September 2013


Reviewed by
FREDERIC TABER COOPER:


J. STORER CLOUSTON – The Mystery of No. 47. Moffat Yard & Co., US, hardcover, 1911. Published in the UK as His First Offence: Mills, hardcover, 1912. Film: Lenauer (France), 1937, as Drôle de Drame.

J. STORER CLOUSTON The Mystery of No. 47

   The Mystery of No. 47, by J. Storer Clouston, does not pretend to be anything more than a diverting extravaganza, the thesis of which, so far as it has any, is simply the utter unreliability of circumstantial evidence.

   A quiet, and eminently respectable young couple are thrown into a state of mild consternation when the husband’s uncle, an eminent bishop, happens to invite himself to dinner on the very night when the cook has chosen to take sudden leave. There seems to be only one thing to do: the bishop must be told that the wife has gone away for a day or two, to visit a sick relative — while, as a matter of fact, she simply retires to the kitchen, to provide for his entertainment.

   Now the bishop happens to be a suspicious and evil-minded man, who quickly discovers that his nephew has been lying to him, and is incapable of imagining any innocent motive for the lies. He leaps to the conclusion that the nephew is carrying on a clandestine affair with the pretty housemaid, and that, finding his wife a stumbling block, he has made way with her and probably buried the body in the back garden. Accordingly he forthwith notifies Scotland Yard.

   Now the nephew is a novelist, and at his wife’s suggestion, instead of telling the truth and clearing up the mystery, he helps his wife to go into hiding, while he himself assumes a disguise, and, posing as a detective or reporter, returns to his home, intending to pile up evidence against himself and utilise it for a forthcoming novel.

   The cross-purposes and mystifications that follow, and the extent to which he over-reaches himself, until he almost finds himself in a hangman’s noose, all make excellent nonsense, so long as one is not too exacting. Of its kind, the book is a clever and amiable piece of pleasantry.”

Reprinted from The Bookman, March 1912 (page 83). Follow the link. Thanks once again to Mike Tooney who first posted this review to Yahoo’s Golden Age of Detection group.

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


“DIPLOMAT” – Murder in the State Department. Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith, hardcover, 1930.

DIPLOMAT Murder in the State Department

    “Diplomat” dedicates this, his first mystery, to the “pacifists and bootleggers of the United States, without whom the author would have been at a loss for a motive for a murder in the State Department.” This gives you some idea of the tone of the book, and those who are neither pacifists nor bootleggers may read safely on with the pleasant anticipation that someone else’s ox will be gored.

    A guard at the State Department finds Harrison “Handsome” Howard in his office, a steel filing spike transfixing a top-secret unsigned treaty, Howard’s hand, and Howard’s heart, in that order. Also in the office is a revolver with a silencer, unused.

    (Who is it that makes silencers for revolvers? Does anyone outside the characters in mysteries purchase them? Why is there never dissatisfaction with their performance?)

    Only one other person is working in the building — Howard’s rival for position and prestige. He, however, has an unimpeachable alibi. Dennis Tyler, Chief of the Bureau of Current Political Intelligence (Now there’s an oxymoron! Oops. Sorry.) has a low opinion of police investigators, so he takes charge.

    Tyler talks like a mixture of Bertie Wooster and Reggie Fortune; his intellect, at least to this reader, is closer to Bertie’s than Reggie’s. Still, he does come up with the solution, which is for the most part plausible. Those who can accept an exchange like the following with good heart and maybe even appreciation should enjoy the novel:

    “The chemical man turned over to the parson a cylinder of a secret new gas, the effect of which is to make people go to sleep….”

    “Ether?” Nichols suggested.

    “Either that or something like it,” Tyler admitted.

    Amiable nonsense, for which I admit a weakness.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 12, No. 2, Spring 1990.


Bibliographic Notes:   “Diplomat” was, according to Hubin, the pseudonym of John Franklin Carter, 1897-1967. According to Wikipedia, Carter was an American journalist, columnist, biographer and novelist. Dennis Tyler appeared in all of the novels Carter wrote under that name, as follows:

Murder in the State Department (n.) Cape & Smith 1930.
Murder in the Embassy (n.) Cape & Smith 1930.
Scandal in the Chancery (n.) Cape & Smith 1931.
The Corpse on the White House Lawn (n.) Covici Friede 1932.
Death in the Senate (n.) Covici Friede 1933.
Slow Death at Geneva (n.) Coward 1934.
The Brain Trust Murder (n.) Coward 1935.

