Last Update 9/30/21 

The Early Cases of Akechi Kogoro by Edogawa Rampo, Kurodahan, 2014 

Three short stories and a novella from the 1920s. The protagonist got a makeover a decade later and became a more interesting recurring character. In these early tales, he is an amateur detective who solves a locked room murder, a mysterious kidnapping, and an apparent return from the dead. They are okay but nothing special. The novella is quite bizarre and much more interesting. A young woman has disappeared from her house and parts of her body show up in unusual places. There is a dwarf who appears and disappears mysteriously, a recently released convict with a grudge, a love triangle, and a second disappearance. A couple of rough spots but overall quite good. 9/30/21

On the Home Front edited by Mark Hodder, Rebellion, 2021

This brings together two full length novels featuring Sexton Blake, both set during World War II.

The Man from Occupied France by Anthony Parsons, 1941

This is a conventional spy thriller. A young woman has been wrongly convicted of selling fighter aircraft plans to the Germans. Her alibi is missing and presumed dead in France. When her fiancé decides to go looking for him, an attempt is made to kill him. This draws the attention of Sexton Blake, who eventually has to sneak into France himself to find the man, who is dying of his injuries. This was a solid, well constructed spy story with a couple of nice twists.

The House on the Hill by John Drummond, 1945

Drummond is a pseudonym of John Newton Chance, who also wrote science fiction as John Lymington. In this case, it's a standard detective story. A prominent man is murdered and there are several suspects with various motives. Sexton Blake and Tinker are soon on the scene to conduct their investigation. The story plods rather badly for a long time and Blake seems to be acting almost randomly instead of to a purpose. I found this quite disappointing.  9/29/21

Raven’s Wind by Victor Canning, Morrow, 1982  

A short and rather atypical novel from this author. Justus is a 9th Century Saxon who is captured by Vikings and brought back to their home country. He is not exactly a slave but is put to work in the shipbuilding industry, and he learns as much as he can about that art. Eventually he steals a small sailboat and returns to Britain where he convinces King Ethelred that he needs to build warship to fight the Danes at sea if he is ever going to protect his people from their raids. There are a few minor battle sequences but the novel is quite subdued. 9/28/21

Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt, Crest, 1960 

Holt, who was also Jean Plaidy and others, was possibly the best of the gothic romance writers, a subgenre that flourished in the 1960s but disappeared almost completely after that. The new governess at Mellyn is annoyed by her employer’s apparently indifference to his young daughter and puzzled by the manner of the mother’s death, supposedly while running away with another man. She learns more about this from various sources, but she is a passive receptacle for information rather than an actual investigator. People tell her things that they should not. It’s not clear whether or not the author realized that her protagonist is a self-centered, judgmental person who dislikes people for no reason and always thinks she knows better than other people. 9/27/21

Blueprint Invisibility by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1980 

Someone has stolen the files about invisibility research – the Philadelphia Experiment – and the Death Merchant is ordered to retrieve them. There’s a little bit about the invisibility at the end, and lots of little bits about the Philadelphia Experiment legend along the way, but basically this is just another string of gun battles, in an office building, at a secluded compound, and elsewhere. The Death Merchant has sex for the first time in the series, and kills eight innocent policemen because they’re in the way. 9/25/21

Shamrock Smash by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1980 

A relatively unambitious entry in the Death Merchant series. Camellion is sent to Norther Ireland to team up with British troops and smash an arms smuggling rings that includes US organizations as well as the Russians and the PLO.  Inevitably there are ambushes to be survived and yet another castle to take by siege, this time one with a warren of tunnels beneath it. The author is less critical of religion than usual and there is actually some investigation rather than just a steady stream of firefights. 9/25/21

The Seven Sirens by Carter Brown, Signet, 1972 

A bit contrived but actually interesting. A rich but dying man knows that he has a daughter but does not know whom she is. He invites seven candidates to come stay with him so that he can try to solve the problem. Unfortunately, one of the women is a murderer and is determined that she will be recognized and become his heir. The protagonist, a lawyer named Roberts, is on the scene and returned in other novels. More serious in tone than much of the author's other work. 9/24/21

The Thirteenth Bullet by Marcel Lanteaume, Locked Room International, 2021 (originally published in 1948) 

This is one of the three thrillers the author wrote while in a German POW camp. Apparently he wrote several more later on but destroyed them all when he was unable to find a publisher. Although this is hardly a classic, it’s an interesting thriller about an apparent serial killer who shoots a dozen people through the heart. The thirteenth case is different – the victim was his accomplice – and he was killed in a locked room, actually a bunker with no windows, nothing inside but a bed, and a door bolted from the inside and watched by the police. The solution to this locked room is reasonably clever but the identity of the serial killer – all of the victims were color blind – was a bit too obvious and the motive is quite a stretch. There is also a hint of SF – there is a cache of radium somewhere which actually transmutes nearby metals into gold. 9/23/21

The Sands of Windee by Arthur W. Upfield, Scribner, 1985 (originally published in 1931) 

Bony investigates the disappearance of a man visiting a remote sheep farm, convinced that it was murder. The body, however, has been completely destroyed so it cannot even be proved that he is dead. There are very few suspects, an echo of an abduction decades earlier, a large amount of missing cash, and complications involving the local aboriginals, a love affair, and a brush fire. The text is riddle with racial bigotries and some superstitions which the author apparently believed were demonstrably true. The resolution rests on a string of five outrageous coincidences. 9/22/21

Lending the Key to the Locked Room by Tokuya Higashigawa, Locked Room International, 2021 (translated from the 2002 Japanese edition) 

The protagonist’s ex-girlfriend is murdered while he is watching a movie at the home of a friend. The friend is murdered as well, even though the house is locked from the inside. The friend was his only alibi, and the locked room makes it appear that he killed both of them. But we know otherwise and eventually the puzzle is solved, which involves some rather far fetched movie editing to confuse the timing of incidents. The prose is not great in this one although the puzzle is interesting. 9/21/21

Vanishing Point by Victor Canning, Ulversoft, 1981  

This novel from late in the author’s career is fresh and fairly lively, although it breaks down a bit toward the end. An occasional art forger is the hero. He learns that he is actually the son of Sir Andrew Starr of England, stolen by a nurse when he was an infant. His reunion with his parents goes quite well, but he really does not fit into English aristocratic society, so he decides to return to his life in France. While doing so, he takes a painting from the family house which happens to be where his father is hiding the information that he is using to blackmail a number of Nazi sympathizers during the war. Thugs and government agents are both soon on his tail as he attracts more attention than he wanted.  9/21/21

