February 2016

JOHN LUTZ – Buyer Beware. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, 1976. Paperjacks, paperback, 1986. Carroll & Graf, paperback, 1992.

   Private eyes tend to specialize these days. Alo, Nudger, for example, comes highly recommended in child custody cases. That he’s not the hard-boiled type is well illustrated by his dependence on antacid tablets, but enough money can overcome many qualms.

   Murder is not in his line, but once persuaded, he takes his investigation into the efficient world of business and finance, which is faced with a deadly extension of the rules it plays by.

   Lutz has an eye for people and background that adds greatly to a tale that holds its own most of the way, yet I did wish the scheme were not ultimately so far-fetched, made all the more so by the rushed wrap-up.

Rating: C plus.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 1, No. 4, July 1977. This review also appeared earlier in the Hartford Courant.

      The Alo Nudger series —

1. Buyer Beware (1976)
2. Night Lines (1985)

3. The Right to Sing the Blues (1986)
4. Ride the Lightning (1987)
5. Dancer’s Debt (1988)

6. Time Exposure (1989)
7. Diamond Eyes (1990)
8. Thicker Than Blood (1993)

9. Death by Jury (1995)
10. Oops! (1998)
11. The Nudger Dilemmas (story collection, 2001)


SUPERNATURAL. Paramount Pictures, 1933. Carole Lombard, Allan Dinehart, Vivienne Osborne, Randolph Scott, H. B. Warner. Director: Victor Halperin.

   Much like White Zombie, which I reviewed here, Supernatural, also directed by Victor Halperin, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There are so many loose strands that one loses count. Add on top of that some sequences that really don’t even fit very coherently into this narratively challenged movie.

   In much the same way as White Zombie, which I caught as part of the UCLA Festival of Restoration last year, Supernatural unfolds like a fairy tale, as if one is caught in a silly dream where plot takes a back seat to a simultaneously innocent and sinister atmosphere and mood.

   Indeed, it’s all rather good, albeit senseless fun.

   Featuring Carole Lombard and Randolph Scott as a couple who must face off against a con man, the disembodied spirit of a recently executed murderess, and possibly a murderer in their close circle, the film has so many subplots that ultimately go nowhere. With an omnipresent musical score than zips right along and a few ridiculously charming attempts at special effects, this pre-code horror (horror-comedy?) programmer still isn’t really what you’d call a solid work of filmmaking. But in spite of its numerous flaws, given the financial and technological restraints of the era, it’s nevertheless a far better product than you might initially think.

THE MAGNIFICENT DOPE. 20th Century Fox, 1942. Henry Fonda, Lynn Bari, Don Ameche, Edward Everett Horton. Director: Walter Lang.

   I haven’t checked Lynn Bari’s filmography in detail, but I have a feeling that this is one of her relatively few big budget movies she’d made up to this point of time, 1942, and maybe even later. It’s a comedy-romance, and even with Henry Fonda as a goofy guy from Vermont come to the big city to be taken advantage of (a role at that time of his career he was born to play), it’s not all that funny.

   But perhaps it was in 1942. Funny, that is. Today the best it might be considered is amusing.

   Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

   Don Ameche plays Dwight Dawson, the smooth-talking head of a personal success school that’s floundering on the rocks and going down for the third time. Lynn Bari is his level-headed assistant (and steady girl friend) who comes up with a great ad campaign: to create a contest to find the laziest, least successful man in America, give him a check for $500 and a free course in the Dwight Dawson school, and make him a big success.

   You can probably take it from here: Henry Fonda accepts the check, refuses the course, but falls (secretly) in love with Lynn Bari, and decides maybe he needs to become a success after all.

   Question: Who changes who? Henry Fonda or the world of big business? Who gets the girl? Henry Fonda or Don Ameche?

   That’s what I thought. But to their credit, they all play their parts extremely well.

S. L. FLORIAN – Born to the Purple. Zebra, paperback original; 1st printing, August 1992.

   This is billed along the top of the front cover as “A Delia Ross-Marlani Mystery,” which suggests that expectations were that there was going to be more than one. If so, it didn’t happen. There was a point in time when Zebra cut back suddenly and drastically on their line of ongoing mysteries, and that may have been the reason. Or another reason might have been that the author had only one story to tell, and Born to the Purple turned out to be it.

