Last Update 1/22/20

The Wheel Turns by Elizabeth Lemarchand, Walker, 1983 

A politician accidentally kills a child with his car and hides the body. He discovers that he has an illegitimate half sister, which is unsettling enough, but also that she saw him moving the child’s body. A short time later, she is asphyxiated in his garage under mysterious circumstances. The chief suspect is – or should be - obvious to the reader, but the author has some surprises hidden away. I thought the politician's decision to hide the body at a church excavation was a bit riskier than many other choices, but it does make for a very ironic scene. One of her better mysteries. 1/22/20

The Temptress by Carter Brown, Signet, 1960 

A runaway heiress, a pedophile, a brothel owner and his not too bright brother, a sexy lawyer, and a dead private eye combine to make things complicated for Al Wheeler. In this slightly more serious than usual addition to his career, Wheeler spends less time bedding the female cast and more time actually investigating the crime, so this one is above average for the series. 1/18/2-

The Maras Affair by Eliot Reed, Perma, 1953 

An unfortunately rather boring collaboration between Eric Ambler and Charles Rodda. A journalist in an Iron Curtain country is trying to smuggle the woman he loves out of the country when an abortive rebellion stirs the pot. There is also a mild murder mystery involved, but the story is strangely unengaging and the characters flat and uninteresting. 1/18/20

Inheritance Tracks by Catherine Aird, Severn House, 2019 

Five mostly strangers discover that they are jointly heirs to a substantial fortune, pending the location of another distant relative. Then one of them dies under mysterious circumstances and the police begin to note connections among the group suggesting that one of them is responsible. Sloan & Crosby are on the base, slow but steady, and a second murder eventually leads to a startling revelation. I had thought the author had retired from writing and was pleasantly surprised to discover two new titles published in the UK. The other one should be here soon.1/16/20

Wear the Butcher’s Medal by John Brunner, Pocket, 1965   

An American tourist hitches a ride and is almost killed when the car is attacked. After recovering he decides to find out what happened. This leads him into a mixture of arms smuggling, neo-Nazis, death camp survivors, and amoral businessmen. He meets a girl – and ends up with her – but only after foiling a plan to introduce modern weapons into the hands of rebels in East Germany, a development that might well have set off World War III. Reasonably entertaining thriller, although the protagonist’s characterization is inconsistent and not always believable. Filmed as How I Spent My Summer Vacation, although the plot is very different. He is not credited in the IMDB. 1/14/20

The Whispering Death by Roy Vickers, 1947 

The Whisperer is a kidnapper who has outwitted the police on numerous occasions. He returns his victims if the ransom is paid, but kills them otherwise. The protagonist is forced to steal some valuable jewels to save the life of the woman he loves, after which he is coerced into joining the Whisperer’s organization. He actually hopes to identify the criminal mastermind, and does so, but the reader will probably guess way in advance. This feels more like a pulp crime novel than a conventional mystery. 1/14/20

Let Him Lie by Ianthe Jerrold, Dean Street, 2016 (originally published in 1940)

This is a fairly standard detective story with an amateur helping the police. Someone shoots the protagonist’s kitten, and a short while later fatally shoots one of her neighbors. Was it a hunting accident? Was it because he was threatening to dig up a controversial burial mound? Did he know something that put another in danger? Why is his widow acting so strangely? What about the woman who supposedly moved away and has never been seen or heard from again? Is she living with the famous artist who also frequented the neighborhood? All these questions get resolved of course in a quite readable if not particularly distinguished mystery.1/13/20

Troubled Waters by Elizabeth Lemarchand, Walker, 1982 

An American tourist dies in what appears to be a tragic accident, but anonymous letters lead the police to reopen the case several weeks later. There is a mysterious legend regarding a standing stone, a case of bigamy, exchanged passports and assumed identities, jealousy, and two separate criminals. The ending is very disappointing this time. Not only does the detective make an unsupported leap of intuition but the chief criminal goes crazy and confesses everything because she knows they suspect her. 1/12/20

