Reviewed by TONY BAER:


BART SPICER – The Golden Door. Carney Wilde #3. Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1951. Bantam #975, paperback, 1952.

   “The Golden Door” are the last three words on the Statue of Liberty:

         “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
         I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

   Carney Wilde has been able to sustain his private eye business through a retainer as security detail for the fancy Jonas Department Store in downtown Philadelphia. It’s been a pretty cushy gig — but lately it seems like there’s some insider theft going on. So Wilde has to earn his keep.

   While working on the case, the son of the Jonas Department Store mogul asks for help with an ‘unrelated issue’. The so-called unrelated issue has to do with stolen files from his non-profit agency “Future Americans”. “Future Americans” helps displaced eastern European Jewish survivors of WWII immigrate to the U.S., frequently by promising jobs with the Jonas Department Store. The missing files contain sensitive personal information of prospective immigrants.

   Of course, if you’ve read any detective stories before you know there’s no such thing as an unrelated case.

   The store thief ends up dead, and he’s not the only one. Turns out some of the “Future Americans” think the ‘golden door’ ought to be melted down and cashed in. And that’s pretty much just what they try to do.

   Carney Wilde is a terrific hardboiled detective and Bart Spicer exercises great narrative control. Despite seeming coincidences tying everything together, I never doubted the credibility of the story. No plodder, he’s a skillful plotter. Everything fits; you get a satisfying denouement.

   So I’ll say it again. I have no idea why the Carney Wilde books are out of print. They’re exciting vintage hardboiled detective novels. Some of the best I’ve read by anyone not named Chandler or Hammett.

      The Carney Wilde series —

The Dark Light (1949)
Blues For the Prince (1950)
The Golden Door (1951)
Black Sheep, Run (1951)
The Long Green (1952)
The Taming of Carney Wilde (1954)
Exit, Running (1959)

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Robert J. Randisi & Bill Pronzini


LOREN ESTLEMAN – Kill Zone. Peter Macklin #1. Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1984. Fawcett Gold Medal, paperback, 1986.

   In Kill Zone, Loren Estleman, who is best known for his rough-and-tumble. Chandlcrcsque private-eye novels, introduces Peter Macklin, “efficiency expert” — a euphemism for hit man. Macklin is the toughest character-hero or antihero-to arrive in crime fiction since Richard Stark’s Parker; and Estleman’s prose the hardest-boiled since the days of Paul Cain  and Cap Shaw’s Black Mask. Macklin and Estleman, in fact, would probably have been too grimly realistic even for the pioneering Shaw and his magazine.

   A terrorist group takes control of a Lake Erie excursion boat with 800 passengers, rigging it as a floating bomb. They demand the release of three prisoners within ten days. Michael Boniface, the head of the Detroit mob. offers his assistance from his prison cell in return for parole, but it is not until the FBI discovers that one of the passengers on the boat is a cabinet member’s daughter that they take him up on it. Boniface’s assistance is in the form of his top “efficiency expert,” Peter Macklin.

   Macklin tries to concentrate on the business at hand while dealing with an alcoholic wife. the knowledge that someone close to him has betrayed him, and the fact that he is being stalked by a killer working for Charles Maggiore, acting head of the mob, who does not want Boniface to get out of prison.

   Estleman takes an expertise previously displayed in PI and western novels (one of his westerns, Aces and Eights, won the Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for Best Novel of 1982), and in applying it to a different type of novel has once again scored high marks. Fans of hard-boiled fiction won’t want to miss it — or subsequent Peter Macklin titles: Kill Zone is the first of at least three.

   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.

      The complete Peter Macklin series —

1. Kill Zone (1984)
2. Roses Are Dead (1985)
3. Any Man’s Death (1986)
4. Something Borrowed, Something Black (2002)
5. Little Black Dress (2005)



KURT STEEL – Murder for What? Hank Hyer #2. Bobbs-Merrill, hardcover, 1936. Select Publications, digest-sized paperback, 1943. Also published, perhaps in abridged form, in Detective Mystery Novel, Fall 1948.

   McRae cultivated an English accent… it was like gold leaf on a slot machine.

   McRae is a gambler who is in a poker game with Hank Hyer when the subject of Kip Shannon comes up. Hyer, a NY based Private Eye in the Sam Spade/Michael Shayne tradition hasn’t got much use for Shannon, who married Broadway star and Hyer friend Lilith. It seems Shannon is back in New York and wanted for questioning in the murder of a policeman in his cabin upstate, though another man has been arrested for the crime. Nonetheless McRae seems unusually interested.