Donavan’s Delight by Carter Brown, Belmont, 1979 

The Donavan books appear to be the best things Brown wrote but unfortunately there are only a few of them. In this one our hero encounters a sophisticated and kinky bordello whose inmates are prisoners. When he rescues one of them, he attracts the ire of a very powerful organization that uses blackmail and brute force to get its way. The tone is serious, the plot relatively well done, and the characterizations more realistic than Brown usually managed, or even attempted. 9/20/21

The Scarlet Flush by Carter Brown, Signet, 1963 

A gambler who is heavily in debt is pressured into impersonating a jewel thief who is about to be released from prison. The loot from his last crime was never recovered and it is hoped that the gambler can fool the wife into revealing where it is. The ruse fails immediately, but our hero is caught in a press of police officers, insurance collectors, and fellow criminals, all of whom want to get their hands on the gems. Not very original but well above Brown’s average. 9/20/21

The Boy on Platform 1 by Victor Canning, Ulversoft, 1981

A young boy with a trick memory is enlisted by British intelligence to listen to a long discussion with a French official that they are unable to tape. The rationale for this is very sketchy, but it’s just designed to set up the book long chase sequence that follows. The boy’s father suspects that they are in danger and they go undercover, even using false names. Intelligence has the police looking for them and foreign interests have hired an assassin to kill the boy before he can repeat the conversation. The ending is a bit of an anticlimax – the assassin is foiled first by happenstance and then by an accident that lands him in the hospital. 9/19/21

The Barrakee Mystery by Arthur W. Upfield, Pan, 1969 (originally published in 1929) 

Aka The Lure of the Bush, this was the first appearance of Napoleon Bonaparte, a half aboriginal detective. In this case, which is pretty transparent, an aborigine is murdered, apparently by someone who has been searching for him for twenty years. The motive is pretty obvious – he impregnated a white woman and her brother wants revenge – and it is also obviously that someone else was involved and may actually have committed the murder. Her identity is also obvious. The plot structure is uneven, with long periods of nothing much happening. The racism is blatant and pervasive. The murder is considered a lesser crime because the man was black, and he may have deserved punishment. A man believed to be white begins suffering aboriginal desires because they are inherent in his unknown ancestry. Interracial marriage is an unthinkable situation. The “good” characters all dislike the aborigines to varying extents and none of them think it is morally wrong to kill one – although it might be in bad taste.  9/18/21

Fall from Grace by Victor Canning, Ulversoft, 1980 

This is more of a character study than a mystery or adventure. John Corbin is a cad who seduces women and then blackmails them, although he apparently repays them when he is able to do so. One of the affronted husbands hires the detective from The Satan Sampler to track him down. At this point Corbin is writing a history of a family’s horticultural obsession, while seducing the female head gardener. Briefly he thinks he is reforming and in love, but when the chance for some illicit money pops up, he reverts to type. Very slow and with a very thin plot. 9/16/21

The Burning Blue Death by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1980 

It has been apparent in this series that the author believed in some pretty strange things, including human auras that could be measured. In this installment, another neo-Nazi group has found a way to manipulate auras from a distance to cause the atoms in the human body to explode, this causing spontaneous human combustion. There are lengthy lectures included in the story. The Death Merchant kills his usual quote of bad guys, including a couple of summary executions of prisoners who were not even part of the Nazi group. It is not murder, we are told, if it is done for the purpose of preserving the freedom of one’s country, even if the victims present no actual threat. 9/15/21

The Fourth Reich by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1980  

The Death Merchant kills more neo-Nazis. This time they’re headquartered in Scotland and they have a nuclear weapon. They plan to smuggle it into Egypt and detonate it, which will set off World War III. They have underground bunkers and plan to emerge from the ashes when it is all over. There is also a plan to send a Cuban assassin to kill the US president, but this isn’t mentioned again so it might turn up in the next in the series. Lots of shooting, a little bit of torture, yet another mole inside British intelligence, and for a change the Death Merchant is even seriously injured and hospitalized. 9/15/21

The Satan Sampler by Victor Canning, Charter, 1979

Another jaded look at the intelligence community, although this time the agents get together and kill their own boss for going too far interfering with political matters. The protagonist wants to terminate the lease on his family estate by a supposed non-profit organization, which turns out to be a front organization for blackmail and other activities. There are tunnels, secret passageways, a femme fatale, and other plot elements but most of the story is quite low key. Although this one turns out to have a “happy” ending, it is still pretty sour in tone.  9/14/21

Chinese Donavan by Carter Brown, Signet, 1976 

Donavan travels to Hong Kong at the request of a friend who ends up being murdered. He decides to find out who is responsible and becomes the target of three separate organizations who would prefer that he mind his own business. He has some low key adventures including some rather boring sexual encounters before finally deciding that the only way he will ever be safe again is if he eliminates his enemies. Which is, of course, exactly what happens. Not quite as good as the first in the series.  9/11/21

The Doomsday Carrier by Victor Canning, Morrow, 1976 

A chimpanzee escapes from a government laboratory. It has just been injected with something that will make him a plague carrier in three weeks. The government wants him back before then and is unwilling to provide the alarming aspects to the public, which hinders their search. Charlie the Chimp is enterprising, intelligent, and fast moving, and the hunters have no luck tracking him down despite frequent sightings. Eventually there is a happy ending for Charlie, though not for one of the two protagonists, and Canning adds an epilogue repeating his disdain and active dislike for governments and how they conduct themselves. 9/10/21

Birdcage by Victor Canning, Morrow, 1979   

Once again Canning indicts the intelligence community. This time an ex-nun acquires her mother’s diary. The mother worked as a seductress for a clandestine British intelligence agency and documented what she had done. The ex-director of that agency is determined that this information should never be mad public, so he calls in old favors in an effort to destroy the diary and kill everyone who knows about it. He fails, of course, although the ending is not entirely a happy one.  Canning was in danger at this point in his career of becoming a one note author and his books tend to blend together. 9/10/21

The Cosmic Reality Kill by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1979 

