Arthur Conan Doyle published these short stories later in his career. Half are tales of terror, and the other half are mysteries. It seems that DoyleArthur Conan Doyle published these short stories later in his career. Half are tales of terror, and the other half are mysteries. It seems that Doyle is much more comfortable with the mysteries, particularly the two relating to railroads: "The Lost Special" and "The Man with the Watches."
The more novels by Georges Simenon I read, the more impressed I am by him. Lock No. 1 is a small masterpiece. As I have written in previous reviews ofThe more novels by Georges Simenon I read, the more impressed I am by him. Lock No. 1 is a small masterpiece. As I have written in previous reviews of Simenon's Inspector Maigret stories, what we have are not the Anglo-American emphasis on ratiocination a la Edgar Allan Poe, but something more instinctive. It is as if the crime or crimes being investigated ferment like a batch of yeast and begin to take shape so that Maigret feels confident enough to step in and take charge. Until that time, he watches the fermented mass grow, drinking beers and aperitifs and constantly refilling his pipe.
Lock No. 1 is set near Charenton, in the southeastern suburbs of Paris and along the Seine. The scene is confined to two bars, a dance hall, a couple of houses -- and of course, the river. In the end, one man is stabbed and left to drown (though he recovers); and three men are hanged. The man who is rescued from stabbing is Ducrau, a wealthy owner of barges, quarries, and other businesses along the river. Maigret intuits that he is the fulcrum around which the other crimes depend. He fends off an offer of a job from Ducrau, but keeps close to his man, watching his every move. And Ducrau puts on quite a show.
There is a deadline to solving these crimes, because Maigret is set to retire on the Wednesday following -- a fact that Ducrau knows. (As there were many Maigret novels to follow, the retirement is obviously not permanent.) But he doesn't get edgy in the slightest. Just as the deadline strikes, Ducrau comes clean.
This novel was originally published in 1933. The Maigret novels that I particularly like are from around this period. They are better than mere mysteries: I think they cross over into literature. I would have no hesitation about recommending Simenon, both his Maigrets and his romans durs (what he calls his non-Maigret novels), to a class in 20th century European literature....more
Michael Connelly has developed the same skill of maneuvering through complex byways of character that marked the work of Ross Macdonald. The Poet intrMichael Connelly has developed the same skill of maneuvering through complex byways of character that marked the work of Ross Macdonald. The Poet introduces the killer rather early on in the book; but then something happened that faked me out. When the person I thought was the killer is gunned down, there were still a hundred or so pages to go. That's a lot of pages for a straight dénouement.
It wasn't a dénouement however. There was another wrinkle, which Connelly handled beautifully. I rather like being faked out by a mystery writer. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." (Hamlet, I:5.167-8)
What makes this a particularly complex plot is that the murders appear in sets of two: first a child or someone who dealt with children professionally, and then the homicide detective who appears to become morose at not solving the first murder -- and then appears to commit suicide. That's where newspaper reporter Jack McEvoy comes into the picture: His twin brother Sean is one of the homicide detectives who commit "suicide."
Much of the book is involved with FBI procedures, which are interesting -- especially to someone like me who is not favorably disposed toward the organization. I keep thinking of J. Edgar Hoover in a red ball gown.
It seems I am on an inexorable course to read all of Connelly's books. This is the tenth I have approached, and there is not a stinker in he bunch....more
At one point, an alternative title for this book appears in the movie: Chili Palmer's Adventures in Hollywood, and that would be have been appropriateAt one point, an alternative title for this book appears in the movie: Chili Palmer's Adventures in Hollywood, and that would be have been appropriate. I loved his book because I loved the character of Chili Palmer, the worldly-wise loan shark from back East who fit in so well with the crazed world of Hollywood.
Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard is all about Chili, who originally comes out west after a dry cleaning shop owner gets wealthy by not being in a famous plane crash, though his luggage was. He left for Vegas leaving loan shark debts piling up, and Chili Palmer in hot pursuit. He catches up with him, and also drops in on a movie producer called Harry Zimm and his attractive ex-starlet mistress Karen. That's when Chili begins to see dollar signs, and the various Hollywood types have a hard time knowing what to make of him.
