Search Results for 'Todd Downing'


THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


TODD DOWNING – The Cat Screams. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1934. Popular Library #68, paperback, 1945. Wildside Press, softcover, 2008; Coachwhip Publications, softcover, 2012.

   In what appears to be the second in the series of six [sic] books featuring U.S. Customs agent Hugh Rennert, Rennert is in Taxco, Mexico, on vacation. It turns out to be a busman’s holiday since the night he arrives one of the people staying at the pension of Madame Fournier is smothered in his bed.

   It doesn’t help matters that the town doctor`s assistant suspects one-of the servants has smallpox and quarantines the group. Then another murder occurs, adding to Rennert’s problems. On each occasion Mura, the cat, has screamed, for reasons perhaps supernatural, perhaps not.

   Several strengths: An interesting picture of the American expatriate view of Mexico and an excellent investigation, with quite subtle clues, by Rennert. The weaknesses: A gloomy and depressing novel, with no humorous relief; none of the characters are particularly engaging, including Rennert; a great deal of the dialogue is Spanish translated into English, with which I have no problem, except when the author includes Spanish words in the translation, something I always find jarring.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 6, No. 2, Summer 1990, “Vacation for Murder.”


Editorial Comment:   Bill was correct in saying this was the second Hugh Rennert adventure, but in fact there were seven books in the series, not six. Downing’s other two mysteries feature Sheriff Peter Bounty of Hesperides County, Texas. All nine of them are currently easily available from Coachwhip Publications.

TODD DOWNING – The Case of the Unconquered Sisters.

Doubleday Doran/Crime Club, hardcover, 1936. UK edition: Methuen, hc, 1937.

TODD DOWNING Unconquered Sisters

   The skeleton of a professor doing sabbatical research down in Mexico is accidentally brought to light by the derailment of a train carrying a museum’s collection of archaeological relics back across the border.

    Customs official Hugh Rennert is first upon the scene, and this connection to the case, as slight as it is, seems enough to lead the American embassy in Mexico City to request his services in conducting the ensuing murder investigation.

   This is his fifth case, by the way. Customs work apparently means that you’re naturally snoopy — or is it the other way around?

   This is a curious sort of mystery, filled with wild and crazy clues, and populated by a pair of mildly eccentric expatriate ladies and their niece (beautiful), assorted servants and embassy officials, plus the remaining team of university scholars. It’s artificial, scatter-minded, and clouded by clumsy obfuscation.

   Nobody would publish such stuff today, and in a way, it’s a shame.

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



[UPDATE] 01-18-09. As a matter of fact, the folks who run the Rue Morgue Press are doing well reprinting books like this, and more success to them! In spite of my critical remarks, books like these are fun to read, and that’s a statement you should not take lightly.

   I’ve been omitting the letter grades I added to my reviews back then, but this one received a “C.” Obviously it’s not one of the classics — or you would have heard of it before now — but it’s equally not a stinkeroo from the bottom of the barrel. You can never go far wrong with a Crime Club mystery.

   As for the author, he was born in Oklahoma (Indian Territory) in 1902 of Native American (Choctaw) descent. He was the state’s “first successful writer of detective novels,” according to this website, which has a considerable amount of other information about him.

   All of the books below, in a list taken from the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin, take place in either Texas or Mexico — quite often both:

DOWNING, (George) TODD. 1902-1974.

      Murder on Tour (n.) Putnam 1933 [Hugh Rennert]
      The Cat Screams (n.) Doubleday 1934 [Hugh Rennert]
      Murder on the Tropic (n.) Doubleday 1935 [Hugh Rennert]
      Vultures in the Sky (n.) Doubleday 1935 [Hugh Rennert]

TODD DOWNING

      The Case of the Unconquered Sisters (n.) Doubleday 1936 [Hugh Rennert]
      The Last Trumpet (n.) Doubleday 1937 [Hugh Rennert]
      Night Over Mexico (n.) Doubleday 1937 [Hugh Rennert]
      Death Under the Moonflower (n.) Doubleday 1938 [Peter Bounty]
      The Lazy Lawrence Murders (n.) Doubleday 1941 [Peter Bounty]

   I don’t know very much about Downing’s second series character. An online review from Time Magazine of this last book describes him as a Texas sheriff, with the mystery taking place on a train en route to Mexico.

MAKING A LIST …

    This list of Christmas mysteries, compiled by Caryn Wesner-Early, first appeared in Mystery*File 40, December 2003, and being all of six years old, is surely long out of date by now. Don’t that dissuade you from finding one or more of these to read over the next twelve days or so!