This time the Death Merchant has to infiltrate a heavily armed cult which is secretly training its brainwashed believes in martial arts and using them as weapons against perceived enemies, which is everyone not in the cult. A police officer is convinced that Camellion is responsible for several deaths but is unable to come up with evidence that would allow him to press charges. The cult leader is killed when Camellion and some government agents assault his compound in a hail of gunfire. A bit quieter than most in the series. 9/9/21

The Bermuda Triangle Action by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1980  

This Death Merchant novel is SF from beginning to end. The Russians are building an underwater base near Jamaica and drilling a tunnel so that they can place nuclear weapon under North America. Their plans are being observed not only by Americans but by aliens from another reality who have giant submarines that can travel at incredible speeds. 9/9/21

Severed Ties by George E. Simpson and Neal R. Burger, Dell, 1983 

This starts off as a relatively interesting thriller. The protagonist had a nervous breakdown while using drugs in college and killed his girlfriend. Years later, he is working as an artist/designer at a record label when someone begins sending him things connected to the crime. His fragile mental state begins to deteriorate, and it doesn’t help that the company is struggling with a new and autocratic manager. It is all part of a plot to frame him for murder. About half way through, his employer decides to call his old psychologist – who provides her with a detailed history of the case and even plays for her the tape of his confession to the murder, all without the patient’s permission or even confirmation of her identity. This is so absurd that I never got back into the story. 9/8/21

The Kingsford Mark by Victor Canning, Charter, 1975   

A young man believes that he is secretly the son of a distinguished family. The man he thinks is his father discovers that his late wife was having an affair with a government official and decides to murder him. He sets things up well but at the last minute, he is unable to go through with it. The illegitimate son has been aware of his plans and is unhappy when he does not follow through, so he carries out the murder himself. As it turns out, he is both right and wrong about his parentage. He is part of the family but another man was his father. I had a pretty good idea how this was all going to turn out so it was not as suspenseful as it might have been. 9/7/21

Donavan by Carter Brown, Signet, 1974 

This was probably the best Carter Brown that I’ve read to date, which admittedly is not a great endorsement. It is played almost entirely seriously and even has a somewhat interesting plot. Donavan is a millionaire playboy who, along with his martial arts practicing valet, gets involved in various causes around the world. In his debut adventure, he is suspected of having sabotaged a shipment of armaments that resulted in the deaths of a large number of mercenaries. Two of the survivors want revenge, but the story is complicated by conflicting motives, cross purposes, a beautiful woman, murder, and other complications. 9/5/21

Alleyn and Others by Ngaio Marsh, International Polygonics, 1989  

Marsh wrote only a handful of short stories, which are collected here. The three best involve Roderick Alleyn, and one of them is a theater story. The others are rather minor. There are also a couple of essays and a script. This was previously published as The Collected Short Stories of Ngaio Marsh, but under this title it includes an additional minor short story discovered too late to be in the original edition. The short stories are greatly inferior to the novels. Marsh seemed to need room to enliven her characters.

Deadly Manhunt by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle,  1979 

This is a very violent but also very dull Death Merchant adventure. He has no real mission this time, except to stay alive. All of the hostile spy agencies in the world decide that it is time to bring his career to the end, so they all send hit squads to assassinate him. As expected they are all readily dispatched by the master of weaponry in a series of bloody, gore filled, and very repetitive battle sequences. No exotic setting and only a moderate amount of lecturing about the evils of the world, mixed with some casual racism. 

Massacre in Rome by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1979  

The Death Merchant is in Italy because terrorists have kidnapped a woman who is either a genuine psychic or who has government connections at the highest level. The KGB is there as well, hoping to take her back to Moscow. The usual wave of carnage follows, this time with three sides to the conflict. Obviously our hero out paces the Russians and foils the terrorists, but for a change his success is limited because the woman has died of natural causes and no one will ever know where she was getting her information.

The Mask of Memory by Victor Canning, Morrow, 1976   

There is not a lot of action in this quasi-espionage thriller.  A handful of government officials have gathered damaging evidence about certain union leaders in order to cause a scandal and influence an upcoming election. One of their agents is examining them when he disappears. Somehow they did not know that he was married and had a house in the country. His wife is having an affair and his private detective has discovered it. They have an emotional scene and he goes for a walk. The following day he is found dead at the foot of the cliff. The confidential papers are missing. Although it is pretty certainly an accident, someone tries to blackmail the widow. Everything is resolved, but mostly offstage. 9/2/21

Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy, Felony & Mayhem, 2018   

Marsh began this novel in 1940s but abandoned it. Duffy, who writes mysteries of her own, was hired to complete the novel based on a few notes Marsh left behind. The setting is a hospital in New Zealand that treats injured soldiers and where a payroll has disappeared from the office safe. A clergyman, a bereaved relative, three dubious soldiers, various nurses and workman, are all suspects except for the hospital manager, who is murdered along the way. Or is she? Very disappointing. The story does not make sense and Duffy – though not a bad writer – did not capture Roderick Alleyn’s personality at all.  8/31/21

The Sacred Sphere by G.H. Teed, Stillwoods, 2019 (originally published in 1913)

Teed wrote very good Sexton Blake adventures, but his imagination was limited and he constantly reused themes to the point where they felt like rereadings. This unusually long installment in the series is a good example. It involves the Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle, his old Chinese adversaries, and Huxton Rymer, probably the best of the various villains Teed created. Unfortunately the plot involves all clichés - the white woman kidnapped to be a sex slave in China, a plot to swindle a rich victim, the desire for revenge against Tinker for their past successes, and distrust between the various villains. If you're looking to sample Blake, or Teed, this is actually a pretty good introduction, but if you've read a good deal of his work already, you're going to have a sense of deja vu. 8/30/21

Billy Summers by Stephen King, Scribner, 2021

The title character is a professional assassin whose final job is to kill a man who is about to reveal criminal activities in order to stave off a death sentence. Right from the outset, something seems peculiar about the job, which requires him to establish a false personality for several months. He doesn't trust his employers and begins planning for an alternative escape route, fearing that the one they provide will end up with his execution as a loose end. And then things get out of control, mostly predictably but not entirely. Although this was written in present tense, it was only intermittently distracting and artificial. The final sequence struck me as a bit too contrived but the usual rich characterizations are there and the pace is steady and relentless. 8/29/21