Along the way, there is great dialog in which the author gets back at Hollywood and all the abortive attempts to make good films out of his novels. And there is some very sophisticated humor, especially regarding a locker at the Delta Airlines Terminal at LAX containing $175,000 in drug money. ...more
As time goes on, I see myself more and more as a resident of Thomas Pynchon's Gordita Beach. After living for some fifty years within one to three milAs time goes on, I see myself more and more as a resident of Thomas Pynchon's Gordita Beach. After living for some fifty years within one to three miles of Santa Monica Bay, I am familiar, even comfortable, with much of the local vibe. And Inherent Vice is almost an encyclopedia of that vibe.
The rather intricate plot regards the private detective named Doc Sportello, who is requested by his ex-girlfriend Shasta, to locate the missing real estate developer, Mickey Wolfmann. It is 1970, and Charles Manson and his followers are about to go on trial.
This is my third Pynchon, so I know I must not be too anal about following the plot and characters, which tend to wander off in all directions -- though not without a measure of sheer fun. I kept running into places and people I knew, such as D/Jack Frost, a former military surplus store on Santa Monica Boulevard; Maulana Ron Karenga, inventor of Kwanzaa; and a sinister Ojai rehab center called here the Chryskylodon Institute.
At one point, the LAPD officer Bigfoot Bjornsen observes:
It's like there's this evil subgod who rules over Southern California? who off and on will wake from his slumber and allow the dark forces that are always lying there just out of the sunlight to come forth?
I've seen this "evil subgod" at work in 1971 (the Sylmar Earthquake) and 1994 (the Northridge Earthquake) enough to know that the place where I live is under some kind of weird curse. (Oh, hell, I'd still rather live here than in Cleveland.)
As a devoted reader of literary classics, I know I will have a devil of a time fitting Pynchon into any sort of Pantheon in which he is not the sole occupier. Nonetheless, I will continue to read and enjoy him. ...more
There is something about Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer mysteries that reminds me of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels about Napoleonic War sea batThere is something about Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer mysteries that reminds me of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels about Napoleonic War sea battles. The Aubrey/Maturin novels came to be so successful that O'Brian had to stretch the timing of the battles, which took place all around the Seven Seas, such that some of them had to take place in an alternative universe, given the time constraints.
In a similar way, Macdonald's Lew Archer is so busy that the days he spends on his cases are almost impossibly eventful. In The Chill, he flies to Reno and Bridgeton, Illinois, in search of evidence. Then, when he returns to "Pacific Point," California, the story points come down fast, like popcorn furiously popping.
So while I recognize the impossibility of Mr. Archer being so impossibly busy, I admire the way he navigates through seemingly insurmountable complexities in arriving at the conclusion. It's really quite a ballet.
His characters lead such mixed-up lives, that what starts out as a missing bride ends up as three murder cases wrongly attributable to any number of people. Fortunately, it all seems to work out....more
Michael Connelly tries something dangerous with A Darkness More Than Night: He has two heroes -- Harry Bosch and Terry McCaleb (of Blood Work) -- andMichael Connelly tries something dangerous with A Darkness More Than Night: He has two heroes -- Harry Bosch and Terry McCaleb (of Blood Work) -- and several crimes involving erotic self-strangulation, one of men and the other of women. He performs something of a miracle tying all the disparate strings together.
