Last Update 6/28/15

The Keeper of the Keys by Earl Derr Biggers 1932 

Charlie Chan is in Nevada to attempt to track down a child born to opera singer Ellen Landini, who concealed the boy’s existence from the father, her first husband, and gave him to parties unknown to raise. The man who employed him for this task invites her other three ex-husbands, her current romance, and various other characters to his home, where Landini is shot to death. It is obvious early on that the killer is color blind, but even when Chan realizes this, he takes his time finding out who has that problem, during the course of which another is fatally attacked. Chan acts out of character frequently in this relatively weak novel, jumping to conclusions at some points, ignoring obvious courses of action at others. Unfortunately Biggers died shortly after this was published. 6/28/15

Charlie Chan Carries On by Earl Derr Biggers, 1930  

An inexplicable murder takes place while a world tour is visiting London. Another member of the group is killed in France, his wife is shot down in Italy, and the undercover policeman assigned to the case is murdered in Hong Kong. Inspector Duff enlists the aid of Charlie Chan – who doesn’t appear until the second half of the novel – to meet the tour when it reaches Hawaii and solve the string of crimes. He does so, of course, despite a very clever villain who manages to cast suspicion on almost everyone else in the story. There is a clever clue that is crucial that had me smacking my head when I realized the significance of one word in an early line of dialogue. 6/25/15

The Catherine Wheel by Patricia Wentworth, 1949 

This is one of my favorite Wentworth novels, probably because it involves creepy old buildings with secret passages and hidden rooms. A woman and her quasi-fiancé visit the old inn that has been in her family for generations in order to uncover family secrets and pave the way for their romance. But instead of improving things, the trip puts them both into deadly peril as an old family secret is slowly ferreted out, mostly by the intervention of Miss Silver. It would make a really effective movie if done well and while the detective element is rather muted, the atmosphere is really creepy at times. 6/22/15

The Crime in the Crypt by Carolyn Wells, 1928 

An American tourist in England pokes into a backroom at a cathedral and finds a man shot to death lying in a coffin. The victim was on the same boat from North America and the protagonist decides to become an amateur detective, in conjunction with another tourist who is temporarily laid up in his hotel. A letter turns up, written by the dead man, suggesting that he anticipated his death and directed the police not to investigate. Scotland Yard decides to honor his wishes – which is absolute nonsense – and the protagonist has taken a position as secretary to his newfound friend, so he is in no position to do so. Although this is not structured like any of Wells’ other mysteries, it is only marginally more successful, and falls apart completely because of the assumption that someone could impersonate another man well enough to fool his mother and his fiancé in very close quarters for an extended period of time, simply by growing a beard. Fleming Stone appears toward the end after three murders have been committed and winds things up quickly. I guessed what was going on before I reached page 30. 6/21/15

The Black Camel by Earl Derr Biggers, 1929   

An actress who has seen better days is murdered while filming a movie in Honolulu. Was it her ex-husband or the man she just refused to marry? What role does the professional fortune teller have in her fate? Is her death connected to the unsolved murder of an actor three years ago in Hollywood? Who is the strange beachcomber and what did he see on the night of the murder? These questions and more are answered by Charlie Chan, who tracks down vital pieces of evidence despite the active opposition of at least one of the suspects. The Charlie Chan series is numbered among the best detective novels of all time. 6/19/15

The Albino’s Treasure by Stuart Douglas, Titan, 2015, $9.95, ISBN 978-1783293124   

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are on the trail of terrorists who mix Irish home rule with anarchy in this new pastiche. They are enlisted when a man with a bad reputation mutilates several paintings and threatens that it will be flesh that is torn in the future. There is also a mystery about a forged painting that just happens to be one of those damaged. Or is it more than just coincidence? I’m not as fond of the espionage related Holmes stories as the actual mysteries, but this one is decently plotted. I found the prose just the slightest bit awkward at times and Holmes didn’t really feel like Holmes. 6/18/15

