Bibliographies, Lists & Checklists


REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


KAREN KIJEWSKI – Copy Kat. Kat Colorado #4. Doubleday, hardcover, 1992. Bantam, paperback, 1993.

   I think that Karen Kijewski (pronounced, I am told, Kee-you-skee) is rapidly moving into the class of Muller, Grafton, and Paretsky in terms of quality, if not of sales.

   In this case, Kat Colorado is hired to investigate the murder of a Grass Valley, California, bartender-owner by the victim’s crusty godfather. Though reluctant to get involved in an open case, Kat agrees to go undercover and work at her old profession, bartending, to try and find what really happened. Though there is no evidence, the police and many town members suspect the dead lady’s husband, who has been left with their small child. He hires Kat as a bartender, and the hunt is joined.

   The book is as much about Kat’s own problems with guilt from a killing in a previous case as anything; she is being crippled by recurring nightmares. The opportunity to change identities weighs strongly in her decision to accept the case. Missing from this book are her egregiously imposing “best friend,” and her adopted grandmother, for which I am grateful; earlier books have suffered greatly, to me, from Kat’s allowing herself to be sorely put upon by these two.

   Kijewski’s writing is powerful, and Colorado has emerged as an appealing and well realized character. Some of the other cast members were not as believable, or perhaps there were just too many neuroses/psychoses in one plot. All in all, though, this was an excellent and moving story.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #5, January 1993.


       The Kat Colorado series —

Katwalk (1988)
Katapult (1990)

Kat’s Cradle (1992)
Copy Kat (1992)
Wild Kat (1994)

Alley Kat Blues (1995)
Honky Tonk Kat (1996)
Kat Scratch Fever (1997)
Stray Kat Waltz (1998)

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


TIMOTHY HALLINAN – Incinerator. Simeon Grist #4. William Morrow, hardcover, 1992. Avon, paperback, 1993.

   I think I like Hallinan’s books a little more with each one. A couple more and he’ll move into my personal top ten.

   Someone is dowsing LA’s derelicts with gasoline and incinerating them. Grist is hired by the wealthy daughter of the latest victim to find the killer, and then blindsided by a press release she issues. He very nearly quits the case the next day, after receiving a personal, hand-delivered note from the killer at his home. He is persuaded by the client and the police to continue; the police, who the client believes have done little until now to solve the case, think that Grist may furnish the only link to the killer that offers hope.

   Reluctantly, he acquiesces, and enters into a shaky “partnership” with the LAPD and their psychiatrist; enforced by the client’s threat to go public with the whole mess if the police fail to cooperate.

   The story sustains an unusual amount of tension as Grist and his unwilling and less than dependable allies try to identify the killer before he incinerates others, Grist included. If a spur were needed, it becomes apparent that the killer knows Grist personally. Grist wishes it were reciprocal.

   The overeducated Simeon Grist — four degrees from UCLA — is one of the better-delineated and least clone-like PI’s of recent years. The killer is believable, and scary. Hallinan is an excellent writer, with a smooth narrative flow and good ear for dialogue. I think this is one of the better private detective tales of 1992.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #5, January 1993.


       The Simeon Grist series —

1. The Four Last Things (1989)
2. Everything but the Squeal (1990)

3. Skin Deep (1991)
4. Incinerator (1992)
5. The Man with No Time (1993)
6. The Bone Polisher (1995)

   In more recent years, Hallinan has written seven adventures of Poke Rafferty, an American expatriate living in Bangkok, and six cases for Junior Bender, an ex-burglar turned PI for LA mobsters.

GLORIA DANK – Friends to the End. Bantam, paperback original; 1st printing, October 1989.

   This is the first of four murder mystery investigations tackled by the unlikely team of Snooky Randolph, a young 20-something member of the idle rich, and his curmudgeonly brother-in-law, Bernard Woodruff, world renown writer of children’s books. The latter and his wife (and Snooky’s older sister) live in the rich lower left corner of Connecticut, of course, while Snooky stops by and stays (and stays) every once in a while.

