Samuel A. Krasney – Death Cries in the Street (1955)

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Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Bloodstains
Date Finished: March 18, 2017
TBR #25
Follow the Clues step #18: from Road to Street

A dead body is discovered on a 23rd Street in New York City by a waitress on her way to her early-shift. A police homicide inspector somewhat spitefully assigns his hotshot young lieutenant, thinking a mundane dead bum will bring him down a notch. The murder turns out to be something more than that as the lieutenant works to identify the body and learn the motive for his killing. Various characters, civilian and police, become involved in the investigation, as the lieutenant races against the three-day deadline imposed by his inspector.

The murderers are revealed somewhat early to the reader, so the mystery is related more to how they will be brought to justice by the police. Many of the police hold grudges against the lieutenant and some do their best not to cooperate with him. This is much more a character study of the various people involved with this case, most of whom are bitter and depressed. The characters are well drawn and the action moves along quickly.

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Bone Series

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TBR #17 – Bone Vol. 5 Rock Jaw, Master of the Eastern Border, finished March 7, 2017
TBR #18 – Bone Vol. 6 Old Man’s Cave, finished March 9, 2017
TBR #20 – Bone Prequel: Rose, finished March 11, 2017
TBR #21 – Bone Vol. 7 Ghost Circles, finished March 12, 2017
TBR #22 – Bone Vol. 8 Treasure Hunters, finished March 13, 2017
TBR #23 – Bone Vol. 9 Crown of Horns, finished March 14, 2017
TBR #24 – Bone Handbook, finished March 18, 2017

A little TBR housekeeping here. Also finished Bone Vols. 1-4, but had previously read those. All of these deserve five stars. Too bad it took me 24 years from when I first started buying them to get around to reading them. It helped that the kid had these collected volumes to fill in where I missed an issue.

Leslie Ford – Road to Folly (1940)

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Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Full Skeleton
Date Finished: March 10, 2017
TBR #19
Follow the Clues step #17: from London street (Cartwright Gardens) to Road

An awful Northern woman has bought a South Carolina plantation from the rightful Southern owners, now reduced to poverty, and has married into an old Southern family. That husband is now in love with the poor niece of the neighboring plantation owner. That awful Northern woman brings in her fellow-Northern friend and interior designer to help convince the poor plantation owner to sell her valuable antique furniture to her. Of course, the awful woman is murdered, but not as soon as she deserved.

Typical Ford melodrama with a narrator that is somewhat removed from the action and the setting. Slow-moving and wordy, with more focus on romance and furniture than on the murder. It is never clear why the friends, lovers, and ex-husbands all continue to revolve around the awful woman, but everyone seems to have a motive once she is killed. The glorification of the old South is hard to stomach. African American servants are around, though hardly acknowledged as real characters. No suspense whatsoever, just a longing for it to be over with.

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J.S. Fletcher – The Cartwright Gardens Murder (1926)

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Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Dog
Date Finished: February 28, 2017
TBR #16
Follow the Clues step #16: from London neighborhood (Chelsea) to London street (Cartwright Gardens)

A young clerk, looking out the window of his Cartwright Gardens apartment, sees a man on the street below keel over and die. Who the man is and the manner of his murder are unknown. After giving his evidence, the young clerk takes it upon himself to start investigating the crime and the man. As the clerk chooses blackmail over assisting the police, the focus of the investigation and the novel turn to Detective-Sergeant Wormersley, C.I.D., Scotland Yard, assisted by an American businessman whose firm had employed the dead man. The investigation involves the dead man’s strange relatives, as well as his former love.

This was quite well done, though closer to Edwardian in style and manner than to post-war literature. The switch of the amateur sleuth from investigator to blackmailer was somewhat unexpected. I would read more of these, though suspect they may become more formulaic the more you read.

Not having the dust jacket, I went with the small dog logo of Borzoi Books on the back cover.

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Lionel Davidson – The Chelsea Murders (1978)

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Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Knife
Date Finished: February 25, 2017
TBR #15
Follow the Clues step #15: from London to London neighborhood (Chelsea).

A series of murders occur in the Chelsea district of London. The police begin investigating them as connected, and they soon seem to be as a series of poems begin arriving just prior to each murder. The poet’s initials match the initials of the murder victims. Somehow, and perhaps I missed this, the police figure out that the murderer must be one of three people working on a independent film being made in the area. Also investigating is a female reporter for the Chelsea weekly newspaper, who is also stringing from the London dailies.

Some people seem to love this mystery, but I struggled with it, especially the first half. It did win an award in 1978, but I think that says more about 1978’s competition than it does about this novel. Davidson started many chapters mid conversation, so that I had difficulty in figuring out who was who. One reviewer on LibraryThing described it well in stating that the principles get together and speak enigmatically for several chapters. Another has described it as clever, sharp, and witty, and I would say it is not any of those things. They are not terribly sympathetic characters, and I did have trouble remembering which was Steve and which was Frank until the solution was revealed. Somewhat frustratingly, the first three murders turn out not to be related to the poetry-series ones, and are not solved. Perhaps that is what makes this a “send up” of the classic English murder mystery, but I just think it makes this a mess.

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Maxwell Grant – London Crimes/Castle of Doom

Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Policeman
Date Finished: February 15, 2017
TBR #14
Follow the Clues step #14: from Castle feature (Portcullis) to Castle.

The Shadow visits England in these two novels from 1935 and 1936. In The London Crimes the Shadow fights the Harvester, with the latter being a master of disguise who intends to steal a large collection of securities. There is a lot of travel as the action moves back and forth between London and a country house. The Shadow definitely seems out of place with out dark city streets to hide in and here has to hang around out in the woods.

There is a bit more London atmosphere in The Castle of Doom with clubs and fog and such until the action moves to a castle. Again, there is general lurking about and an evil identical cousin. There is more Lamont Cranston in these, as there isn’t all that much for the Shadow to do without agents to manage, other than Harry, and cities to patrol.

I always want to like these more than I ever do, but I struggle with Walter Gibson’s writing style. The second novel felt a little less padded and moved along better, though a week later I can’t remember the plot at all.

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Valentine Williams – The Portcullis Room (1934)

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Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Castle or Ruins
Date Finished: February 5, 2017
TBR #13
Follow the Clues step #13: from Room to Room.

A wealthy man arrives, along with his yacht full of friends and associates, at a remote Scottish castle, which he is hoping to buy. The family members who are desperate for money tell of long-ago murders and curses. Some other shady characters arrive, intending to recover gambling debts owed to them by the dead son of the castle owner. Naturally, someone is murder on the spot of the long-ago murder in a room above the castle gates.

The last of the unread Valentine Williams on my shelves, I was disappointed here in the rather standard country house-style murder mystery, as opposed to an espionage tale. The mystery doesn’t even provide any cleverness, as opposed to Christie or Carr, as the castle’s secret passages are soon found. Best perhaps for the atmosphere and description of the remote Scottish location, the problems with the plot prevent this from being as fun a read as Williams’ earlier works.

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