Featured is a high profile trial in which a Hollywood director attempts to get away with murder by impugning the motives and behavior of the LAPD. Fortunately, it all comes together with an audible click....more
A civil rights attorney in the mold of Johnny Cochrane is found shot to death on the funicular connecting LA's Bunker Hill with Hill Street. The murdeA civil rights attorney in the mold of Johnny Cochrane is found shot to death on the funicular connecting LA's Bunker Hill with Hill Street. The murder case becomes politically charged and leads to riots and arson (as with the Rodney King beating that took place a few years earlier). Harry Bosch walks a narrow path to solving the case as the city threatens to erupt in racial violence....more
In this novel, mystery writer Michael Connelly introduces retired FBI agent Terry McCaleb, who is recovering from a heart transplant operation. When hIn this novel, mystery writer Michael Connelly introduces retired FBI agent Terry McCaleb, who is recovering from a heart transplant operation. When h is approached by the sister of the organ donor to find her killer, McCaleb is torn between the need to heal and the need to pay back a beautiful young murder victim for giving him the gift of life....more
I am on new ground here. Although I read The Drowning Pool many years ago, what I knew then about Ross Macdonald, I have forgotten. The Zebra-StripedI am on new ground here. Although I read The Drowning Pool many years ago, what I knew then about Ross Macdonald, I have forgotten. The Zebra-Striped Hearse is an intricately plotted novel about a whole series of interconnected murders. Until half the book is finished, the suspect is one man, a painter variously named Simpson, Damis, or Campion -- and then the suspicion starts shifting all over the place. Before you've finished the novel you will have reason to suspect everyone, maybe even Detective Lew Archer.
Part of this shifting scene of suspicion is mirrored by the fact that, within the space of a week, Archer travels from Mexico to Tahoe to San Francisco and back again in search of evidence that seems to become increasingly fungible.
I think I will enjoy reading more of MacDOnald's Lew Archer novels. ...more
Harbor Nocturne by Joseph Wambaugh belongs to the Hollywood Cop series begun with Hollywood Station. It's an ensemble novel with cop characters that aHarbor Nocturne by Joseph Wambaugh belongs to the Hollywood Cop series begun with Hollywood Station. It's an ensemble novel with cop characters that appear in several novels of the series: Only the victims, stooges, and perpetrators change.
Some of the action in Harbor Nocturne takes place in Hollywood, but as much takes place in San Pedro, aka "Fishtown," the Port of Los Angeles, which used to be the fishing port once upon a time.
Here we have smuggling Asian immigrants in shipping containers, white slavery via strip clubs that encourage prostitution, and a mix of Russian, Serbian, and Korean bad guys that lease their cars and houses and have no clearly defined economic relationships that would enable the police to get a handle on them.
Dinko Babich, a Croatian-American shipping crane operator, falls in love with Lita Medina, a nineteen-year-old stripper and prostitute on the run. She is on the run because she saw something she shouldn't have, so the villains are after her.
Although the plot is a little creaky, it doesn't matter as much here because of the broad humor of the Hollywood Station and what they find on the streets of Hollyweird. It's still worth reading, though....more
This early roman dur by Georges Simenon is about a loner suspected by the neighborhood of a rape/murder -- which in fact he did not actually commit. HThis early roman dur by Georges Simenon is about a loner suspected by the neighborhood of a rape/murder -- which in fact he did not actually commit. His background in mail order pornography and a prison term for exposing himself in public make the police think otherwise. M. Hire is uncomfortable around women, though he has the beginnings of a sick relationship with Alice, the redhead who works at the dairy, and through whose window he likes to peep.
The title of Mr Hire's Engagement could refer to the police, who are watching him and about to close in on him, or the neighborhood, which wants to get to him before the police do. We all know people like M. Hire: We are vaguely repelled by them and like to imagine gruesome sex crimes that they may or may not commit. ...more
It seems like I am entering a period of intense interest in the Detective harry Bosch novels of Michael Connelly. This month, I read two of them: TheIt seems like I am entering a period of intense interest in the Detective harry Bosch novels of Michael Connelly. This month, I read two of them: The Concrete Blonde and now The Last Coyote. What is more, I ordered four new titles from Amazon and downloaded two more onto my Kindle.
What I found interesting about The Last Coyote is the emphasis on Bosch's backstory: When he was still a young boy, his prostitute mother was murdered. Thirty-five years later, at a time when he is on probation for striking his lieutenant, he decides to stage his own investigation, which quickly leads to a couple of powerful political figures who are still alive. In the process of his investigation, four people die, three of them violently, and Bosch gets his answer -- which is not what he expected to find.
As in all his works, there are several minor characters who are beautifully sketched out, particular the cop psychologist Carmen Hinojos and the Florida artist Jasmine Corian. In fact, the supporting cast is a large one, and Connelly does justice to all of them as individual characters.