Behind That Curtain by Earl Derr Biggers, 1928 

The third Charlie Chan novel is a genuine classic, nicely paced, very intricate, logically laid out and resolved, and with a fascinating mystery. A retired Scotland Yard inspector has come to San Francisco to follow up on cases involving three different missing women and an enigmatic and unsolved murder. He is himself killed before he can reveal what he has discovered, and the subsequent investigation reveals clever links among all the members of the good sized cast of characters. This one is a page turner with revelations coming at a rapid pace, although they often just raise new questions. If Biggers had written just this one novel, he would still be one of the significant figures in the mystery genre. 6/16/15

The Bomb Maker's Son by Richard Rotstein, 7th Street, 2015, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-63388-044-3

A Parker Stern novel. The first in this series was pretty good, the second a bit awkward. The third picks up again with a long time anti-establishment criminal accused of a fatal bombing approaching our lawyer hero for help in going public. Although he initially declines to handle the case, personal circumstances force him to reconsider. The proceedings are complicated by fresh acts of violence, including a bombing, and Stern has to figure out whether the accused man is behind these outrages as well, or whether he is being made the scapegoat - or figurehead - for someone else's crimes. And his personal connection to the case makes it even more difficult. Not usually my type of mystery novel but quite readable. 6/15/15

The Alington Inheritance by Patricia Wentworth, 1958  

The melodrama starts right away in this one. The young protagonist discovers that she is heir to a valuable estate, which would have been good news except that she also realizes that part of her family is plotting to thwart the will with methods that she suspects just might include murder. She runs away and into the arms of another distant relative, with whom she falls in love, but she doesn’t run far enough and murder ensues. A fairly standard Wentworth suspense novel but for some reason I didn’t find this one nearly as entertaining as the others. 6/11/15

The Fingerprint by Patricia Wentworth, 1956   

Murder is done and the police are pretty sure they have the right suspect. But the dead man, an ardent collector, had made a lot of enemies during the course of his life and Miss Silver is not convinced that the simplest solution to the case is the right one. She investigates and, to no reader’s surprise, begins to uncover levels of hatred and avarice that the police completely missed. She soon has more than one alternative explanation for the crime and she’s determined that an innocent man should not be punished. This was more like a conventional detective story than Wentworth’s usual country house mysteries and it was a nice change of pace. 6/10/15

Gathering Prey by John Sandford, Putnam, 2015, $28.95, ISBN 978-0-399-16879-8   

Lucas Davenport is back. His adopted daughter befriends a pair of travelers, modern day hoboes, and becomes personally involved when one of them is murdered. This brings Davenport into the fray and he quickly discovers that he is dealing with a Manson like cult of about twenty vicious killers spread across several states. There are chases and gun battles galore in this one, the most violent in the series. I thought the chief villain was a bit too tentative to have inspired such fanatic loyalty in his followers but otherwise this was a tight, exciting, and engrossing thriller. This may well be my favorite in the series. 6/9/15

The Chinese Parrot by Earl Derr Biggers, 1926 

Charlie Chan is asked to convey some very valuable pearls to San Francisco, which he does, but there is a complex plot to steal them and he is prevailed upon to continue his involvement as the trail leads to a ranch in a remote part of the Southwest.  I always thought this was the weakest of the Charlie Chan books. The pacing is off – large portions drag and there is some repetition – in large part because it is obvious very early on that one of the characters is an imposter. The romantic interest is more intrusive than usual and there are a lot of coincidences. On the other hand, the sequences involving Chan’s impersonation of an ignorant laborer are very well done. 6/4/15

The Listening Eye by Patricia Wentworth, 1954 

Another competent but unoriginal country house murder mystery featuring Miss Silver. A woman overhears – actually she is hard of hearing and reads their lips -  a conversation between two strangers who seem to be plotting a murder, and this leads to Miss Silver becoming a guest at a weekend party. Murder is in the offing – a pair of them – as well as some missing jewels and a bevy of suspects, motives, and possible solutions. She has to solve the case before even more people meet an untimely end, which she does in her usual efficient but always charming manner.  About average for the series. 6/3/15

