JAMES ANDERSON – Angel of Death. Doubleday Crime Club, US, hardcover, April 1989. First published in the UK: Constable, hc, 1978.

   Six members of a yachting party are deliberately yet randomly poisoned while sailing in the Caribbean. The question is, how did the killer make sure that the six who died were exactly the ones he was aiming for?

   Alec Webster, recently resigned from Scotland Yard, is the investigator in this highly unlikely combination of Agatha Christie and Aristotle Onassis. The puzzle is a clever one, though, and it’s exactly why I love stories like this.

   On the other hand, plots of this type have to be given lots of room to breathe. The main scheme in this one is worked out in some detail, but both the setup and solution are crammed into only a few chapters somewhere soon after the middle. It’s never given a chance to show how good it really is.



JAMES E. MARTIN – And Then You Die. William Morrow, hardcover, 1992. Reprint paperback: Avon, September 1993.

   In Cleveland PI Gil Disbro’s third case, he’s hired to find a missing wife, last seen in Nevada getting a divorce and gambling away a fortune.

   Things get complicated when his client is then found murdered, but Disbro, of course, stays on the job.

   The result is a fast-moving detective tale with good, sensitively macho dialogue and a tangled plot that somehow manages not to be spoiled by a twist that’s just two jots short of obvious.



HELEN REILLY – The Canvas Dagger. Random House, 1956. Hardcover reprint: Detective Book Club, 3-in-1 volume, April 1957. Paperback reprints: Bantam #1858, 1959; Ace Double #G-531, ca.1965, abridged, bound with Not Me, Inspector; Macfadden, 1970; Manor, 1974.

   A young woman in New York City witnesses a murder from a building across the street, and when the police don’t believe her, she and all the suspects in the case travel to Cape Cod, where more murders occur.

   Reilly’s prose varies from passably good to overwrought, but the ending is what does this one in, bringing in (hey?) Commies at the very last minute.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File #35, November 1993.

Previously reviewed on this blog:

    James Anderson: Assault and Matrimony.
    Helen Reilly: The Silver Leopard.

   Also, for an long essay on Helen Reilly’s mystery fiction by Michael Grost, go here on the main Mystery*File website. Included on that page is a complete bibliography for the author.