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The Penguin Pool Murder

(Hildegarde Withers #1)

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  364 ratings  ·  66 reviews
A dead stockbroker in a penguin tank leads Miss Withersto a shocking mystery

For the third graders at Jefferson School, a field trip is always a treat. But one day at the New York Aquarium, they get much more excitement than they bargained for. A pickpocket sprints past, stolen purse in hand, and is making his way to the exit when their teacher, the prim Hildegarde Withers,
ebook, 182 pages
Published May 14th 2013 by Road (first published 1931)
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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  364 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Ivonne Rovira
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of classic mysteries
Shelves: favorites
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a teacher myself; therefore, I am admittedly inclined to love the no-nonsense Miss Hildegarde Withers, a third-grade teacher at Jefferson School in New York City just months after the 1929 Stock Market Crash. However, you don't have to be a schoolteacher to fall in love with Miss Withers!

The novel begins with Miss Withers and her overly enthusiastic charges on a field trip at the New York Aquarium. While there, Miss Withers -- unflappable, clever, acerbic
Lisa Kucharski
Written in 1938, the murder mystery is solved by a grade school teacher and police inspector. There are so many rules broken that allow people to tamper with evidence, that it makes it difficult to read for the mind in 2011. You can't help reading it and thinking, you can't allow that Inspector!

The writing seems to play to the heart as much as to someone hoping to read a mystery story. I would say this falls under the category-- Romantic/Mystery writing typical of the 20's through 40's.

Jan C
I think I've seen the movie too many times. Amazing how close it stuck to the book.

I read the Rue Morgue Press reprint. Received it several years ago before it came out on Kindle. Originally published in 1931 and meant to take place shortly after the beginning of the Crash in '29.
In the edition I have there is a little blurb in front, after the Cast of Characters, about Stuart Palmer. Who knew that Miss Withers was partially based on Edna May Oliver, plus a librarian he had known. And he was fr
Feb 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, owned, mysteries

A fun Golden Age mystery, even if I did figure it out about halfway through.
Christine Cody
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book is like watching a 1930s classic film. Each character jumps from the page, particularly the main two, perfectly created and perfectly matched. Not surprisingly, the movie based on this book was a hugely popular hit in the early 30s.
I don't usually pick the murderer out of the gate, but I did in this one. Not a bad one, but SP is clearly still hitting his stride with Ms. Withers & co - it's not as smart or atmospheric as The Puzzle of the Red Stallion. I'll definitely keep going in the series, though! ...more
A fun, though somewhat dated, mystery, but still very enjoyable. It took me a while to warm up to the main character, Hildegarde Withers, mainly because I recalled the old movies in which she is played by Edna May Oliver. I had trouble squaring that image with the character in the book, where she is described as 39 years old—nowhere near as old as that actor was, nor quite as prim. In a later movie, Eve Arden played her and I found her much closer to how I envisioned Hildegarde, a teacher, who h ...more
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I stumbled upon this series after seeing one of the film adaptations, and at least based on the one book in the series I’ve read, I’m surprised this 1930s mystery series is not better remembered today.
Hildegard Withers, spinster teacher, is on a field trip with her students at the aquarium when she witnesses a murder. More preciously: She sees the body of a dead man drop into the penguin tank.

Smart, resourceful, and having an interest in mysteries, Hildegard is eager to help the police. What ma
Dec 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, so I ended up going down a google rabbit hole after Zasu Pitts (it started with a search about Von Stroheim's "Greed") and came across the series of films based on this series of books (Pitts took over the role from Edna Mae Oliver). Found the first in the series at the library and decided to try it. Lots of fun, taking place just a month after the Stock Market Crash. And I figured out who the murderer was within pages of their appearance in the book, but that didn't matter to me. Fun to r ...more
Aug 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dated but still an entertaining read - you can even watch the film on you tube if it takes your fancy. And Hildergarde is a most worthy sleuth.
Dec 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I’m sorry but I’m unable to separate the fact that I am reading a book from when the laws of this country was different.
Linda Dotson
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't put it down

This book was so well written, I felt immersed in the story and that these characters were real. Stuart Palmer drew a wonderful picture for me of Miss Withers and the Inspector. The plot was well thought out and executed with an exciting surprise ending. Great fun!
May 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The book where Palmer introduces his spinster schoolteacher sleuth Hildegarde Withers as well as Inspector Piper.

The plot concerns the murder of a stockbroker in a downtown aquarium and it's a blast following the investigation as the limited field of suspects and their possible motives are put under the microscope.

While the villain isn't that hard to spot, and I reckon most readers will have worked out who it is before the big reveal at the end, the time spent in the company of Miss Withers an
Jenn Estepp
Although I sussed out both the murderer and motive pretty easily, I still really enjoyed this entry. It's the first in the series and I liked the main characters - a spinster school teacher and a very indulgent cop - quite a bit. Will definitely read more in the series. ...more
Debbie Zapata
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saturdaymx
Someitmes I can figure out whodunnit, but not this time...I was as surprised as all the characters were. Great read!!
Whistlers Mom
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A legend is born.

Even if you're an avid reader of old mysteries, you've probably never heard of Stuart Palmer. I hadn't until the miracle of e-publishing introduced me to his books. And yet, in the 1930's , 40's, and 50's, Palmer was a best-selling author. What put him on the map was his schoolteacher/sleuth Miss Hildegarde Withers.

