DAVE ZELTSERMAN “Archie on Loan.” Short story. Julius Katz & Archie Smith #9 (?). Published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Sept-Oct 2016.

   Julius Katz, as you may already know, is a PI based in Cambridge MA who bears a more than passing remembrance to one Nero Wolfe in many ways but who is quite the opposite in others. He is athletic for one thing, but yet also rather lazy when taking on cases and often has to be prodded into taking on new ones by an assistant named Archie.

   Archie, however, is like no other detective you perhaps have ever encountered in a mystery story before. He’s an Artificially Intelligent microcomputer that Katz wears as a tiepin and with whom he is in constant contact. On request Archie can hack himself into almost any computer system anywhere in the world in a fraction of a second, the time often annotated. No worn out pair of gumshoes for this particular Archie.

   As it turns out — and this was probably not known before this story came along — Julius Katz has a sister named Julia who is an international spy. Her problem at the moment is that three attempts have been made on her life, and she does not know why. She needs Archie (whom she did not know about before), to not only learn why, but who, and stop him, or them.

   A key to this absolutely delightful case is an extremely rare copy of Our Mutual Friend, one inscribed by Charles Dickens himself. I don’t know if Julia Katz appears in any of the later Julius Katz and Archie tales, but she’s certainly an engaging character that I’d like to read about again. Overall, though, if you’re a fan of Rex Stout’s work, then I’m sure these tales (see below) will appeal to you as much as they have to me. Besides the sheer chutzpah of coming up with the characters themselves, the mysteries themselves are very well done as well.

       The Julius Katz & Archie Smith series [may not be complete] —

Julius Katz (nv) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Sep/Oct 2009 (*)
Archie’s Been Framed (nv) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Sep/Oct 2010 (*)
One Angry Julius Katz and Eleven Befuddled Jurors (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Jun 2012 (*)
Archie Solves the Case (nv) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine May 2013 (*)
Julius Katz and a Tangled Webb (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Mar/Apr 2014 (*)
Julius Accused (nv) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Jun 2014 (*)
Julius Katz and the Case of Exploding Wine (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Mar/Apr 2015
Julius Katz and the Giftwrapped Murder (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Dec 2015
Archie on Loan (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Sep/Oct 2016
Cramer in Trouble (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Mar/Apr 2017
Julius Katz and the Terminated Agent (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Jul/Aug 2017
Archie for Hire (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Nov/Dec 2018

       The Julius Katz Collection [paperback, 2014; contains the stories marked (*) above) plus “Julius Katz and the Case of a Sliced Ham,” which may be new]
       Julius Katz and Archie [novel; Kindle, 2014, paperback, 2018]


TOM MITCHELTREE – Blink of an Eye. Grant Reynolds #1. Intrigue Press, hardcover, 2004. No paperback edition.

   It’s always nice to get in at the top of a new series, especially a promising one, and here Tom Mitcheltree introduces an interesting new sleuth in Grant Reynolds, an American in Paris who investigates crimes involving American tourists before they are referred to the FBI for the Legal Attache at the American Embassy.

   It’s an interesting setup that has considerable leeway for the character as both detective and man.

   Reynolds is a former cop who quit after a tragic incident (nothing new there), a fine arts major, ex-Military Intelligence, and lawyer who has stumbled into a dream job in the City of Lights, albeit one that comes with multiple rules, like never carrying a gun, and working at the sometimes limited patience of the French police. Do something, but don’t actually be seen to have done anything, is the rule of the day.

   His first case, almost before he can get well started, involves the murder of the granddaughter of an American billionaire and the son of a Bolivian diplomat in a Paris alley.

   A simple enough case.

   Or so it seems.

   Reynolds introduces himself to the Maigret-like Inspector Gerard (I hate when Americans and the Brits insist on calling French Commissaires Inspectors, but they will do it) who is investigating the case.