Tomorrow Is Murder by Carter Brown, Signet, 1960

Seidlitz and the Super Spy by Carter Brown, Signet, 1967

And the Undead Sing by Carter Brown, Signet, 1974 

Three adventures of Mavis Seidlitz, private investigator. Even for this author, these are silly and badly written, with lots of self conscious sexual references and not much in the way of a plot. A murderer has publicly announced that he will kill an air headed celebrity at a specific time and place and Seidlitz is hired to prevent that from happening. Unfortunately it makes her a new potential target, although things are never serious enough for this to matter very much. In the second, she goes on vacation in Europe where he meets a rich but avaricious man as well as an assassin with a fondness for knives. There is a secret agent involved as well. Mindless sexual encounters and unfunny jokes do not help a plot that was stumbling all by itself. The third is the best of the three. Seidlitz is hired to impersonate a rock star but does not realize this means that she will be kidnapped, more than once, molested, more than once, and frustrated a whole lot of times. Some of the sex scenes in US editions of Brown's novels were added without his permission but this series incorporates them too explicitly to be afterthoughts. The sex is less specific and rather juvenile. The plots are almost afterthoughts and are inherently uninteresting.  8/28/21

Light Thickens by Ngaio Marsh, Jove, 1982  

Murder during a performance of Macbeth. The leading man has been decapitated and Roderick Alleyn was in the audience – the third time he has actually witnessed a murder. I did not enjoy this at all. Most of the first half of the book is a discussion of the staging of the play. The murder seems almost like an afterthought. The author’s usual skillful characterization is almost entirely missing in action. The crime itself is random and motiveless. I was happy to reach the end.  8/25/21

Photo Finish by Ngaio Marsh, Jove, 1980 

A mysterious photographer has specialized in acquiring embarrassing pictures of an opera diva. When she is murdered in her lovers’ mansion on a remote island in New Zealand – in the middle of a major storm of course – it happens that Roderick Alleyn is on hand and takes unofficial charge of the case until the police can arrive. Was the killer her disenchanted protégé, her long suffering lover, the photographer driven to greater excesses, or was the cause connected to a long standing family feud. I thought this was pretty light weight for Marsh. The hidden motives are so obvious that I thought they were a red herring, and part of the solution is discernible almost immediately. 8/25/21

The Great Affair by Victor Canning, Pan, 1970   

This was Canning’s attempt to infuse humor into an adventure story, but it doesn’t work very well. A defrocked priest just out of prison for fraud, in a good cause, steals the family jewels to give to charity, but runs into trouble when he teams up with an unscrupulous woman and a spy who works for multiple, sometimes opposing governments. The story ranges over a good part of Europe and has a couple of interesting plot twists, but for the most part it is just too whimsical to be engrossing. 8/23/21

Alaska Conspiracy by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1979 

Greedy oil company executives decide to destroy the Alaska pipeline and blame it on OPEC so that the US will go to war with them and domestic oil will become more valuable. The Death Merchant kills a few dozen thugs as he prevents the sabotage and eventually identifies the people responsible. Since the government knows that OPEC is not behind the plot, the entire series of attacks makes no sense at all since even if they had been successful, they would not have resulted in an attack on another country. The author does not seem to have realized this. 8/21/21

Operation Mind Murder by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1979 

The Death Merchant sneaks onto a Russian island where they are conducting mind control experiments, and spends most of the book dodging military patrols and shooting down helicopters. His mission is to destroy the installation, which is masquerading as a weather station, and he arrives in a landing craft that has sonar invisibility, a brief flirtation with SF. One cannot possibly believe that the Russians would allow a wholesale military assault into their territory and not respond violently. 8/21/21

Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh, Berkley, 1978  

A very rich woman goes to a hotel/spa for a rest and falls under the spell of a mysterious doctor, whose past holds some unpleasant secrets. There she dies, apparently a suicide, but Roderick Alleyn and the reader believe otherwise, and they’re both right. There’s a missing postage stamp of great value, unused plans to reorganize some gardens, a millionaire who is obsessed with the dead woman’s mansion, the despised stepson who leads a life of petty crime, and the mysteriously charming gardener who just happens to have a connection to the dead woman’s first husband. It all gets cleared up, but the killer’s identity is pretty obvious a bit too early. 8/20/21

Last Ditch by Ngaio Marsh, Berkley, 1977   

Roderick Alleyn’s son is now an adult. He rents a room on a remote island in order to try writing a novel. A supposedly accidental death follows shortly thereafter and, unbeknownst to him, the island is believed to be a transit spot for the introduction of drugs into the UK. Eventually his father is assigned to look into both crimes, which appear to be linked – they are not. Oddly enough, the murderer commits suicide and is never identified by the police until afterward. The head of the drug operation successfully flees to South America, leaving only a couple of underlings to be prosecuted. Rather an odd ending. 8/18/21

The Case of the Chinese Gong by Christopher Bush, Dean Street, 2018 (originally published in 1935) 

One of the best Ludovic Travers mysteries. A rich miser is murdered right in front of multiple people but no one saw the shot fired and no weapon is found. It turns out that there were three different murder plots underway, which leads to a lot of misleading clues and suspects. The solution is somewhat plucked out of the air, though it is reasonably plausible. Bush was another of those people who believe a ventriloquist can throw his or her voice, although it plays no part in this story except to give Travers the idea that leads to the solution. 8/18/21

The Finger of Saturn by Victor Canning, Pyramid, 1973 

This is listed at times as being science fiction, but it’s not. A man’s wife disappears for two years, and when she turns up again, she has completely forgotten her old life, though it comes back to her reasonably soon other than the crucial period in which she vanished. Or maybe this is all a pretense. He is caught in a three sided battle. His mother-in-law is one of the top executives of a company that engages in industrial espionage. A rival company believes they are on the verge of finding an alternative power source and want to stop them – there is no sign that such a power source actually exists. Then there is the inevitably evil British intelligence community, that lies and murders to get what it wants. The secret is that a large, extended family believes that they are descended from aliens who were stranded on Earth two centuries ago. This is never substantiated in any way. Canning may or may not have realized that in such a case, marriages with Earth humans would not be fertile, that exhaustive medical examinations would certainly have revealed the truth, and that aliens certainly would not have familiar blood types. The protagonist agrees to commit multiple murders when told he has a son hidden away – although luckily he never does so. The wife kills herself for no discernible reason. The villains win. 8/17/21