Calling All Suspects by Carolyn Wells, 1939 

A man is shot to death in a crowded nightclub on the first page of this Fleming Stone detective story, and Stone himself is seated nearby. The dead man is Willy Race, a prominent financier, who was there with a woman other than his wife, who was also in the club at the time, as was a prominent stage magician named Tassoni. The story goes awry immediately as the police allow some of their prime suspects to go home, unescorted, without as well as several who left before they arrived at the scene. Wells later contradicts herself and insists that everyone was searched before leaving, which is clearly impossible given what we’ve already seen, and Stone insists the weapon must still be in the nightclub. It turns out that the new widow is in love with Tassoni, who is unhappily married already.  Another woman at the nightclub saw Mrs. Race aiming a pistol at her husband just before he was killed.  Tassoni was carrying a pistol at the time, but he concealed it because he was afraid the police would think it was the murder weapon. This is nonsensical because ballistics would have proved otherwise, let alone the fact that it would be clear the weapon had not been fired recently. The magician is arrested, escapes, and is arrested again, but this time he pretends not to understand English and the police are concerned because if they can’t communicate with him, they have to release him! I’m not sure which is more depressing – that Wells thought this was the case legally or that it never occurred to her that the police could bring in a translator.  And it’s all nonsense anyway because they have actually arrested the magician’s valet, who happens to be his indistinguishable double. Stone questions one acquaintance of the dead man, who volunteers that Race had recently refused to be blackmailed and that he was quite sure the blackmailer was the killer. But he never mentioned this to the police even though he is supposedly helping the widow to avoid arrest!  Then Tassoni’s wife is poisoned. He is arrested again, still without evidence, and immediately escapes again. There’s a good deal of bigotry – Stone is convinced Tassoni is innocent because Italians would not kill someone with poison. He also refers to a group of emissaries from Borneo as savages. The encounter with their entourage is incredibly racist. A few of the tricks are explained at the end, but they rely on incredible coincidences and the police forgetting to search their prisoner when they locked him up. The ending is perfunctory and consists of Stone revealing information never provided to the reader and his making fantastic leaps of intuition. This is close to being her worst novel. 5/30/15

The Reluctant Matador by Mark Pryor, Seventh Street, 2015, $15.95, ISBN 978-0-63388-002-3

Latest in the Hugo Marston series. This time he travels across Europe attempting to track down a missing person, but it's never that simple. The image of the missing woman provided by her father starkly contrasts with what Marston learns from other people, It also appears that the daughter may have disappeared voluntarily. Just as they begin to sort that out, their client is found with the dead body of his daughter's supposed companion and is promptly arrested. So now Marston has to solve a murder, clear his client, and then find the daughter. I won't reveal too much more of the plot, but there are twists and turns along the way in what is as much an international thriller as a murder mystery. A good series continues. 5/29/15

The Summer House by Patricia Wentworth, 1955   

Another typical Wentworth romantic mystery, once again featuring Miss Silver. A woman is strangled and the police are pretty sure they know who killed her. Miss Silver is convinced that he is innocent – and since he’s the male half of the light romance in this one the reader is pretty sure of the same thing. She has to insert herself into another distrustful community, pry out the secrets, and gently nudge Scotland Yard into realizing that they have made an error. About average for her, although somewhat more suspenseful than most. This one has also been published as The Gazebo. 6/28/15

Sherlock Holmes and the Shakespeare Letter by Barry Grant, Severn House, 2010   

The second and apparently last of the adventures of a Sherlock Holmes revived from suspended animation in the present involves the theft of a letter believed to have been written by William Shakespeare. The method by which it is done is so obvious that I knew how it had been done long before Holmes tumbled to the fact, and that made me lose most of my interest in the story, which really didn’t feel like a Sherlock story at all. There is also some more SF. One of the characters has devised control devices for living insects so that they carry cameras around. Unmemorable. 5/25/15

