Bibliographies, Lists & Checklists


REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


BRIAN FREEMANTLE – Charlie’s Apprentice. Charlie Muffin #10. St. Martins, US, hardcover, 1994. No US paperback edition. First published in the UK by Century, hardcover, 1993.

   Now that Anthony Price has retired Davis Audley, I suppose that Freemantle and his scruffy agent Charlie Muffin, are my favorites in the espionage line.

   The old director of Charlie’s Department has died, and Charlie really doesn’t know what to expect from his lady Deputy Director either. He’s more than a bit apprehensive when they finally call him in, but glad that they’ve quit ignoring him anyway. His relief is short-lived, though — he’s taken off the active agent rolls and assigned as a trainer.

   His first trainee is from the sort of semi-aristocratic background that he detests, but Charlie sets about to make the best of it for the moment. Concurrently, in China an agent in place is the last Jesuit establishment is beginning a process that will land him in very deep rice. And Charlie’s masters are up to something nasty.

   Everything and everybody converge in a typically convoluted fashion, of course, though we and Charlie are kep guessing until the end. Freemantle tells the story from multiple viewpoints, adding a piece at a time, and does so quite effectively.

   Charlie is still Charlie: the Eternal Prole, scruffy, resentful, watchful, a step ahead of everybody, and determined not to be the loser whatever the game. His old Russian lover, Natalia, has a role to play, too. Freemantle is one of the best of what he does, and for me, at least, Charlie Muffin is a character for the ages.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #14, August 1994.


      The Charlie Muffin series

1. Charlie Muffin (1977) aka Charlie M
2. Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie (1978) aka Here Comes Charlie M
3. The Inscrutable Charlie Muffin (1979)
4. Charlie Muffin’s Uncle Sam (1980) aka Charlie Muffin U.S.A.
5. Madrigal for Charlie Muffin (1981)
6. Charlie Muffin and Russian Rose (1985) aka The Blind Run
7. Charlie Muffin San (1987) aka See Charlie Run
8. The Run Around (1988)
9. Comrade Charlie (1989)
10. Charlie’s Apprentice (1993)
11. Charlie’s Chance (1996) aka Bomb Grade
12. Dead Men Living (2000)
13. Kings of Many Castles (2001)
14. Red Star Rising (2010)
15. Red Star Burning (2012)
16. Red Star Falling (2013)

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


JOE R. LANSDALE – Mucho Mojo. Hap Collins & Leonard Pine #1 [actually #2; see below]. CD Publications, hardcover, limited edition, 1994. Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1994; paperback, 1995. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, softcover, 2009. TV: Reportedly serves as the basis for Season Two of the Hap and Leonard television series (Sundance, 2016-2018).

   Lansdale is well-known (at least to Bill Crider and me), but primarily for horror, in which field he’s a multiple award winner. This is his first “traditional” crime novel to my knowledge. Mysterious thinks it’s a breakout.

   Hap Collins is white, fortyish, and working in the rose fields of East Texas. Leonard Pine is black, the same, and gay (but not very cheerful) on top of it. They’re tighter than ticks on the proverbial redbone, and Leonard has a bad leg gotten saving Hap’s life during some shady doings.

   They are sort of drifting along when Leonard’s Uncle Chester dies and leaves him a hundred grand and his house, which changes a lot of things. They discover that Uncle Chester was going senile before he died, and had hinted to the local police that somebody was murdering black children. Then, while putting his house in shape, they dicover a bunch of kiddie porn magazines and dig up the bones of a 10-year-old child buried in a box under the floor.

   The police think Uncle Chester did it, but Leonard doesn’t believe it, so he and Hap begin to dig deeper. So to speak.

   This is an entertaining book, and Hap and Leonard are interesting and refreshingly different characters. I don’t know that they’re all that believable; 40-year-old field hands with as much on the ball as our dynamic duo strike me as more than a little unlikely, but hey it;s a story, right?

   And a good one, too. Lansdale knows how to spin a yarn. He’s got a good East Texas “voice”, and Hap narrates the story effectively, with a fair share of quips and country sayin’s. There’s a lot of dialogue, and not much of the brooding atmosphere you might expect from Lansdale. It won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but you won’t know if it’s yours ’til you try a sip.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #14, August 1994.


