Bibliographies, Lists & Checklists


RICHARD HOYT – Decoys. John Denson #1. M. Evans, hardcover, 1980. Penguin, paperback, 1984.

   John Denson is a Seattle-based private eye. While his first case is no out-and-out classic, it is refreshingly different, and Denson’s a character I’d love to see again.

   Nor would I mind if his competition in this book for an unknown treasure – unknown to Denson, that is – were to show up along with him. She is Pamela Yew, also a private investigator, and she knows what the objective is. They make a bet. She will win the $50,000 piece of artwork adorning Denson’s office. He will win, um, her.

   A lot of male/female stuff comes into play. Denson does not think PI work is a woman’s line. She refuses to stay on the pedestal he offers her. Who wins? You’ll have to read this one for yourself to find out.

   There are also a large number of “decoys” in this book. It all depends on how deep allegorically you want to dig. And even so, if you like your detective fiction fast-paced with a lot of twists, and populated by characters who know what they are all about, I can’t imagine your failing to enjoy this one.

Rating: A minus.

–Very slightly revised from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 5, No. 2, March/April 1981.

   
     The John Denson series –

Decoys (1980)
30 for a Harry (1981)
Siskiyou (1983; aka “The Siskiyou Two-Step”)
Fish Story (1985; aka “Contract Killer”)
Whoo? (1991; aka “Flight of Death”)
Bigfoot (1993)
Snake Eyes (1995)
The Weatherman’s Daughters (2003)
Pony Girls (2004)

      Short Stories –

“Private Investigations” (1984, The Eyes Have It)

PAUL KRUGER – Weave a Wicked Web. Phil Kramer #2. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1967. Paperback Library 63-180, paperback; 1st printing, December 1969.

   There’s a little reviewer’s license going on there in the line up above. Phil Kramer’s not a licensed PI. What he is instead is a practicing attorney, but what he’s hired to do in this, his second appearance, is definitely a PI’s job, and the way he tackles it is exactly how a PI would. A PI in other colors is still a PI, no matter how you may look at it. Or him, as the shoe may fit.

   It all begins when a beautiful blonde walks into his office to have a woman called Kitty Bates found. She also has a description of her, but nothing about her background or anything else. She also will not say why she wants her found. There’s not much for Kramer to go on, but when he sees a story in a newspaper about a woman’s otherwise unidentified body having been found, the wheels in the case finally get going.

   And what a case it is. It turns out that Kitty Bates – yes, it is she – has been blackmailing someone in his client’s family for a long time, and that possibly even before she was killed, someone else had impersonated her to obtain $50,000 in cash from someone else in the family. And then two, maybe three, other deaths occur, Kramer is knocked out from behind at least once, and all of the alibis of those who may have responsible are leaking like sieves.

   This, in other words, is a detective story with a capital D. Do not expect any more character development than there is in your average Perry Mason novel, for there is none. There are twists galore in the telling, culminating in a long scene at the end, over ten pages long, in which all of the suspects have been gathered together while Kramer explains all – naming two killers in succession before finally implicating the real one.

   All fine and good, but even if this sound fine and good to you (and I freely admit that some may not), the telling is awfully dry, with lots of repetition as Kramer continually goes over the facts with everyone he speaks to. It’s a good mystery, no doubt about it, but with only a minimum amount of  juice in it to speak of, it’s not a great one.

   

      The Phil Kramer series –

Weep for Willow Green. Simon 1966
Weave a Wicked Web. Simon 1967
If the Shroud Fits. Simon 1969
The Bronze Claws. Simon 1972
The Cold Ones. Simon 1972

   Besides her five Phil Kramer novels, “Paul Kruger,” a pen name of Roberta Elizabeth Sebenthall,   (1917-1979), has five other works of crime fiction included in Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV.

ARTHUR LYONS – Castles Burning. Jacob Asch #5. Holt Rinehart & Winston, hardcover, 1979; paperback, 1982. Movie adaptation: Slow Burn (Showtime, 1986). Reviewed here.

   I didn’t care much for The Dead Are Discreet, the first of several adventures of PI Jacob Asch that Arthur Lyons has written up. It was four years ago when I read it, and in these pages I called it “mired in … muck [with] a plot full o! inconsistencies …” and I gave it a “D.”