I'll probably dig into the next volume, Blood Work, when I go to New Mexico in a few weeks....more
Now that I have read six of his novels, I begin to think of Michael Connelly more and more as a Los Angeles writer. His Detective Harry (short for HeiNow that I have read six of his novels, I begin to think of Michael Connelly more and more as a Los Angeles writer. His Detective Harry (short for Heironymus) Bosch may not be as philosophical as Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade, but he has successfully parlayed his flaws into making him a highly effective, if not always perfectly kosher, homicide detective. There is a darkness about him -- one that mirrors the darkness of Los Angeles. At one point, The Concrete Blonde looks into Bosch's head:
[The killer] would be banished now, hidden away forever, but he knew there would be another after him. The black heart does not beat alone.
The Concrete Blonde is about a series of grisly murders of young busty blonde women that turns out to involve two separate murderers working independently. The first one is shot to death by Bosch at the beginning of the book -- to be followed by Bosch's civil trial for shooting an "innocent man." This trial devours much of Bosch's time, especially inasmuch as he has discovered there is a second murderer, whom the police call "The Follower."
It is difficult to find the identity of the follower, and Bosch makes a couple of mistakes fingering the wrong man until he finally finds the right one....more
You have to understand that Erlendur has a thing for missing persons. A young woman named Odny goes missing almost exactly around the time that Hannibal is drowned; and Erlendur starts his own criminal investigation while off duty. He keeps putting pieces together until two items of jewelry provide the answers he is looking for.
The reason Erlendur has a thing about missing persons is that, in his boyhood in East Iceland, he became separated from his younger brother in a terrible blizzard. Erlendur survived; but his brother was lost.
I hope that Indriðason has a long career ahead of him, and that I live long enough to continue to appreciate his work....more
I am now past the point of thinking of Georges Simenon's Maigret novels simply as genre literature. Any writer of mysteries who could enthrall the likI am now past the point of thinking of Georges Simenon's Maigret novels simply as genre literature. Any writer of mysteries who could enthrall the likes of William Faulkner, Muriel Spark, Peter Ackroyd, André Gide, P. D. James, and John Banville clearly has a lot more going for him than mere whodunits.
In Cécile is Dead, Simenon shows us an Inspector Maigret who is frantically trying to overcome a minor act of negligence which costs the life of a young woman, who is killed within feet of his office at the Police Judiciare. In addition, the elderly miser for whom she worked has been killed while wearing only one sock.
One new note is struck when Maigret is attended by a young American from Philadelphia who is studying his methods of crime detection. Does the Inspector regale him with clouds of theory? Not at all: He gets a lesson in practical detection as Maigret sifts through a crowd of suspects before hitting on the criminal(s). Throughout, he is like a force of nature:
One day, when Madame Maigret was looking pensively at her husband, she had suddenly sighed, with almost comical candour, "I do wonder why you haven't been slapped in the face more often in your life."
It was deeply heartfelt. In fact there were moments when, even with her, Maigret could be extraordinarily overbearing, and his wife was probably the only one who knew that he was entirely unaware of it. It wasn't that you saw an ironic smile or a glint of mockery in his eyes, nothing like that. You found yourself facing a solid block offering nothing you could get a grip on, a man who continued to be absorbed in his internal monologue while you were talking or getting worked up. Was the inspector listening to you/ Did he see you, or only the wall above your head? He would suddenly interrupt you in the middle of a sentence or a word, and what he said bore no relation to your preceding remarks.
Simenon was so wrapped up in this story, which was written in 1939-1940, just on the verge of World War Two -- and yet there was not even a hint of the conflagration that was to overtake his world....more
I started reading James Ellroy with his Los Angeles Quartet, beginning with The Black Dahlia and going forward. Although there are still more of his lI started reading James Ellroy with his Los Angeles Quartet, beginning with The Black Dahlia and going forward. Although there are still more of his later books I haven't yet cracked, I always had this sneaking suspicion that his earlier works would be interesting.
And so, Blood on the Moon (1984) is the first volume of his Lloyd Hopkins trilogy. Lloyd is an intense homicide detective with an incredible number of arrests. Although happily married, he tends to develop relationships with women he meets in his line of work.