Adamson, Lydia. A Cat in the Manger
Adamson, Lydia. A Cat in the Wings
Adamson, Lydia. Cat on Jingle Bell Rock
Adamson, Lydia. A Cat Under the Mistletoe
Adrian, Jack. Crime at Christmas: A Seasonal Box of Murderous Delights
Alexander, David. Shoot a Sitting Duck
Allen, Garrison et al. Murder Most Merry
Allen, Michael. Spence and the Holiday Murders
Atherton, Nancy. Aunt Dimity’s Christmas
Babson, Marion. The Twelve Deaths of Christmas
Baker, Nikki. Long Goodbye
Barron, Stephanie. Jane and the Wandering Eye
Beaton, M.C. A Highland Christmas
Bernhardt, William. The Midnight Before Christmas
Black, Gavin. A Dragon for Christmas
Blades, Joe and Jeffrey Marks, eds. A Canine Christmas
Blake, Nicholas. The Corpse in the Snowman
Borthwick, J.S. Dude on Arrival
Boylan, Eleanor. Pushing Murder
Braun, Lillian Jackson. The Cat Who Turned On and Off
Braun, Lillian Jackson. The Cat Who Went Into the Closet
Brett, Simon. Christmas Crimes at Puzzle Manor
Cameron, Eleanor. The Mysterious Christmas Shell (children’s)
Cavanna. Betty. The Ghost of Ballyhooly (children’s)
Christian, Mary Blount. Sebastian (Super Sleuth) and the Santa Claus Caper (children’s)
Christie, Agatha. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (Murder for Christmas, A Holiday for Murder)
Churchill, Jill. A Farewell to Yarns
Churchill, Jill. The Merchant of Menace
Clark, Carol Higgins. Iced
Clark, Mary Higgins. All Through the Night
Clark, Mary Higgins. Silent Night
Clark, Mary and Carol Higgins. Deck the Halls
Constantine, K.C. Upon Some Midnight Clear
Corcoran, Barbara. Mystery on Ice
Cornwell, Patricia. From Potter’s Field
Cornwell, Patricia. Scarpetta’s Winter Table
Cramer, Kathryn and David G. Hartwell (eds.) Christmas Ghosts
Crowleigh, Ann et al. Murder Under the Tree (anthology)
Daheim, Mary. The Alpine Christmas
Daheim, Mary. Nutty As a Fruitcake
Dalby, Richard, ed. Crime for Christmas (anthology)
Dalby, Richard, ed. Mystery for Christmas (anthology)
D’Amato, Barbara. Hard Christmas
Davidson, Diane. Tough Cookie
Daws, Jeanne M. The Body in the Transept
Dawson, Janet. Nobody’s Child
Delaney, Joseph. The Christmas Tree Murders
Dobson, Joanne. Quieter Than Sleep
Douglas, Carole Nelson. Cat in a Golden Garland
Drummond, John Keith. ‘Tis the Season to Be Dying
Duffy, James. The Christmas Gang
Eberhart, Mignon G. Postmark Murder
Egan, Lesley. Crime for Christmas
Elkins, Aaron. A Deceptive Clarity
Emerson, Kathy Lynn. Face Down Upon an Herbal
Erskine, Margaret. House of the Enchantress
Faglia, Leonard and David Richards. 1 Ragged Ridge Road
Fairstein, Linda. The Deadhouse
Farrell, Kathleen. Mistletoe Malice
Ferrars, E.X. Smoke Without Fire
Ferris, Monica. A Stitch In Time
Fletcher, Jessica and Bain, Donald. A Little Yuletide Murder
Fletcher, Jessica and Bain, Donald. Murder She Wrote: Manhattans and Murder
Flynn, Brian. The Murders Near Mapleton
Foley, Rae. Where is Mary Bostwick?
Frazier, Margaret. The Servant’s Tale
Gano, John. Inspector Proby’s Christmas
Godfrey, Thomas, ed. Murder for Christmas (2 vols. – anthology)
Goodman, Jonathan, ed. The Christmas Murders (anthology)
Grafton, Sue. E Is for Evidence
Granger, Anne. A Season for Murder
Greeley, Andrew M. The Bishop and the Three Kings
Greenberg, Martin H., ed. Holmes for the Holidays
Greenberg, Martin H., ed. More Holmes for the Holidays
Greenberg, Martin H. and Carol-Lynn Rossel Waugh, eds. Santa Clues (anthology)
Grimes, Martha. The Man With a Load of Mischief
Gunn, Victor. Death on Shivering Sand
Haddam, Jane. Festival of Deaths (Hanukkah)
Haddam, Jane. Not a Creature Was Stirring
Haddam, Jane. A Stillness in Bethlehem
Hager, Jean. The Last Noel
Hall, Robert Lee. Benjamin Franklin and a Case of Christmas Murder
Hardwick, Richard. The Season to Be Deadly
Hare, Cecil. An English Murder
Harris, Charlaine. Shakespeare’s Christmas
Harris, Lee. The Christmas Night Murder
Hart, Carolyn. Sugarplum Dead
Hart, Ellen. Murder in the Air
Hay, M. Doriel. The Santa Klaus Murder
Heald, Tim, ed. A Classic Christmas Crime (anthology)
Healy, Jeremiah. Right to Die