   I might have been wrong. (Well, maybe .) At any rate, what Castles Burning strongly suggests is that I should not have been automatically skipping all the books he’s written since then.

   Not that this one started out all that well. Asch decides to give an artist a helping hand in tracking down the latter’s son, the spoils of a marriage that went on the rocks some ten years before. The artist’s specialty: kinky sex, brought lovingly to life on canvas. Quoting the artist’s agent on page three, “We live in an erotic age, dear boy.”

   But group groping and decor in leather are soon dismissed as a major topic of interest, and thankfully so. The true theme cuts just a little closer to home: alienated children, children with all that money can buy, but junked-out children nonetheless, and maybe therefore. Quoting again, this time from page 190, “They grew up bent because that was the way the light was coming in.”

   The boy Asch is looking for is dead. The mother has remarried, and now she has a stepson instead. Thanks perhaps to Asch’s inquiries, the boy is kidnapped, and Asch’s client is blamed.

   The characters are vivid and sensitively drawn. Pain and anguish always tend to do that to people, but this time it’s real and not simulated. Asch’s Jewishness only once comes to the fore, serving briefly to help escalate his growing sense of guilt. In all, the kidnapping serves to create some nicely tension-packed scenes before they fade off into a fairly tame closing.

   But only in comparison. For some books the ending would be enough; it’d be what they’d build upon.

–Very slightly revised from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 5, No. 1, January-February 1981.

Rating: A minus.

   
   The Jacob Asch series —

The Dead Are Discreet (1974)
All God’s Children (1975)
The Killing Floor (1976)
Dead Ringer (1977)
Castles Burning (1979)
Hard Trade (1981)
At the Hands of Another (1983)
Three With a Bullet (1984)
Fast Fade (1987)
Other People’s Money (1989)
False Pretenses (1994)

         Short stories:

“Trouble in Paradise” (1985, The New Black Mask # 1)
“Missing in Miami” (1986, Mean Streets)
“Double Your Pleasure” (January 1989, AHMM)
“Dead Copy” (1988, An Eye For Justice)
“Twist Of Fate” (January 1990, AHMM)
“The Tongan Nude” (October 1997, AHMM)

REVIEWED BY RAY O’LEARY:

   

MARGARET DOODY – Aristotle Detective. Bodley Head, UK, hardcover, 1978. Harper, US, hardcover, 1980. Penguin, paperback, 1981.

   Stephanos, a young Athenian and ex-pupil .of Aristotle, is taking a morning walk when he hears cries coming from the house of a wealthy neighbor named Boutades, who is shortly thereafter discovered with an arrow in his throat. A few days later, Stephanos’ cousin Philemon, who is in exile for having killed a man in a tavern brawl, is accused of the murder.

   As Philemon’s nearest relative, Stephanos must defend him in the ancient Greek equivalent of a trial. Naturally, considering the title of the book, he goess to his old mentor for help in clearing his cousin’s name.

   An interesting and entertaining excursion into ancient Greek culture, with an intriguing mystery and a lot of information about the Athenian legal system passed painlessly and pleasantly along to the reader.

— Reprinted from A Shropshire Sleuth #42, November 1989.

   
      The Aristotle and Stephanos series —

1. Aristotle Detective (1978)
2. Aristotle and Poetic Justice (2002)
3. Aristotle and the Secrets of Life (2003)
   aka Aristotle and the Mystery of Life
4. Poison in Athens (2004)
5. Mysteries in Eleusis (2005)
6. Aristotle and the Egyptian Murders (2010)
7. A Cloudy day in Babylon (2013)

   Short Story:

Aristotle and the Fatal Javelin (1980)

   

From Wikipedia: “Margaret Anne Doody (born September 21, 1939) is a Canadian author of historical detective fiction and feminist literary critic. She is professor of literature at the University of Notre Dame, and helped found the PhD in Literature Program at Notre Dame, and served as its director from 2001-2007.”

REVIEWED BY RAY O’LEARY:

   

C. DALY KING – Obelists Fly High. [Lt. Michael Lord & Dr. L. Rees Pons #3. Harrison Smith & Robert Haas, US, hardcover, 1935. Dover, trade paperback, 1986, 2015. Published in the UK by Collins, hardcover, 1935.

   A re-read of a book I probably bought when it was first reprinted. In this case, I didn’t remember anything about it, so it was like reading it for the first time.