The Hap Collins & Leonard Pine series —

1. Savage Season (1990)

2. Mucho Mojo (1994)
3. The Two-Bear Mambo (1995)
4. Bad Chili (1997)
5. Rumble Tumble (1998)

6. Captains Outrageous (2001)
7. Vanilla Ride (2009)
8. Devil Red (2011)
9. Honky Tonk Samurai (2016)
10. Rusty Puppy (2017)
11. Jackrabbit Smile (2018)


Bibliographic Notes: Unknown to Barry, who described this as the first in the series, there was one that had come out four years earlier, that being Savage Season, published by Mark V. Ziesing, a small press publisher based in California. Barry also seems to have assumed that the first edition of Mucho Mojo was done by Mysterious Press, but another small outfit called CD Publications, based in Baltimore, gets credit for that.

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


CAROL O’CONNELL – Mallory’s Oracle. Kathleen Mallory #1. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, 1994. Jove, paperback, 1995.

   O’Connell is a painter turned novelist, and this is her first. Putnam thinks it’s going to be a good one. They paid a lot of money for it, and it’s already been published in England and sold to several other countries.

   Kathleen Mallory was a street kid and she was taken in at the age of 12 by a NYPD cop and his wife. Now she’s a Sergeant in the same department, and her father in all the real sense of the word has been murdered at the same time as the latest victim is killed by a serial killer who preys on old women.

   The Department places her on compassionate leave, but compassion is not a word she understands very well. She’s beautiful, a crack shot and a computer whiz, and underneath a thin veneer is a tough and nearly as amoral as the child she used to be. Mercy is another word that has little relevance to her as she begins tracking her prey.

   O’Connell may be this year’s Minette Walters, and this could easily be an Edgar winner for either First or Best Novel. Yes, I thought it was that good. It’s a powerfully written book, and often beautifully so. An Example: “She lay still in the body and quiet.”

   And watch for the passage about the insane pigeon — surely none of the more unlikely subjects upon which to base a memorable paragraph, but there it was. The third person narrative is mostly from Mallory’s viewpoint, though there are several illuminating shifts.

   The plot is convoluted, with maybe one or two too many threads to the skein, but the book’s strengths lie in O’Connell’s prose and the vivid characterizations of Mallory and a number of others. It isn’t a perfect book, but it’s a very, very strong one, and I think the field has another star here, folks.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #14, August 1994.


      The Kathleen Mallory series —

1. Mallory’s Oracle (1994)
       — 1995 Anthony Award — First Novel (Nominee)
       — 1995 Dilys Award — Mystery Novel (Nominee)
       — 1995 Edgar Allan Poe Award — First Novel (Nominee)
2. The Man Who Lied to Women (1995) aka The Man Who Cast Two Shadows
3. Killing Critics (1995)
4. Flight of the Stone Angel (1997) aka Stone Angel
5. Shell Game (1999)
6. Crime School (2002)
7. The Jury Must Die (2003) aka Dead Famous
8. Winter House (2004)
9. Find Me (2006) aka Shark Music
10. The Chalk Girl (2012)
11. It Happens in the Dark (2012)
12. Blind Sight (2016)

M. E. CHABER – The Flaming Man. Milo March #18. Holt Rinehart & Winston, hardcover, 1969. Paperback Library 63-353, paperback; “Milo March #9”; June 1970. Cover art by Robert McGinnis.

   Insurance investigator Milo March’s assignment in The Flaming Man is to investigate the death of one of Intercontinental Insurance’s clients in a department store fire during the Watts riots in Los Angeles.

   I’ve always been a fan of this series, but I seem to have never read this one until now. It’s a short book, just over 150 pages in the paperback edition, and what I said in paragraph one summarizes the story completely. There is not a single surprise or unexpected event in the entire book.

   And if you cut out the references to drinking, the book would be at least 20 pages shorter. Milo March is one of those guys who could really put it away. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime and every other half hour in between, another drink. From one bar to another, it seems, nonstop. (March does find time, while solving the case, for a good-natured dalliance with a well-endowed stripper lady. They make a good couple. She knows how to toss them down as well.)

   The cover is nice, but the reading is awfully slow going. This is the kind of book that makes me tell myself that I could do better, and what’s worse I know I couldn’t.