   Shannon is pretty much a washout, playing around on Lilith and blowing a career as a screenwriter in Hollywood before getting involved in some shady business with some shady people while wandering around the Pacific and Taos, New Mexico (already a well known artists retreat in 1936).

   “I’d be tickled to help keep Ken Shannon in a jam as long as it wouldn’t hurt Lilith. But nothing’d give my conscience more rheumatism than to lift him out of one.”

   But Hank barely makes it out the doorway with his winnings (hanging on to the money in his wallet is a running theme here) when reporter Corey Hilton shows up, the third wheel in the Shannon/Lilith relationship, dragging Hank to his apartment where Shannon is hiding out.

   “Corey picked Shannon for a roommate and Lilith picked him for a husband, neither of ’em took a sanity test.”


   Hank can avoid anything but trouble and for Lilith’s sake agrees to help Shannon against his better judgment, and barely gets out of Hilton’s door before he his sapped and kidnapped by two hoods mistaking him for Shannon.

   His “ride” is interrupted when the weather causes the car to wreck, and an annoyed Hank with a broken wrist finds himself near where Shannon is wanted by the police just south of Woodstock and does some investigating when Lilith shows up and on the train back both of them find themselves ducking the hoods that kidnapped Hank and followed Lilith looking for Kip.

   And what does sexy blonde siren Mrs. Venice Malinkell, one of the great femme fatale’s in the genre, friend of the gambler McRae, have to do with it all and what does she want when she shows up with a gun at Hank’s apartment where Shannon has been hiding out?

   Then too, why did Shannon’s father hire Hank to investigate Kip anonymously through a shady cousin

   Then Kip Shannon shows up in Hank’s apartment murdered…

   Kurt Steel, Rudolph Hornaday Kagey, wrote nine fast moving Hank Hyer novels about the tough, tight with a dollar, New York PI much in the style of Brett Halliday and Cleve Adams (though Hyer is more likable than any Adams protagonist). The books did well and were often reprinted in the pulps (as this one was in Detective Novels). They are fast paced and well written with Hyer one of the more believable private eyes with a nice balance of action, plot, and colorful characters.

   Hyer debuted in 1936, this was his second entry, and had a good decade long run before Kagey died in 1946 at forty-two bringing the Hyer saga to an end just as the paperback era was starting.

   As in any of the Hyer novels Hank finds things getting complicated as the case develops with multiple murders (Shannon’s father), gangsters, the Feds, and a fortune in counterfeit money and plates involved before Hank and a state patrolman storm Shannon’s snowbound cabin filled with heavily armed hoods and shoot it out with blazing tommy-guns and Hank wraps it all up neatly back in his apartment in New York nailing the murderer behind it all.

   Steel writes well and has the rat-a-tat-tat dialogue, tight plotting, and colorful characters of the genre down to a science. Along with Richard Reeves’ Cellini Smith, he is probably one of the last great eyes of the era deserving to be resurrected and rediscovered and less well known because he didn’t have a presence in the major detective pulps.. My favorite of the Hyer novels is Judas Incorporated from 1939, perhaps the only one to appear from a major paperback publisher (Dell).

   Murder for What? is a surprisingly good second effort that reads as if it were written by a veteran of the genre. I give it the highest recommendation for any lover of the classic hard-boiled novel of the period.

         The Hank Hyer series

Murder of a Dead Man (n.) Bobbs 1935
Murder for What? (n.) Bobbs 1936
Murder Goes to College (n.) Bobbs 1936 [
Murder in G-Sharp (n.) Bobbs 1937
Crooked Shadow (n.) Little 1939
Judas, Incorporated (n.) Little 1939
Dead of Night (n.) Little 1940
Madman’s Buff (n.) Little 1941
Ambush House (n.) Harcourt 1943

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Karol Kay Hope


AARON ELKINS – Fellowship of Fear. Gideon Oliver #1. Walker, hardcover, 1982. Popular Library, paperback, 1986. TV series: Quoting from Wikipedia “Gideon Oliver is a prime time television series that ran on the ABC television network between February 1989 and May 1989 as part of the ABC Mystery Movie rotation, along with B.L. Stryker, Kojak and Columbo. On the air for only five episodes, the series starred Louis Gossett Jr., and was created by Dick Wolf.”

