Superintendent Richard Jury meets Tom Williamson, a friend of a friend, at the Vertigo 42--a swanky bar on the 42nd floor of a building in London's buSuperintendent Richard Jury meets Tom Williamson, a friend of a friend, at the Vertigo 42--a swanky bar on the 42nd floor of a building in London's business district. Williamson has never accepted the general belief that his wife's death seventeen years ago was an accident resulting from her vertigo. He firmly believes she was murdered and wants Jury to take a look at the case, which was brought in as an open verdict. Jury's colleague Brian Macalvie was the officer in charge of the case and he never believed in accident or suicide either, but he was also unable to find firm evidence otherwise. He turns copies of the case files over to Jury and the Superintendent and Sergeant Wiggins begin sifting through the details. The further they dig the more convinced Jury becomes that Tom's wifes death is connected to a previous death at the Williamson house. Five years prior to Tess's plunge down the garden stairs a nine-year old girl died in an apparent accident while at the Williamson's place for a children's party--she was found dead at the bottom of an unused pool. Tess was first on the scene and she never escaped the stigma of blame--either direct blame for the child's death or a charge of simple neglect for not ensuring the safety of those under her care.
Meanwhile, Melrose Plant and his happy band of friends are interested in a local death of their own. A young woman has fallen from a tower--dressed to the nines in a designer dress and four-inch heels. Again, the probability of accident or suicide is slim and the question was she pushed lingers. There's also a little matter of a stray dog named Stanley to sort out. When the identity of the woman reveals a connection to the Williamson case, Jury and Wiggins find themselves following up clues in London and in Devon and in the British countryside and they will have to get to the bottom of three other deaths in order to make sense of Tess Williamson's.
To read a Martha Grimes mystery is to step into a world filled with quirky characters and twisty plots. And a thoroughly enjoyable world it is too. It's been quite some time since I visited with Richard Jury, Melrose Plant, Carol-Anne, Aunt Agatha, Ruthven, Marshall Trueblood and all the rest of Jury & Plant's entourage. I had a good time settling in with them again and sorting through all the clues and references to the Hitchcock movie and trying to decide which ones were really pointing to the killer. It produces an interesting motive for murder that I'm not sure I'm sold on--but Jury and company provide good solid entertainment and make things interesting enough that I'm willing to accept it.
According to Classic Crime Fiction, Death of a Dwarf is the fifth in a mystery series by Harold Kemp which features Detective Inspector Jimmy Brent anAccording to Classic Crime Fiction, Death of a Dwarf is the fifth in a mystery series by Harold Kemp which features Detective Inspector Jimmy Brent and his team of sleuths. Like me, the folks at CCF have found very little information about Kemp out on the interwebs. If anyone has any information beyond his birth year (1896) and short bibliography (seven titles in all), I'd love to hear about it.
Kemp's story, as you might guess, revolves around the late-night murder of a dwarf along the road in the village of Castle Ascombe. The trouble is there is nothing to identify him--not a scrap in his pockets. No one admits to recognizing the man and, given the aroma of whiskey that surrounds the body, he is taken for a wandering drunk who wandered too far into the path of one of the few motor vehicles to travel that way. But Sergeant Mason, the local officer, isn't too sure and he reports to his Division Headquarters where plans are made for Detective Inspector Jimmy Brent to make a run to the country for a look-see.
Before Brent can make his trip to Castle Ascombe, however, somebody (or bodies) relieves Mason of his corpse, leaving nothing but the man's hat behind. Who would want to steal a murdered man? And why was he in Castle Ascombe anyway? Inspector Brent is quite sure that somebody know the answer to that little question.
Then the vicar starts acting weird--hiding under hedges and telling unnecessary lies. The doctor plays hard of hearing and avoids answering questions. And instead of pussy down the well, we have policemen down there. The lord of the manor would like to believe that everything is all sewn up when it looks like a naturalized Polish citizen has hanged himself after Inspector Brent questioned him once too often. But, again, the officers aren't ready to buy the easy answer. Someone would like them to...but then justice wouldn't be served. And that's what Jimmy Brent gets paid to do.