       The Milo March series —

Hangman’s Harvest (n.) Holt 1952 [California]
No Grave for March (n.) Holt 1953 [Berlin]
As Old As Cain (n.) Holt 1954 [Ohio]
The Man Inside (n.) Holt 1954 [Madrid]
The Splintered Man (n.) Rinehart 1955 [Berlin]
A Lonely Walk (n.) Rinehart 1956 [Italy]
The Gallows Garden (n.) Rinehart 1958 [Caribbean]
A Hearse of Another Color (n.) Rinehart 1958 [New Orleans, LA]
So Dead the Rose (n.) Rinehart 1959 [Berlin]
Jade for a Lady (n.) Rinehart 1962 [Hong Kong]
Softly in the Night (n.) Holt 1963 [Los Angeles, CA]
Six Who Ran (n.) Holt 1964 [Rio de Janeiro, Brazil]
Uneasy Lies the Dead (n.) Holt 1964
Wanted: Dead Men (n.) Holt 1965
The Day It Rained Diamonds (n.) Holt 1966 [Los Angeles, CA]
A Man in the Middle (n.) Holt 1967 [Hong Kong]
Wild Midnight Falls (n.) Holt 1968 [Moscow]
The Flaming Man (n.) Holt 1969 [Los Angeles, CA]
Green Grow the Graves (n.) Holt 1970
The Bonded Dead (n.) Holt 1971 [Miami, FL]
Born to Be Hanged (n.) Holt 1973 [Nevada]

IT IS PURELY MY OPINION
Reviews by L. J. Roberts


  ANN CLEEVES – The Seagull. Inspector Vera Stanhope #8. Minotaur Books, US, hardcover, September 2017. First published by Macmillan, UK, hardcover, 2017.

First Sentence:   The woman could see the full sweep of the bay despite the dark and the absence of street lights where she stood.

   An old enemy of Insp. Vera Stanhope, John Bruce asks that she visit him in prison where she helped put him. He wants to cut a deal: information on the whereabouts of the body of Robbie Marshall, a long-missing hustler in exchange to Vera looking out for his daughter and grandchildren. There is a very personal element to this case for Vera as Bruce, Marshall, and a man known only as “the Prof,” were close friends of her father, Hector Stanhope, bringing back memories Vera would prefer remain buried.

   Cleeves creates such a strong sense of emotion— “Sometimes it felt as if her whole life had been spent in the half-light; in her dreams, she was moonlit, neon-lit, or she floated through the first gleam of dawn,” —and place— “The funfair at Spanish City was closed for the day, and quiet. She could see the silhouettes of the rides, marked by string of coloured bulbs, gaudy in full sunlight, entrancing now.”

   Those who follow the BBC television series Vera and may be disappointed by the departure of some characters, it’s nice to see that her assistants Holly and Joe are still here in the books. The description of Vera’s team is done in terms of their relationships to Vera. What is lovely is her understanding of what drives them, each member’s strength and what motivates them. Vera and Joe’s visit to the mother of a missing man is a sad reminder of the pain through which families go without the closure of knowing what happened.

   There is honest police work here. The investigation is conducted by legwork as well as technology; getting out and talking with people. The case is worked step-by-step, without flash.

   Vera’s self-awareness is admirable— “then she thought she was making a drama of the situation. She always did.” Yet, to her— “…the law matters. All those little people you despise so much have to abide by it, and so do you. So do I.”

   The Seagull is such a good book. Beyond the excellent plot, what one really cares about is Vera and her team.

Rating:   Excellent.

— For more of LJ’s reviews, check out her blog at : https://booksaremagic.blogspot.com/.


The Vera Stanhope series —

1. The Crow Trap (1999)

2. Telling Tales (2005)
3. Hidden Depths (2007)
4. Silent Voices (2011)
5. The Glass Room (2012)

6. Harbour Street (2014)
7. The Moth Catcher (2015)
8. The Seagull (2017)

  HUGH PENTECOST – The 24th Horse. Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1940. Popular Library #82, paperback, no date stated [1946]. CreateSpace/Bold Venture Press, softcover, May 2016.

   This is the second of five recorded mysteries solved by Inspector Luke Bradley of New York City’s Homicide Division. He’s called in when the young boy friend of a girl finds the girl’s sister’s body stuffed in the rumble seat of the car belonging to his girl friend. Complicating matters is the fact that his girl friend’s sister used to be his girl friend, but after he broke up with her a few days earlier, she had mysteriously disappeared.

   It turns out that the dead girl, while quite beautiful and popular with the men in her life, also had an unpleasant streak to her personality. Bradley soon suspects that she was not averse to a little blackmail. A letter left to be sent to the police after her death turns out to be blank. It then becomes a matter of not only who had a motive but who had access to the desk when the letter was kept.

   The background for this vintage detective novel is that of indoor steeplechase racing, with the title referring to the stages of 24 horses that people learning to jump must master, with increasing degrees of difficulty. There are, in the end, also 24 clues that Bradley gives to a friend, that when interpreted correctly, will add up the killer.

   Pentecost, aka Judson Philips, was a long time pulp writer, so it’s no surprise that when he turned his hand to writing book-length fiction, such as this one, the results were smoothly written, with solidly constructed characters.