Fatal Formula by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1978 

There is actually relatively little violence in this installment in the Death Merchant series. The Russians are developing a new bioweapon in a secret laboratory in the Crimea. Camellion and a few companions infiltrate the country and spend a good deal of time interacting with the dissenters, some of whom are KGB agents. There is actually some character development. The final few chapters return to the familiar – an all out assault on the facility that results in scores of death, but the destruction of the weapon and all of its documentation. 8/12/21

The Shambhala Strike by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1978 

This installment in the Death Merchant series goes full SF, though badly. There are aliens, an alternate history of human evolution, telepathy, force fields, cloning, genetic engineering, disintegration rays, a war through multiple dimensions, time warps, antigravity, and a secret underground kingdom that stretches from Bhutan almost to India. The US sends a team to explore the cavern, as do the Russians and Chinese, but the Chinese have tanks and lots of troops and weapons, which does them no good when a dozen or so Americans oppose their entry. A really terrible rationale by some hypocritical aliens, which turns out at the end to have been totally unnecessary.  8/12/21

Operation Thunderbolt by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1978 

A prominent scientist is on a plane that crashes near North Korea.  Everyone aboard is taken prisoner and the Death Merchant is sent to rescue them, or kill the scientist before he can leak secret information. As it turns out, the scientist was not on board, which makes the mission relatively meaningless. Nevertheless, our hero breaks them out of prison, steals a Russian airplane, flies them partway to freedom, lands, steals a tank and some armored personnel carriers, and then transports them across the DMZ, killing scores of enemy soldiers in the process. Not much of a plot this time. Actually, not much plot in any of the books in the series. 8/12/21

Black As He’s Painted by Ngaio Marsh, Pyramid,  1973  

A rather atypical Roderick Alleyn outing. He is charged with providing security for a visiting African head of state with whom he went to school years earlier. There is obviously a plot to assassinate him, but things are not as they seem. There is not much mystery about who the conspirators are, and they even end up killing some of their fellow plotters. The head of state proves to be smarter than anyone realized and he is really never in any danger. The identity of the chief plotter is mildly surprising, but this is more of a thriller than a mystery novel. 8/10/21

White Knight, Black Swan by David Gemmell, Gollancz, 2017 (originally published in 1993) 

Gemmell’s only crime novel originally appeared as by Ross Harding and apparently did very poorly. The protagonist collects money for a local crime boss, but he has a code of honor that causes him to intercede in a homophobic attack. This exacerbates tensions with his boss, who is under investigation for murder, and the two men become bitter enemies. Not particularly good, with no suspense and a disappointing conclusion. Gemmell used lots of very short paragraphs for this one, contrary to his usual style, perhaps as an experiment. 8/7/21

Suspects Nine by E.R. Punshon, Dean Street, 2017 (originally published in 1939) 

Not one of the better Bobby Owen mysteries. After his butler is shot to death, then stabbed after he was dead, a wealthy man insists that Owen be assigned as his bodyguard. There are multiple secret love affairs, multiple blackmail threats, and multiple disappearances. The motive is inadequate, and the explanation of the knife thrust is laughable. The characters are not differentiated until relatively late and the very lengthy summation of Owen’s thoughts is repetitive and unnecessary. 8/7/21

Nipponese Nightmare by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1978 w2512 

The Death Merchant is off to Japan. There he teams up with the Japanese secret service in order to stop a terrorist group from assassinating the emperor of Japan and the president of the Philippines. The terrorists consist of leftist radicals, North Korean agents, and a Japanese aristocrat who believes that Japan should never have surrendered in World War II. The usual over the top violence ensues, including the destruction of the North Korean embassy and the aristocrat’s remote castle fortress. 8/7/21

Tied Up in Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh, Pyramid, 1972    

An eccentric but rich man has hired only murderers as his servants – each of whom has served his sentence for his crime. There is a Christmas house party at which the guest of one of the servants mysteriously disappears during a pageant meant to mimic a pagan ritual. Inspector Alleyn’s wife is attending, and so is he by mid-book, though in his case it’s in a professional capacity. A poker with bloodstains has been found and there are indications of an attempted theft. Pretty good, though as is the case with many of Marsh’s novel, too much information is withheld until the final revelation, making it impossible to solve the problem before the protagonist does. 8/5/21

The Rising of the Moon by Gladys Mitchell, St Martins, 1984 (originally published in 1945)

This was the first Mrs. Bradley novel I have read, and it’s good enough to add about sixty titles to my wantlist. A small town is troubled by a series of brutal murders which may be connected to theft rather than a serial killer in the usual sense. The story is told from the point of view of two young brothers who investigate the crimes on their own, and uncover information the police have missed. I guessed the killer’s identity rather early but it didn’t matter much as the story itself is quite engaging and the two boys are well developed characters. 8/3/21

When in Rome by Ngaio Marsh, Berkley, 1971   

Roderick Alleyn is in Italy collaborating on an investigation into drug trafficking. He joins a tour group whose guide appears to be a distributor, but the man disappears during a tour. Was he killed by his ex-wife, by the author he was blackmailing, by the people buying drugs from him, or someone else entirely? I’m not sure what Marsh was trying to do here, but the result is a boring novel in which nothing happens and no mystery really appears until the closing chapters. I actually had to struggle to finish this one. This is a ghastly novel, not remotely interesting or involving, with very little plot and endless, pointless conversations. 8/3/21

Murder Abroad by E.R. Punshon, Dean Street, 2015 (originally published in 1939) 

Bobby Owen takes some time off to look into the murder of an English woman in a remote French village. There are rumors that she was having an affair with a much younger man and while the police have apparently concluded that it was suicide, they have not found the dead woman’s diamonds. Owen has lots of suspects – an unbalanced priest who is obsessed with building a new church, a school master who wants to found a leftwing newsletter, another priest who may have been defrocked, a couple of young toughs, one of whom is the supposed lover, an artist living nearby, a mysterious couple with a criminal past, and  a blind man who seems to know too much. There are four murders and three murderers before the story ends. A bit outside the usual pattern but still very good. 7/29/21

Firecrest by Victor Canning, Morrow, 1971

The protagonist works for a ruthless and illegal spy agency within the British government. He is tasked with finding out from an innocent woman where her late lover may have hidden an important discovery. The agency plans to kill her afterwards, rather than pay for the discovery, which she has inherited. The protagonist also believes that they killed his own fiancé years earlier because she had once had connections to the Russians and they did not wish to risk him being somehow compromised. 7/29/21