This particular novel is a dark one indeed -- from a writer known for his dark places. It deals with a serial murderer of women whose crimes are a distant commemoration of a sexual assault on him while in high school. The crime is re-played in the book's first chapter. Keep the details in mind, because, although you will not know it for over a hundred pages, but they are the key to the story.
There is a rawness to Blood on the Moon that makes reading it an intense experience. But then all of Ellroy is pretty intense, and not to be embarked on if you are prone to depression. (Which, fortunately, I am not.) ...more
Come Twilight is the fourth novel in Tyler Dilts's Long Beach Homicide Series. And, along with its predecessor, A Cold and Broken Hallelujah, it's theCome Twilight is the fourth novel in Tyler Dilts's Long Beach Homicide Series. And, along with its predecessor, A Cold and Broken Hallelujah, it's the best. Homicide Detective Danny Beckett and his partner Jennifer Tanaka are, to my mind, probably the most interesting police procedural characters in the whole genre.
What looked at first to be a murder (it would have been taken as a suicide, except that left-handed victims don't shoot themselves with their right hand) turns out to be two unrelated cases. While the Long Beach police run themselves ragged trying to find all the connections, Danny himself almost becomes a victim of a car bombing and a kidnapping. At that point, he is taken off the case and looked after by his colleagues. This drives Beckett to the brink of distraction, but things come out all right in the end.
Ever since I went on an Arnaldur Indriðason binge several years ago, no mystery writer has engaged my attention to the same extent. I begin reading Dilts while on vacation in Cusco, Peru, and never looked back. I hope that Dilts has a long and fruitful career. ...more
Either the Claude Izner is getting better with each novel, or I am just becoming more entranced with the world of Paris in the 1890s. In the Shadows oEither the Claude Izner is getting better with each novel, or I am just becoming more entranced with the world of Paris in the 1890s. In the Shadows of Paris: A Victor Legris Mystery could easily have gone astray, what with THREE detectives, FOUR murder victims, and ONE very promising red herring. Probably my reaction has something to do with the fact that the two-sister act writing as Claude Izner are better able to handle complexity.
There is also a fairly large cast of minor characters, from Victor Legris's Russian painter girlfriend to whoever Kenji Mori is currently romancing, his lovely daughter Iris, JoJo's mother, the obstreperous clientele of Victor's bookshop -- the list goes on and on.
Much of the action is based on the horrors of the Paris Commune, some two decades before the action of the novel. Many thousands of Parisians lost their lives in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War, when the residents of Paris refused to go along with French President Adolph Thiers, whereupon he brought in the Prussian army to batter them into surrender, and thereafter execute them by the tens of thousands. It is an event not known to most Americans, as it is to the French. Only during the famine that accompanied the war against the Communards did the Parisians begin to eat horsemeat, which they still do....more
This is not Raymond Chandler's best Philip Marlowe novel, but even as such, it is still worthwhile reading. On a job to retrieve a rare colonial AmeriThis is not Raymond Chandler's best Philip Marlowe novel, but even as such, it is still worthwhile reading. On a job to retrieve a rare colonial American gold coin for an ill-tempered Pasadena widow, Marlowe keeps running across corpses -- so many that he calls in the police only on the first one, only to find himself in trouble with homicide investigators. For the other two stiffs, an anonymous phone call is all he'll do.
I have read The High Window twice before and still find myself liking it. Chandler has this goofy non-affair with his client's pathologically neurotic secretary, though being the knight-errant he is, all he gets out of it is a pat on the back -- by himself.
Describing a police interrogation room, Chandler writes:
The room had that remote, heartless, not quite dirty, not quite clean, not quite human smell that such rooms always have. Give a police department a brand new building and in three months all its rooms will smell like that. There must be something symbolic in it.
In this novel, we also see more scenes of Marlow at his apartment, including these quiet closing lines:
It was night. I went home and put my old house clothes on and set the chessmen out and mixed a drink and played over another [José Raul] Capablanca [world chess champion from Cuba in the 1920s]. It went fifty-nine moves. Beautiful cold remorseless chess, almost creepy in its silent implacability.