   That it’s no classic that fans of fair play detective fiction will remember, is probably due to the fact that — in spite of the clues — does it not quite establish what Bradley knew and when he knew it. The killer is quite obvious, too, if you take the time to think about it.

      The Inspector Luke Bradley series —

Cancelled in Red (n.) Dodd 1939
The 24th Horse (n.) Dodd 1940
I’ll Sing at Your Funeral (n.) Dodd 1942
The Brass Chills (n.) Dodd 1943
Secret Corridors (na) Century 1945 [also with Dr. John Smith]

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


MICHELLE SPRING – Every Breath You Take. Laura Principal #1. Pocket, US, hardcover, 1994; paperback, 1995. Ballantine, US, paperback, 1999. First published by Orion, UK, hardcover, 1994.

   Spring is a Professor of Sociology at a British university and has published several non-fiction works. This is her first novel in a series featuring Private Investigator Laura Principal.

   Laura and her male partner-in-all-senses operate a private detective agency in London. She and her best ladyfriend co-own a cottage on the Norfolk coast, and for financial reasons decide to share the cottage with a third lady. She is an artist and Cambridge art instructor who occasionally seems to be nervous and fearful without apparent reason.

   That there were reasons becomes apparent when she is discovered brutally murdered in her flat. Laura is consumed by guilt because she didn’t pay attention to the dead woman’s fears, and begins probing her past to find answers. She finds she may not have known the woman at all.

   I didn’t dislike this, but I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to. I think my primary problem was with the prose. While the characters had the potential to be likable, the first-person narration seemed to lack immediacy and involvement, and to be almost didactic. There was a bit too much HIBK.

   A more concrete flaw was the depiction of the police, and Principal’s relations with them; it’s obvious that Spring didn’t concern herself overly with realism in this regard. The plot was eventually resolved by a device all too common, but nonetheless annoying and unsatisfying.

   After detailing all the things wrong with the book, I’m not really sure why I liked it even as much as I did while I was reading it. I guess because of the characters — but I wish she had done more with them.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #13, June 1994.


      The Laura Principal series —

1. Every Breath You Take (1994)
2. Running For Shelter (1995)
3. Standing in the Shadows (1998)
4. Nights in White Satin (1999)
5. In the Midnight Hour (2001)

IT IS PURELY MY OPINION
Reviews by L. J. Roberts


JAMES R. BENN – The Devouring. Lt. Billy Boyle #12. Soho Crime, hardcover, September 2017. Setting: France/Switzerland, World War II.

First Sentence:   Light is faster than sound.

   Captain Billy Boyle and Lt. Piotr “Kaz” Kazimierz are headed to Switzerland but crash-land in France, meeting up with Anton Lasho, a Sinti (Gypsy) determined to kill every German he meets. The three do make it across the border and connect with members of the OSS. Their task? Investigate Swiss banks that are laundering looted Nazi gold.

   Benn throws one into high drama and action from the very start and it’s great. One feels the anxiety of the characters as we are immediately introduced to Billy, “Kaz” and Anton Lasko, who is new to us but who proves to be such a good character, one wouldn’t mind seeing him in the future. Billy and Kaz are truly wonderful characters. One can very much appreciate the way in which Benn sprinkles information on their backgrounds throughout the story. It is through the trio that Benn creates such painful, yet honest scenes that they touch one’s emotions. That’s the mark of a truly fine writer.

   Benn has an excellent voice. He includes the vernacular of the 1940’s— “You’re all packing, I assume” … “Can you get us shoulder holsters?” I asked. “It’s clumsy carrying these six-shooters around in a coat pocket.” —without overdoing it. He includes just the right touch of wry humor— “All we had to do was avoid imprisonment and long-range rifle fire. All in a day’s work.”

   This may be Benn’s most complex book so far. It is filled with historical information. One may find it makes them quite angry. Not toward the author, but because of the information which one may not have previously known, yet is important to learn. And that’s what makes this a particularly good book.

   The Devouring is a really well-done tale of duplicity, stolen gold, and a not-so-neutral country.

— For more of LJ’s reviews, check out her blog at : https://booksaremagic.blogspot.com/.


      The Billy Boyle World War II series

1. Billy Boyle (2006)

2. The First Wave (2007)
3. Blood Alone (2008)
4. Evil for Evil (2009)
5. Rag and Bone (2010)

6. A Mortal Terror (2011)
7. Death’s Door (2012)
8. A Blind Goddess (2013)
9. The Rest is Silence (2014)
10. The White Ghost (2015)
11. Blue Madonna (2016)
12. The Devouring (2017)

MAXINE O’CALLAGHAN – Hit and Run. Delilah West #3. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1989; paperback, January 1991. Brash Books, trade paperback, February 2015.

