AMBER DEAN – Snipe Hunt .

Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1949. Reprinted in The Standard as the “Book of the Week” feature, September 30, 1950.

   This one surprised me a bit. It starts out with a couple of G-men who are stuck in the basement of a New York City tenement on a stake-out, trying to stay alert in order to spot any of the members of a notorious gang of counterfeiters they’ve been tipped off about.

   Just another dull procedural, I thought. The only noticeable complications concern the unlucky love life of one of the agents, undone by some typical Woolrichian vicissitudes of fate.

   Then suddenly the scene shifts. To upstate New York, the Finger Lakes region, where a commandeered customs agent named Max, his wife whom he calls Mommie, and a pretty girl named Danny combine forces to show the federal men the local lay of the land.

   What a snipe hunt is is a wild goose chase; there is also a humorously nosy neighbor who thinks that Max is just pulling her leg. But comedy, even such an incongruous concoction such as this, does not mix well with sudden spurts of nearly devastating disaster.

   Maybe I’m just chagrined at being caught off stride like this.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 3, No. 4, July-Aug 1979 (mildly revised).

[UPDATE] 01-29-09. I messed up big time when I wrote this review. It turns out that one of Amber Dean’s standard series characters is in the book, and she didn’t make enough impression on me even to note her name: Abbie Harris. Checking the blurb for the book from Ellen Nehr’s Doubleday Crime Club Compendium, Abbie almost assuredly is Max Johnson’s nosy neighbor.

   Most of Amber Dean’s 17 mystery novels take place in upstate New York, not too surprisingly, since she herself lived in the Rochester area for most of her life, 1902-1985.

   Abbie Harris was in eight of those books. From the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin, here’s a complete list:

         HARRIS, ABBIE    [Amber Dean]

      Dead Man’s Float (n.) Doubleday 1944.
      Chanticleer’s Muffled Crow (n.) Doubleday 1945.
      Call Me Pandora (n.) Doubleday 1946.
      Wrap It Up (n.) Doubleday 1946.
      No Traveller Returns (n.) Doubleday 1948.
      Snipe Hunt (n.) Doubleday 1949.
      August Incident (n.) Doubleday 1951.


      The Devil Threw Dice (n.) Doubleday 1954.