   Dr. Amos Cutter, a prominent surgeon and brother of the Secretary of State goes to the Police after receiving a letter saying he will be murdered on the following day at noon central time. Cutter is going to Reno, where his sister is getting a divorce and his brother is in the hospital in need of an operation that Cutter is one of the few surgeons who can perform.

   The Commissioner assigns Capt. Michael Lord to protect Cutter as they fly across country with Cutter’s nieces: the beautiful Fonda Mann, who is fond of men and her sister Isa who is a lesbian. (Note that King wasn’t very subtle with his names). Also along is Cutter’s assistant Hood Tinkham. Among the passengers is Lord’s friend, psychologist Dr. L. Rees Pons, who is going to Hollywood to provide psychological background for a script involving two women in love with each other (obviously pre-Code.)

   There’s also author Hugh L. Craven, who is a friend of the girl’s father, a former British spy during the Great War and a believer in the theories of Charles Fort. (ASIDE: Some 30 or so years back I came across a one volume edition of Fort’s books and read it. Some of the stuff is pretty interesting in a Ripley’s-Believe-It-Or-Not sort of way. Other stuff is just damn silly.) Anyway, at noon central time as they’re flying over the mid-west, Cutter dies, and it’s up to Lord to find the killer before the plane reaches Reno.

   Of all the Dover reprints I’ve read this is probably the most poorly written. Characters and dialogue are mediocre at best and there’s an elaborate timetable provided that I couldn’t bother going through. However, King manages to pull off a big surprise midway through the book and then tops that in the final few pages. He also provides at the end a list of clues with the page and the line on that page where they were given so that the reader can go back and verify them.

— Reprinted from The Hound of Dr. Johnson #40, September 2005.

   

Editorial Notes: Quoting from Martin Edwards’ blog and a review he wrote of Obelists en Route:

   “‘Obelist’ was a word that King made up. He defined it in Obelists at Sea as ‘a person of little or no value’ and then re-defined it in Obelists en Route as ‘one who harbours suspicion’. Why on earth you would invent a word, use it in your book titles, and then change your mind about what it means?”

   Another online review can be found here at the Invisible Event blog. (He gives it Zero stars.)

   

      The Obelists series —

Obelists at Sea. Knopf 1933.
Obelists en Route. Collins 1934. No US publication.
Obelists Fly High. H. Smith 1935.
Careless Corpse. Collins 1937. No US publication.
Arrogant Alibi. Appleton 1939

   Lt. Lord makes a solo appearance in Bermuda Burial (Funk, 1941)

STUART KAMINSKY – Never Cross a Vampire. Toby Peters #5. St. Martin’s Press, hardcover, 1980. Mysterious Press, paperback, 1984, 1995.   ibooks, paperback, 2000.

   As a flight into the past, Stuart Kaminsky’s series of adventures starring Hollywood private eye Toby Peters has come now to be a regularly scheduled event. As in his previous four cases, this affair, which introduces both Bela Legosi and aspiring screenwriter William Faulkner as clients, is fairly dripping with nostalgia. With a capital N.

   The time is January 1942, just as the US was gearing up for its mammoth forthcoming war effort, and every so often we are obliged to sit down and listen to Peters recite his breakfast menu, brand name by brand name, and to read his newspaper along with him, item by item.

   This litany of places, names, and events, while marginally interesting, becomes very much suspect, however, the moment Peters mentions having listened to a program on the popular radio series Suspense. As it so happens, the first program in the series, which lasted until 1962, or some twenty years, was not broadcast until June 17, 1942, or not until six months after the events related here.

   Kaminsky has put more effort than usual into the plot this time, which includes, very briefly, a locked room murder, but sloppy and inaccurate time-tabling – not month and year this time, but the time of day – makes it a little difficult to do more than guess who done it.

Rating: C

–Very slightly revised from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 5, No. 1, January-February 1981.

