Bibliographies, Lists & Checklists

William F. Deeck

WILLIAM GORE – There’s Death In The Churchyard. George G. Harrap, UK, hardcover,1934. No US publication.

   Pondersby Jonson becomes ill in the church at Sutton Eacham. When helped out of the church after the services by his host, Captain Stoyner, squire of the village, Jonson expires, but not before accusing his host of having murdered him.

   Stoyner and Jonson had had a fierce argument the night before; Stoyner possessed the poison used to commit the murder; Jonson, a financial ‘shark’ from the city, was trying to do down the good captain; Stoyner was the only one who could have administered the poison if what he says about the poison is true.

   It seems like an open-and-shut case. The villagers are all convinced that the squire did it, although their opinion is that the murder was certainly justifiable. Stoyner puts up no defence at the coroner’s hearing, his opinion being that if the jurors don’t want to believe a chap with his breeding, background, and record, so much the worse for them. They don’t justify his faith.

   During the trial itself, he will not allow himself to be defended by a barrister. If it costs £2000 for an obviously, or so he claims, innocent man to be found not guilty, then there really isn’t any justice.

   Luckily, this rather headstrong and proud man has a few believers and supporters. The vicar, married to Stoyner’s sister-in-law, finally spots, during one of his tedious sermons, how and why the murder was committed.

   This is a well-plotted, well-written, and amusing novel, with an unusually true-to-life private detective. It also has one of the few acceptable children in the genre, which makes it worth reading on that count alone.

— Reprinted from CADS 20, 1993. Email Geoff Bradley for subscription information.


WILLIAM GORE: pseudonym of Jan Gordon, 1882-1944.

   There’s Death in the Churchyard. Harrap, UK, 1934.
   Death in the Wheelbarrow. Harrap, UK, 1935; Mystery House, US, 1940 as by Jan Gordon. [Insp. Ernest Penk]
   Murder Most Artistic. Harrap, UK, 1937; published in the US by Doubleday, 1938. [Insp. Ernest Penk]


JACK O’CONNELL – Box Nine. Lenore Thomas #1. Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1992; paperback, 1993.

   I started this with more anticipation than usual, and less certainty. It’s had a great deal of publicity, much more than a first novel usually gets, and though the reviews have been mostly favorable, still I really didn’t have a good sense of what to expect, other than something extremely hardboiled. And that, at least, I got.

   Lenore Thomas is a policewoman, an undercover narcotics agent. Her twin brother, Ike, is a postman. They live together in a duplex in a mythical city [Quinsigamond] somewhere (I assume) in Massachusetts. The book turns around the introduction of a new designer-drug with strange and ultimately lethal properties.

   Reviewers and would-be critics are lost without comparisons, and are prone to grab at unlikely ones when obvious and apt ones are not readily at hand. I’m going to avoid that trap, but possibly at the cost of leaving you as unsure of what Box Nine is all about as I was. There are, though, a few things I can tell you.

   The book presents a bleak, grim view of urban life, and of those urban denizens that it depicts. The story is told in the present tense and from shifting view-points; Lenore’s, Ike’s, a drug lord’s, another police woman’s, Ike’s supervisor at the Post Office, and they are all strange people. Lenore is arguably the strangest: a speed freak, heavy metal devotee, in love with her guns if she is in love with anything and overall one of the more different protagonists in recent memory. The prose serves the story well. The plot? Secondary, at best; what you have are people dancing in and out of a semi-apocalyptic vision.

   Do I recommend it? Lord, no. If you don’t like hardboiled fiction, you shouldn’t touch it with a pair of tongs. Even if you do, I have no idea whether you’d be glad you read it or not — and notice my avoidance of the terms “like” and “enjoy,” which seem inappropriate. Am I glad I did? No, I don’t believe I am. But it was different; I’ll give it that much.

– Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #3, September 1992.

       The Quinsigamond series –

1. Box Nine (1992)
2. Wireless (1993)
3. The Skin Palace (1996)
4. Word Made Flesh (1998)

LIONEL BLACK – The Eve of the Wedding. Avon, paperback, 1st US printing, December 1981. First published in the UK by Collins, hardcover, 1980.