   The early 1980s spawned a great many new mystery writers, and Aaron Elkins is one of the best of them. This first novel introduces us to Gideon Oliver, a young anthropology professor (Elkins himself teaches anthropology in northern California) who signed up for a summer teaching stint in Europe with the U.S. Overseas College. He’s recovering from the death of his beloved wife the year before and needs a break from that reality. And he’s never been to Europe.

   Oliver gets a change of pace, all right. Far from the confines of academic life, he’s cast as the main character in an international spy ring — but not until he’s been robbed, attacked, and followed all over Europe does he take it seriously. He then teams up with John Lau, a U.S. security officer, who’s not quite so naive about these matters. After being suitably impressed by Oliver’s fine investigative mind — he is a physical anthropologist, after all, and used to solving mysteries with little more than a sliver of bone and some ash for evidence — Lau teams with him and they attack the spy operation with fresh enthusiasm.

   Elkins has a good sense of contemporary character, dialogue, and plot. Gideon Oliver is a good man, and Elkins is good, too. He writes sparsely, to the point, and is cagey enough to keep us wondering until the very end.

   Elkins’s second novel, The Dark Place ( 1983), also features Oliver and is set in the Olympic National Park in Washington State. It also has the distinction of being the first mystery to involve the ongoing hunt for Sasquatch, otherwise known as Bigfoot.

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.

      The Gideon Oliver series

1 Fellowship of Fear (1982)
2 The Dark Place (1983)
3 Murder in the Queen’s Armes (1985)
4 Old Bones (1987)
5 Curses! (1989)
6 Icy Clutches (1990)
7 Make No Bones (1991)
8 Dead Men’s Hearts (1994)
9 Twenty Blue Devils (1997)
10 Skeleton Dance (2000)
11 Good Blood (2004)
12 Where There’s a Will (2005)
13 Unnatural Selection (2006)
14 Little Tiny Teeth (2007)
15 Uneasy Relations (2008)
16 Skull Duggery (2009)
17 Dying on the Vine (2012)
18 Switcheroo (2016)



KAREN KIJEWSKI – Honky Tonk Kat. Kat Colorado #7. Putnam,  hardcover, 1996. Berkley, paperback, 1997.

   I think Kijewski is in the  group (along with Barnes, Grant, and Rozan) of female PI writers just below Muller and Grafton, and ahead of Paretsky and everybody else. My only quarrel with her lies in her seemingly gender-linked trait of endowing her heroine with obnoxious friends and/ or relatives.

   A childhood friend of Kat’s is a country and western star now, and she’s got troubles. Someone is sending her notes that are disquieting and vaguely threatening, and she wants Kat’s help. She’s not being very forthcoming about her past, though, and Kat is having a hard time getting a handle on it all. There’s an abusive ex-husband, a father that vanished when she was two, and a cousin who’s popped up from out of nowhere who wants to be a star, too, and who knows what else. Then someone is killed.

   Interesting that Kijewski and Muller both chose a country and western star background for their latest, though there aren’t many other plot similarities. This is a good, solid PI novel, of a piece with Kijewski’s earlier work except for a welcome lessening of Kat’s personal problems and the presence of her aforementioned obnoxious friends and relatives. See, Karen? You can do it.

   Good first-person narration, interesting background, good book.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #26, July 1996.


      The Kat Colorado series

1. Katwalk (1989)
2. Katapult (1990)
3. Kat’s Cradle (1992)
4. Copy Kat (1992)
5. Wild Kat (1994)
6. Alley Kat Blues (1995)
7. Honky Tonk Kat (1996)
8. Kat Scratch Fever (1997)
9. Stray Kat Waltz (1998)



LINDA GRANT – Lethal Genes. Cat Saylor #5. Scribner, hardcover, 1996. Ivy, paperback, 1997.

   With her four previous books Grant has become one of my favorite female authors. She isn’t a glib as Grafton, or as intense and angst-ful as Paretsky, or as focused on relationships as Muller, but her stories have substance and well-developed characters, and are very well written. Her business-world settings are a refreshing change, too.

   San Francisco Pl Catherine Saylor steps into a new world when she takes a case involving a biotech lab at the University of California. Someone is sabotaging experiments in cutting-edge dot com gene research, and no one there can figure out why, much less who.

   Cat finds a fair amount of academic jealousy, and some pretty lax security procedures, but the culprit and a motive prove more elusive. Then someone dies, and someone else is killed, and the com patch becomes a deadly place.