   Granted the Maigret demeanor of Gerard and failing to call him a Commissaire put me a little off, but Mitcheltree soon overcomes that minor faux pas, thanks to Reynolds being a personable character, and a decent understanding of Paris that many fail in conveying. I do wish though American writers would understand not all French policemen are large men with mustaches. You would think they would have read one French mystery writer besides Simenon.

   Reynolds role puts him in an interesting position in that while still being a cop of sorts he has no more power than a private eye and no real legal standing, but still has access to the police and their investigations through Gerard who thankfully is an intelligent and capable policeman and neither comical nor colorful.

   As with any good crime novel, the fairly simple murder Reynolds wets his toes on proves to be far more complex and dangerous than he expected. An international hit man has killed the two young people and as Reynolds looks farther into the crime, he finds himself revisiting an old romance with a well-to-do young lady from his college days, and soon enough the Assassin has targeted Reynolds who has gotten too close, if he’s not quite sure to what.

   The mystery is good, there is a decent amount of suspense and a well done ending where Reynolds gets the upper hand, all adding up to a debut that, if not spectacular, is solid and shows some promise for the character. The writing is clean and literate, takes flight once in a while without being showy or pretentious, and the characters are well drawn and likable.

   I like this one better than you might think from the review. The writing is clean, the protagonist likable and interesting without being overdrawn, his angst believable but not beat over the reader’s head, and the elements are better handled than most debuts, plus Mitcheltree makes none of the mistakes so many American writers make in using a Parisian setting.

   It’s not merely that he understands the geography of the city, he gets the reality and the unreality of the city right, the ordinary day to day Paris as well as the legend. The last American writers to do half so well with Paris were Peter Stone in Charade, Marvin Albert’s Stone Angel series, and David Dodge. That’s pretty good company for any writer.

       The Grant Reynolds series —

1. Blink of an Eye (2004)
2. Death of a Carpenter (2006)
3. Crime of the Heart (2011)
4. The Conspiracy of Silence (2012)
5. Swan Song and Other Lullabies (2016)

JERRY KENNEALY – Polo in the Rough. Nick Polo #4. St. Martin’s Press, hardcover, 1989. Speaking Volumes LLC, paperback, 2013.

   Nick Polo is yet another San Francisco PI. This, his fourth recorded case, takes him to Carmel as a bodyguard for a writer who specializes in uncovering dirt those in political power would rather stay buried. What he’s working on now involves the Shah of Iran.

   And all the millions of dollars that left the country with him. Kennealy is said to be a working PI himself, which may explain why the writing is occasionally straight from the cliché closet, while the detecting is strictly high-tech state-of-the-art: Computer databases, mail-order supply houses, and all.

   Unfortunately Polo is not much help to his client, and the ending is as flat as yesterday’s two-day-old beer.

–Reprinted from Mystery*File #15, September 1989, very slightly revised.

      The Nick Polo series

1. Polo Solo (1987)
2. Polo Anyone? (1988)
3. Polo’s Ponies (1988)
4. Polo in the Rough (1989)
5. Polo’s Wild Card (1990)
6. Green With Envy (1991)
7. Special Delivery (1992)
8. Vintage Polo (1993)
9. Beggar’s Choice (1994)
10. All That Glitters (1997)
11. Polo’s Long Shot (2017)


G. M. FORD – Who in Hell Is Wanda Fuca? Leo Waterman #1. Walker, hardcover, 1995. Avon, paperback, 1996. Thomas & Mercer, trade paperback, 2012.

   Is that a great title, or what? Okay, so it won’t mean anything to someone not familiar with the Northwest. I still think it’s great. And if “G. M. Ford” isn’t a pseudonym, it ought to be.

   Leo Waterman is a Seattle private eye who father was a long-term City Councilman. Leo’s had a problem with the bottle in the past, but seems to have it under control. He fee;s a thirst coming on, though, when the patriarch of Seattle organized crime, an old union associate of his father’s, asks him to help him.

   The old man’s granddaughter has left the family manse and is associating with a group of environmentalists who have a penchant for violence and ill-considered acts, and he wants Leo to find out what they’re up to. It’s one of those deals you can hardly refuse, so Leo marshals his helpers and starts to work. Oh, I ought to mention that the “helpers” are a group of alcoholics and some homeless who Leo met in his down-and-dirty days.