   It isn’t the type of book I usually read, and while this review is generally going to be positive, I have my doubts that I’ll be able to persuade anyone reading this to go track it down. But as that first paragraph might suggest, I have a certain fascination for one-book authors, just to see what they might have to say.

   Let’s start by describing Miss Delia. She’s fabulously wealthy, for starters, the only child of two parents, Lady Adela, the Countess of Ross, and Signor Federico Merlani, who produced Delia and quickly went their own jet style ways, leaving the girl in the hands of Mr. and Mrs. MacPhee and a series of boarding schools but growing up more or less on her own.

   Not only is she beautiful, but she has been a top ranked ballerina, has earned a doctorate in medieval studies at Cambridge, has given concerts playing the harpsichord, taught at Harvard, and competed as an equestrian at the 1984 Olympics. Once married but now divorced.

   Dead is the older sister of the pair of her two best friends, whom she met at boarding school when all three were all very young. The medical examiner’s staff finds nothing suspicious, but Delia is not so sure.

   I hope you are still with me. Obviously with this book she adds becoming an amateur detective to her résumé, and for good reason: Magda was murdered. Assisting her is a good-looking assistant medical examiner, and they (ahem) are soon in bed to together. At which point the courtship begins, and if you don’t mind my saying so, their romance sort of crowds the mystery out of the story for long periods of time.

   But Florian is a good enough writer to overcome all this, and I enjoyed the book. It turns out that the name of the author behind the pseudonym is Susan Sobel-Feldman, whose name I found online on a Jewish magazine’s website, but little more. I don’t know if this oddly charming mystery-romance left anything behind to build another detective story on — but I kind of wish it had happened.


DOROTHY SIMPSON – Wake the Dead. Luke Thanet #11. Charles Scribner’s Sons, hardcover, 1992. Bantam Crimeline, paperback, 1993. First published in the UK by Michael Joseph, hardcover, 1992.

   Simpson’s Luke Thanet books are on my “mildly enjoyable” list. She’s a decent though not outstanding writer, and Thanet, with one exception that I’ll mention later, is an amiable enough detective. Put that together with my general fondness for British village mysteries, and I usually enjoy them.

   A local aristocrat’s bed-ridden mother dies during an annual fête, and the police surgeon (who is attending it) alerts Thanet (who is there also) that in his his opinion it is likely to prove murder by asphyxiation. With bluebloods and several hundred potential suspects, Thanet’s work is cut out for him. Before the investigation gets too far, the MP, his wife, his mistress, and a disgruntled local lady all seem to have motive and opportunity. The dead woman was remarkably ill thought of.

   Thanet is assisted as always by his trusty Sergeant, Mike Lineham. His avuncular patronization of poor Mike is the one consistently sour note in Thanet’s characterization. Wife Joan, daughter Bridget, and son Ben are always part of the books — here, a sub-plot is Bridget’s budding romance is a young man of whom Thanet is dubious. This is an old-fashioned village mystery, with decent, engaging characters. If you tire of the grimmer angst-filled variety, ot will make a nice change of pace.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #4, November 1992.

Bibliographic Note:   There were in all 15 Luke Thanet novels, beginning with The Night She Died in 1981 and ending with Dead and Gone in 1999. For a full list and a wide array of cover images, check out the Fantastic Fiction website.

Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:         

LA TOUR DE NESLE.. Les Films Fernand Rivers (France), 1955. Released in the UK as The Tower of Nesle and worldwide in English as Tower of Lust. Pierre Brassuer, Silvana Pampanini, Paul Guers, Jacques Toja, Marcel Raine, Constant Rémy, Lia Di Leo. Screenplay by Abel Gance, with dialogue by Fernand Rivers and E. Fuzellier, based on a play adapted by Frédérick Gallardet, based in turn on the novel and play La tour de Nesle by Alexandre Dumas pére. Director: Abel Gance.

   Once upon a time Alexandre Dumas pére was an obscure, if colorful, poet and playwright starving in Paris and dreaming of fame and literary glory. He had not written The Three Musketeers or heard the name d’Artagnan, and he had not conceived the greatest work on revenge ever written, The Count of Monte Cristo.