I had never heard of Harold Kemp before I walked into Half-Price Books on a day that they were holding a bargain price sale (so much percent-off). There on the Nostalgia shelf sat a pristine little hardback with dust jacket and all--even at HPB's normally low price, I probably would have passed Kemp up because it was still a bit out of my price range and a totally unknown author. But with a rather hefty percent off, I couldn't resist. I'm not sure whether I should be glad or not. The story is quite good with a standard motive given a nice little twist. Fairly clued--it's certainly not Kemp's fault that I completely forgot a little tidbit that he prominently displayed for me back in the early chapters. Likeable characters--the interactions between Jimmy Brent and his superiors, colleagues, and underlings are delightful and supporting characters from the village are just as good (save for a few suspects...but then we're not supposed to like them). There's even a knowing little old lady calmly knitting in her little apartment--but none appear to be stock characters used purely for effect. Finely drawn surroundings--nice country village and there's even (see the cover) a menacing castle with ruins. My uncertainty lies in the fact that I'm quite sure that future installments of Brent and company are going to be rather difficult to come by (unless I want to break down and search for him through internet sellers). ★★★★ for an excellent, serendipitous find.
To be able to tell when a man is lying is one of the most difficult parts of my job. (p. 205)
And Inspector MacDonald of Scotland Yard proves most adepTo be able to tell when a man is lying is one of the most difficult parts of my job. (p. 205)
And Inspector MacDonald of Scotland Yard proves most adept at sifting the lies from the truth in the The Case of Colonel Marchand by E. C. R. Lorac. Macdonald is called in when the Colonel is found dead in his well-appointed drawing room after he has entertained a beautiful young woman at an elaborate tea. The Colonel is well known for his weakness for women, but no one in his household will admit to knowing who his latest conquest was. And the copper-haired lady has disappeared. Even after she is found, questions remain about what really happened at the Colonel's tea party.
Nearly all of the Colonel's servants and associates arouse Macdonald's suspicions--from the butler and three menservants who played bridge below stairs while waiting for the bell to sound to the chauffeur who had no business going upstairs at all to the secretary who got more and more tangled in his lies to the out-of-favor nephew (who also happens to be the heir) to unknown young man who had tried to weasel money out of the old man to the lawyer who seemed determined to make Macdonald suspect the nephew. Each of them provide Macdonald with a piece of the puzzle--whether they intend to or not. There don't seem to be a lot of physical clues, but the Inspector makes the most of what there are: the missing pearls which had belonged to the Colonel's mother, the empty Cartier box lying on the tea table, a metal tube found in the cushions of a chair, and the remains of cat.
Unfortunately, unless I provide you all with a huge spoiler, I can't tell you why I love this one so much. Let's just say that Lorac (aka Edith Caroline Rivett) makes good use of a standard mystery trope and pulls it off with aplomb and fair play. She displays the clues for the reader and, really, as a long-time reader of Golden Age mysteries, I'm well enough acquainted with the customs of the times that I should have recognized the primary clues paraded under my nose. But I didn't--and that makes it all the more fun. I thoroughly enjoyed Macdonald's investigations into the amorous Colonel's life and the Inspector's interactions with various peripheral characters. Nicely plotted. A highly recommended entry in Lorac's mystery offerings.
I was so very pleased when the offer of a paperback review copy for Deborah Crombie's latest mystery came up from my friends at Partners in Crime VirtI was so very pleased when the offer of a paperback review copy for Deborah Crombie's latest mystery came up from my friends at Partners in Crime Virtual Tours. It had been a while since I had last visited with Detective Superintendent Duncan Kinkaid and Detective Inspector Gemma James. I have to confess that I haven't read every single entry in the series, but such is Crombie's writing that I was able to slip into the story with very little trouble--yes, the kids are a bit older and there is a new foster daughter added to the mix but not being up to speed on the family life did not detract from the reading experience at all. As I've mentioned in previous reviews of Crombie's novels, there is no doubt that she can write. And can write is such a way that will draw the reader in and not let her go until the last word has been read. One of her strengths is her descriptions of people and place--and particularly the relationships between people. Watching Kinkaid interact with his foster daughter as well his friends is delightful. And seeing Gemma's interactions with her team was interesting as well. I also appreciate the way she handles her continuing characters--there are enough real-life changes to make the characters believable without major catastrophes and shocks that might cause too much upheaval.