Palmer swore that he intended Hildegarde Withers to be a minor comic character but she got away from him and took over the book. Lucky for him since "The Penguin Pool
Jan 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
That was darb! Welcome to the Hildegarde Withers mysteries. Withers is an intelligent, no-nonsense school teacher with a desire for some action and likes some romance in New York shortly after the depression starts. When she gets pulled into a murder she quickly takes advantage of it (to experience some of the action she always wanted) to help the police during the investigation. She is not happy that the police seem to be settling for the most obvious culprits and determined to continue the inv ...more
John Frankham
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-detective
The first, from 1931, of a series involving the 39yo spinster teacher, Hildegarde Withers, and the policeman, Insp Piper.

A terrific beginning, a startling dénouement (I, unlike most reviewers here, didn’t guess ‘whodunnit’). Rather an overwordy and static middle, reminiscent of early Ellery Queen mysteries.

Enjoyable rather than anything higher.

The GR blurb:

‘ For the third graders at Jefferson School, a field trip is always a treat. But one day at the New York Aquarium, they get much more excitem
Book collector
Jan 23, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
This is probably closer to 3.5 stars really but as I had a migraine for a day and a half just after starting it I do find myself wondering if it's affected my enjoyment of the book. The book is decently written and the characters are fine. Remember though that this book was published in 1931. So attitudes, language and style are naturally of the time. I say that as I've seen reviews elsewhere that seem to think this book was set in the early 30's rather than written in the early 30's. My biggest ...more
Thomas E Baldovin
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Light breezy mystery

This mystery, which takes place in 1930, reads like the mystery movies of the thirties -- lots of action and tough talking. Spinster Hildegarde Withers is an amateur sleuth, but not so clever or composed as her literary contemporary, Jane Marple. The book has humor and interesting characters. Curiously, the police seem to have little regard for search warrants or warning suspects before they speak. Miranda is years in the future, but I do still wonder about the police conduct
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, mystery
Early Bird Book Deal | I got bored waiting for them to figure out the obvious killer, and none of the dialogue was realistic | By the time the trial came around I was skimming big time, because it was a lot of unnecessary repetition when the killer had been waving a flag saying "it was me!" from the start. This is not how people talk, it's not how people respond to events, and it's not how the law works. I will, though, try the next book because I already have it and because authors often improv ...more
Amanda Allen
3.5 stars. Miss Withers uses her class to hunt down who sold a key clue. The fact that a MAN wrote about a female sleuth, in the early 1930s. Perfect. She's single, middle-aged, and clever. And I love her.

The detective is pretty dang uneven. The audio book reader reads one of the characters supppper irritating, but thankfully that character isn't on the scene super often. I have high hopes for the rest of this series, but I did enjoy it in general, especially with the clever ways they have to f
Bryn (Plus Others)
I was expecting to really enjoy this, based on a review I'd read of the 1930s movie that was made of the book, but I think the movie improved on the source material. Palmer's book is fine, but there is a lot of his female lead explaining how she is only a woman and thus doesn't understand the detective's plans and plots, and I thought the murderer was incredibly obvious. Not a terrible book, but it does not have the things that I read 1930s mysteries for. ...more
Mar 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, audio-book
Maiden Lady Sleuths are a fun trope for me. Written in the 1930s, this is fixed in that time and place. And old battle axe teacher, a confirmed bachelor cigar chewing detective, and a puzzling murder. I liked this. I'm going to listen to the second one, since I already have it and then I think I'm done! ...more
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful mystery

A witty, fun, mystery with an old maid school teacher and her sharp tongue pitting wits with a police detective. Witty banter and one liners abound to add fun to a great mystery. Can you solve the crime? The clues are there.
Apr 05, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
There’s a lot about this that didn’t age well at all. Casual racism and sexism. Broadly drawn, stereotype characters. I can say that I didn’t see the solution coming, and I am pleased there was a lady sleuth but.... meh
Susan Willis
Really a 3.5. The later books in this series are much better on my opinion. It was good to see how it started though.
Sg.00 macc
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hoopla, library-ebook
Light & bright mystery, but I must admit - I liked the movie better!
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining mystery with a humorous voice.
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mystery from the thirties set right after the stock market crash featuring a female detective. Dated. but fun to see nascent emergence of a woman in a previously all man's world. ...more
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Stuart Palmer (1905–1968) was an American author of mysteries. Born in Baraboo, Wisconsin, Palmer worked a number of odd jobs—including apple picking, journalism, and copywriting—before publishing his first novel, the crime drama Ace of Jades, in 1931. It was with his second novel, however, that he established his writing career: The Penguin Pool Murder introduced Hildegarde Withers, a schoolmarm ...more

Other books in the series

Hildegarde Withers (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • Murder on Wheels (The Hildegarde Withers Mysteries)
  • Murder on the Blackboard (Hildegarde Withers #3)
  • The Puzzle of the Pepper Tree (Hildegarde Withers #4)
  • The Puzzle of the Silver Persian (The Hildegarde Withers Mysteries, #5)
  • The Puzzle of the Red Stallion (Hildegarde Withers #6)
  • The Puzzle of the Blue Banderilla (Hildegarde Withers #7)
  • The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan (Hildegarde Withers #8)
  • Miss Withers Regrets (Hildegarde Withers #9)
  • Four Lost Ladies (Hildegarde Withers #10)
  • The Green Ace (Hildegarde Withers #11)

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