Killer Dolphin by Ngaio Marsh, Berkley, 1966 

Aka Death at the Dolphin. A glove that once belonged to Shakespeare is on display at a newly renovated theater. Someone tries to steal it and, through mischance, the watchman is killed and a young member of the cast is in serious condition after being thrown from the balcony. The glove is found, but a cursory examination indicates that it is a forgery and the real glove had already been stolen. This is all connected to a reclusive millionaire who owns the glove but whose motives are unclear. It turns out that he was being blackmailed. There is not enough information for the reader to figure out the killer except by guesswork, but the story is engaging. 7/27/21

Clutch of Constables by Ngaio Marsh, Jove, 1969 

Inspector Alleyn’s wife signs up for a river cruise, unaware that a serial killer has done likewise. A possibly lost painting by Constable shows up and then one of the passengers mysteriously disappeared. It’s no surprise when her body turns up in the river. Marsh’s time frame is a bit off in this one, because the cruise is relatively short, but the wife’s letters catch up to Alleyn, who is crisscrossing the US. He even arrives to solve the case before the cruise ends. Seven of the ten characters in the novel are involved in an art forgery plot and, indirectly, the murder so there is no way at all to figure out who the killer is. I didn’t like this one very much. 7/27/21

Murder Wears a Mantilla by Carter Brown, Signet, 1957

None But the Lethal Heart by Carter Brown, Signet, 1959

The Loving and the Dead by Carter Brown, Signet, 1959 

These are the first three Mavis Seidlitz mysteries I’ve read. The Al Wheeler novels are frequently silly. These are almost always silly. Seidlitz is a not very bright private investigator who is constantly stumbling into trouble. In the first, she is visiting Mexico when she meets a bullfighter. The two plan a little casual sex but she finds him murdered and is immediately the chief suspect. The police take her to her storage locker and when she opens it, another body falls out. Through luck and coincidence she solves the case without ending up dead or in jail herself.  Another inconvenient body shows up in the second title and she goes through various efforts – none of them successful – to dispose of the body. Eventually she has to figure out who the killer is to avoid getting into more trouble. This one was actually funny in patches, unlike the first. The final title involves a case where she is hired to pose as the wife of a very rich man, but there are certain people determined to annul the marriage, rather permanently, at her expense. She solves this case as well, once again more through luck than brains. The saving grace is that these are quite short and only take about half an hour to read. 7/26/21

The Great Canal Plot by G.H. Teed, Stillwoods, 2018 (originally published in 1939) w2668 

This is something of an oddity. It was originally a Sexton Blake novel, Bottom of Suez, but it was reprinted in hardcover. For copyright reasons, the Blake name could not be used so the hero becomes Grant Rushton and other minor adjustments were made. A group of villains want to reduce British influence in the Mediterranean and Far East, so they hatch a plot to sabotage the Suez Canal. Rushton becomes increasingly aware of the situation and eventually almost singlehandedly foils the conspiracy and prevents the British Empire from experiencing a major international setback. This was one of Teed’s best novels, which explains why it was reprinted. 

Crooks’ Vendetta by G.H. Teed, Stillwoods, 2018 (originally published in 1939) w2628 

The author is best known for his Sexton Blake stories, but this is a standalone novel, considerably longer, considerably less interesting. The plot concerns an international gang of kidnappers, who are being tracked by a number of investigators, and who ultimately are brought to justice. One of the good guys feels a lot like Sexton Blake, which is no surprise, although he is considerably less sophisticated. Teed was widely traveled so his settings feel authentic, but his story lacks real spirit.

The Mexican Hit by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1978  

The cartels and the communists combine forces and plot to overthrow the Mexican government, their revolution financed by drug sales to the US. The Death Merchant is sent down to kill the four top leaders in the organization, which will effectively decapitate it and cause the factions to drift apart. Lots of carnage follows, with Camellion killing a number of innocent Mexican policemen and later executing prisoners as an example to others.  The character has grown increasingly unlikable as the series progressed, and he also has peripheral love interests in most of them. At least the lectures are missing this time around. 7/24/21

The Surinam Affair by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1978 

The Soviets are using beams from a space station to influence the minds of individuals on Earth. An American satellite monitoring them crashes in Surinam and the Death Merchant is sent in to recover the filmed records that were made. He is particularly concerned because either the Russians or the Chinese had seized control before the crash and used it to gather information about American defenses. The Russians send paratroopers. 7/24/21

Comes a Stranger by E.R. Punshon, Dean Street, 2015 (originally published in 1938) 

A tourist claims to have looked through a library window and to have seen a dead body. One of the trustees is found shot to death a short distance away, but the descriptions don’t match. Another trustee is murdered the following day. The reclusive owner of the library insists that she once committed the perfect murder. Both murder weapons belonged to the library’s irritable administrator. An insipid secretary, a mystery man who will not reveal his identity, and the tourist – whose cousin disappeared after visiting the library ten years earlier – are all suspects. Bobby Owen is on the scene and after a long period of exasperation, he figures out what really happened. 7/23/21

Dead Water by Ngaio Marsh, Jove, 1963 

When an old friend of Roderick Alleyn inherits a small island that hosts a brook that supposedly causes miraculous cures, she begins to receive death threats because of her plans to squash the sensationalism, which has financially benefitted the residents. Undeterred she goes to the island and survives two attacks before another woman is murdered – perhaps a case of mistaken identity – and Alleyn arrives and takes charge of the investigation. A smaller cast of suspects than usual, which may be why I had no trouble figuring out who the killer was. There are not a lot of nice people in this one. 7/22/21

The Python Project by Victor Canning, 1967 

The third Rex Carver adventure starts with him looking for a rich woman’s missing brother. Nothing is ever that easy. The brother has kidnapped the son of the Prime Minister, and has attracted the attention of Soviet agents who want to turn the event to their own advantage, a swamp for imprisoned agents. Carver gets caught in the middle and is almost summarily executed by his own government – Canning had a jaded view of British Intelligence. Throw in a very large python, a sexy entertainer, a kidnapped secretary, a private eye who is not what he seems to be, and a few dead bodies, Stir well.  The Carver books are among my favorites of Canning’s large output. 7/2021