The House Without a Key by Earl Derr Biggers, 1925 

This was the first mystery involving Charlie Chan, detective for the Honolulu police. A successful businessman with a shady past is found murdered in his house. Suspicion centers on his early involvement in the slave trade and his theft of the savings of the captain under whom he served, but the obvious answers to the various questions raised are not always the most important ones. A distant relative and Charlie Chan of the Honolulu police team up, unofficially, to unravel the plot and discover the true identity of the killer. This was the first Charlie Chan mystery and it remains a classic despite some cheating – withheld information – toward the end. 5/22/15

Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell, Mulholland, 2015, $26, ISBN 978-0-316-32393-2  

This is the second in a series of Victorian mysteries in which Thomas De Quincey, who was addicted to laudanum, figures as a kind of amateur detective, allied with his daughter and two agents from the police. I haven’t read the first, Murder Can be a Fine Art, but I ordered a copy shortly after finishing this one. It opens with a woman sitting alone in a curtained pew in a church, whose throat is cut right in the middle of a service even though no one was seen to have approached. Her husband is found tortured to death at their home and all the servants have been killed as well. Notes found at both scenes suggest the revolutionary group Young England, which was believed to have been the figment of the imagination of a man now confined in an asylum. So who is really behind the crime spree and how were the murders accomplished? The historical detail appears to be flawless, the atmosphere authentic, the mysteries and their solutions fascinating, and I only guessed the villain by chance. 5/21/15

Out of the Past by Patricia Wentworth, 1955 

Another typical Wentworth set up. Carmona Hardwick and her husband  are entertaining a group of people in the sprawling house left to the husband by a recently deceased relative. There is already tension in the group before the unexpected arrival of a young man who apparently has some connection to Carmona’s past, and it becomes even more noticeable once he is added to the party. Fortunately, Miss Silver is on hand as well because it isn’t long before someone tries to pay off old scores and a dead body turns up. Most of Wentworth’s strong and weak points are present including the light romance, the profuseness of motive, lies, misunderstandings, and long conversations. Miss Silver is always entertaining when she’s on stage but some of the rest of the characters lack similar depth and interest. 5/16/15

The Agony Column by Earl Derr Biggers, Avon, 1946 

This is a collection of three mystery novellas by the creator of Charlie Chan. They are all unusual in structure and execution. The title story is a largely epistolary story of spies and murder in England just as World War I is getting underway, but it has a really clever twist at the end that works even though it shouldn’t. Fifty Candles is slightly more conventional. A nasty businessman is murdered at a private party and the hero is suspect number one. The solution is somewhat telegraphed but the writing is witty and clever. The last is The Dollar Chasers, in which someone aboard a yacht steals the lucky coin from their prominent host and a young reporter has to unravel the mystery despite several reversals of fortune. It’s a shame that this is so hard to find. 5/13/15

Poison in the Pen by Patricia Wentworth, 1954 

Miss Silver is asked to look into a case where a young widow has started receiving poison pen letters accusing her of outrageous things. When another target apparently commits suicide, she goes for an extended visit to the village where she meets various characters including the lord of the local manor, who has fallen upon hard times, the various members of his family, and a number of local people. At first it seems a hopeless task, but then there’s another death – also believed to be suicide – but Miss Silver begins to think that there is murder in the air and she digs a little deeper. This is one of Wentworth’s best novels, a classic of its type, and it holds up very well sixty years later. 5/7/15