When it was done I listened at the open window for a while and smelled the night. Then I carried my glass out to the kitchen and rinsed it and filled it with ice water and stood at the sink sipping it and looking at my face in the mirror.
Dashiell Hammett's heroes are probably best known for their sang-froid. Take Ned Beaumont of The Glass Key, for instance. He will insert himself intoDashiell Hammett's heroes are probably best known for their sang-froid. Take Ned Beaumont of The Glass Key, for instance. He will insert himself into any stramash -- even at the expense of getting himself beaten to a pulp and landing in the hospital. And all is to help his politician friend Paul Madvig, who is running for office while trying to evade a number of highly sticky crimes.
The messes in this novel multiply, until Beaumont finally finds out who killed the senator's hotheaded son and left his body lying in the street -- the same senator whose daughter Paul Madvig loved to distraction. Fingers point in all directions, but nothing deters Ned.
It took a while for me to warm up to the story, especially as most of the characters didn't really show their true colors until later. But then things get cleaned up lickety-split. One gang boss is strangled to death by his own hood while Ned looks on. The senator is discomfited by the fix in which he finds himself. And the two women who love Ned find he doesn't much care for either one of them.
Hammett is always worth reading, even if this isn't his best book....more
Dave Galloway was a quiet clockmaker who was raising a teenage son on his own (his wife had run off fifteen years earlier leaving behind the son, Ben)Dave Galloway was a quiet clockmaker who was raising a teenage son on his own (his wife had run off fifteen years earlier leaving behind the son, Ben). He lived a quiet life, allowing himself a weekly visit to a cabinetmaker friend to watch baseball and play backgammon. It comes as a big surprise when he finds that Ben has run off with the fifteen-year-old daughter of his neighbor in his father's car.
But that is not all. Ben had shot and killed a passing motorist, robbing his car and money, and started driving to Illinois, whose marriage laws at the time permitted minors to marry without parental permission.
When Ben and his girl Lillie Hawkins are finally captured after a gunfight in which the boy runs out of bullets, Dave drops everything and flies to Indianapolis, only to find that Ben and Lillie were flying back to New York, where the murder was committed.
At no point does Ben actually want to speak to his father, who is eager to shower his son with forgiveness and understanding:
He no longer let himself grow impatient, was beginning to get used to the fact that everything turned out differently from what he hoped, and he did not lose courage, being convinced that it was he who would have the last word.
But did Dave Galloway, in fact, have the last word? I do not wish to say fo as not to spoil the book for others.
I have read several dozen Simenon novels and find this to be one of the best of them. I was astonished that Simenon, having set his story in upstate New York, had captured the American idiom so perfectly. There were no false notes, just the inevitably working out of the story of Ben's capture and Dave's growing self-realization. ...more
Trunk Music is a superb police procedural set in Los Angeles (where else?) and Las Vegas. From the very start, we are in the middle of a gruesome murdTrunk Music is a superb police procedural set in Los Angeles (where else?) and Las Vegas. From the very start, we are in the middle of a gruesome murder: A small-time Hollywood producer named Tony Aliso is found dead and stuffed in the drunk of his Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. Clues lead all over the place, with a number of false leads until it all comes together neatly in the end. Michael Connelly's detective Harry Bosch is in charge.
With Bosch, he is being chased as much as he chases -- by his past, by Internal Affairs, by the Brass in "The Glass House" as Bosch calls Parker Center, HQ of the LAPD. As the case finally comes to an end, the detective reflects:
Sometimes Bosch thought of his city as some kind of vast drain that pulled all bad things toward a spot where they swirled around in deep concentration. It was a place where it seemed the good people were often outnumbered by the bad. The creeps and schemers, the rapists and killers. It was a place that could easily produce someone like [the villain]. Too easily.
I had forgotten how good a read Connelly's Bosch novels are. But I'll be back soon to read The Concrete Blonde, which I have stashed away somewhere. I'll find it....more
Is it possible to write effective short stories about spies? When I started reading Ian Fleming's For Your Eyes Only, I thought, "Ho, ho! I can't seeIs it possible to write effective short stories about spies? When I started reading Ian Fleming's For Your Eyes Only, I thought, "Ho, ho! I can't see where this'll work." In fact, none of the five stories are, strictly speaking, spy stories. No SMERSH, no SPECTRE, and only a couple mentions of the big bad Soviets.