Hand in Glove by Ngaio Marsh, Pyramid, 1962 

A retired lawyer is lured into a deadfall and then crushed at a construction site. There are lots of people with motives, though they all seem petty. One does not wish to be exposed for having faked his ancestry. Another wants an advance on an inheritance to avoid having to take out a loan. Another is his ex-wife, who has taken her son’s side against his stepfather. A young couple fear that he might turn them over to the police for theft. The dead man’s sister is protective of the young woman she sort of adopted and does not want her to get into legal trouble. A butler is so upset by the dead man’s habits that he considers leaving his long time job. The killer was a bit of a surprise because the motive was so trivial that I didn’t think Marsh would use it. I was wrong. 7/19/21

The Enigma Project by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1977 

The Death Merchant is off to Mount Ararat after satellites pick up what appear to be ruins of Noah’s Ark. His actual mission is to take surveillance footage of Soviet Armenia. Naturally there are bandits with heavy weapons, plus villainous Armenian and Russian patrols, and about half of the book consists of firefights. The ruins are actually of an alien spaceship, which get destroyed in an avalanche toward the end of the story. By then the body count is well over a hundred. The surveillance footage is never actually taken. 7/19/21

A Royal Prisoner by Marcel Allain & Pierre Souvestre, 1918 

This is somewhat more focused than the previous Fantomas novels. The king of a small country is in Paris for a vacation and has brought some valuable jewels with him. Fantomas decides to acquire them and his arch-enemy, Inspector Juve, is determined to stop him. Although the story is entertaining enough, it does not appear that Juve remembers any of Fantomas’ tricks from the earlier novels, because he is duped in the same fashion on more than one occasion. 7/19.21

The Mitcham Murder Mystery by G.H. Teed, Stillwoods, 2019 (originally published in 1935) 

Teed did not write solely in the Sexton Blake universe. This is a fairly traditionally locked room murder mystery. The victim had three nephews, with whom he was at loggerheads, and they are suspected of the crime. They hire a private detective, who survives attempts on his own life, in order to identify the real killer and solve the puzzle. Very badly done. The villain is obvious from the outset and there are lots of things concealed from the reader that should not have been. 7/17/21

The Temple of Many Visions by G.H. Teed, Stillwoods, 2019 (originally published in 1927)

This was one of Teed’s best Sexton Blake adventures. He and Tinker are in China, seeking access to a remote temple supposed to house ancient documents. They are accosted by bandits who don’t want them to succeed, meet an oversized human guard, and finally get inside. There they discover that the monks have a technology in advance of the outside world, including remote viewing – the ability to see things at great distances without benefit of a camera. Technically this one is SF.  7/17/21

The Man Who Didn’t Fly by Margo Bennett, Poisoned Pen, 2021 (originally published in 1955)  

There’s an interesting premise in this mystery but I don’t think it was fully realized. Four men are scheduled to travel on a small chartered airplane which crashes at sea. None of the bodies are recovered. The problem is that only three of the passengers actually boarded the aircraft, and no one alive knows which man was missing. Was he done away with earlier? Did he take advantage of the accident to vanish? Did he put a bomb aboard either to facilitate his disappearance, or to kill someone else, or both? The police try to put the puzzle pieces together. 7/16/21

Sexton Blake: Allies edited by Mark Hodder, Rebellion, 2020 

Three Sexton Blake adventures, one of which – The Mystery of Walla Walla by G.H. Teed – I have already reviewed separately. 

The Case of the Seventh Key by W.W. Sayer, 1925 

This one is a very nicely told mystery/adventure in which someone picks the pocket of a man carrying the key to a box containing stolen gems. Blake does not do well in this one. He is various knocked out, poisoned, and tied to railroad tracks and has to be rescued by his protégé Tinker and a very competent British intelligence officer named Granite Grant. The chase takes them across Europe to Prague for an exciting, if somewhat brief, showdown. The writing is fine and does not age badly. 

Ghost Mobile by Gwyn Evans, 1931 

Sexton Blake veers into science fiction this time. A phantom truck has caused several fatal accidents on a dangerous stretch of road, after which it disappears completely, having made no sound at all. There are some really strangely drawn American gangsters seeking revenge against one of their kind who is transparently disguised as a local man.  A visiting American detective who carries two revolvers is similarly over the top. It’s all part of an overly complex plot to steal a shipment of bullion and it involves a radical new type of silent motor plus the ability to make objects invisible. The prose is not as good as in the previous title, and there is even an editor’s note to the effect that it badly needed editing. 7/15/21

Jungle Justice by G.H. Teed, Stillwoods, 2020 (originally published in 1930)

Roxane Harfield follows one of her arch enemies from Canada to Asia in her quest for vengeance. But this causes them both to cross the path of Sexton Blake, who sympathizes with her anger but who also is sworn to uphold the law. A fairly long novella that does a better than usual job of recreating the atmosphere of a place and time now lost in history. There is inevitably some jarring racism. About average for the author, although I do not care for his revenge cycles of related stories. 7/14/21

The Brute of Saigon by G.H. Teed, Stillwoods, 2020 (originally published in 1930) 

Sexton Blake almost meets his match in the jungles of Southeast Asia when he crosses paths once again with Roxane Harfield, who is embarked on a campaign of revenge against a group of men who have wronged her family and stolen their money. This is a short novella and despite the melodramatic events, one of the least interesting in the Blake series that I have encountered to date. There is only the faintest hint of sexual attraction between Blake and Harfield despite their frequent collaborative efforts. 7/14/21

Dictator’s Way by E.R. Punshon, Dean Street, 2015 (originally published in 1938) 

A somewhat atypical Bobby Owen mystery, with spies, action sequences, and our hero in jeopardy. The opening is a bit rough and never really explains how Owen is motivated to investigate a supposedly empty house, where naturally he finds a dead body. There are at least six people who may have had a motive to kill him, and as the investigation proceeds, there are multiple connections to the fictional country of Etruria, a fascist state. There is a second murder as well, but the two killers are not the same person and in fact are on opposite sides of the core issue. Owen walks into the middle of a major battle, is taken aboard a yacht by dissidents from Etruria, which is then followed by a larger ship full of loyalists who are determined to kill them all. There are rough spots in this one that I found less than convincing. 7/13/21

The Mystery of Walla Walla by G.H. Teed, Stillwoods, 2020 (originally published in 1913)

