Velda Johnston – The Silver Dolphin (1979)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: A Hat
Date Finished: May 29, 2017
Follow the Clues step #32: from Swordfish to Dolphin

Well, this is often categorized as a Gothic romance, but it does revolve around a couple of deaths under mysterious circumstances. My version also appeared as a third of a Detective Book Club volume.

Set in a New England whaling community in the 1840s, a poor, young woman, daughter of a servant, marries a wealthy older man. He dies under mysterious circumstances and she has to manage her new wealth while a couple of dashing captains of whaling ships compete for her attention, including during a long voyage to the South Pacific. A second death eventually leads to the murderer’s revelation.

Well written enough, the subjugation of the mystery to the romance elements led me to avoid picking this up again for several days after starting it. Other than the 1840s setting, this novel fits in much more with the female romantic suspense mysteries of the 1940s-1960s than with the Gothic romance trend of the 1970s.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-05-29

Arthur Upfield – The Mystery of Swordfish Reef (1939)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Boat
Date Finished: May 19, 2017
TBR #37
Follow the Clues step #31: from Herring to Swordfish

A fishing boat out for swordfish with a client disappears off the coast of off New South Wales. A search proves fruitless until the head of the client shows up in the fishing catch in a trawler’s net. No other wreckage can be found. Napoleon Bonaparte (Bony) is called in by the police, even though his outback tracking skills are of little use on the ocean. In order to solve the mystery, Bony must learn about swordfishing, as well as about the people around this small fishing community.

What a pleasure to read a great mystery by a great writer. The fishing is excitingly described, Bony remains a very interesting character, and the suspense is well maintained. Very highly recommended.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-05-19

Ellery Queen Jr – The Blue Herring Mystery (1954)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: A Building (other than house)
Date Finished: May 17, 2017
TBR #36
Follow the Clues step #30: from Blue to Blue

Quite enjoyable for a juvenile mystery, with Djuna investigating some mysterious individuals and actions after hearing about a long-lost treasure, a set of pearls hidden by a whaler some 70 years before. Set somewhere in New England, the whole community is preparing for and participating in the seasonal run of the herring up the river to their spawning, with Scapping Day being the climax of the season and the mystery.

Purchased in 1982 or so in Sioux Falls, I’ve had this one on my shelf for a while. In the end it was a quick read that involved a fairly good mystery with some suspense, as well as various knowledge about whaling and fishing. The mystery is solved through discovery of the perpetrator, rather than through deduction. Still, a fairly good juvenile mystery.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-05-17

Philip McCutchan – Bluebolt One (1965)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: A Tree
Date Finished: May 17, 2017
TBR #35
Follow the Clues step #29: from Blue to Blue

A satellite super-weapon, presumably atomic, controlled by the U.S. and Great Britain, must be controlled by a ground station with a direct line of sight to the satellite. This places one ground station within the territory of a West African country undergoing a revolution. British super-spy Commander Shaw confronts the British revolutionaries first in London and then follows them to Africa. He must then prevent their takeover of the Bluebolt One control station.

The cover blurb compares it to James Bond, but I wonder what the full quote was. There is no sex or witty banter here. There is a somewhat super villain, but he isn’t all that impressive. A good book could have been written about the political turmoil in Africa in the 1960s, but this isn’t it. There are no African characters that are presented here as anything but evil or simpleminded. There is no attempt at fairness nor is there any questioning of British colonial rule. It is a foregone conclusion by this point that the British Empire is finished, but any subversive work against Britain is clearly presented as a Communist plot. A space super-weapon, with presumably atomic bombs being deliverable from satellite orbit, is jointly shared with the U.S. and Britain, as if the British would be allowed to participate, and security is way, way, way too lax. I wanted to like a spy series that wasn’t all comedy, as many later 1960s novels became, but there must be some questioning of the game, some weariness as in le Carre. Commander Shaw never pauses to question or think, just pursues. Voodoo, as the African native religion here is called, instantly incites all Africans to rebel against whites. None are shown as loyal to their own government. Self-government has already been achieved in this fictional government, but no differences or subtleties are observed. The writing is passable, with long, descriptive passages giving a feel for the setting. The passages are long, however, and it was a slow go to maintain interest and finish this.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-05-17

John Godey – Killer At His Back (1948)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: A Mask
Date Finished: May 10, 2017
TBR #34
Follow the Clues step #28: from Back to Back

Well, I fell way behind again with these reviews, so let’s get through some of these and catch up.

Killer At His Back was originally known as The Blue Hour, but is abridged here in the Bestseller Mystery. I’m not sure how much was cut, but the story hangs together well enough. I once avoided abridged editions, but now I prefer the shorter length.

In this mystery, a somewhat down-on-his-luck drunk, Harry Calvert, meets some strange folks and is assaulted, though no one believes his account of it. It turns out that they think he has a receipt they need. That receipt is a McGuffin to justify all the chasing around and confrontations, but it somewhat involving. The style feels somewhat like Fredric Brown, in that it is somewhat light, yet suspenseful.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-05-10

Adam Knight – Knife at My Back (1952)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: A Blonde
Date Finished: May 5, 2017
TBR #33
Follow the Clues step #27: from Dagger to Knife

Private detective Steve Conacher, hired to tail a wealthy wife, follows her to a plush Catskills resort hotel. Here he runs into a number of characters, including a night club singer on the verge of stardom, the TV comic in love with the singer, her agent, a dancer, and various others, as well as the obligatory crooked cop. The wealthy wife is soon murdered, which the cops peg as a suicide, until a dealer in stag films also dies.

This is the fourth in the Steve Conacher series, and I liked it somewhat better than I liked Stone Cold Blonde, the second in the series, which I read last year. If it was mentioned in the earlier one, I didn’t pick up on Conacher only being slightly over five feet tall. That put a different slant on his toughness and dealings with the other characters. He spends a lot of time here running around between different characters and different parts of the hotel, and but I found it entertaining.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-05-06

Helen Reilly – The Canvas Dagger (1956)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Written Document
Date Finished: April 24, 2017
TBR #32
Follow the Clues step #26: from 1956 to 1956

A portrait painter falls to his death from the window of his fourth-floor Greenwich Village apartment. A young woman staying in an apartment across the street happens to see the whole thing, including a shadowy figure in the apartment with the painter, indicating that this might not be suicide after all. At first no one believes her, but soon other attacks occur that indicate that a murder may be nearby.

This one is well written, but some of the coincidences are far fetched. The young woman, Sarah, seems to have run in the same circles as the painter, with her aunt having an old house in the Cape Cod-like area where the painter, his ex-wife, her close friends, other odd types, and the painter’s biographer, who she soon falls for, all congregate by chapter four. Inspector McKee shows up, far outside his jurisdiction, but the focus is still on Sarah and the danger she faces. At times suspenseful with an ominous feeling, yet she could have easily removed herself from the area and from danger.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-04-24