   This is the sixth of seven recorded cases solved by British newspaperwoman Kate Theobald, and the first of them that I’ve read. I’ve always thought that she and her barrister husband Henry were a Mr & Mrs detective duo, but Al Hubin lists only her as a series character, and not him in Crime Fiction IV. Inspector Bill Comfort is mentioned there as an occasional sleuthing partner, as he is for this one, but I’d say that that’s stretching it, as while the police are at hand, Comfort is offstage for most of the book.

   But Henry is a key character in this one, in a secondary role, true, but if it were me, I’d still say this is a married couple detective team. Dead is the brother of the groom during a party the night before he is to marry the daughter of the American half of a business partnership that split a generation or so ago.

   There are plenty of motives, not all of them all that savory. It seems that the dead man raped the bride-to-be during the party. He was also the one who stood in the way of the proposed re-merger of the two companies, US and UK. There is also a poltergeist at hand, making a nuisance of itself. Could it have thrown the dagger into the dead man’s neck. Henry thinks the idea is hogwash.

   There are several generations of family living in the huge mansion, and most of them do not get along, and I mean seriously. There is a completely dotty uncle and aunt, a pair of aged married servants who will do anything for their master, the patriarch of the family, but in one way or another, they were all cowed by the dead man, not a nice person at all.

   Black’s style is engagingly readable, but with a list of possible suspects like this, I’d have liked to have seen more actual detection. Having our detectives solve the case largely by overhearing and listening to secret conversations going on over the course of one long, long evening is not my idea of real detective work.

      The Kate Theobald series –

Swinging Murder. 1969.
Death Has Green Fingers. 1971.
Death by Hoax. 1974.

A Healthy Way to Die. 1976.
The Penny Murders. 1979.
The Eve of the Wedding. 1980.
The Rumanian Circle. 1981.


MICHAEL ALLEGRETTO – Blood Relative. Jacob Lomax #4. Charles Scribner’s Sons, hardcover, 1992. No paperback edition.

   I had read a couple of the earlier Lomax books and hadn’t been tremendously impressed, but on the other hand liked them well enough to try another. I’m a little more impressed after reading the fourth.

   Jake Lomax is a Denver PI, an ex-cop whose wife was murdered five years ago; this destroyed his career as a policeman, and remains the central fact in his life. He is just back from an extended vacation in Mexico, and wondering what he’s doing with his life. He is hired by a lawyer for a man accused of murdering his wife, and who seems to be considered guilty by everyone even his children, and Lomax.

   Lomax is to find some helpful witnesses, and see if he can track down a possible lover of the murdered woman. As the stones are turned over the worms crawl out, and Lomax prods them to see which way they move. They move, as always, towards secrets and other crimes.

   This is a well-done standard private eye novel; if the concept of genre has any meaning this is probably the kind of book it applies to. Lomax walks the mean streets like he’s supposed to, and does the things a man’s gotta do when and where he’s gotta do ‘em.

   Allegretto writes well if not exceptionally, and the plot is tight and more than normally realistic. I wouldn’t put him in the top rank of PI writers yet, but based on Blood Relative, I believe he’s moved up a notch. I look forward to the next one. Recommended.

– Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #3, September 1992.

The Jacob Lomax series –

1. Death on the Rocks (1987)

2. Blood Stone (1988)

3. The Dead of Winter (1989)
4. Blood Relative (1992)
5. Grave Doubt (1995)

William F. Deeck

ROBERT AVERY – Murder on the Downbeat. Arcadia House, hardcover, 1943. Death House #3, digest-sized paperback, 1944.

   Clarinetist Steve Sisson is widely respected for his great jazz playing, but he has lots of enemies. Early one morning in Fat-Ankles’s joint during a jam session, one of those enemies shoots Sisson in the head with the working part of an ice pick.

   The girlfriend of jazz columnist Malachy Bliss is arrested for file murder, she having had the opportunity and several good reasons for doing away with Sisson. Bliss, who is an even bigger toper than Jonathan Latimcr’s Bill Crane, begins his own investigation among musicians and the underworld.

   After Avery has constructed a quite good, but perchance not accurate, simile — “as pure as a seminarian’s dream” — his inventiveness is exhausted. A typical Arcadia product: interesting background, poorly executed novel.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring 1990, “Musical Mysteries.”