In "From a View to a Kill," James Bond patiently finds who murdered a SHAPE courier by becoming one himself and luring the assassin.
The title story is a plain and simple revenge murder at M's behest of a gangster who killed two dear old friends of his in Jamaica.
My favorite story is "Quantum of Solace," in which 007 finds out from the governor of the Bahamas why it is not such a great idea to marry an airline stewardess.
"Risico" finds Bond trying to help the Americans nail a European drug dealer -- except that the enemy turns out to be an ally; and the ally, an enemy.
Finally, "The Hildebrand Rarity" contains an unsolved but utterly deserving murder of a cruel American billionaire.
These five stories are as good as anything Fleming has written. ...more
I had read The Long Goodbye many years ago, and liked it. In the meantime, I have aged -- not exactly like a fine wine, but aged nonetheless -- and foI had read The Long Goodbye many years ago, and liked it. In the meantime, I have aged -- not exactly like a fine wine, but aged nonetheless -- and found myself loving Raymond Chandler's penultimate work. I might even go so far as to say it is his masterpiece, though back then I liked The Big Sleep and Farewell My Lovely more.
This time I detected the raggedness. Chandler's wife, Cissy, was dying and he felt more vulnerable. This is no tight Agatha Christie thriller than runs like a Swiss clockwork. Not by a long shot. It's about a nasty, persistent evil that, once you poke it with a stick, keeps coming back to snare you and hurt you. Somehow, Chandler's detective Marlowe walks the straight and narrow path and comes out alive at the end:
I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between the stars. When I got home I mixed a stiff one and stood by the open window in the living room and sipped it and listened to the groundswell of the traffic on Laurel Canyon Boulevard and looked at the glare of the big angry city hanging over the shoulder of the hills through which the boulevard had been cut. Far off the banshee wail of police or fire sirens rose and fell, never for very long completely silent. Twenty-four hours a day somebody is running, somebody else is trying to catch him. Out there in the night of a thousand crimes people were dying, being maimed, cut by flying glass, crushed against steering wheels or under heavy tires. People were being beaten, robbed, strangled, rape, and murdered. People were hungry, sick, bored, desperate with loneliness or remorse or fear, angry, cruel, feverish, shaken by sobs. A city no worse than others, a city rich and vigorous and full of pride, a city lost and beaten and full of emptiness.
And mind you, this is just the background in which a series of murders and/or suicides take place that call Marlowe's actions into question and put him in personal peril, such as the time four toughs waylay him in his own house. They included the following:
A man was sitting across the room with his legs crossed and a gun resting sideways on his thigh. He looked rangy and tough and his skin had that dried-out look of people who live in sun-bleached climates. He was wearing a dark brown gabardine-type windbreaker and the zipper was open almost to his waist. He was looking at me and neither his eyes nor the gun moved. He was as calm as an adobe wall in the moonlight.
That last sentence inspired writer Walter Mosley to begin writing his own series of detective novels featuring Easy Rawlins.
I feel I have not rendered justice to this great novel -- probably because it is still working its way through my bloodstream and opening channels in my body that I did not know existed. ...more
This book turned out to be a delightful surprise. Stan Jones evidently knows a lot about Inupiat (Eskimo) culture and puts it to good use in Shaman PaThis book turned out to be a delightful surprise. Stan Jones evidently knows a lot about Inupiat (Eskimo) culture and puts it to good use in Shaman Pass, in which Alaska State Trooper Nathan Active -- himself an Inupiat raised by Whites -- must solve a case in which the mummy of a shaman who died a hundred years ago is stolen and an old man is murdered with a harpoon belonging to the mummy.
What I enjoyed the most about the book are the conversations between Active and the various Inupiat involved in he case:
Kelly fell into another deep, wordless study and Active thought over what he'd heard. So many stories of death and loss and dislocation in the Arctic. Perhaps they explained the cheerful fatalism of the Inupiat, of the ones who didn't succumb to drink or suicide, anyway. Maybe it was either crack a joke or go crazy.
