L. C. TYLER – The Herring in the Library. Ethelred & Elsie #3. Macmillan; UK, hardcover, 2010. Pan Books, UK, trade paperback, 2011. Felony & Mayhem, US, trade paperback, 2011.

   Ethelred is Ethelred Tressider, a second-rate if not third-rate mystery writer, while Elsie Thirkettle is his literary agent, for better or worse. Their relationship is a rocky one, at least from looking at it from the outside. Elsie is always putting him and his ambitions down, for example, in hilarious fashion, but if there was any animosity between them, why would she stick with him, through thick and thin, as they say, if there were?

   And as a team of strictly amateur detectives, they may not be the best around, but they do seem to run into their fair share of mysteries to solve. In this one, it is the death of an old friend from university days, now an ex-banker who is found strangled to death in a locked room following a dinner party at his mansion of a home at Muntham Court. (Robert “Shagger” Muntham had done far better in life than Ethelred has.)

   The locked room aspect is taken care of rather quickly, but there are a huge number pf possible suspects in the case, all guests at the same party, all with possible motives, and all who must be interviewed with much care. This is accomplished very neatly by having the two detectives alternate the narration. When the scenes they describe overlap, we see that different perspective can produce wildly different results.

   Also part of the story is Ethelbert’s continuing work in progress for his latest mystery, a historical novel taking place in Chaucer’s time. This didn’t interest me personally as much as the one taking place in real time, but it did have much of the same kind tongue in cheekness to it. It isn’t easy telling a mystery story that keeps up a pretense of fun and games (Cluedo, anyone?) all the way through, but the barbed dialogue between the two protagonists and other zingers in this one come as closest as any I’ve read in a while:

   On page 16 Ethelbert has just been introduced to Sir Robert’s showcase wife:

    “…So what do you do, Alfred?” she asked.

    “Ethelred,” I said. “As for what I do, I am a writer.”

    “I thought you said ‘Ethelred,’ but then I thought I must have misheard. Do you write under your own name? No, surely not?”

    I told her the three names that I wrote under.

    “I don’t think I’ve read any of your books,” she said.

      The Elsie and Ethelred series —

1. The Herring Seller’s Apprentice (2007)
2. Ten Little Herrings (2009)
3. The Herring in the Library (2010)
4. The Herring on The Nile (2011)
5. Crooked Herring (2014)
6. Cat Among the Herrings (2016)
7. Herring in the Smoke (2017)
8. The Maltese Herring (2019)

   There seems to be pattern going on here.

  RICHARD NORTH PATTERSON – The Lasko Tangent. Christopher Paget #1. W. W. Norton, hardcover, 1979. Ballantine, paperbark, 1980.

   Yes, it sounds like a spy thriller, the paperback reprint is packaged as a spy thriller, but what this book precisely is not is — aw, you guessed it. It’s not a spy thriller.

   What it really is is a novel about the dirty business of laundering money. That is to say, it’s a detective story, and told in today’s most au courant Washington (DC) style.

   Lasko is the President’s favorite industrialist, but his background has more shade than Forest Lawn — not that anyone has ever proved anything. The President, who is unnamed, but — well, let’s just say that only the names have been changed.

   Christopher Kenyon Paget is a lawyer for the Prosecution Bureau of the United States Economic Crime Commission. (And I’ll wager you didn’t even know there was one.) He’s young, idealistic, very much a crusader for what he believes in. A chance tip about some possible stock manipulation takes him to Boston, where he watches in horror as his witness, who works for Lasko, is run down by a hit-and-run driver. Higher things are cooking.

   This is a cynical novel, Patterson’s first, and you don’t have to dig very far to discover it. According to inside the front cover, the author worked for the special prosecutor in the Watergate uncover-up, and his is the voice of authenticity. Paget continually has to fight pressure from higherups, without ever knowing who or where the enemy is. an he has a narrow escape or two before he does.

   On the other hand, none of this “real Washington” stuff is really new, and it’s all wrapped up in the end more tightly than real life ever seems to be.

–Reprinted in slightly revised form from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 4, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1980.

       The Christopher Paget series —

1. The Lasko Tangent (1979).    [Winner of Edgar award for Best First Novel, 1980.]
2. Degree of Guilt (1992)
3. Eyes of a Child (1994)
4. Conviction (2005)

  HUGH B. CAVE “The Late Mr. Smythe.” Short story. Peter Kane #1. First published in Dime Detective Magazine, August 1, 1934. Collected in Bottled in Blonde (Fedogan & Bremer, hardcover, 2000) and The Complete Cases of Peter Kane (Altus Press, 2018; introduction by Bob Byrne).

   Private eyes in detective fiction are as often as not hard drinkers, and some of them are awfully good at it. But few of them are as good at it as was Peter Kane. There isn’t a single minute in “The Late Mr. Smythe” in which he isn’t totally sozzled. I can’t believe that anyone could go through life the same way he does, in three stages: drunk, drunker, and completely plastered.

   A former member of the Boston police department, Kane nominally now works for the Beacon Detective Agency, but in “The Late Mr. Smythe,” he takes the death of a friend of his still on the force personally, and he works full time on this one on his own to bring the killer(s) to justice.

   The first death is that of a blackmailer named Smiley Smythe, and when a cop named Hoban tries to bring his suspected killer in, a hoodlum named Joe DiVina, both men are killed by a torrent of machine gun fire from a car that comes speeding by.

