PATRICK QUENTIN – Puzzle for Fiends. Avon, reprint paperback, 1979. Originally published by Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1946. Other paperback reprints include: Pocket #614, 1949, as Love Is a Deadly Weapon; Ballantine F778, 1970; Penguin, trade paperback, 1986.

PATRICK QUENTIN Puzzle for Fiends

   Since late last year Avon has quietly been reissuing the Quentin “Puzzle” series, although unfortunately they haven’t bothered to publish them in chronological order. This was the first one they did, and as it turns out, it’s one of the later ones in the series.

   But I hope you’ve seen them — the attempts at period photography on the covers came out well, and they’re certainly designed for eye-appeal — and even though the asking price of $2.25 seems a little stiff, if you’ve never read any of them, here’s a part of what the Golden Age of Mysteries was all about.

   As a detective, Peter Duluth was purely an amateur. As a civilian, he was usually a theatrical producer; his wife Iris, a glamorous Hollywood star. In this book, though, she makes only the briefest of appearances, as she’s off on an ex-tended overseas entertainment tour just as Peter arrives home, Navy discharge in hand.

   And for that matter, neither does Peter do any producing, since in true tour de force fashion he wakes up from a mugging attack to find himself without a memory to call his own, casts on both arm and leg, and being taken for someone called Gordy Friend, and by the latter’s own family, no less.

PATRICK QUENTIN Puzzle for Fiends

   Still, there’s nothing like waking up from a nap and finding yourself rich, is there?

   Nevertheless, accident and all, Peter has not been weakened enough mentally to sense that appearances, as always, can be deceiving. He soon learns that he is a central figure in a small fiendish scenario involving both himself and a will about to be contested in unusual fashion by the West Coast branch of the Aurora (Minn.) Clean Living League.

   A number of nicely thought out twists follow before Duluth finds his befogged way out of this mess, with one of them depending greatly on — how does the riddle go? — a “particularly nasty spell of weather.” Well done — Bravo!, in fact — with a couple of scenes decidedly more erotic than anything you could ever find in the complete works of, say, Christie, Carr and Gardner, combined.

Rating:   A.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 4, No. 4, July-August 1980 (slightly revised).

Bibliographic Note:   Peter Duluth appeared in nine mysteries, the first six of which were in the “Puzzle” series, of which this is the fifth.