   The count above of Delilah West’s does not include the short story “A Change of Clients,” which appeared in the November 1974 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, The date is worth pointing out because what it means that as a modern day female PI, Delilah West came along several years before all of the more famous ones, who showed up later: Sharon McCone (1977), Kinsey Millhone (1982), or V. I. Warshawsky (also 1982).

   In spite of the lack of fame for Mrs. West, the good news is, according to the Thrilling Detective website, “in July 1999, at the Eyecon, held in St. Louis, the Private Eye Writers of America righted that wrong, and very deservedly bestowed The Eye, its Lifetime Achievement Award.”

   Hit and Run was published in paperback by St. Martin’s as part of their “Mean Streets” line of books they were promoting at the time, but I think that’s only because Delilah was a private detective in general, not because she traveled down streets any meaner than any of those the mostly sunny town of Santa Ana in southern California.

   The case begins with her living in her office, business being so bad, and being nearly run down by a young half-Hispanic kid who leaves another man dead in street before speeding off. Thanks to Delilah’s ID of the car he was driving, he is soon arrested for the man’s death.

   Surprisingly enough, hiring Delilah to prove the boy’s innocence is his mother. Demurring greatly, she agrees to investigate and soon begins to suspect that the mean was already dead before he was left in the street to become the responsibility of the next car that drove over him.

   The book is pleasant read for PI fans, and maybe even cozy fans who like just a little more grit in the mysteries they read, but that’s all there is, just a little more grit. The ending is more of the thriller variety than it is a gather-the-suspects-around-the-room sort of detective novel, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

   All in all, a fairly ordinary case for Delilah, and except perhaps for the killer’s identity, not a particularly memorable one. It nonetheless proved to be a most satisfactory way to spend a couple of hours while flying cross country a week or so ago.

      The Delilah West series —

            Novels:

Death Is Forever (1981)

Run From the Nightmare (1982)
Hit and Run (1989)
Set-Up (1991)

Trade-Off (1996)
Down For the Count (1997) .

         Collections:

A Change of Clients and Death Is Forever (1999)
   == Short story “A Change of Clients” [+} novel above.

Bad News and Trouble: The Delilah West Stories (2014)
   == Possibly including the following short stories:
“A Change of Clients”
“Bad News”
“Deal with the Devil”
“Diamonds Are For Never”
“Somewhere South of Melrose”
“Going to the Dogs”
“Belling the Cat”

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


CAMILLA T. CRESPI – The Trouble with Thin Ice. Simona Griffo #4. HarperCollins, hardcover, 1993; paperback, 1994. iUniverse, trade paperback, July 2003.

   This is the fourth in this series, but it’s my first, and it almost wasn’t that. When I read the description of Griffo is “an ad exec … who loves to cook and solve murders” I nearly wimped out right there. Then I thought, well, maybe it’s the copywriter here who’s an idiot and not the writer. Let’s see.

   Simona and her New York Detective lover (and his 14 year old son) are spending Christmas in Connecticut, where a black friend of theirs is marrying a white man, and the couple is buying one of the town’s old mansions. The lady selling it to them is a member of the tows ruling class, and her announcement of the sale at dinner is greeted with something less than pleasure and acceptance.

   The same night she is drowned in an icy pond, and the bride-to-be is arrested for the murder. Simona’s lover is called away by a family injury, and she and the son are left to soldier one.

   It should be noted that there’s at least one facet of the book of which I heartily approve: a Cast of Characters at the beginning which should be de rigueur for any story with over five characters.

   Praise ends here. The blurb was right — Simona really does love to (*gag*) cook and solve murders. This is a better written version of the nonsense that people like Mary Daheim and Valerie Wolzien perpetrate, and while I recognize that there are those who like such, their rationale remains incomprehensible to me.

   I like my fiction to either be amusing or about people and premises that I can at least temporarily believe in, and neither of these attributes is in the slightest evidence here.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #13, June 1994.


       The Simona Griffo series —

As by Trella Crespi:
   The Trouble with a Small Raise. Zebra 1991.
   The Trouble with Moonlighting. Zebra 1991.
   The Trouble with Too Much Sun. Zebra 1992.

As by Camilla T. Crespi:
   The Trouble with Thin Ice. Harper 1993.
   The Trouble with Going Home. Harper 1995.
   The Trouble with a Bad Fit. Harper 1996.
   The Trouble with a Hot Summer. Harper 1997.

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