   
      The Toby Peters series (with a tip of the topper to his page on the Thrilling Detective website) —

   NOVELS

Bullet for a Star (1977; Errol Flynn).
Murder on the Yellow Brick Road (1977; Judy Garland).
You Bet Your Life (1978; Marx Brothers).
The Howard Hughes Affair (1979; Howard Hughes).
Never Cross a Vampire (1980; Bela Lugosi).
High Midnight (1981; Gary Cooper).
Catch a Falling Clown (1982; Emmett Kelly).
He Done Her Wrong (1983; Mae West).
The Fala Factor (1984; Eleanor Roosevelt).
Down for the Count (1985; Joe Louis).
The Man Who Shot Lewis Vance (1986; John Wayne).
Smart Moves (1986; Albert Einstein, Paul Robeson).
Think Fast, Mr. Peters (1988; Peter Lorre).
Buried Caesars (1989; General MacArthur).
Poor Butterfly (1990; Leopold Stokowski).
The Melting Clock (1991; Salvador Dali).
The Devil Met a Lady (1993; Bette Davis).
Tomorrow Is Another Day (1995; Clark Gable).
Dancing in the Dark (1996; Fred Astaire).
A Fatal Glass of Beer (1997; W.C. Fields).
A Few Minutes Past Midnight (2001; Charlie Chaplin).
To Catch a Spy (2002; Cary Grant)
Mildred Pierced (2003, Joan Crawford)
Now You See It (2004; Harry Blackstone).

   SHORT STORIES

“The Man Who Shot Lewis Vance (1984, The Eyes Have It)
“Busted Blossoms” (1986, Mean Streets)
“Long Odds” (2002, Murder on the Ropes)
“Denbow” (2009, Sex, Lies and Private Eyes)

LUCILLE KALLEN – C. B. Greenfield: The Tanglewood Murders. Wyndham Books, hardcover, 1980. Ballantine, paperback, 1981.

   Have you ever noticed how much more you enjoy a mystery novel, say, when the setting is a local one, or one you know? Take, for example, Tanglewood. As everyone in most of New England, at least, must know, Tanglewood is the annual summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a small village and environs nestled up in the lush green hills of the Massachusetts Berkshires, close to the New York border.

   An apparent plot against the orchestra seems to be motivated by more than usual resentment lodges against them by the local townspeople, upset by the yearly influx of gawking tourists. Tackling an solving the murder that eventually results, in their second case, are C. B. Greenfield, crusty publisher of a weekly upstate New York newspaper, and his star reporter, Maggie Rome.

   It’s Maggie who does the legwork, and Greenfield, although long and lean, who supplies the Nero Wolfian ratiocination. While their combined detective technique lacks polish and remains determinedly amateurish is style, the two sleuths are most decidedly up to the intellectiual challenge of the musical clue left as a dying message – from Ravel’s “Rapsodie Espanole.” That, plus a helpful quote from Shakespeare, and the quiet serenity of one of this country’s most charming corners is quickly restored.

Rating: B plus.

–Very slightly revised from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 5, No. 1, January-February 1981.

      The C. B. Greenfield series –

1. Introducing C. B. Greenfield (1979)
2. The Tanglewood Murder (1980)
3. No Lady in the House (1982)
4. The Piano Bird (1985)
5. A Little Madness (1986)

PATRICIA WALLACE – Deadly Grounds. Sydney Bryant #2. Zebra, paperback original; 1st printing, May 1989.

   I don’t remember the title of the first one, but this is [San Diego-based] PI Sydney Bryant’s second recorded adventure. She’s hired here by a neighbor, a 15-year-old schoolgirl who finds the body of a friend along a pathway of the private girls’ academy they both attended.

   Complicating the story is Sydney’s potentially torrid love affair with the policeman in charge. While Wallace’s easy writing style often seems to explain too much, as if telling the story to someone reading a mystery for the first time, she does know teenage girls.

PostScript: Well, she convinced me, at least. It’s really too badthat both the title and packaging make th book look to much like a run-of-the-mill horror novel, at least at first glance — and how much chance does a book get to find its proper audience, anyway?

–Reprinted from Mystery*File #13, June 1989

      The Sydney Bryant series —

Small Favors. Zebra 1988

            

Deadly Grounds. Zebra 1989
Blood Lies. Zebra 1991

            

Deadly Devotion. Zebra 1994

            

August Nights. Five Star, hardcover, 2002

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


ASHLEY GARDNER – Death at Brighton Pavilion. Cpt. Gabriel Lacey #14. JA/AG Publishing, softcover, December 2019. Setting: Regency England.

First Sentence: I woke, or seemed to.