    Dead at a dinner party for a small group of friends is the wife of a man that no one in particular likes. Poison, insecticide, in something she drank. What the poison meant for her? Or for her husband, as he claims loudly to the police?

   Snooky’s connection is that he is in love, he thinks, with the stepdaughter of the dead woman, while Bernard finds that even though he dislikes mankind — and hates children — and greatly to his amazement, that armchair detective work is much to his liking.

   This is a humorous novel, with lots of witty commentary on life in suburban Connecticut and the people in it. From page 123, referring yo Mr. Hal, the gardener: “Finding his employer’s dead body was clearly the most exciting thing that had happened in Harold Shrimpton’s life since the Super Bowl.”

   It is also a decent detective novel, even given that once the number of bodies starts to pile up, the number of possible suspects goes down in equal number. I enjoyed this one.

       The Snooky Randolph & Bernard Woodruff mystery series

Friends Till the End. Bantam, 1989.
Going Out in Style. Bantam, 1990.
As the Sparks Fly Upward. Doubleday, 1992.
The Misfortunes of Others. Doubleday, 1993.

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


JAN BURKE – Goodnight, Irene. Irene Kelly #1. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1993. Avon, paperback, 1994. Pocket, paperback, 2002.

   I didn’t expect to like this. First, there was the blurb, “In the best-selling tradition of Grafton & Paretsky.” Sure. You bet. Second, it featured a new amateur sleuth by a new writer, both female, and my luck’s been poor with that combination. But I was wrong.

   Irene Kelly is a Southern Califomia ex-reporter. Her mentor and close friend is killed by a bomb, and the murder would seem to be linked to an old slaying with which he had been obsessed, his current investigation of a local money-laundering scheme, or both. Irene quickly becomes the next target of the killer, even before she begins to probe into things. The situation is complicated by a rekindling flame with a local policeman whom she had briefly be involved in the past.

   I loved the first line: “He loved to watch fat women dance.” Burke is an good writer, accomplished far beyond her first-book status. Kelly is both likable and believable as a person, as are most of the other players. The plot was pretty standard, and I was neither surprised by the outcome nor found it too convincing but these are faults not limited to inexperienced authors. There were plot elements that usually tum me off (the romance with the cop in particular), but Burke’s writing and my liking for the heroine mostly overcame them.

   This is one of the better debut novels in a while, and I look forward to more and better from Burke.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #5, January 1993.


      The Irene Kelly series —

1. Goodnight, Irene (1993)
2. Sweet Dreams, Irene (1994)
3. Dear Irene, (1995)
4. Remember Me, Irene (1996)
5. Hocus (1997)
6. Liar (1998)
7. Bones (1999)
8. Flight (2001)
9. Bloodlines (2005)
10. Kidnapped (2006)
11. Disturbance (2011)

NOTES:   Goodnight, Irene was nominated for an Anthony award for Best First Novel. Bones was awarded an Edgar by the MWA for Best Novel. Irene has only a secondary role in Flight, which is told from the point of view of her husband, homicide detective Frank Harriman.

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


M. R. D. MEEK – Touch and Go. Lennox Kemp #10. Charles Scribner’s Sons, US, hardcover, 1993. Worldwide Mystery, US, paperback, 1994. First published in the UK: Collins Crime Club, hardcover, 1992.

   I gave a previous Kemp adventure a very lukewarm review not too long ago, and now I wonder if maybe I wasn’t just in a bad mood. This one is quite good.

   Kemp is an English solicitor, once disbarred and working as a private agent, now reinstated and successful. His past comes back to complicate his present when his ex-wife, for whom he had committed the acts that led to his disgrace, dies in America and mentions him in her wills.

   Yes, wills, because there seems to be two of them, though the original of the second has vanished, along with the jewels Kemp had been willed in the first. The kicker is that the second leaves a quite considerable everything to Kemp, at the expense of some very unsavory types from Las Vegas.

   It all gets quite complicated, and dangerous as well when it appears that the second may hold up. On top of everything else the only secretary Kemp has ever had is pregnant, and he must replace her.