   If this sounds like a farce, it isn’t. At least mostly it isn’t. I think Ford had a few problems in drawing the line, bur for the most part it’s a straightforward if not overly grim and sometimes humorous PI story. The characters are entertaining and sympathetic, and Ford writes with an assurance and skill beyond most first-timers. (Was that a small homage to Chandler I caught at the beginning?)

   He obviously knows Seattle, and manages to bring the city to life without loading the narrative with the tiresome minutiae that often pass for a “sense of place” these days. If he can learn some sense of restraint with is characterizations — the villains were egregious over the top unless he wanted farce — and quit pulling rabbits out of the hat at the end (or if his editor will do it for him) I think he has the markings of a very good series.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #18, February-March 1995.

         The Leo Waterman series —


Who in Hell is Wanda Fuca? (1995)
Cast in Stone (1996)
The Bum’s Rush (1997)
Slow Burn (1998)
Last Ditch (1999)
The Deader the Better (2000)
Thicker Than Water (2012)
Chump Change (2014)
Salvation Lake (2016)
Soul Survivor (2018)
Heavy on the Dead (2019)


“Clothes Make the Man” (February 1999, EQMM)

ROBERT UPTON – The Faberge Egg. Amos McGuffin #4. E. P. Dutton, hardcover, 1988. No paperback edition.

   Amos McGuffin has been a San Francisco PI for 18 years, but he’s never had a case like this one. First. his ex-wife and daughter disappear. The trail leads to the man who killed his mentor in the PI business when he first started out., and then on to the egg hunt.

   A hunt conducted by a pair of gay German war vets, before the KCB gets involved, as well as his partner’s daughter. The resemblance to Hammett is unmistakable. I suppose you’d call it an homage. Whenever it’s this blatant, I think you’d have to, but it’s still enormous fun.

–Reprinted from Mystery*File #15, September 1989, slightly revised.

      The Amos McGuffin series —

1. Who’d Want To Kill Old George? (1977)
2. Fade Out (1984)
3. Dead On the Stick (1986)
4. The Faberge Egg (1988)
5. A Killing in Real Estate (1990)
6. The Billionaire (2017)


RICHARD BARRE – The Innocents. Will Hardesty #1. Walker, hardcover, 1995. Berkeley, paperback; 1st printing, December 1997.

   I don’t know anything about Barre other than this is his first novel, and he had his own advertising agency. Michael Seidman [at Walker] is very high on him, for whatever that’s worth.

   Will Hardesty is forty-ish, a ’Nam vet and a PI who’s pretty much drunk his practce away because of a teenage son dead in an accident he blames himself fo And a marriage that’s slipping away from him. Happy days? Not.

   Then the skeletons of several children are discovered near Saddleback Butte, not too far away from his home south of Santa Barbara. A medallion found with the bones is enough to identify one of the dead children to his father, and Hardesty is asked to find the man who killed him. The children died many years ago, but their deaths will bring more, now.

   Well, Michael may have something here. This is one of the better first novels in the hardboiled crop of late. Hardesty is a refreshingly imperfect hero, not above lashing out when he’s hurt and not beyond making mistakes that others pay for.

   Barre’s rose is clean and straightforward, and he paces his story well through shifting viewpoints and third-person narration. The story is action-oriented rather than cerebral, but it’s done well and will hold your attention until the end. Barre is at work on a second Hardesty novel and I’ll look forward to it.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #18, February-March 1995.

      The Wil Hardesty series —

1. The Innocents (1995)
2. Bearing Secrets (1996)
3. The Ghosts of Morning (1998)
4. Blackheart Highway (1999)
5. Burning Moon (2003)

CHARLAINE HARRIS “Small Chances.” Short story. Anne DeWitt #3. First published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September/October 2016. Collected in Small Kingdoms and Other Stories (Subterranean, hardcover, May 2019); and JABberwocky Literary Agency, paperback, 2019).