   There were no Corsican Brothers, no men in Iron Masks, no chevaliers de Harmental, Queen Margot, Queen’s necklace, Joseph Balsamo, no sign that he was to be anything but yet another striving figure in the French literary scene. He was unknown save for being the mulatto son of one of Napoleon’s great generals and outspoken in his politics and artistic designs. He was a physical but not a literary giant.

   That changed in 1832 on the opening night of his first play, La tour de Nesle, a tour de force of blood, murder, incest, and sex that would rocket its author to the stratosphere and lay the ground work for the six hundred plus plays and novels that followed and a virtual assembly line of literature that remains read and loved going on two hundred years later.

   His friend Victor Hugo proclaimed the play the greatest in French history, and it played to packed houses. Overnight Dumas went from obscurity to a hero of the French literary scene and one of the most celebrated men in Paris, having invented the genre that would make him rich and famous, cloak and dagger, in one fell swoop of the quill.

   Little wonder, because the play is a barn-burner. This is all dressed up on stage with red-hooded and cloaked men, graphic strangling, and enough gothic atmosphere to choke a horse. La tour de Nesle is pure gothic in the tradition of Mrs Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho, Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Monk Lewis’s The Monk, and Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer. As a play it falls somewhere between those and the bloody Elizabethan theater of John Webster’s Duchess of Malfi, which Dumas most assuredly had in mind when he wrote it.

   Abel Gance is one of the great figures in French cinema. La roue, Le fin du monde, J’accuse, and his monumental film Napoleon are among the greatest works of the French cinema. In his own way Gance is to French cinema what Dumas was to its literature.

   You would think …

   You’d be wrong.

   La tour de Nesle is based on an actual incident in French history involving Quenn Marguerite de Bourlonge, one combining all he elements any nineteenth century playwright could ask for in a melodrama. The hero, Buridan (Pierre Brasseur), was the lover of Marguerite de Bourlogne (Silvanna Pampanini) as a youth. They had two children in secret, Phillipe (Jacques Toja) and Gautier (Paul Guers), and Princess Marguerite persuaded Buridan to rid her of her father making her queen at which point she tried to kill him and her sons, a latter day Medea. Young Buridan escapes, believing his children murdered, but Landry (Constant Remy), the man assigned to kill the boys, spares them an raises them, shades of Snow White and the Huntsman.

   Twenty years pass and Marguerite and her ladies in waiting have contrived a scheme to get their thrills with minimum risk. They have made a secret brothel of the tower of Nesle on the Seine where they lure young men for a night of passion after which their minions murder the handsome young men and dispose of them in the Seine (this is the historical part) so they can never expose what the women are doing or cause a scandal, though the number of bodies of young men washing up on shore is starting to get a bit suspicious looking.

   This nice little arrangement is about to get complicated though. Princess Blanche (Lea Di Leo) has fallen for Phillipe, and Marguerite has set her eye on handsome Gautier, unaware he is her own son. Enter the catalyst, Buridan, back from twenty years adventures as a soldier of France, a dashing Captain and early model for d’Artagnan, quick with a sword and his wits. When Marguerite realizes he is alive she determines to kill him, setting in motion her own downfall and a national scandal of epic proportions.

   Despite handsome filming, and considerable nudity, the film just doesn’t work, perhaps because it is never played as fully as it should be. Melodrama — and this is melodrama — must be played as melodrama, never half-heartedly, and this one is half-hearted at best. This kind of thing needs actors willing to take a huge bite out of the part. It needed Hammer and Terence Fisher, not art and genius.

   Should this plot sound familiar, it may be because it has been filmed before, in 1909, 1928, 1937, on French television in 1966, and the version you are most likely to be familiar with, a German fiasco called She Lost Her … You Know What better known on video as The Tower of Screaming Virgins (long available from Sinister Cinema) from 1968 in which Buridan is much more of a Dumas swashbuckler and the two titles should tell you all you need to know of the approach taken — think the nude Three Musketeers and Zorro films of the late sixties. A few minutes of the Gance film are available on YouTube to view and of course you can buy the 1968 version if you have a tolerance for films so bad they achieve a kind of stature all their own.

   Still, for me the Gance film was worth seeing despite the flaws, in part because it is a handsome film to look at, and in part because it is such a full blooded grand guignol plot. Depending on your tolerance for gothic atmosphere and melodrama, it’s worth a look even if you decide not to wade in all the way. Watching it you can at least get an idea what a more full-blooded attempt to tell the story might have been like and a glimpse of a bit of history, the play that launched one of the greatest literary careers of all time.

