprise. Whatever that literary magic thingy is that keeps us reading, engrossed, Macdonald, like Dickens, Christie and Gardner, had it in spades.