   Captain Gabriel Lacey’s old enemy, Colonel Hamilton Isherwood, has been murdered. Isherwood’s blood is on Lacey’s clothes and a cavalry saber is in Lacey’s hand, and there is a gap in his memory as to what happened. The one person who might know is Clement, a footman, and Isherwood’s son asks for Lacey’s help in identifying his father’s killer. While trying to put the pieces together, Gabriel learns of two Quakers who are missing and promises to make inquiries as to their whereabouts.

   There’s nothing like a good hook; an opening that captures your attention from the very beginning. Having the protagonist come to consciousness in the company of a dead body, a saber in this hand, and the victim’s blood on his clothes accomplishes that goal.

   It’s also nice that new readers need not worry about coming into the series with this 14th book. Gardner does a very good job of introducing each of the characters and establishing their relationships. She also incorporates the intimacy between Lacey and his wife Donata in a way that is lovely, romantic and a bit sexy, but never detailed.

   Gardner creates an excellent sense of place, inviting the reader into the environment in which the characters find themselves. Often, too, she provides bits of history and general information, such as that about Quakers, never overwhelming the story, but enhancing it.

   One likes to read of protagonists who have a strong moral and ethical base, who believe in doing what is just. Lacey is just such a character in spite of the urgings of others. At the same time, he is not perfect and does have a past, yet one of the best traits of Lacey is his humanity; his sense of responsibility. In other words, he is believable.

   Gardner creates an assumption and immediately dispels it carrying one along in the investigation. Her writing draws one back to her books due to her voice; her dialogue and the subtle humor incorporated which is offset by an excellent accounting of grieving– “That was the trouble with death. I too had been brought up to believe we should rejoice that the one we loved was with the lord, but somehow I never could. I could feel only emptiness, the lessening of myself for the absence of that person.”

   Death at Brighton Pavilion is a thoroughly enjoyable period mystery with plenty of twists, action, wonderful period details, and an ending that moves the series forward. As the author says– “Captain Lacey’s adventures continue…”

Rating: Good Plus.


      The Captain Gabriel Lacey series —

1. The Hanover Square Affair (2003)
2. A Regimental Murder (2004)
3. The Glass House (2004)
4. The Sudbury School Murders (2005)
5. A Body in Berkley Square (2005)
6. A Covent Garden Mystery (2006)
7. A Death in Norfolk (2011)
8. A Disappearance in Drury Lane (2013)
9. Murder in Grosvenor Square (2014)
10. The Thames River Murders (2015)
11. The Alexandria Affair (2016)
12. A Mystery at Carlton House (2017)
13. Murder in St. Giles (2018)
14. Death at Brighton Pavilion (2019)

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:

VERONICA STALLWOOD – Oxford Exit. Kate Ivory #2. Scribner, US, hardcover, 1995. Np US paperback edition. First published in the UK by Macmillan, 1994.

   Yet another author new to me. Stallwood was born in London and lives in Oxford, where she has worked at the Bodelian and Lincoln College libraries. The first book in this series is Death and the Oxford Box.

   Kate Ivory is a struggling romance novelist who has experience with computers and library cataloguing. She is called on by a friend to help investigate a possible series of thefts from the Oxford University Library System, and after agreeing is plugged into the system as a roving cataloger and consultant.

   Shady doings are afoot, all right, and Kate discovers that a young library assistant who was murdered in the recent past may have stumbled across them also, What seemed to be a relatively safe assignment now takes on a darker hue.

   Were this an American book, I’d call it a cozy, but given how I’ve defined those I think I’d be doing this an injustice. I like Stallwood’s prose, and I like her characters, an dI like the milieu. She tells her story by interleaving chapters told from the viewpoints of Kate and the anonymous murderer, and I thought she made unusually good use of the device.

   Secondary characters were also well done. It’s a type of book that British authors do exceptionally well, and Stallwood does this reputation no harm.

      

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #19, May 1995.

       The Kate Ivory series —

1. Death and the Oxford Box (1993)
2. Oxford Exit (1994)
3. Oxford Mourning (1995)
4. Oxford Fall (1996)
5. Oxford Knot (1998)
6. Oxford Blue (1998)
7. Oxford Shift (1999)
8. Oxford Shadows (2000)
9. Oxford Double (2001)
10. Oxford Proof (2002)
11. Oxford Remains (2004)
12. Oxford Letters (2005)
13. Oxford Menace (2008)
14. Oxford Ransom (2011)

Next Page »