   Chatelaine Harris is best known now as the author of the Sookie Stackhouse series upon which the HBO television series True Blood is based. Sookie is a telepathic waitress who works in a Northern Louisiana bar and solves mysteries involving werewolves, vampires and the like.

   I’ve never read the book or watched the TV series, but my sense is tht the stories are a lot darker in tone than the two series Harris began her career with: (1) the Aurora Teagarden series, featuring a librarian who likes solves crimes as well, and (2) the Lily Bard books, about a cleaning lady detective based in rural Arkansas. (Correction: See comment #1.)

   The success of the Sookie Stackhouse books has made it possible for Harris to write anything she wants and have her many fans clamoring for more, so she has and they do. Included among these other efforts are four stories about a high school principal now named Anne DeWitt. Due to a fatal incident at a training course she was taking, the people in charge have forced her out of the program, changed her name, and started her off in a new career.

   In which to get ahead, one or two convenient deaths have already occurred. Always in the interest in the children in her school, mind you, but neither does anyone want to get in her way as she moves her way up in her new profession.

   “Small Chances” begins with a man stopping at her office and announcing himself as her first husband. Anne knows something is wrong immediately She’s never been married. So who is Tom Wilson and what does he want? Or perhaps the question is, who sent him?

   This is dark comedy at its finest. This is the only one of the four stories I’ve read, and I don’t know if there’s much potential for a fifth one, or even a novel, but in this one small dose so far, I found this short tale divertingly wicked and a lot of fun to read.

        The Anne DeWitt series —

“Small Kingdoms.” EQMM, Nov 2013
“Sarah Smiles.” EQMM, Sep/Oct 2014
“Small Chances.” EQMM, Sept/Oct 2016
“Small Signs.” EQMM, Nov/Dec 2017

LAWRENCE BLOCK – Tanner’s Tiger. Evan Tanner #5. Gold Medal D1940, paperback original; 1st printing, 1968. Reprinted in paperback by Jove (1985) and Harper (2007). Subterranean, hardcover reprint, 2001.

   The gimmick in Lawrence Block’s Tanner stories is actually twofold: (1) that a piece of shrapnel in his brain during the Korean War has not allowed him to get a moment’s sleep ever since, and (2) he somehow is given assignments by someone in the CIA who he doesn’t know and who doesn’t know that Tanner doesn’t work for him. (If I have any details of either (1) or (2) wrong, you can easily let me know.)

   In Tanner’s Tiger he’s handed the task of checking out the Cuban pavilion at the ’67 Montreal Expo; something wrong is going on there, but no one knows what. Refused entry at the border, however, Tanner and his young ward (semi-adopted daughter) Minna (putative queen of Lithuania) have to sneak across from Buffalo.

   And to complete his assignment he must join up with several members of the local chapter of the MNQ (Le Mouvement national des Québécoises et Québécois), who besides coming to Tanner’s aid, are planning to assassinate Queen Elizabeth while she also attends the Expo. (Tanner is a champion of all sort of Lost Causes.)

   Which is were the “tiger” of the tale comes in. Not only is Arlette a fervent member of the cause, but she also has a lusty outlook on both love and life. Throw in the mysterious disappearance of Minna while she and Tanner are visiting the Cuban pavilion, followed soon after by the discovery of a small fortune of smuggled heroin, and you have quite a multi-fold predicament for Tanner.

   Which he decides to handle as only one problem at a time, and he does, but unfortunately only in a most perfunctory way. Getting Tanner into trouble turns out to be a lot more fun than getting him out of it. But of course with author Lawrence Block at the helm, the books is filled from top to bottom with enough witty observations and laugh-out-loud scenes of pure comedy to make this an entertaining romp from beginning to end.

   For example, from page 105, a mysterious man has just swapped a small attaché case he had for a bag of belongings that Arlette and Tanner had been carrying:



    “This satchel.”

    “Do you know what is in it?”


    “Neither do I. Why did he take our sandwiched?”