What I will always remember from Shaman Pas is the expression that pops up from various characters when describing something inordinately difficult: "Goes with," meaning "Goes with [the territory]."...more
For several decades, Dover Publications hunted up works of mystery and horror written by unknowns and printed them in nice trade paperback editions. MFor several decades, Dover Publications hunted up works of mystery and horror written by unknowns and printed them in nice trade paperback editions. Max Murray's The Voice of the Corpse is one such book. Occasionally, one finds a clinker; just as often, a gem. And The Voice of the Corpse is a Gem.
A middle-aged busybody who taunts her fellow villagers with what she has found up about their secret lives is done to death by a blunt instrument. The world of Inching Round (the name of the village) is full of suspects. The late Angela Pewsey had no friends and was surrounded by enemies. Into this world comes the lawyer and reluctant detective Firth Prentice, and later the Scotland Yard Inspector Fowler, cast about trying to eliminate suspects.
The end comes blindingly fast and caught me completely off-guard. I wonder if Murray's other works as quite as unconventional. If so, he's worth looking up....more
As far back as 1934, Georges Simenon wrote a book about Inspector Maigret in retirement, forced to return to the scene of his travails when his nephewAs far back as 1934, Georges Simenon wrote a book about Inspector Maigret in retirement, forced to return to the scene of his travails when his nephew Philippe, also with the police, maladroitly becomes accused of a murder he did not commit. Mme Maigret and her sister appeal to the retired detective to take matters in hand. But as a retired police officer, Maigret has no status except his outsize reputation:
Maigret knew he was a thorn in everyone's side and that they would have liked to tell him to go to hell, but still he persisted. He stood there for ages, his massive bulk hovering over the chief, blocking his line of vision. Eventually the chief gave in and phone calls were made from one office to another.
As if his ambiguous position were not bad enough, he is pitted against an unusually clever bank of gangsters who seem to be immune from prosecurtion. But, as we can surmise, Maigret eventually comes out ahead using a clever trick.
This is a new translation by Ros Schwartz of a novel variously called in English Maigret or Maigret Returns.
I have read so many of Georges Simenon's Maigret mysteries, and always with such avidity that I would deeply regret getting to the end of his bibliogrI have read so many of Georges Simenon's Maigret mysteries, and always with such avidity that I would deeply regret getting to the end of his bibliography. Maigret Sets a Trap (1955) is about a serial killer who stabs plump women in Montmartre with a pen knife and slashes their clothing.
Even when the Superintendent finds a suspect, he is dismayed to discover that yet another woman has been killed. It is then that we see Maigret at his most impenetrable. We never really get into his mind in any of the stories. We, as it were, stand next to him and watch his mind and instincts at work. When the crimes are solved, we are surprised, because we were not privy to his thinking. In fact, at the end of Maigret Sets a Trap, we hear his monologue, as he is not quite willing to admit that his prime suspect was not, in fact, the killer.
How he solves the case is nothing short of brilliant -- and, typically, instinctive. ...more
Georges Simenon rarely disappoints me, especially in the Jules Maigret mysteries he wrote over a forty-year span. By now, I have read probably twentyGeorges Simenon rarely disappoints me, especially in the Jules Maigret mysteries he wrote over a forty-year span. By now, I have read probably twenty of them -- without so much as scratching the surface.
Madame Maigret's Own Case (L'amie de Mme Maigret] gives the French police inspector a seemingly impossible problem: A bookbinder is arrested for suspicion of murder when two human teeth are found in his furnace. Also, not a million miles away, Mme Maigret is waiting on a park bench chatting with an acquaintance with a child. She is about to go into the adjoining dentist's office when suddenly the other woman thrusts her child on Mme Maigret and disappears.
Eventually, we find that the two incidents are connected. Instead of a strange omnium-gatherum of a plot, we have a tight case in which several people are charged, after TWO murders have been committed.
There is something so French about how Maigret goes about solving a case: Yes, he is methodical, but he can receive sudden inspirations which suddenly tie the case together in a neat package with a pink bow. ...more