Hemlin, Tim. A Catered Christmas
Hemlin, Tim. If Wishes Were Horses…
Hess, Joan. A Holly, Jolly Murder
Hess, Joan. O Little Town of Maggody
Heyer, Georgette. Envious Casca
Hirsh, M.E. Dreaming Back
Holland, Isabelle. A Fatal Advent
Holmes for the Holidays (anthology)
Hunter, Fred. Ransome for a Holiday
Hunter, Fred. ‘Tis the Season for Murder: Christmas Crimes
Iams, Jack. Do Not Murder Before Christmas
Innes, Michael. Christmas at Candleshoes
Jaffe, Jody. Chestnut Mare, Beware
Jahn, Michael. Murder on Fifth Avenue
Jordan, Cathleen. A Carol in the Dark
Jordan, Jennifer. Murder Under the Mistletoe
Kane, Henry. A Corpse for Christmas (Homicide at Yuletide)
Keene, Carolyn. A Crime for Christmas (children’s)
Kelner, Toni L.P. Mad As the Dickens
Kelly, Mary C. The Christmas Egg
Kitchin, C.H.B. Crime at Christmas
Koch, Edward I. and Wendy Corsi Staub. Murder on 34th Street
Langton, Jane. The Shortest Day
Lake, M.D. Grave Choices
Lambert, Elisabeth. The Sleeping House Party
Lewin, Michael Z. Family Planning
Lewis, Gogo and Seon Manley, eds. Christmas Ghosts (anthology)
Livingston, Nancy. Quiet Murder
McBain, Ed. And All Through the House
McBain, Ed. Downtown
McBain, Ed. Sadie When She Died
McClure, James. The Gooseberry Fool
McGown, Jill. Murder at the Old Vicarage
McKevett, G.A. Cooked Goose
MacLeod, Charlotte, ed. Christmas Stalkings (anthology)
MacLeod, Charlotte. Convivial Codfish
MacLeod, Charlotte, ed. Mistletoe Mysteries (anthology)
MacLeod, Charlotte. Rest You Merry
Mallowan, Agatha Christie. A Star Over Bethlehem and Other Stories
Manson, Cynthia, ed. Christmas Crimes (anthology)
Manson, Cynthia, ed. Murder Under the Mistletoe (anthology)
Manson, Cynthia, ed. Mystery for Christmas and Other Stories (anthology)
Markham, Marion M. The Christmas Present Mystery (children’s)
Maron, Margaret. Corpus Christmas
Marsh, Carole. Christmas Tree Mystery
Marsh, Ngaio. Tied Up in Tinsel
Meier, Leslie. Christmas Cookie Murder
Meier, Leslie. Mail Order Murder
Meier, Leslie. Mistletoe Murder
Meredith, D.R. Death By Sacrilege
Meredith, David William. The Christmas Card Murders
Meyers, Annette. These Bones Were Made for Dancin’
Miers, Earl. The Christmas Card Murders
Mortimer, John Clifford, ed. Murder at Christmas (anthology)
Moyes, Patricia. Who Killed Father Christmas? and Other Unseasonable Demises
Muller, Marcia. Both Ends of the Night
Muller, Marcia. There’s Nothing to Be Afraid Of
Murder Most Merry (anthology)
Murder Under the Tree (anthology)
Murray, Donna Huston. The Main Line is Murder
Nordan, Robert. Death Beneath the Christmas Tree
O’Marie, Sister Carol Anne. Advent of Dying
O’Marie, Sister Carol Anne. Murder in Ordinary Time
Page, Katherine Hall. Body in the Bouillon
Peters, Ellis. Monk’s Hood
Pulver, Mary Monica. Original Sin
Queen, Ellery. The Finishing Stroke
Raphael, Lev. Burning Down the House
Ray, Robert J. Merry Christmas Murdock
Resnick, Mike and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. Christmas Ghosts (anthology)
Robb, J.D. Holiday in Death
Roberts, Gillain. The Mummers’ Curse
Robinson, Peter. Past Reason Hated
Ruell, Patrick. Red Christmas
Sawyer, Corrine Holt. Ho-Ho Homicide
Serafin, David. Christmas Rising
Shannon, Dell. No Holiday for Murder
Sibley, Celestine. Spider in the Sink
Smith, Barbara Burnett. Mistletoe from Purple Sage
Smith, Barbara Burnett et al. ‘Tis the Season for Murder
Smith, Frank. Fatal Flaw
St. John, Wylly Folk. The Christmas Tree Mystery (children’s)
Trochek, Kathy Hogan. Midnight Clear
Waugh, Carol-Lynn Rossel, ed. The Twelve Crimes of Christmas (anthology)
Weir, Charlene. A Cold Christmas
Welk, Mary V. A Deadly Little Christmas
Williams, David. Murder in Advent
Windsor, Patricia. Christmas Killer
Windsor, Patricia. A Very Weird and Moogly Christmas
Wingfield, R.D. Frost at Christmas
Witting, Clifford. Catt Out of the Bag
Wolzien, Valerie. Deck the Halls with Murder
Wolzien, Valerie. ‘Tis the Season to Be Murdered
Wolzien, Valerie. We Wish You a Merry Murder
Woolley, Catherine. Libby’s Uninvited Guest

