William F. Deeck

BERNARD THIELEN – A Charm of Finches. Mystery House, hardcover, 1959.

   One of my many biases deals with books that the publisher requires the full front and back flaps to describe. Generally these novels should be shunned. Those who would snickeringly point out the generous length of my reviews and mutter about pots and kettles also should be avoided.

   My reason for reading this novel was the presence of an ornithologist as the principal character. There is a paucity of these, I believe, though Ann Cleeves is currently filling the gap.

   At the Latham Wilderness in Vermont, Joe Coogan, ex-Navy fighter pilot and Ph.D., is recovering from a disappointment in love, attending the Science Brotherhood Experiment there, and planning to do a breeding count of birds. When his former fiancee is kidnapped, along with her new boyfriend, a chap who has been investigating Soviet espionage, the Navy re-enlists Coogan and forces him to find out what the Soviets may be up to in the Wilderness.

   Spy novels seldom appeal to me — I except Ritchie Perry and Anthony Price, of course — but Coogan is a refreshing and not too competent spy catcher. It helps that the spies also verge on the incompetent.

   Interesting information about ornithology and rock climbing adds to the novel’s appeal.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 12, No. 3, Summer 1990.

Editorial Comments:   Bernard Thielen wrote one earlier mystery included in Allen Hubin’s Revised Crime Fiction IV, that being Open Season (Mystery House, 1958), later reprinted by the Detective Book Club and in paperback as half an Ace Double D-419 (pictured below). Although it is also a spy thriller taking place in New England, Coogan is not the leading character.

BERNARD THIELEN A Charm of Finches

   For a list of other collective nouns for birds, this page on Wikipedia should do. A “charm” of finches was new to me.