   Al Hubin reviewed this same title earlier on this blog; you may check it out here. In the course of the review and the update that followed, much more information about the author was supplied. (You may also enjoy Al’s opinion of the book, and compare it with Bill had to say.)

“Mission to Italy.” From The John Forsythe Show. First aired: 7 March 1965 (Monday at 8 pm, 30 minutes). NBC – Universal – Forsythe Productions. Cast: John Forsythe as John Foster, Guy Marks as Ed Robbins, Elsa Lanchester as Miss Culver and Ann B. Davis as Miss Wilson. Guest Cast: Jack Kruschen, Susan Silo and Paul Birch. Written by Joseph Bonaduce. Directed by Earl Bellamy. Produced by Peter Kortner.

   Available (at this time) for viewing on YouTube in three parts:

   THE JOHN FORSYTHE SHOW is one of those forgotten series few care to remember. The premise of the series would change more than once. The episode “Mission To Italy” is from the “spy” period.

   General Pierce (Paul Birch) arrives at Miss Foster’s School for Girls to ask Air Force Reserve Major John Foster, who runs the school, to take top-secret plans (for the Space program) to a new tracking base in Italy. Foster agrees, and with his aide the former Sergeant Ed Robbins soon find themselves lost and stranded in a small Italian village. Miss Culver and Miss Wilson are left behind to run the school while they think John is giving a speech at a school related function in Rome.

   There is little to no spy activity in the episode as Foster ends up in trouble when his friendship with a young beautiful but neglected Italian woman is misunderstood. Foster doesn’t understand how the men of the village can reject such a beautiful woman just because she can’t cook. The Italian men can’t understand why any man would want a wife who can’t cook. While the cast tried, some such as Guy Marks and Jack Kruschen tried too hard, they could not overcome the stupid (not unusual for 60s sitcoms) and unfunny story.

   According to Alice B. Davis interview for the TV Academy’s Archive of American Television

(starting at 16:45 and ending at 18:25), the series originally involved Peter Tewkesbury (Emmy award winning director for FATHER KNOWS BEST) as writer and was loosely based on the British films by Alastair Sim based on Ronald Searle’s cartoons and books about St. Trinian’s School for Girls.

   Imagining John Forsythe in drag is enough for me to understand why that idea (and Tewkesbury) was replaced with THE MISTER AND THE MISSES (the original title that appeared in NBC pre-season ads and press releases and would wisely change before air date to THE JOHN FORSYTHE SHOW). The premise had Air Force Major John Foster inheriting Miss Foster’s School for Girls from his Aunt when she dies. Foster and his aide Robbins retire from active duty to run the school with the help of Principal Miss Culver and gym teacher Miss Wilson.

   The series aired opposite the last half hour of ABC’s 12 O’CLOCK HIGH and CBS’ I’VE GOT A SECRET. The ratings were not good and during the season the format changed from stories about running an all-girl school to stories with Foster and Robbins doing undercover work for the government.

   In his interview for Television Academy Archive for American Television, Forsythe called the series “one of my low points” and “not very good.”

(begin at 28:10 until end). In the next part of the interview he denied the series was a spy series.

   If “Mission To Italy” was typical of THE JOHN FORSYTHE SHOW as a spy series, Forsythe had a point about this not being a spy series. In the “Mission To Italy,” Major Foster was no James Bond he wasn’t even Maxwell Smart (GET SMART). The change in premise was an attempt to open the plots to romantic locales beyond the limitations of an All-Girls school setting.

   “Mission To Italy” was less interested in the spy plot (which made little sense) than the lame cliché 60’s sitcom plot. Judging by this episode, THE JOHN FORSYTHE SHOW offers nothing to interest fans of spy comedies or anyone looking for a funny sitcom.

      Recommended reading:

TV Obscurities: http://www.tvobscurities.com/spotlight/the-john-forsythe-show

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Marcia Muller


ERIC AMBLER – Doctor Frigo. Atheneum, hardcover, 1974. Bantam, paperback, 1976.First published in the UK by Weidenfeld & & Nicolson, hardcover, 1974.

ERIC AMBLER Doctor Frigo

   As the narrator of this novel, Ernesto Castillo, tells us, “In supermarket French the word frigo is used to mean not only refrigerator of freezer, but also, a shade contemptuously, frozen meat.” And “Dr. Frigo” is the nickname by which Castillo is called at the hospital where he works on the small island of St. Paufles-Alizes, in the French Antilles.