   My only cavil first off: the villain as eventually revealed wasn’t totally convincing to me, because I didn’t think the character and motivation were nearly well-enough established. That out of the way, I thought  this was Grant’s usual excellent job. She focuses more on the crime and less on the personal life of the protagonist than do most of the female, authors, which is at all to say that Saylor is not a well-drawn and engaging character — she is. Grant’s first-person narration is smooth and paced nicely, and her prose straightforward. She remains one of my favorites.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #26, July 1996.


      The Catherine Sayler series

1. Random Access Murder (1988)
2. Blind Trust (1990)
3. Love Nor Money (1991)
4. A Woman’s Place (1994)
5. Lethal Genes (1996)
6. Vampire Bytes (1998)

RICHARD ABSHIRE – Dallas Deception. PI Jack Kyle #3. William Morrow, hardcover, 1992. Penguin, paperback, 1993.

   Jack Kyle is one of those oh-so-common PI’s who’s barely squeaking by. He sleeps in his office, for example, and his secretary (named Della) works for the occupants of all the offices on the same floor as his. He’s hired on this case (pro bono) on behalf of a cop friend who’s currently laid up in the hospital. It seems that the daughter of the latter’s very close lady friend has been caught on videotape in some very X-rated activity, and not voluntarily.

   Kyle makes with the rough tough scene, gets the tape, makes sure it is the original (but of course the number of copies can’t be determined for sure, but the frightened Freddy, who orchestrated the scene, tells Kyle that that’s all there is. Maybe, maybe not, but Kyle later finds he has a problem to deal with when he finds Freddy dead, with the very naked daughter in the same room.

   That’s pretty much it. The basic plot line. When spelled out like that, it doesn’t seem like much — not to fill nearly 300 pages of small print in the paperback edition — but I haven’t yet gone into the motive, which verges into very nearly science fiction territory, of the “mad doctor” variety, or at least it was back in the early 1990s, and personally, I didn’t find it very interesting, I have to admit, though, it was certainly different.

   Jack Kyle, who tells the story in good old-fashioned first person, is a likeable lunk of a guy. When he’s actually working on the case, the action scenes are well-described and orchestrated, but the banter between Kyle and his friends and associates often come off as forced and lame. Maybe it was just me, but the best I can do on my H/B scale is a meager 4.7.

   That’s out of 10.

      The Jack Kyle series
1. Dallas Drop (1989)
2. Turnaround Jack (1990)
3. The Dallas Deception (1992)

[NOTE]: This is the last of four reviews that went missing during the loss of service undergone by this blog over this past weekend. Unfortunately all of the comments for it have permanently disappeared.

ZELDA POPKIN – Death Wears a White Gardenia. Mary Carner #1. J.B. Lippincott Co, hardcover, 1938. Dell #13, paperback (mapback edition), circa 1943.

   Although she may come close to being a PI (see comment #1), when it comes down to it, Mary Carner probably shouldn’t really be tagged as one. As Death ears a Gardenia begins, she’s the assistant to the on-staff detective at a major department store in the center of Manhattan, and her expertise is not wayward spouses nor missing heirs. It is instead shoplifters and shoplifting, a profession and occupation that’s been around as long as there have been department stores.

   But when murder occurs during a giant anniversary sale, she’s on hand throughout, offering opinions and interviewing suspects right along with the police. She’s slim and pretty, but tough-minded, and her opinions and questions are right on target, as if she’s been doing it all her life.

   Dead is the store’s credit manager, and Zelda Popkin, the author, must have had some experience working behind the scenes in such an establishment is described in picturesque detail, and is a solid part of the tale’s background. Personal relationships, and the secrets the employees have from each other and (they hope) the world as well are revealed to all in the course of the investigation.

   Popkin was a very good writer, with good insight as to how real people think and behave, but in this first book in the series, she doesn’t seem to have gotten the hang of portraying a book-length investigation and keeping things moving. The middle portion of the book deals with the ups and downs of the building’s elevators the night before, details of which are, well, boring. More attention should have been spent on the gardenia in the dead man’s hand. (Not a floor manager’s carnation.) This is what’s really important, and if they’d only asked the poor flower seller outside the store what she knew a lot earlier, the book would have been over in a third of the time, if not less.

Rating (on my well-tested HB Hardboiled scale): 2.5 (out of 10).

      The Mary Carner series —

Death Wears a White Gardenia (1938)
Time Off for Murder (1940)
Murder in the Mist (1940)
Dead Man’s Gift (1941)
No Crime for a Lady (1942)



ERLE STANLEY GARDNER – The Exploits of the Patent Leather Kid.  Crippen & Landru Publishers, 2010. Edited and introduced by Bill Pronzini. 13 stories.