   I found this an engaging story from beginning to end. For reasons I can’t put the proverbial finger on, Kemp was a much more appealing character to me than he has been in the past, and I found the other characters well done also.

   Meek’s prose was low key and understated as usual, and fitted the story well. It is not, by the way, a murder mystery in any sense, but don’t let that put you off. All told, a very enjoyable book, marred only by an ending in which I couldn’t quite believe.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #5, January 1993.


      The Lennox Kemp series —

1. With Flowers That Fell (1983)
2. The Sitting Ducks (1984)
3. Hang the Consequences (1984)
4. The Split Second (1985)
5. In Remembrance of Rose (1986)
6. Worm of Doubt (1987)
7. A Mouthful of Sand (1988)
8. A Loose Connection (1989)
9. This Blessed Plot (1990)
10. Touch and Go (1992)
11. Postscript to Murder (1996)
12. A House to Die for (1999)
13. If You Go Down to the Woods (2001)
14. The Vanishing Point (2002)
15. Kemp’s Last Case (2004)

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


ANNE NASH – Cabbages and Crime. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1945. No paperback edition.

   After the Easter rush, Nell Winters and Doris (Dodo) Trent decide they deserve a vacation from their flower shop. Death Valley, bereft of gardenias and violets, strikes their fancy. Unfortunately, as they begin their trip, they stop off to see Dodo’s cousin, who operates a dog kennel.

   Because of a birth and measles, Nell and Dodo have to take charge of the kennel, with the help of Sif, a German shepherd. Not an easy task, particularly for Dodo, who is just a tad overweight. Even Nell says: “Did I ever complain about flowers? Those silent expressions of Nature. The worst they ever do is to up and die when your need is the sorest. But they do it without one yip.”

   While Nell and Dodo don’t get to Death Valley, death comes to them, in the form of a corpse in a cabbage sack. Don’t read this one for the mystery aspect, which is disappointing. Read it for the travails of Nell and Dodo as they try to cope with their furry charges.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 6, No. 4, Winter 1990, “Beastly Murders.”


      The Nell Winter and Dodo Trent series —

Said with Flowers. Doubleday, 1943.
Death by Design. Doubleday, 1944.
Cabbages and Crime. Doubleday, 1945.

FYI:   J. F. Norris has a long and interesting review of Said with Flowers on his blog from earlier this year. (Follow the link.)

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


JACK DOLPH – Murder Makes the Mare Go. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1950. Unicorn Mystery Book Club, 4-in-1 volume, hardcover reprint. No paperback edition.

   On a two-year sabbatical, 35 year old Doc Connor twice a week has a clinic for the down-and-out. His primary interest, however, is horse racing. Thus, he is called upon by a horse trainer to check a horse, unfortunately already dead.

   Doc suspects poison, rather than heart attack, and that’s what it turns out to be. Neither the trainer nor the horse’s owner, a nightclub operator, wants Doc to investigate, not that that stops him. Indeed, he goes on to discover that an elderly dishwasher at the nightclub died of glanders, which means be was around a horse with the disease or —

   All of Dolph’s novels feature Doc Connor. From their titles, they also all deal with horse racing. If they are as good as this one, they are worth looking for.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 6, No. 4, Winter 1990, “Beastly Murders.”

      The Doc Connor novels —

Murder Is Mutuel. Morrow, 1948.
Odds-On Murder. Morrow, 1948.
Murder Makes the Mare Go. Doubleday, 1950
Hot Tip. Doubleday, 1951.
Dead Angel. Doubleday, 1953.

GOTHICS WITH GENUINE FANTASY ELEMENTS:


   Vintage paperback bibliographer extraordinaire Kenneth R. Johnson has just announced the completion of his latest project “Gothics with Genuine Fantasy Elements.” You can find it online here.

   Back in the 1960s and 70 “gothic romances” were so popular that they formed their own publishing category. Hundreds if not a thousand or more titles were published, before interest in them by the reading public (mostly female) finally began to fade, and historical romances of the “bodice ripper” variety took over.