   Castillo, son of the assassinated dictator of a Central American republic, keeps to himself, close to no one but gallery owner Elizabeth Martens. Even in his relationship with Elizabeth, there is a sense of distance; she is an eccentric, a distant relation of the Austrian Hapsburgs, and tends to intellectualize current happenings in terms of the Thirty Years War.

   When Castillo is called to the prefecture one morning, he is puzzled; and he is further surprised to fmd that Commissaire Gillon wishes to talk about Manuel Villegas, nominal head of the exiled Democratic Socialist party of Castillo’s homeland, now residing on the island for reasons of health.

   Villegas has dismissed his doctor and wishes Castillo, whom he knew as a boy, to attend him. Gillon strongly advises the doctor to do so — and to report what he learns about a possible coup being planned for the Central American republic.

   Castillo complies reluctantly; he wants nothing to do with the politics of his native country — or, as some people, including his own mother, have suggested, with a plan to avenge his father’s murder. And as he is drawn deeper into a web of intrigue, Castillo must come to terms with both the events of the distant past and his immediate present.

   Although a bit on the talky side, this is a powerful novel showing a man who is torn between his heritage and the new life he has built for himself, between his basic humanitarian instincts and his desire to preserve his protective facade.

         ———
   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:


WILLIAM HOPSON A Gunman Rode North

WILLIAM HOPSON – A Gunman Rode North. Pyramid #225, paperback, 1956. First published in hardcover by Avalon Books, 1954.

   A while ago back I read William Hopson’s DESPERADO, and was taken by the book’s portrait of a man slowly becoming an outcast in his own community. A GUNMAN RODE NORTH isn’t nearly as compelling, but it does have its points of interest — mainly plot devices lifted from old Burt Lancaster movies.

   The story starts with Lew Kerrigan in Yuma territorial prison, whence he has gone for the sake of a beautiful girl named Kitty, who is now a gangster’s moll, or rather the mistress of Colonel Harrow, a scheming gold baron, but basically the same figure as Ava Gardner in THE KILLERS (1946).

   We quickly learn (maybe too quickly; there’s a lot of exposition in the early chapters) that Harrow was Kerrigan’s erstwhile partner in a gold strike, but Kerrigan’s stake in all this has vanished in a swirl of corporate chicanery (shades of I WALK ALONE, 1948) and Kerrigan is about to be released into the custody of the man who sent him there, a plot device from ROAD HOUSE (1948) which was not a Burt Lancaster movie, but might as well have been.

WILLIAM HOPSON A Gunman Rode North

   From this point we segue into a bit of BRUTE FORCE (1947) with sadistic prison guards and desperate convicts bent on escape, until Kerrigan is finally released and confronts Harrow, who is flanked by his hired goons — excuse, me, hired guns — and learns that he is now a pawn in another of Harrow’s nasty plans (see CRISS CROSS, 1949) while Harrow has spurned Kitty for a more socially acceptable marital prospect (back to I WALK ALONE.)

   Out on the street/riding the range once more, Kerrigan moves across a landscape peopled with noir figures: bent cops/deputies, a corrupt judge, a too-helpful stranger (back to CRISS CROSS) an old friend who happens to be an honest-cop/deputy and boring as the range is wide (back to THE KILLERS) plus hired killers (ibid) stalking him across the prairie as he pursues his lonely vengeance against all odds. Hopson also throws in a few rampaging Apaches (ULZANA’S RAID, but that came later), who add to the noir feel of a hostile universe.

   Okay so there’s nothing too original here, and the ending’s entirely too pat, but Hopson keeps the plot moving nicely, and he has a sure hand for the action scenes. And A GUNMAN RODE NORTH is fast-reading enough that it’s fired and back in the holster before you have time to say, “Who was that masked man?”

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Pronzini


POUL ANDERSON Murder Bound

POUL ANDERSON – Murder Bound. Macmillan, hardcover, 1962. No paperback edition.

   A celebrated writer of fantasy and science fiction for more than thirty-five years, Poul Anderson produced three mystery novels (and a handful of short stories) in the 1950s and 1960s featuring Trygve Yamamura, a half Norwegian, half Japanese/Hawaiian judo expert, samurai-sword connoisseur, and private investigator. Murder Bound is the last and in some ways best of the three — an eerie tale of murder and menace spiced with elements of the supernatural.