Dreamless by Jorgen Brekke, Minotaur, 2015, $25.99, ISBN 978-1-250-01699-7 

The second adventure of Odd Singsaker, a Norwegian police detective, is almost but not quite as good as the first, Where Monsters Dwell. There is a serial killer loose in Trondheim, a man who uses multiple identities and is obsessed with a folk lullabye and various other musical elements. The first body shows up right away, but then a teenaged girl is kidnapped and the police race against time to find her abductor before she becomes victim number two. Oddly, the perpetrator risks taunting the missing girl’s parents and is even wounded on one encounter. The subplot about Singsaker’s romance with an American police woman – which was very well handled in the first one – is less convincing this time and its denouement was very disappointing. 5/6/15

Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers, 1913  1177 

A classic mystery novel even though there is no murder in it. A writer goes to an Inn which is supposedly closed for the winter, but people keep showing up, all interested in a mysterious package. Some are allied with others, some are acting independently. It’s clear that there is criminal activity involved, but not at all clear what specifically is going on. The package changes hands multiple times before the end and there is much sneaking around in the darkness, mysterious attacks, confrontations and elaborate deceptions. This is the third time I’ve read this and I still love it. Biggers later wrote the Charlie Chan novels. 3/5/`5

The Bronze Hand by Carolyn Wells, 1926 

This mystery novel opens with introductions to a group of passengers on an ocean liner. Included are an oil magnate named Cox who appears to be a compulsive liar, two young men in search of adventure, a mysteriously reticent young woman, a social climber, a famous mystery writer, and various others.  Cox has a bronze hand as his good luck charm. The mysterious woman tries to commit suicide by jumping overboard one evening but is grabbed in the nick of time. The following day Cox is bludgeoned to death with the bronze hand while sitting by himself in a deck chair.  Evidence is found suggesting that Cox has recently married, or was about to be married, even though he is traveling alone, and reticent woman has been sending coded wires back to the US. She becomes the prime suspect based on circumstantial evidence, mostly involving some missing jewels. One of the other passengers reveals himself to be detective Fleming Stone, traveling under an assumed name, in the closing chapters. The reticent woman had been forced into marriage with Cox although they were not going to be seen together until they arrived in England. The solution comes in the last four pages and it’s not very convincing. 5/2/15

Stone Cold Dead by James W. Ziskin, 7th Street, 2015, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-63388-049-8

An Ellie Stone mystery. Stone is a female reporter working during the 1960s despite the difficulties prejudice against her gender presents to her career. Her latest investigation involves a teenaged girl who disappeared somewhere between the bus stop and home. The police are convinced that she ran off with a boyfriend but the mother insists this isn't the case and goes to Ellie for help. Obviously there is more to it than the police realize or there wouldn't be much of a story. I guessed a lot of what was going on in this one a bit too early so I didn't like it as much as the first two in the series, but it's not badly written and has some good moments even when you know what is coming. 5/1/15

See Also Murder by Larry D. Sweazy, 7th Street, 2015, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-63388-006-1

This above average murder mystery is set in a small North Dakota town during the 1960s. The protagonist is a woman whose husband was left paralyzed and blind after an accident and she is supplementing their meager income by becoming a professional indexer - someone who creates those indexes you see in the back of nonfiction books - and small time researcher. When some of the neighbors are murdered, the local sheriff quietly asks her to see what she can find out about an amulet which appears to be connected to the crime, but it's not quiet enough and she has to unmask the killer before she becomes the next victim. Fairly standard set up but it is worked out nicely.  I hope to see more of Marjorie Trumaine. 4/30/15

The Strange Return of Sherlock Holmes by Barry Grant, Severn House, 2010 

This Sherlock Holmes mystery is borderline SF since he was frozen in a glacier and revived in 2007, still only aged sixty. He has been living in Wales under a false name, but Scotland Yard knows the truth and still employs him from time to time as a consultant. John Wilson, a retired newspaperman, becomes his new roommate and quickly discovers the truth. The usual Holmesian tricks are there, and as usual his interpretation of elaborate details from a few clues is arbitrary, with various contradictory answers possible. At one point he insists that he can determine great detail from an object possessed by an individual but in fact most of his deductions in this instance come from very different sources.  The murder case he investigates in the present is marred a bit by the political agenda superimposed on it, but the recounting of Holmes’ adventures leading up to his freezing to “death” are quite entertaining. 4/28/15