   Most of the gothics that were published could also have been categorized as “romantic suspense,” but elements of fantasy and the supernatural were often hinted at. On occasion the hints were more than that, and a number of books included out and out elements of witchcraft, psychic magic, vampirism and so on.

   This is where Ken’s annotated — and illustrated! — checklist comes in. It has to have been quite a job: finding the books, determining first of all of they were actually published as gothics, and then reading them sufficiently enough to determine whether the fantasy element were real or not.

   Not surprisingly there is a separate section of the checklist called “marginal titles.” A lot of boundaries are blurred whenever you’re trying to decide whether a book falls into a particular category or not, and for this particular project the problem is coming at you from all sides.

   It’s a job well done, and if you”re at all interested, I definitely recommend that you go take a look.

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


ROB KANTNER – The Quick and the Dead. Ben Perkins #7. Harper, paperback original, 1992.

   Thanks to Leonard, Estleman, Jackson, and Kantner, Detroit has become one of the better-known cities on the hardboiled map. The city, its makeup and its history, are an important part of each author’s approach to his story, though the focus of each of course varies. Kantner’s for the seventh Ben Perkins is the world of Detroit Catholicism.

    Perkins, the sometime private eye, full time maintenance head of a large apartment complex, is currently enjoying the benefits of an interesting life. His boss would like to fire him, a mafia don wants some incriminating material Perkins has, and an ex-lover is about to have their child.

   Now a local judge who is in a position to both help and harm him wants him to take on a job for St. Angela’s parish — for no pay. The ex-priest of the church is being considered for canonization during an upcoming visit by the Pope. The problem is that when his body was dug up to be examined, it wasn’t there; the coffin was filled with bricks. Perkins’ job: find it, and find out why it is missing.

   I’ve generally enjoyed Kantner’s novels. Perkins, and ex-factory worker and ex-union enforcer, is a well-realized bluecollar type of PI, and Kantner tells a good story in very good prose. The books don’t make me want to start babbling about “transcending the genre,” but then again they rarely bring on one of my tirades about foolish people and foolish plots. This one is no exception. It won’t make you forget Chandler, but it’s a solid example of the hardboiled type.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #5, January 1993.


       The Ben Perkins series —

1. The Back-Door Man (1986)

2. The Harder They Hit (1987)
3. Dirty Work (1988)
4. Hell’s Only Half Full (1989)
5. Made in Detroit (1990)
6. The Thousand Yard Stare (1991)

7. The Quick and the Dead (1992)
8. The Red, White and Blues (1993)
9. Concrete Hero (1994)
10. Trouble is What I Do (story collection; 2005)
11. Final Fling (2007)     ADDED LATER (see comments)

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


WALTER SATTERTHWAIT – A Flower in the Desert. Joshua Croft #3. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1992. Worldwide Library, paperback, 1993. University of New Mexico Press, trade paperback, 2003.

   Besides the three Joshua Croft books, Satterthwait has also written a historical mystery featuring Oscar Wilde, Wilde West. It received mixed reviews, but I liked it considerably, as I have the previous two Croft books.

   Croft and his partner, the crippled Rita Mondragon, are hired to find the (divorced) wife and child of a well-known TV actor. The case is complicated by the fact that the actor was charged with child abuse, though cleared of the charges.

   The missing wife had worked in LA for a group aiding Salvadorian refugees; her sister living in LA has just been murdered. Connections? There is an ongoing subplot concerning Croft’s so far unrequited passion for his partner.

   Croft, wisecracking but caring, is a member in good standing of the PI fraternity and represents it well. It really isn’t a regional mystery, as much of the book takes place in LA, but still gives a nice feel for Santa Fe. I think Satterthwait one of the better of the new PI writers, and look forward to his books. This one is good, but not great.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #5, January 1993.


       The Joshua Croft series —

Wall of Glass (1987)

At Ease With the Dead (1990)
A Flower in the Desert (1992)
The Hanged Man (1993)

Accustomed to the Dark (1996).

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