   On board the Norwegian freighter Valborg bound for San Francisco, a Nazi fugitive named Benrud is discovered masquerading as chief steward. Benrud, armed with a red fire ax, vanishes during the struggle to capture him. He is presumed drowned, and yet doubts linger in the minds of the Valborg’s crew and only passenger, mathematician Conrad Lauring.

   Those doubts prove prophetic: Later, in San Francisco, Lauring finds himself haunted by a faceless form-a man who whistles the Horst Wessel song, who drips seaweed, who carries a red fire ax. Is it the specter of one who died at sea, what the superstitious Norwegian sailors call a draug? Or is Benrud still alive and bent on further crimes?

   Trygve Yamamura is called in to investigate and sleuths his way to the truth in “a truly chilling climax in the ill-lit hold of the Valborg, when natural and seemingly supernatural forces meet and lock in deadly embrace.”

   Yamamura is much more a cerebral detective than a man of action, so the pace here tends to be rather slow. He is also rather colorless and sketchily drawn, despite his ethnic heritage and skills, and tends to hold some curious (and unappetizing) political and sociological opinions. Still, Murder Bound is entertaining, primarily because it is rich in the smell of sea and fog, and the flavor of Norse legends.

   Anderson’s other two Trygve Yamamura novels are Perish by the Sword (1959), which deals with a stolen samurai sword; and Murder in Black Letter (1960), which is concerned with a valuable pre-Renaissance manuscript on witchcraft and the murder of a history professor at the University of California.

         ———
   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

H. W. RODEN – Too Busy to Die. Detective Book Club, hardcover reprint, 3-in-1 edition (no date). First edition hardcover: William Morrow, 1944. Other hardcover reprints: Grosset & Dunlap (no date); World, 1946. Paperback: Dell #185 [1947] & #349 [1949]; both mapback editions.

H. W. RODEN Too Busy to Die

   Knowing little about the author, H(enry) W(isdom) Roden, 1895-1963, I first checked with Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV (naturally), and besides the information found in the first part of this sentence, I learned that Roden was an executive with various food corporations over his lifetime. Private detective Sid Ames was a character in all four of his mystery novels; sharing the bill on three of them was public relations expert, Johnny Knight.

   Here are the titles of the four books, all published first in hardcover by Morrow, in what I believe is correct chronological order: You Only Hang Once (1944), Too Busy to Die (1944), One Angel Less (1945 and the only solo appearance of Sid Ames), and Wake for a Lady (1946).

   Four books in three years, then no more. Searching on the Google, I also found an appearance by Roden on Ellery Queen’s radio program, “The Secret Weapon,” February 28, 1945. As was standard procedure for the show, Roden was a guest “armchair detective” whose job in the closing minutes to name the killer before Ellery did. (If Roden succeeded or not, I do not know. Most of the EQ radio programs are not available for listening.)

   On Kevin Burton Smith’s thrillingdetective.com website, he claims the city that Ames and Knight called home was New York City, but I’m not convinced. It’s not named in Too Busy to Die, but the surroundings to me don’t feel like Manhattan — much more like a small Midwestern town, but it had me wondering all the way through. Tellingly, Hubin does not identify the setting either.

   Sid Ames takes only a secondary role in the one I’ve just read. The story is told by Johnny Knight, who hires Ames after a client is found murdered in his hotel room. The old man, now rich with Oklahoma oil money, had come to Knight with a far-fetched story of trying to locate his former adoptive family, from whom he had run away when he was a kid. “Lammed,” is his very word.

   So, with a $2000 fee in hand, Knight feels obligated to find the man’s killer. This is one of those typically 1940s wacky type of screwloose capers, complete with a beautiful blonde, a pint-sized bombshell named Patricia Rodkins who is not only deeply involved in the case but who also goes completely gaga over Knight at first glance, reason unknown but Johnny does not mind.

   Diamonds are also involved, in a package the dead man had left in Johnny’s care, and two families (and hangers-on) of strangely-behaved matrons, dipsy husbands, assorted personal assistants, a hulking lug named Homer and a butler who is also the operator of a well-known west side crap game.

H. W. RODEN Too Busy to Die

   Here’s a quote from page 88, a total non sequitur, I grant you, but I liked it:

    I dropped Pat at her house and returned to my apartment. I found I had a visitor.