Sweet Adelaide by Julian Symons, Ulversoft, 1980  

This is one of those mysteries in which the author provides a possible solution to an unsolved crime from the past, in this case a poisoning during the Victorian era. The first half of the novel, in which we see a young woman grow from childhood to maturity under very trying circumstances, is quite good, but I actually started to lose interest once we moved into the crime itself. His solution is plausible enough to be true, but we will likely never know.  Below part for Symons. 1/11/20

The Adventures of Creighton Holmes by Ned Hubbell, Popular Library, 1979  

This is a collection of seven short mysteries all of which are solved by the grandson of Sherlock Holmes. They are very much in the same style including being narrated by a Dr. Watson equivalent, but are set in the 1930s. Most involve murder. The copyright is by Lois Hubbell, but I don’t know if that was the real writer’s name or his widow. Only one other book appeared under this byline and it was nonfiction. They are as competently done as most other Holmes pastiches. 1/9/20

Tender to Danger by Eliot Reed, Doubleday, 1951 

The second Eric Ambler collaboration with Charles Rodda involves the abduction and murder of a man whom the protagonist has just met while traveling back to London. His curiosity gets the best of him and soon he and an heiress are trying to track down a small sailboat that disappeared during the war. They are competing with a pair of ruthless men because there is something very valuable aboard the boat. The ending is particularly exciting and involves a windmill and a gun fight. 1/9/20

The Room with the Tassels by Carolyn Wells, Grosset, 1918

This was the first Pennington Wise novel – apparently Wells was tired of Fleming Stone. It’s also atypical in that the first murder (two of them in fact) happens only a third of the way into the book instead of in the opening chapters. A group of friends visit a supposedly haunted house and two of them drop dead inexplicably and with no warning. Everyone including the police runs around in circles and prove completely incapable of solving the crime until Wise is hired and clears things up in a matter of hours and without having done any detecting at all. 1/7/20

Nothing to Do with the Case by Elizabeth Lemarchand, Walker, 1981 

A young woman inherits a valuable house from a relative who dies suddenly. This gains her the animosity of another relative, who later blackmails her into becoming involved with the theft and sale of stolen property. When a strangled woman is found in the ruins of a house destroyed by arson, there are strong connections to the theft, but it turns out that the two cases are almost completely unrelated. Better than average, although the detectives seem to possess extraordinarily powerful psychic abilities to tell who is telling the truth and who is lying. 1/7/20

Skytip by Eliot Reed, Doubleday, 1950  

Eliot Reed was Eric Ambler collaboration with Charles Rodda. The protagonist is ordered by his doctor to take a vacation and ends up at a remote farm in Cornwall. He gets involved with a man who is holding an incriminating letter that would prove that a prominent politician was a Nazi collaborator during the war. The man disappears after a pair of unsavory characters arrive in town. They suspect, incorrectly, that the protagonist knows where the incriminating document is hidden. Suspense ensues as they finally kidnap him. Two of the characters seem profoundly slow to realize the truth, but otherwise this was a good thriller. 1/5/20

The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas, Penguin, 2013 (translated from the 2011 French version) 

This was my first sampling of a short series by a French archaeologist. Adamsberg is a police detective who often uses unorthodox methods. In this case, he arranges the “escape” of a prisoner he knows is innocent in order to gain time to investigate two wealthy brothers. The picture the author provides of France’s system of justice is somewhat offputting – the innocent man gets a two year sentence for escaping, even though he was innocent of the original charge and was ordered by Adamsberg to “escape.” This is actually a subsidiary plot. The main one is a series of murders in a more remote part of the country where many of the local people believe in the ghost riders, a kind of zombie version of the Wild Hunt. I guessed the killer quite early although more by luck than deduction. He just felt wrong. Adamsberg did not strike me as particularly competent – three murders take place AFTER he is put in charge. It was agreeable enough that I will pick up more in the series when I see them, but not enough that I would go out of my way to find them. 1/2/20

MORE REVIEWS