    “Perhaps he was hungry.”

   In the case that the man left them are several packages of white powder. Three kilos’ worth. You may or may not find this funny, but I did. This particular adventure for Evan Tanner may be too uneven to be the best of the series, but if you don’t take it all that seriously, I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

       The Evan Tanner series —

The Thief Who Couldn’t Sleep (1966)
The Canceled Czech (1966)

Tanner’s Twelve Swingers (1967)
The Scoreless Thai (a.k.a. Two for Tanner) (1968)
Tanner’s Tiger (1968)
Here Comes a Hero (1968) (a.k.a. Tanner’s Virgin)
Me Tanner, You Jane (1970)
Tanner on Ice (1998)

PETER WHALLEY – Robbers. Harry Sommers #1. Macmillan, UK, hardcover, 1986. Walker, US, hardcover, 1987. Avon, US, paperback; January 1989.

   Harry Sommers’ background includes a short career as a boxer, then as a nightclub bouncer and few other other jobs, including a short stay in prison. Hired as a muscle man when needed for a small detective agency, he surprisingly becomes a co-owner of the firm when the man who hired him dies suddenly of a heart attack.

   His first real case on his own, other than usual process servings and straying husbands, is a strange one. Someone is blackmailing the members of a gang that made off with 500,000 pounds in a well-planned robbery some eight years ago, and one of those involved needs Harry to investigate. One man is dead already. Harry’s friend from the old days does not want to be the next.

   Although Harry has a strong distaste for guns, it’s a good thing that Harry is handy withe his fists, since some of the other gang members he tracks down are nasty customers indeed. But one by one he discards each of them as the blackmailer/killer, and he’s equally convinced that none of them talked.

   As mysteries go, this is a decent one, and Peter Whalley tells it well. As an extra bonus, we also get to see Harry struggle on his first few dates with a woman definitely a step above him in social standing, a teacher at a school where he drives the daughter of a gangster friend and back home again.

   It’s also a big reward when a detective thinks a case is over, and it really isn’t. Whalley ties up all the loose ends, though, and most satisfactorily.

       The Harry Sommers series —

Robbers. Macmillan 1986; Walker, 1987.
Bandits. Macmillan 1986; Walker, 1988, as Rogues.
Villains. Macmillan 1987; Walker, 1988, as Crooks.

Bio-Bibliograhic Notes: From his online obituary from 2017: “Peter Whalley, who has died aged 71 of cancer, was Coronation Street’s longest-serving and most prolific scriptwriter, penning 601 episodes over 35 years. Between 1979 and 2014 he bridged several eras and a multitude of characters, and brought to life some of the soap’s biggest storylines.”

   Besides the three books in his Harry Sommers trilogy, Peter Whalley has nearly a dozen other crime novels listed in Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV> .

KAREN KIJEWSKI – Katwalk. Kat Colorado #1. St. Martin’s Press, hardcover 1989. Avon, paperback, 1990.

   Sacramento PI Kat Colorado does a favor for a friend, a newspaper advice columnist named Charity, and tries to find out where the woman’s soon-to-be-ex-husband has stashed away a missing $200,000. The trail leads to Las Vegas, and lots of violence.

   Very little of this is a detective story, per se, as most of the guilty parties are identified early on. Kat makes a few mistakes along the way — going it alone, not thinking of consequences — otherwise she’s the perfect epitome of feminine toughness.

–Reprinted from Mystery*File #15, September 1989.

       The Kat Colorado series —

Katwalk. St. Martin’s 1989. Shamus winner (PWA) for Best First PI Novel; Anthony winner for Best First Mystery.
Katapult. St. Martin’s 1990
“Katfall” Sisters in Crime 3, 1990.
Copy Kat. Doubleday 1992
Kat’s Cradle. Doubleday 1992
Wild Kat. Doubleday 1994
Alley Kat Blues. Doubleday 1995
Honky Tonk Kat. Putnam 1996
Kat Scratch Fever. Putnam 1997
Stray Kat Waltz. Putnam 1998

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