    Sid Ames sat in my living room. He looked very comfortable. He was stretched out full length on the couch. He had taken off his coat and shoes. A half-emptied highball glass rested on the floor within easy reach. He had just turned to the final pages of the latest Perry Mason story when I walked in.

    “That Della Street is some dish.” He addressed me as if Della were a personal friend of mine. “But what’s the matter with that guy Mason? There she is all the time waiting to be– Oh, well–” he finished, tossing the book on the floor.

    “Make yourself at home, fellah,” I grinned at him.

   With the body found on page 189, however, there are no more jokes. Things get serious and quite a bit darker in tone, and in spite of the relative loony atmosphere at the beginning, you begin to wonder if the mystery could possibly have a well-explained, coherent ending. It doesn’t.

   Which is not bad, you understand, but a last minute confrontation with the killer, which consists largely of eight pages of Johnny Knight doing all of the explaining, even though the killer on page 201 says:

    “…So why shouldn’t I want to talk about it? In fact, I’ve wanted to talk about it. I’ve wanted to tell someone … [how] … clever I’ve been.”

   And the aforementioned eight pages of tangled reasoning and impossible coincidences ensue. Johnny is also one of those guys who reports on what he sees but nothing more, nothing on what he’s actually thinking. And when he doesn’t comment on the obvious, the reader (that’s me) begins to think that either (a) he’s a lunkhead, or (b) the reader (again that’s me) was wrong, or at least sadly mistaken.

   On the other hand, do I regret the two or three late evening sessions I spent reading this? No, not at all, and I must have the other three of Roden’s books around here somewhere.

— March 2004


   NOTE: Previously reviewed on this blog, both times by Bill Deeck: You Only Hang Once and One Angel Less. (Follow the links)

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


MARTIN WALKER – The Crowded Grave. Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover, July 2012. Vintage, trade paperback, April 2013.

Genre:  Police procedural. Leading character:   Bruno Courrèges, 4th in series. Setting:  Provence, France.

MARTIN WALKER The Crowded Grave

First Sentence: For once, the chef de police of the small French town of St. Denis was carrying a gun.

   It is a busy time for police chief Bruno Courrèges. Local farmers of geese and ducks are being set upon by members of PETA who oppose fois gras. A local archeology site has turned up four skeletons — three that could cause a significant change in the science of evolution, one much more recent who was murdered — and now the head of the dig has gone missing.

   A high level summit is about to take place between representatives of France and Spain over the Basque separatists. And Bruno has two attractive women and a new magistrate with whom he must contend.

   Walker’s evocative descriptions transport one to the sights, sound, smells and tastes of Provence. Each book being set in a different season—in this case, Spring—heightens the experience even further.

   Bruno is a very likeable and appealing character. He is very much part of his small community and protective of its residents. He is part of their lives and understands them. His approach to law enforcement is always to abide within the letter of the law, but to do what is just, and provides the best solution to the people involved.

   An excellent descriptions comes from Bruno himself, “He could imagine what young magistrates might think of him, an ex-soldier who hunted and drank and who tired never to arrest anyone and cared little for the subtleties of modern law enforcement with its counseling and political correctness.” although this makes him seem harsher than he is.

   The woman he most loves now lives in Paris and he can’t imagine life anywhere but in St. Denis. It also leaves out that he built his own house, grows most of his own food, makes wine, rides horses, and cooks. The descriptions of food and its preparation were mouth-watering and somewhat amusing. Above all, he is no one’s fool.

   I always learn something from Walker’s books. The archeological information is fascinating with the subject of the dig being a discovery that could change thoughts of the evolution of man from Neanderthal to Cro-Magnin. There was also and interesting, and well-handled, perspective given on the controversy over fois gras.

   However, some of the history from WWII, the French Resistance, the Spanish Civil War, the Basque separatists, and the “Dirty War” in Argentina, was a bit confusing to me. I certainly know of them all, but not necessarily how they fit together politically. Still, it made me look things up and was fascinating.

   It also led to a moment of introspection… “Generation after generation, so many bodies must lie scattered in the soil of France, so many battlefields where the bones must lie thickly together. … France is built on a heap of bones, he thought; we are the sum of all the dead that went before us.”

   The Crowded Grave is a very good read. It has all the best elements of character, sense of place, a bit of humor, some suspense, and a compelling plot. I’m happy to say the next book is already waiting for me.