   When most people hear the name Erle Stanley Gardner, they immediately think of his most famous character creation, Perry Mason, but he was also an incredibly prolific pulp fiction writer. One of the characters Gardner created for the pulps was The Patent Leather Kid, an unoriginal amalgamation of Zorro, Raffles the Gentleman Thief, and The Scarlet Pimpernel.

   Gardner’s principal contribution to this style of hero — the effete, indolent society fop he pretends to be while his alter ego tirelessly fights criminals and the official authorities when necessary — was to infuse his stories with the hardboiled sensibilities of Depression Era America. Even so, Gardner never let his Patent Leather Kid’s exploits veer into sadism: The Kid was always on the side of right, and the reader knew it.

   Thanks to Doug Greene at Crippen & Landru for bringing back The Patent Leather Kid and other pulp heroes from their undeserved oblivion.

      The stories:          [All originally published in Detective Fiction Weekly.]

(1) “The Kid Stacks a Deck” (1932): A local criminal gang really has it in for The Patent Leather Kid and sets up an ambush. The Kid, meanwhile, sets out to prove that robbing a jewelry store equipped with the most up-to-date alarm systems isn’t, as the store’s owner boasts, “impossible” after all.

(2) “The Kid Passes the Sugar” (1932): Someone’s gunning for The Kid but kills the wrong person. The Kid sets a trap with a shiny platinum watch as bait and an abused wife as a means of bringing the killer to justice.

(3) “The Kid Wins a Wager” (1932): The Patent Leather Kid sets out to help a woman in trouble with her boss, only to come up against another burglar who’s quite capable of framing The Kid for his own crimes. If he’s clever enough, The Kid might be able to escape the frame — and collect a large bet in the bargain.

(4) “The Kid Throws a Stone” (1932): Somebody’s running around pretending to be The Patent Leather Kid, pulling off robberies in fancy Chryslers and making no effort to be subtle about it. The Kid must lay a trap for his doppelganger that, if successful, will not only clear him with the police but also aid a distressed damsel he’s never met.

(5) “The Kid Makes a Bid” (1933): After several attempts at robbing a jewelry store, a thief apparently succeeds, taking some stones and cash with him and leaving two of the store’s assistants hog-tied with ropes and handcuffs. The Kid’s suspicions are aroused by the way the crime was committed, and he performs a rough “experiment” on an unscrupulous businessman, thereby thwarting two crimes simultaneously.

(6) “The Kid Muscles In” (1933): A doctor is murdered, and the prime suspect — a young man in love with the victim’s niece — can’t explain away his presence at the crime scene or his fingerprints on the murder weapon. It falls to The Patent Leather Kid to exonerate the falsely-accused in the way he knows best, breaking and entering with intent to catch the real bad guys.

(7) “The Kid Takes a Cut” (1933): An ex-con gets the blame for a jewel robbery he didn’t commit. His alibi — that a woman gave him the stones as a reward for a good deed — is, let’s be frank, flimsy at best. Only the ex-con’s wife can corroborate his story, but the police won’t believe a word of it. The Kid must contrive an elaborate scheme involving matching train schedules to prove the man innocent, for otherwise the real thieves will soon be on their merry way.

(8) “The Kid Beats the Gun” (1933):  A famous — and vastly overrated — criminologist fingers the butler of a rich couple as the one who stole valuable jewels from them. The butler finally confesses, not to the theft, but simply to following orders. The Patent Leather Kid must intervene to prevent a miscarriage of justice and experiences the triple satisfaction of exposing a fraud, deflating an egomaniac’s pomposity, and seeing an innocent man cleared.

(9) “The Kid Covers a Kill” (1933): The man often referred to as The King of the Underworld operates almost entirely with impunity, unhindered by the police. To him, the lives of his victims don’t mean very much. But when he brutally murders the sister of one of his underlings, The Patent Leather Kid gets involved — and for The King of the Underworld, that’s a very unhealthy development.

(10) “The Kid Clears a Crook” (1934): A small businessman with a criminal record tries to go straight but runs afoul of organized crime; they get him framed for a jewelry theft — enough of an injustice to attract The Kid’s indignant notice. Before it’s all over, The Kid will have fenced some hot ice, dodged numerous submachine gun bullets, and tickled a butler.