The mystery itself is satisfying with ties to the past and several suspects that must be investigated. I enjoyed following up the leads along side Gemma and her team (and Duncan in the background). My two small quibbles--1. everybody seemed to have connections to everyone else (even Gemma and Duncan have connections to some of the suspects) and 2. The cliffhanger at the end...there were teeny (tiny, really tiny) indications that something was in the air, but, really, to leave it like that? That's one way to make sure I'll read the next one...and I will, trust me, I will.
The Kincaid and James series is recommended reading for anyone who likes cozy police procedurals and mysteries with recurring characters that you learn to like and enjoy watching the relationships grow. 3.75 stars--rounded up to 4 on GoodReads.
This book was given to me through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. I have received no payment of any kind for my review. This review was first written for my virtual tour post on my blog ...more
A Curtain Falls is a stronger book than Stefanie Pintoff's debut in the Simon Ziele series. It takes us back to New York City in the earliest days ofA Curtain Falls is a stronger book than Stefanie Pintoff's debut in the Simon Ziele series. It takes us back to New York City in the earliest days of the Twentieth Century. It's a time when Charles Frohman, a historical figure who appears in the book, rules the theater world with an iron hand. If actors and actresses want to make a life in the business, they had better keep their reputations clean and abide by his rules. But somebody doesn't want the theater to be so tidily kept out of the gutter press.
To begin, a chorus girl is found dead on one of Frohman's stages (his syndicate owns a large number of the theaters in the City)--she is dressed in the part of the current leading lady and left dead without a mark on her. A bizarre note is found beside her and the coroner is ready to call it a suicide until Frohman's assistant reveals that this is the second chorus girl found dead in these circumstances. Captain Declan Mulvaney calls upon his former partner, Detective Simon Ziele, to assist him with this tricky case.
Tricky not only because of the pressure that an influential man like Frohman can bring to bear, but because the methods of the murderer and his notes to the police and then to the press reveal that they are up against a fiendishly clever villain. Ziele insists on bringing in Columbine University criminologist Alistair Sinclair, a man with connections to the theater and with unusual methods of investigation--perhaps unusual enough to help them understand the fiendish methods employed.
Before Ziele and Sinclair can complete their investigations, however, Mulvaney is pressured to arrest a man from the theater. Ziele believes the man to be innocent and discovers a way in which the actor could have been framed. But with no hard evidence to show Mulvaney, he decides to set a trap catch the killer before he can pull off a grand finale to his performance. Will Ziele be able to bring the curtain down in time? Or will he find himself cast as one of the expendable players in the killers production?
I thoroughly enjoyed my little trip to New York City in 1906. Pintoff does an excellent job with historic detail and giving the reader the feeling of stepping into a time machine to visit the past. The premise is interesting--using the story of Pygmalion as a theme for murderer was quite good. Her weakness is misdirection. I knew quite early who the killer was--but as with her first book, she did provide a final twist that meant I didn't quite get everything right. The plotting was a bit tighter in her second book and pushes the rating to★★★ and a half rather than the just over three that In the Shadow of Gotham earned from me.
Dine and Be Dead, originally published as Death Lives Next Door (1960), is the sixth mystery in Gwendoline Butler's John Coffin series--but it takes tDine and Be Dead, originally published as Death Lives Next Door (1960), is the sixth mystery in Gwendoline Butler's John Coffin series--but it takes the reader back in time to Inspector Coffin's first case. It also takes us to the highly academic setting of Oxford for a little murder and psychological drama among the dons. The story centers on Marion Manning, an Oxford scholar who has been successful in more than one field--most recently anthropology, which she gave up after the unexpected death of her husband. Also central to the plot are her spiteful charwoman, Joyo Beaufort, and her friends Ezra Barton (a ``perpetual scholar''), his girlfriend Rachel (who comes from a family of dotty academics), and her gossipy neighbor, Major Nickols.