Rating: Very Good

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:


HOLLISTER NOBLE – One Way to Eldorado. Doubleday, hardcover, 1954.

HOLLISTER NOBLE One Way to Eldorado

   Okay, this’ll sound like a trip report, but it’s really a book review. A few years back we took two trips: one to Lake Tahoe for a wedding, and one to Myrtle Beach to see my parents. For the Tahoe trip we flew into Sacramento and took a “shortcut” to Tahoe — driving across the mountains on a road that went straight up, spun around, twisted, bucked and plunged back down again, with all the charm of a Brahma Bull that’s just been kicked in the nuts. Along the roadside, we noticed reflectionized markers about 12 feet high, and suddenly realized they were there to mark the road in heavy snow!

   As for Myrtle Beach, I’ve always found it crowded and touristy, but my folks like living there, and that’s the main thing. There’s one Used Book Store in the whole city, a moribund place pretty much devoid of charm, but I found something there called One Way to Eldorado by Hollister Noble.

   It looked like a mystery set in a deserted whistle-stop town: a Railroad trouble-shooter stuck in a blizzard with assorted gamblers, miners, dance hall gals, etc. and I’d never heard of it (it’s not listed in Hubin) so I thought I’d give it a try. Imagine my surprise when I found the story was set in the same mountain pass I had driven through just a few months earlier!

   Your chances of finding this are pretty slim, but it’s worth a look. Noble takes too long getting the story off the ground, and the background seems rushed at first, but once he gets started, he delivers a fast-paced tale filled with roaring winds, avalanches, train wrecks, fights, robberies, and a nifty ending I didn’t quite see coming.

   There’s also some unintended charm: Noble wrote this when Train was still the primary method of travel and shipping cross-country, and his picture of this forgotten time has a faded splendor I found captivating all by itself.

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


PATRICK LAING [AMELIA REYNOLDS LONG] – If I Should Murder. Phoenix Press, hardcover, 1945. Bleak House #19, no date [1948].

PATRICK LAING If I Should Murder

   The reader is asked to accept that a jury which has convicted an accused murderer and thus caused his death by execution would want to meet each year on the anniversary of its decision; that the jury members would continue this annual get-together despite the grieving widow showing up on each occasion to give a basilisk stare to the participants; that when a jury member dies, his daughter would be asked to take his place and would agree to attend.

   Of course, if she hadn’t accepted, Patrick Laing, assistant professor of abnormal psychology and sometime criminologist would not have accepted an invitation to speak to the assembled jurors, Laing is in love with the deceased juryman’s daughter, but since Laing is blind, he never reveals his feelings to her.

   Although the gathering is held in a hard-to-find mountain lodge, the widow naturally shows up. What is more, the executed man’s lawyer arrives to read a confession by the real murderer.

   As a blizzard rages, as blizzards never fail to do, some of the jurors discuss how they would commit murder in the unlikely event any of them should wish to do so. Later that evening certain of the jury members are killed by the very methods they said they would have employed.

PATRICK LAING If I Should Murder

   Dr. Gideon Fell once stated:

   I have been improving my mind with fiction of the Bloody Hand variety for the last forty years. So I know all the conventional death-traps: the staircase that sends you down a chute in the dark, the bed with the descending canopy, the piece of furniture with the poisoned needle in it, the clock that fires a bullet or sticks you with a knife, the gun inside the safe, the weight in the ceiling, the bed that exhales the deadly gas when the heat of your body warms it, and all the rest of them — probable and improbable. And I confess that the more improbable they are, the better I like ’em. I have a simple melodramatic mind.

   Dr. Fell, I believe, would — and maybe did — enjoy the works of Amelia Reynolds Long in whichever guise she wrote. While I would not admit it as boldly as Dr. Fell did, I, too, have a tendency to appreciate melodrama in the mystery, which helped me enjoy this book, one that otherwise has no redeeming value.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 12, No. 2, Spring 1990.


      The “Patrick Laing” series —

If I Should Murder (Phoenix Press, 1945)
Stone Dead (Phoenix Press, 1945)
Murder from the Mind (Phoenix Press, 1946)
The Shadow of Murder (Phoenix Press, 1947)
The Corpse Came Back (Phoenix Press, 1949)
A Brief Case of Murder (Phoenix Press, 1949)
The Lady is Dead (Phoenix Press, 1951)

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