This is an okay Sexton Blake adventure set in Australia in which he is opposed by Yvonne Carter, a quasi-villain who appears in other installments. She is trying to bankrupt a corrupt rancher and the rancher hires Blake to stop illegal actions against his business interests. It all works out in the end with the villain getting his comeuppance while Carter and Blake agree to disagree about the tactics employed. 7/13/21

The Budapest Action by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1977 

More of the usual. Hungarian scientists are on the verge of creating a new hallucinatory gas which could affect entire cities and change the balance of power. The Russians are not aware of this initially, so both their agents and the Death Merchant are determined to either acquire or destroy the secret. This involves laying siege to an armored castle, part of which has been turned into a giant microwave oven. Gunfights dominate more than half of the book, and a good deal of the rest consists of historical facts about Hungary and diatribes against organized religion.  7/11/21

The Kronos Plot by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1977  

Soviet agents are using their Cuban puppets in a plot to wreck the Panama Canal. They plan to blow up two ships in the middle and render it unusable. Their pawns also include a rebel group fighting against the Panamanian dictatorship, although the author does not seem to upset with latter. Lots of the usual gun battles, tortures, elaborate deaths, captures, escapes, and double crosses as the Death Merchant does his stuff and derails the plot. 7/11/21

 7/11/2The Wooden Overcoat by Pamela Branch, Rue Morgue, 2006 (originally published in 1951) 

I don’t usually like mixtures of humor and mystery themes, but this one is great. Think Weekend at Bernie’s on steroids. The newest member of a club for wrongly acquitted murderers is himself killed on his very first night. His landlady thinks her husband did it, so she is determined to dispose of the body, even enlists the help of a friend. But nothing goes as planned and the body is still there. Later that day, it is joined by another and now the husband and others are also involved in trying to hide the bodies. And the club administrators have an idea what is going on and try to steal the bodies for purposes of their own.  Will bring a smile to your face. 7/10/21

The White Lady by Paul Halter, Locked Room International, 2021  

A rich man with a new and much younger wife begins to see a mysterious white lady in his house and elsewhere. Is she a harbinger of death? Is she real or a phantom? His children and their partners are all suspects because of the large inheritances involved. This was quite readable despite what is possibly the worst solution to a locked room puzzle ever. The rich man sees the figure enter a room from which there is no other exit, but there is no one inside when a search is made. How did she escape? The solution – he dreamed it. It never happened at all. This has to be the worst case of cheating I have ever encountered in a mystery novel. Shame on the author. 7/10/21

False Scent by Ngaio Marsh, Corgi, 1960 

An ageing stage actress has become prone to temper tantrums in recent years, and on her fiftieth birthday, she threatens to destroy the career of two of her friends, boasts about her infidelity to her long suffering husband, attempts to under the romance of her adopted son, and vows to fire her maid, who has been with her for decades. Not surprisingly she is dead before the day is over, and Inspector Alleyn solves the case before dawn. The fact that almost everyone is lying or withholding information does not make it any easier. The murder was committed by putting a dangerous insecticide into the victim’s perfume spray bottle. I thought the identity of the killer was obvious well before the halfway point. 7/9/21

The Hive by Gregg Olsen, Thomas & Mercer, 2021, $15.95, ISBN 978-1542016469

The detective protagonist is investigating the murder of a reporter whom, he learns, was writing an expose about a charismatic group of women who led a kind of communal life years earlier. His interest is quickened when he discovers that there was another murder more directly connected  to what is clearly a cult, and his further investigations understandably raise some concerns with people who would prefer that the past remain dead. And after two murders, another does not seem like an outrageous idea.  A fairly large cast of characters - some of them quite nicely drawn - complicate as well as illuminate the proceedings which involve a couple of surprise twists. It's always nice to find another entertaining writer, even if it does mean buying his backlist. 7/6/21

The Kondrashev Chase by Joseph Rosenberger, Pinnacle, 1977

A master spy has been uncovered in Russia and is trying to make it out of the communist bloc. The Death Merchant is sent to facilitate his escape, which requires him to kill a bunch of KGB agents, secret police from East Germany and Czechoslovakia, as well as a group of ex-Nazis who dominate part of the underground resistance. He eventually succeeds – no surprise – and they make their final escape by stealing a tank. There’s actually a bit of a plot to this one, mostly involving double agents and hidden agendas, but ultimately it ends up with a long description of bullets smashing noses and particles of brain tissue flying through the air. 7/5/21

Doomed to Devil’s Island by G.H. Teed, Stillwoods, 2020 (originally published in 1931)

Final installment in a story arc about Roxane, an ambiguous quasi-villain who was defrauded of the family fortune by a consortium of villains. In each installment, she tracks down and ruins one of the bad guys, not always by legal means. Sometimes she and Sexton Blake are allies and sometimes they are adversaries. This one is quite short but it brings the series to the end and comes as close as I’ve seen to actually providing Blake with some romantic encounters.  7/4/21

Shanghaied! by G.H. Teed, Stillwoods, 2020 (originally published in 1930)  

Still another Sexton Blake novella featuring Roxane Harfield. One of her enemies has decided that the previous exploits of Blake and Harfield, which sometimes bent the law, could be grounds for blackmailing them. Little does he know. There is a brief abduction at sea, hence the title, but the outcome is never in doubt as even at their darkest moment, the two protagonists are convinced that they will triumph. And since the writer is on their side, they inevitably do. 7/4/21

The Face on the Cutting Room Floor by Cameron McCabe, Picador, 2016 (originally published in 1937) 

The author of this classic mystery novel was a German refugee living in England who wrote several other books under his real name. A woman is murdered in the cutting room of a film studio and the protagonist is one of several suspects. He is forced to become a detective himself in order to find the real killer, and risks becoming a victim himself. Obviously he solves the puzzle.The prose is a bit stiff, but the author had just learned English at the time.   7/2/21

The Spoilt Kill by Mary Kelly, Poisoned Pen, 2021 (originally published in 1961)

The story in this one opens with the discovery of a body in a storage area at a large commercial kiln. At first it appears to be the consequence of industrial espionage gone awry, but as the investigation proceeds, more animosities and motives come to the surface. Although this is nicely plotted, I found the author’s prose to be awkward and her jumps in time and place made it very difficult to follow the story. In fact, sometimes individual scenes seemed almost incomprehensible. I liked the first book I read by her, but this one never really stirred my interest. 7/2/21

 

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