The Watersplash by Patricia Wentworth, 1954 

Miss Silver is visiting a small village when a local man dies in very shallow water, possibly because he was drunk, although neither Miss Silver nor the reader will believe that it was an accident. Another local man has fallen on hard times and is generally ignored by his neighbors, his prospects hampered by an ongoing family feud. Most of the elements of her earlier country house murder mysteries are present but this one feels a bit more like a traditional detective story than most of the others, which is a plus. On the other hand, I found the mystery itself less tantalizing than it could have been. Mark this one slightly below average although still quite readable, particularly if you haven’t read a lot of her other work. 4/26/15

The Benevent Treasure by Patricia Wentworth, 1954   

A young woman, last in her family, is summoned to the family estate where she encounters a variety of people with vested interests in the eventual dispensation of the family’s wealth and property. It’s not long before she begins to suspect that someone has decided that she is a threat to their own interests, a threat that needs to be eliminated. This is a Miss Silver mystery but as is the case with most, it is more of a woman in peril novel than a detective story, and it’s not surprising that this one was repackaged as a gothic romance. All of Wentworth’s standard characters and situations are here, but they feel more like building blocks slipping into familiar grooves than anything else and I had the feeling throughout that I had read this one before. 4/24/15

Ladies’ Bane by Patricia Wentworth, 1952 

Miss Silver is hired to find out what happened to a recently married woman who has stopped communicating with her family from her new home in a remote part of England. The man she married is obsessed with his family estate and wants to use his wife’s money to preserve and maintain it. She arrives to discover a strange dynamic among the members of the household, and shortly thereafter there is a tragic accident which, of course, is no accident at all. The sister-in-law of the head of the household is a bit flaky and I didn’t care for her at all. The mystery is about average for Wentworth, though it repeats a lot of her tropes rather shamelessly. 4/18/15

Vanishing Point by Patricia Wentworth, 1952 

Elderly Lydia Carewe rules what remains of her family with an iron hand, making them essentially servants. She lives near a small town where another woman mysteriously disappeared one night, ostensibly having gone away without explanation but almost certainly murdered.  There’s a precocious young girl who has secretly recovered more from a terrible accident than she lets on, an admirer interested in her older sister, and various town characters. Another local woman is found dead, but it’s not clear if it was murder or suicide. Wentworth’s stock characters all appear but it’s obvious from the outset who the killer is, and I guessed the motive without much difficulty. Miss Silver solves it all, of course, but it all seems rather routine. 4/12/15

Where Monsters Dwell by Jorgen Brekke, Minotaur, 2015, $15.99, ISBN 978-1-250-06080-8

I picked this up thinking it was a horror novel. It's not; it's a mystery thriller, and one of the best I've read in quite a while, originally published in Norway. Two murders are committed, one in the Edgar Allan Poe museum in Virginia, the other in a rare book repository in Trondheim. Both victims were beheaded and skinned. The similarities result in two detectives working together on a case which involves antique books bound in human skin, a cold case in which a woman and child disappeared mysteriously, and several different people seemed to be tenuously tied together. Compulsive reading with a cast of very well developed characters and a surprising turn of events in the closing chapters. 4/10/15