… And Checking It Twice:                


    In the letter column for Mystery*File 43, Jeff Meyerson added the following:

Agatha Christie, “The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding” (title novella in ss collection)
Agatha Christie, “Christmas Adventure” in While the Light Lasts (apparently the original, shorter version of the above).
Georges Simenon, “Maigret’s Christmas” (title story in ss collection)
Bill Crider, Terence Faherty, Wendi Lee, Aileen Schumacher, Murder, Mayhem and Mistletoe (paperback original; four Christmas-related stories)

    [ Jeff goes on to say: ]

    Caryn should also be aware of a very entertaining pamphlet published in 1982 by Albert Memendez called Mistletoe Malice: The Life and Times of the Christmas Murder Mystery (Silver Spring, MD, Holly Tree Press). The 35 pages goes through various Christmas mysteries and includes a checklist of 89 books, of which about 60 (at fast glance) are not on Caryn’s list. I think the majority of her list is post-1982 titles.

    [ Later. ]   These are the ones not listed on Caryn Wesner-Early’s list in M*F 40. Obviously, most of these are older books, while much of the list in M*F consists of books published since Mistletoe Malice was published in 1982.

Anthony Abbot, About the Murder of a Startled Lady
” ” About the Murder of Geraldine Foster
North Baker, Dead to the World
W. A. Ballinger, A Corpse For Christmas
Charity Blackstock, The Foggy, Foggy Dew
Nicholas Blake, Thou Shell of Death
” ” The Smiler With the Knife
Carter Brown, A Corpse for Christmas
Leo Bruce, Such is Death (Crack of Doom)
W. J. Burley, Death in Willow Pattern
Thomas Chastain, 911
Noel Clad, The Savage
Constance Cornish, Dead of Winter
Alisa Craig (Charlotte MacLeod), Murder Goes Mumming
Joel Dane, The Christmas Tree Murders
Frederick C. Davis, Drag the Dark
Mildred Davis, Tell Them What’s Her Name Called
” ” Three Minutes to Midnight
Spencer Dean, Credit for a Murder
Carter Dickson (John Dickson Carr), The White Priory Murders
“Diplomat”, The Corpse on the White House Lawn
Todd Downing, The Last Trumpet
Francis Duncan, Murder for Christmas
Mary Durham, Keeps Death His Court
Jefferson Farjeon, Mystery in White
Elizabeth X. Ferrars, The Small World of Murder
Ian Fleming, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Rae Foley, The Hundredth Door
Leslie Ford, The Simple Way of Poison
Roger Gouze, A Quiet Game of Bambu
Dulcie Gray, Dead Giveaway
Dashiell Hammett, The Thin Man
Lee Hays, Black Christmas
Edith Howie, Murder for Christmas
John Howlett, The Christmas Spy
Cledwyn Hughes, The Inn Closes For Christmas (He Dared Not Look Behind)
Fergus Hume, The Coin of Edward VII
Alan Hunter, Landed Gently
Michael Innes, A Comedy of Terrors (There Came Both Mist and Snow)
Glenn Kezer, The Queen is Dead
Kathleen Moore Knight, They’re Going to Kill Me
Alfred Lawrence, Columbo: A Christmas Killing
Ted Lewis, Jack Carter’s Law
Richard Lockridge, Dead Run
Miriam Lynch, Crime for Christmas
Ed McBain, The Pusher
” ” Ghosts
Helen McCloy, Two-Thirds of a Ghost
” ” Mr. Splitfoot
” ” Burn This
Anne Nash, Said With Flowers
Stuart Palmer, Omit Flowers
Jack Pearl, Victims
Ellery Queen, The Egyptian Cross Mystery
Patrick Quentin, The Follower
M. P. Rea, Death of an Angel
Jonathan Stagge, The Yellow Taxi
Elizabeth Atwood Taylor, The Cable Car Murder
Laurence Treat, Q as in Quicksand
Charles Marquis Warren, Deadhead

    If your favorite seasonal mystery (or mysteries) is (are) not here, that’s what the comments box is for!