RIALL W. NOLAN – The Treasure at Loatani Point. Dell, paperback original; 1st printing, November 1990.

   This the first book in a two-book men’s adventure series, one that I missed completely when it first came out, even though I was scouting the bookstores fairly regularly at the time, or so I thought.

   From his biographical webpage at Purdue University, Dr. Nolan received his PhD in Social Anthropology from Sussex University in the UK in 1975 and joined the faculty at Purdue University in 2003. Among the books is has written, other than this Max Donovan series he did for Dell, are some fairly basic textbooks for graduate students in anthropology. Among the many schools where he has been affiliated is the University of Papua New Guinea.

   So it’s not much of a coincidence that that’s where a good portion of Loatani Point takes place, beginning at Port Moresby — a city whose name always sends the chills of adventure up and down my spine — before heading out into what is still largely uncharted wilderness.

   The story begins and ends in San Francisco, though — or almost but not quite. Donovan is in Bangkok just finishing up an assignment when he gets a call from the San Francisco police department telling him that his partner, a fellow Viet Nam vet and POW, has just been arrested for killing a man. Max knows two things: (1) Freddie could not have done it, and (2) if convicted, he could never survive any amount of time in prison.

   Max’s investigation takes both him and a homicide detective named Sam (female) on a side trip to New Guinea, and the treasure the title tells us about. It’s a trip filled with all kinds of adventures and deadly betrayals, but as it turns out, the only way they can free Freddie from a plot only tangentially related to the treasure, is by coming back to California digging even deeper into local and statewide politics.

   Niall is a better than average writer, with a good feeling for both time and place, and the book is a step above many of the men’s adventure paperbacks at the time. Think Matt Helm and Sam Durell more than Mack Bolan — not that the latter’s adventures weren’t exactly what a lot of male readers wanted at the time — with the difference being that both Helm and Durell had government jobs, and Donovan is a freelancer.

   Or more precisely, what he calls himself is a supplier. A supplier of what, Sam asks. His reply: “Just about anything. I can either get it or tell you where to find it. I draw the line at drugs, porn or weapons. […] I supply missing people a lot of the time.”

   Max Donovan’s second outing was The Fat Lady’s Song, also from Dell the same year. This first one went down so smoothly that I went looking for the second one right after finishing this one. It didn’t take long, and it’s in the mail to me now.

Child TV actress (Still Standing) Renee Olsted was only 15 when when her first official CD (self-titled) was released. The album is filled with standards, but there is a reason why standards and standards, and she sings them extremely well.

Reviewed by MICHAEL SHONK:

MARLOWE. “Choices.” TV pilot, ABC / Touchstone Pictires, 2007. Cast: Jason O’Mara as Philip Marlowe, Adam Goldberg as Detective Frank Olmeier, Amanda Righetti as Jessica Reeder, Sherman Augustus as John Welan* (this is the onscreen credit but the character was called Thomas in episode). Guest Cast: Jamie Ray Newman as Tracy Faye, Clayton Rohner as Matthew Denzler, Lisa LoCicero as Stephanie Church, Jose Yenque as Ernesto, Aja Evans as Shauna, Marcos A. Ferraez as Zack Battas, Michael B. Silver as Charles Difrisco and Lisa Pelikan as Laura Devin. Directed by Rob Bowman. Crew credits not on this apparent work print but listed in ABC’s press release (source: Futoncritic.com). Creators and executive producers: Carol Wolper and Greg Pruss. Executive Producer: Daniel H. Blatt, Daniel Pipski, Phil Clymer and Sean Bailey. Producer: Jason O’Mara.

   â€œChoices” was a TV pilot and possible first episode for a proposed weekly TV series featuring Raymond Chandler’s character Philip Marlowe. Luckily for all Chandler and Marlowe fans it did not sell.

   Set in present day (2007) Los Angeles, former cop Marlowe has been a PI for eight years, has a young beautiful secretary who went to the Effie Perrine Secretarial School, exchanges banter with his pal L.A. Detective Frank Olmeier and has a friend Thomas who is a club owner with all the right connections. Unfortunately, the show’s attempt to modernize Marlowe left the character with more in common with standard TV PIs than Chandlers’ Marlowe.