The Beautiful Derelict by Carolyn Wells, 1935  

There’s an interesting opening in this Fleming Stone detective novel. A yacht is found drifting off the coast with two dead men aboard. One apparently died of a perforated ulcer while the other was bludgeoned to death. There is no sign of the murder weapon but it appears unlikely that the other dead man is the killer. But there’s no evidence of or reason for anyone else to have come aboard as they were on a direct trip and in a hurry. Stone is there from the start in this one, which is very unusual, and in fact discovers one of the two bodies. The bludgeoned man was the yacht’s owner. He is survived by his father and uncle, as well as his fiancé. The other man leaves behind a widow. Stone keeps remarking about how odd it is that the murder weapon is missing, but it’s not odd at all. They’re on a boat. Throwing it overboard is the obvious solution. Then an autopsy reveals that the ulcers were misleading, that the second victim was poisoned. Although the set up is nicely done, the dialogue is so atrocious at times that it defies description, and Stone frequently draws conclusions based on the flimsiest of evidence, but of course he’s right because the author wanted him to be. There are continuity problems. About half way through, Stone declares that he knows who the killer is, but a chapter later he is completely in the dark. One of the characters announces that he doesn’t believe in a native superstition, but on the very next page he insists that it is real. Wells never explains exactly what happened on the boat – one man was killed by a supposedly cleverly designed mechanism, but why didn’t anyone notice bloodstains on it? And exactly how and when did the second man die? A third murder involves a secret passage, but it is so obvious that this is the solution that it really isn’t even cheating. 4/9/15

Death at Deep End by Patricia Wentworth, 1951 

We see a lot more of Miss Silver in this entry in her series of mysteries. She is trying to track down a young working woman who seems to have disappeared. Her investigation leads to an odd community where nearly everyone has some form of personal idiosyncrasy. Is it possible that one of them was strange enough to have committed murder or is the missing Anna just hidden away somewhere for reasons not apparent?  She was known to be rather nosey about other people’s business, after all. A somewhat slow paced story and I found my attention wandering more than once, but it does have a clever solution. 4/8/15

The Creeps by Anthony Abbott, Dell, 1939   

This is a pseudonymous novel written by Fulton Oursler and it has also appeared as Murder at Buzzards Bay.  A group  of people including a retired police commissioner are invited to Cape Cod for a wedding. Among the guests is a scientist investigating psychic phenomena who is about to receive a major donation from their host, much to the dismay of his family. His son, the groom to be, recently broke off his previous engagement to another woman without explanation and the family is not entirely happy about his new romantic interest. The family chauffeur, sent to pick up the guests, mysteriously disappeared, as did another guest who went out for a walk in the snow. There is also a mysterious prowler and the jilted fiancé shows up unexpectedly. The bride to be is murdered that night, with chloroform, and her body ends up in bed with a man who passed out in a drunken stupor. A good part of the solution is rather clumsily telegraphed. It is obvious that the “doctor” whom no one had met before is an impersonator in cahoots with the dead woman. We are shown evidence early on that she faked events during the séance, she is described as a one time talented actress, and she’s the one who supposedly found an incriminating document suggesting that their host murdered his long missing wife.  The solution did catch me by surprise and is reasonably well done. I liked this enough that I looked for his half dozen other mysteries, but they don’t seem to be available from any of the usual sources. Oursler is best known as the author of The Greatest Story Ever Told. 4/7/15

The Silent Pool by Patricia Wentworth, 1954  

Another country house murder mystery featuring Miss Silver. Despite the blurb on my copy suggesting that the lady of the manor is a horrid dictator, she’s actually quite nice and her family doesn’t deserve her support. They include a promising but self centered actress, a married couple who seem to have lost interest in one another although the woman is horribly jealous, a child, a young woman who may or may not be adopted, and a handful of servants. There are a few guests as well including the usual romantic couple featured in almost all of Wentworth’s mysteries. There have been three attempts on the life of Adriana Ford, a retired actress now living in obscurity with her relatives, and she has consulted with Miss Silver in the opening chapter. One of the guests, another retired actress, is found dead in the swimming pool during a cocktail party, and she was wearing clothing given to her by Ford. Then the quasi-daughter is bludgeoned to death and this clearly is not a case of mistaken identity. I thought the killer this time was a bit too obvious but otherwise it’s one of her better books. 4/3/15

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