   Besides Kane, who spends a lot of time at a bar run by a fellow named Limpy, the other recurring characters are Moe Finch, the hapless chief of police, who continually begs for Kane’s assistance; and Kane’s nemesis still on the force, Lt. Moroni. It is always Kane’s pleasure to not only solve the case at hand, but to show up Moroni as well, and in the most dramatic way he can.

   Hugh B. Cave is best known for his tales of horror and weird menace, but in this, the first of Peter Kane’s cases on record, he shows he could write very very good detective stories too. Surprisingly good, given Peter Kane’s way with either a glass or the bottle.

      The Peter Kane series —

The Late Mr. Smythe. Dime Detective Magazine Aug 1 1934
Hell on Hume Street. Dime Detective Magazine Nov 1 1934
Bottled in Blonde. Dime Detective Magazine Jan 1 1935
The Man Who Looked Sick. Dime Detective Magazine Apr 1 1935
The Screaming Phantom . Dime Detective Magazine May 1 1935
The Brand of Kane. Dime Detective Magazine Jun 15 1935
Ding Dong Belle. Dime Detective Magazine Aug 1941
The Dead Don’t Swim. Dime Detective Magazine Nov 1941
No Place to Hide. Dime Detective Magazine Feb 1942


W. L. RIPLEY – Storme Front. Wyatt Storme #2. Henry Holt, hardcover, 1995. Brash Books, paperback, 2005.

   As I recall, my comment on the first of this series was “pretty good for what it is” — and what it was, was a typical Spenser/Hawk, Cole/Pike, etc., cowboy story. I seem to like the breed a little less each year, but I’ll still read ’em if they’re decently written, so —

   Wyatt Storme, ex-Dallas Cowboy, Viet Nam vet, and semi-recluse, comes down off his Colorado mountain when an old college acquaintance inveigles him into acting as bodyguard on an illegal weapons deal by hinting at some danger to another old friend of Storme’s.

   The deal goes bad and people are killed, but that’s just the start. Wyatt and his badass friend Chick Easton start looking for answers and find some that threaten not only them but Storme’s relaionship with his lover.

   Well, Ripley still writes cowboy stories, and he still writes them well enough, and there’s not much more to say. He’s quite good on banter and one-liners, but that’s not really enough to carry a whole book. The wisecracking. brooding, semi-tragic hero and his lethal sidekick tak eon the bad guys, kick some righteous ass, kill a few people, and leave the world a better place for us all while the law watches admiringly and from a respectful distance.

   It’s the masculine-machoequivalent of a good cozy, decently done, basically silly, utterly forgettable.

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

       The Wyatt Storme series —

Dreamsicle (1993) Reprinted as Hail Storme (2015)
Storme Front (1994)
Electric Country Roulette (1996) Reprinted as Eye of the Storme (2016)
Storme Warning (2015)

GEORGE (Adam) HERMAN (Jr.), born April 12, 1928; died in Portland, Oregon, on June 22, 2019.

   GEORGE HERMAN has played many roles in his long career, including published poet and short- story writer, professional actor and director, theater critic and columnist, university professor, and award- winning playwright. His play, “Pious Nine Is Falling Down,” was awarded second place in the Beverly Hills Theatre Guild’s Julie Harris Playwright Competition.

From Goodreads:

      The Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolo da Pavia series —

The series stars, as amateur sleuths, the unlikely duo of Leonardo da Vinci and a young dwarf, Niccolo da Pavia.

A Comedy of Murders (Carroll & Graf, 1994)
The Tears of the Madonna (Carroll & Graf, 1996)
The Florentine Mourners (iUniverse, 2000)
The Toys of War (iUniverse, 2001))
Necromancer (iUniverse, 2003)
The Arno Serpent (iUniverse, 2007).

Also by George Herman: Carnival of Saints (Ballantine, 1994).

ART BOURGEAU – A Lonely Way to Die. Claude “Snake” Kirlin & F. T. Zevich #1. Charter, paperback original, 1980.

   If the setting is even minimally important to you when it comes to choosing what work of detective fiction to read next, there are of course hundreds of options available to you. Los Angeles and the Big Apple don’t have a universal monopoly on locations to choose from. It may just seem that way.

   Take Cannibal Springs, Tennessee, for instance. It’s located about halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga. I didn’t look it up on the map, but even if there is such a place, I’m not no sure that anyone has bothered to tell Rand McNally about it.

   Snake Kirlin and F. T. Zevich area couple of good ole boys, just out of the Marines and back in Snake’s hometown, looking for fishing holes and other fine memories of his youth.

   An alternative title for this book might have been The Hardy Boys Get Laid.

   The jokes are crude, pointed, funny, and old. According to F. T., as the two heroes prepare to investigate the death of the hairdresser’s assistant by rattleless rattlesnake poisoning, “When you eliminate all the shit, whatever you’re left with has got to be it.”

   All devout Sherlock Holmesians, please take note.

   My mistake, and don’t let it be yours, was in thinking that this was a detective story. Wrong. The clues lead nowhere, the deductions are a waste of time, and the pistons don’t work either. It sure was fun to read, though, and I’ll probably read their next adventure, if the fates be so kind, but even tied up in a gunny sack with a a typewriter in a dark room, I don’t think there’s one of us who couldn’t come up with a better job of working out a real mystery to go with all the good buddy fooferaw.

–Reprinted in slightly revised form from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 4, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1980.

       The Claude “Snake” Kirlin & F. T. Zevich series —

A Lonely Way to Die. Charter 1980
The Most Likely Suspects. Charter 1981
The Elvis Murders. Charter 1985
Murder at the Cheatin’ Heart Motel. Charter 1985

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)

Next Page »