   â€œChoices” has its positives. The mystery was better than the average TV drama. The plot was a Chandler favorite: Marlowe is hired by a rich man to solve a family problem and is forced to dig deep inside the sad sleazy lives of the L.A. rich and powerful to find the truth.

   But there is little else for those looking for Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. The cast performs well but Jason O’Mara’s upbeat Marlowe will not replace George Montgomery let alone Robert Montgomery in the hearts of Marlowe fans. The soundtrack is too modern and light. Rob Bowman’s direction never really gave the story the feel of the city. The script is overburdened with TV PI tropes.

   It is currently showing at YouTube:

   The story opens as Marlowe is following a man. Funky music plays on the soundtrack as Marlowe drives down the busy L.A. streets. Not surprisingly Marlowe does exposition with standard voiceover narration. Harry Orwell did it better.

   A rich man is convinced his wife is having an affair with womanizing millionaire Adam Denzler. He hires Marlowe to prove it. Rather than follow the wife, Marlowe is following Adam. But poor Marlowe gets interrupted when a car pulls out and hits the front fender of his car.

   Marlowe knows where Adam lives so he parks outside Adam’s home and waits. A young beautiful woman, Tracy Fay enters Adam’s home. Moments later Marlowe hears a woman’s screams. He runs into the home finding Tracy covered in blood and Adam dead by the pool.

   The cops arrive lead by Detective Frank Olmeier. Marlowe and Frank exchange allegedly clever banter. Faster than you can say James Rockford, Marlowe decide to quit the now open police case and rushes off to get paid. So, he did not discover if his client’s wife had cheated on her husband or even if she had been involved with the womanizing Adam. Marlowe does not care. He just wants paid and to get back to his office for a drink.

   While waiting for his client to join him Marlowe exchanges sexual innuendos with the client’s wife. There is no doubt the wife is unfaithful, but Marlowe doesn’t care as long as he gets his money.

   Marlowe is at his Hollywood office with secretary Jessica taking care of him and office business. They are interrupted by – surprise – Tracy, the bimbo Marlowe met at Adam’s murder. Like the typical femme fatale, Tracy begs for Marlowe’s help.

   Marlowe returns to the scene. The cops are still there. Marlowe easily cons a neighbor for the tape from her security cameras that got the license plate number of another car at the scene of the murder.

   He teases Frank about the cops not getting the vital tape. But whiny Frank reminds his PI friend how unfair the cop life is. Cops have to deal with hassles like warrants and due process that PI Marlowe doesn’t have to deal with. (One of my top pet peeves about screenwriting is the lazy idea that PIs are above the law and don’t face the same rules cops do.) Buried in paperwork, Frank convinces Marlowe to go question the suspects starting with Adam’s brother Matt who is the sole beneficiary of the family millions.

   Matt is a likable beach bum who was happy with his allowance and letting his brother run the business. Conveniently (a word that can not be used too often in describing Marlowe’s detective work) visiting Matt’s beach house are a few of the suspects we will meet later including Charles, a shady club owner and a local politician enjoying the company of one of Tracy’s female friends.

   Marlowe visits his friend Thomas. We learn Tracy is a club girl, a woman who goes from nightclub to nightclub in search of rich and powerful men.

   Tracy had told Marlowe that she and Adam were in love. Marlowe’s doubts about Tracy increase when he finds her partying at Elements, a nightclub owned by Charles who had been at Matt’s beach house.

   Marlowe takes the drunk Tracy home where she tries to seduce him. He resists. When he returns to his car he finds someone had tossed a brick through his car window warning him to stop seeing Tracy.

   Marlowe and Frank hang out at Marlowe’s office sharing information between wisecracks. Marlowe gives his warning brick to Frank. Frank shares the news that the other car that had been seen leaving the murder scene belonged to … Sandra Bullock, the famous actress. Sandra had parked her car at the nightclub while she ate at a nearby restaurant that had no parking available.

   It is at this point the required twists and TV mysteries clues begin to introduce themselves to Marlowe. Marlowe discusses the future with the nightclub valet who knows who had borrowed Sandra Bullock’s car but is not telling. Once Marlowe apparently leaves he watches the valet run to a payphone and call someone. Marlowe calls Frank and tells him to trace the phone call.