Bibliographic Notes:   Robert Avery wrote three other mysteries, but all for the lending-library market. This seems to be Malachy Bliss’s only appearance, but two feature a sleuth named Joe Kelly, described by Bill elsewhere as a writer and amateur detective:

A Murder a Day! Mystery House, 1940. [Joe Kelly]
The Corpse in Company K. Swift, 1942. [Joe Kelly]
Murder on the Downbeat. Arcadia, 1943.
A Fast Man with a Dollar. Arcadia, 1947.

SANDRA WEST PROWELL – By Evil Means. Walker, hardcover, 1993. Bantam, paperback, April 1995.

   This is the first of three recorded adventures for perhaps the only fictional PI working out of Billings, Montana, a former FBI agent named Phoebe Siegel. The case seems simple enough, that of a woman who is afraid that there is something wrong at Whispering Pines, the psychiatric clinic on the outskirts of town where her daughter had recently sought help.

   Phoebe is about to turn her down, since (for many reasons) she always takes the month of March off. One of the reasons is that March is the month that her brother Ben, a cop in the local police force, committed suicide. She changes her mind, though, when the mother tells her there may have been an involvement between the girl and her brother Ben, even to the extent of a police complaint just before he died.

   Thus begins a long (over 350 pages) investigation into all kinds of secrets in her home town that Phoebe had never had an inkling of, many of them involving her family and friends, and she has many in both categories. The book is slow to start. It is not until page 130 or so, when Phoebe goes sneaks into Whispering Pines and convinces herself at last that Dr. Stroud is indeed up to no good, that the tale really starts to get into high gear.

   In some ways, this book reminded me of several of Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone stories, in which the friends and family seem to be a secondary but essential sidebar to the mystery. But in Phoebe Siegel’s case, the role they both take on simply grows and grows, insidiously so. The ending is as harrowing as any that I’ve read in a PI novel in quite a long time.

   I wasn’t so sure for a while, but this one’s a keeper.

      The Phoebe Siegel series –

By Evil Means (1993)
The Killing of Monday Brown (1994)

When Wallflowers Die (1996)
An Accepted Sorrow (unpublished)

   According to the Thrilling Detective website, By Evil Means was nominated for the Hammett Prize, and both that novel and The Killing of Monday Brown were nominated for a Shamus.

JUDY FITZWATER – Dying to Remember. Fawcett, paperback original, August 2000.

   I’ve been winnowing out my collection of paperbacks over the past few weeks. Some are now up for sale, others are going to the local library or in other ways new homes are being found for them. This was going to be one of the latter until I saw that Jennifer Marsh, the detective in this, the fourth of now seven books in the series, the last after a gap of 12 years and available only on Kindle — whew, sorry — is a writer of mystery stories.

   An occupation for a fictional detective that I’ve always found interesting, so I retrieved it from the Pass Along pile, thinking it deserved a trial reading before I did so. Turns out, however, that while Jennifer, a young 30-something, has written nine mysteries, none of them have ever been published. False advertising by the back cover blurb writer right there, wouldn’t you say?

   But while this firmly places this book in the “cozy” category, reinforced by the presence of a wanna-be authors support group she’s a member of, there is an edge to this light-weight murder mystery that managed to keep me reading all the way to the end.

   Most of the opening portion of the book takes place at a high school reunion, with Jennifer reluctantly agrees to attend, and sure enough an old flame is there, bringing back memories of a prom night some 12 years ago. Along with many other members of the same class, most of whom Jennifer would just as soon forget, or she already has.

   But when the old flame is found dead in the parking lot outside the event, the verdict being an unfortunate suicide, Jennifer does not agree and takes it upon herself to do a little amateur sleuthing.

   High school is tough on a lot of people, but for others, it is the highlight of their life. The difference is where the edge comes in. Unfortunately it seems to me that what happens 12 years ago should have been checked into back then, not now, and the ending is one of these in which the heroine decides to tackle the killer head on, with no police in sight.

   So what did I decide? Is this one a keeper after all? No, but Jennifer Marsh is a character that I got to know rather well. She has spunk, and if the other books she’s in come along while I’m winnowing, I may check into her life again.

       The Jennifer Marsh series

1. Dying to Get Published (1995)

2. Dying to Get Even (1999)
3. Dying for a Clue (1999)
4. Dying to Remember (2000)
5. Dying to Be Murdered (2001)

6. Dying to Get Her Man (2002)
7. Dying Before ‘I Do’ (2014)

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