The action begins when "The Watcher" as Dr. Manning calls him shows up. He doesn't approach her; he doesn't ever do anything overtly threatening. He's just always there. Standing outside her house...watching. Appearing at her lectures...watching. Following her to the train station...watching. Ezra and Rachel tell her she should report him to the police, but she says they'll only think her a silly woman. Because the man hasn't done anything. Then he gets inside her house and there's a death. Only it isn't Dr. Manning who dies...but the man. Dr. Manning insists that she didn't stab him in the back with a knife and that no one else had been in her house. If she didn't kill him, then who did? And who was this mystery man who was dogging her every step?
Enter Inspector Coffin who is hunting for a missing person who finds that his search is somehow tied to Marion Manning's problem. When various people close to Dr. Manning are hospitalized for poisoning, he begins to wonder what forces are at work in the scholarly community. The attacks seem to be aimed at Dr. Manning, will Coffin be able to unravel the mystery and save her....and her friends?
This is an odd little book. It wins points with me for the unexpected academic ties (I bought this one blind--it had no dust jacket and I grabbed it up because it was a U.S. first edition of an author I was familiar with). There are some apt descriptions of the scholarly life and we all know how I love mysteries with an academic twist to them. But the academic points don't quite balance out the odd psychological feel of the book. The first half to two-thirds (without Coffin, I might add) are pretty dismal and full of a sense of impending doom. We all know that something is going to happen to Dr. Manning--but what? And then when it does, it's kind of anti-climatic because it doesn't actually happen to her. The final psychological twist is a bit of a let-down as well. Most likely because I've already read the classic rendering of this particular twist by....well, I can't tell you because that would give it all away. Let me just say that author X used it in such a masterful way that anyone else is bound to seem second-rate in comparison. I will give Butler kudos for keeping the possibility of the twist hidden as long as she did--the twist itself was a surprise to me even if not used to full effect. The other drawback, in my opinion, is that Coffin doesn't show up until the book is nearly two-thirds done. Knowing that this was supposed to be an Inspector Coffin case, I kept waiting for him to appear. ★★ for the academic connection, as well as for interesting characters and relationships.
It's Vintage Mystery Sunday and time to step into my vault of classic mysteries and choose one to feature that I read and loved before blogging took oIt's Vintage Mystery Sunday and time to step into my vault of classic mysteries and choose one to feature that I read and loved before blogging took over my life and I began reviewing everything I read. This week's featured book is The Silver Leopard by Helen Reilly. Reilly's career reached from 1930-1962. She was one of the first authors to feature police procedure in her work and she based her novels on research she had done on the New York homicide squad. Inspector Christopher McKee is her central detective and she shows him at work with a full complement of supporting officers--from fingerprint men to detectives ordered to shadow suspects. The Silver Leopard leans a little more towards the suspenseful Had I But Known school of her later works, but McKee still has a major role.
In this mystery Inspector McKee faces a knotty problem involving the members and friends of one of New York's oldest and most prosperous families. They are all privileged, suave, and used to getting their own way. At the center is Catherine Lister whose uncle passed away several years ago, but who still has ties to her Aunt and two cousins. Aunt Angela announces that she plans to remarry--her intended is an old family friend, the famous portrait painter Michael Nye. Catherine is then summoned to Nye's studio where she walks into a situation destined to make her the prime suspect in Nye's murder. The door is on the latch and there is a trail of clues leading straight to her and the silver leopard statue that Catherine's uncle had sent to her just before his death. When McKee becomes involved, his investigation will lead from downtown NYC to an old, run-down country inn and a lonely house in another state. The District Attorney begins to pressure him to arrest Catherine, and McKee has to walk the tightrope between keeping the girl's freedom and protecting her from the danger of her own death.
There is a lot of suspense in this one...and a definite atmosphere intended to imply that if Catherine had just paid attention to a few details then she might have known that someone would be desperate enough to at least frame her for murder if not murder her as well. But this is all nicely balanced with the clear, well written police procedure scenes with McKee. McKee follows the book, but also allows his compassion and humanity to see through to the real culprit.