(11) “The Kid Clips a Coupon” (1934): A wealthy elderly woman has been murdered — by a tramp, according to the police — but The Kid doesn’t think so. The whole thing smacks of an inside job — a case of discovered embezzlement — and The Kid must be proactive to head off another murder, even if it means kidnapping someone himself.

(12) “The Kid Cooks a Goose” (1934): The underworld and the police have a common nemesis — and common cause to rid themselves of him — namely The Patent Leather Kid. The cops have let it be known — through unofficial channels, sub rosa, you understand — that if the criminal class terminates The Kid, they’re willing to cut the crooks some slack. When The Kid receives news of this ad hoc arrangement to bump him off, it’s without joyful enthusiasm. His characteristic response is to devise an impromptu plan that will not only clear him of a murder frame, neutralize several underworld kingpins, and save a woman’s life, but also give a guinea pig his big chance to be a crime buster.

(13) “The Kid Steals a Star” (1934): During the course of a robbery at a jewelry store, a policeman is killed and the night watchman gets the blame. It gets worse for him when he foolishly tries to skip town; actually, he’s been perfectly framed by the clever boss of a criminal gang. In order to clear the watchman and catch the crime boss in the act of swindling a jeweler, The Kid, with the able assistance of his bodyguard and an admiring telephone operator, must concoct a three-act “play” starring gangsters, gemstones, guns, and — if everything goes according to plan — a happy ending.

         Random notes:

   Unlike Sherlock Holmes, The Kid does see it as his duty to correct the deficiencies of the official police. — All of the members of the gentlemen’s club are stereotypes. — Gardner always uses the word “conservative” with negative connotations. — These stories aren’t mysteries in the traditional sense: The fun is watching The Kid improvising his way out of tight situations. — There’s a lot of 1930s gangster slang. — The reader shouldn’t try to read more than one story at a time: Gardner was clearly writing to a formula. Read one every few days to avoid tedium.

   For even more about The Patent Leather Kid, see Monte Herridge’s Mystery*File article here:

KATHLEEN MOORE KNIGHT – Three of Diamonds. Elisha Macomber #15. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1953. Detective Book Club, hardcover, three-in-one edition.

   The detective of record in Three of Diamonds is one Elisha Macomber, chairman of the Board of Selectmen of Penberthy Township, Penberthy Island, Massachusetts, a man perhaps in his 70s. Although there is a Chief of Police on the island (think Nantucket), whenever there is a serious crime (murder, for example), he is the one who is charge of the investigation that follows, and over the years, there were quite a few. (See the list below.)

   He’s off stage for much of this one, however. The action centers instead around the Crockett family, long time residents of the island, an older woman who lords it over a young sister and brother, both used to living under her thumb all their lives. In a pottery barn out back live a husband and wife, plus a young female assistant, not, as it turns out, all that harmoniously

   It is the younger brother Titus, not generally considered to be the smartest whip in the barrel, who finds the body, shot between the eyes. But when others go to find it, the body is gone. At the scene of the “crime,” however, is a playing card. The three of diamonds.

   It is difficult to solve a murder, obviously, when there is no body to be identified, if indeed there was a body. Macomber is convinced, however, and does more than due diligence to determine what indeed had happened. The case also involves some recent strangers on the island, who may be connected with some jewel robberies up in Boston,

   There is a chapter or two soon before the ending in which all of the participants in the tale spend their time skulking around in the dark, following each other at times, and in at least one instance, one hitting another over the head. The ending itself is one of those all of the suspects together kind of affairs, in which the obvious suspect sits there with Elisha in charge with a entire collection of least likely suspects.

   One might suspect that author Kathleen Moore Knight would things index control at this point, but she does not. What follows is a fast-paced mixture of confusion and chaos that could easily boggle your mind, if you were to let it. It is better just to sit back and fasten your seat belts. The ending of this one is a doozie!

      The Elisha Macomber series —

Death Blew Out the Match (1935)
The Clue of the Poor Man’s Shilling (1936)
The Wheel That Turned (1936)
Seven Were Veiled (1937)
Acts of Black Night (1938)
The Tainted Token (1938)
Death Came Dancing (1941)
The Trouble At Turkey Hill (1946)
Footbridge to Death (1947)
Bait for Murder (1948)
The Bass Derby Murder (1949)
Death Goes to a Reunion (1952)
Valse Macabre (1952)
Akin to Murder (1953)
Three of Diamonds (1953)
Beauty Is a Beast (1959)

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