   Frank had traced the valet’s call. The person who had taken Bullock’s car and was at the murder scene was Zack Battas who was also the man who delivered the brick to Marlowe. Zack is in love with Tracy who had dumped him. Marlowe meets with Zack and his friends in a back alley for the mandatory smart ass PI gets beat up scene. Marlowe wakes up in a creative but totally unbelievable death trap set by Zack and friends.

   Back at his office so secretary Jessica can take care of him, she also reports on the legwork she did about Adam’s companies. The plot continued to grow more interestingly complex.

   Finally after some scenes that deal with the murder mystery, Tracy arrives at Marlowe’s office so they can have sex. After Tracy leaves Frank calls with news that Tracy had been arrested in the past for assaulting an old boyfriend.

   Marlowe confronts Tracy who claims her attack on the old boyfriend was self defense and that the boyfriend beat her. Angry, Marlowe hits the wall knocking some pictures off the wall, including one with a major clue.

   Marlowe starts facing down suspects, eliminating each but finding more and more evil that breeds among the rich and privilege. Marlowe beats a confession out of one suspect but gets shot (whew, I was worried “Choices” might have missed a TV PI cliché).

   The twists keep you guessing about the mystery until the end. But if only that had been enough, instead we are forced to endure the pretentious moralizing voiceover trying to convince us that the city had a role in this ordinary murder caused by typical human greed.

   While this pleasant TV PI mystery has its moments, it was a failure in its attempt to update Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. Where was the lone knight walking down the mean streets? The major reason for the character to use voiceover narration is to reveal exposition without the need of other characters. It keeps the PI a loner and an outsider. The real Marlowe would not have had the standard TV support group — close friend cop and the secretary with a crush. Only Thomas the friend that has all the right connections fit Chandler’s Marlowe’s world.

   This clueless adaptation never understood that even a modern version of Marlowe would have a strong moral center. Modern times would not have corrupted Marlowe.

JOHN B. WEST – Death on the Rocks. Signet S1883; paperback original, 1st printing, January 1961.

   I mentioned in the comments to Steve Mertz’s recent review of a Carter Brown book that I was in the process of reading this one, very much in the same tough hardboiled private eye genre, and that I would report back on it when I finished.

   I’m a little late — I finished it a couple of nights ago — but finish it I did, and here’s my report: I enjoyed it.

   Assuming I should say more, I will continue. In that previous conversation, it was pointed out by someone, perhaps it was me, that West’s PI character, Rocky Steele, was one of the few (if not only) PI characters created by a black author.

   Here’s what Max Allan Collin’ review, reprinted on this blog, said about the author: “John B. West was a man of many talents and achievements: A doctor, he was both a general practitioner and a specialist in tropical diseases; he was also the owner of a broadcasting company, manufacturing firm, and hotel/restaurant corporation. He lived in Liberia, was black, and late in his life — as a pastime, apparently — wrote novels about white private eye Rocky Steele, of New York City.”

   This is the last of six such novels, this one published posthumously, and while the fact that West was trying to channel Mickey Spillane in writing these books, it was a long time coming in this one before I saw the connection.

   The plot has something to do with a fabulously valuable diamond, and as you know, when fabulously wealthy diamonds come up in mystery stories, a lot of dead bodies always ensue. And so it is in Death on the Rocks.

   The story plays out in four stages: First, in New York City where Rocky is about to set sail to Liberia for a long-awaited vacation. Three people die, two at Rocky’s hand. Then a long, mostly uneventful cruise across the Atlantic, during which Rocky meets a ravishing platinum blonde diamond dealer, whom Rocky must keep company with overnight every night after a woman is killed in Miss Stark’s cabin, most likely thinking the victim was Miss Stark.

   Then comes a picturesque stay in Liberia, in which the author show that he has more skills as a writer than he tries not to let on during the rest of the book. I’m not sure, but all of the dead bodies occurred before Rocky arrived.

   The fourth part of the book is when the fireworks are unleashed, as Rocky goes on a hot trail of revenge (Lisbon and Majorca) on the killer who almost succeeded in bringing down Rocky and an equally unlucky passenger in a small plane in which the fuel supply was tampered with. There’s a moderately obvious twist to the tale, but all the stops really come out at the end, crudely written, perhaps, but very effectively so.

   As I said, I enjoyed this one.

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