Carter Brown – The Coffin Bird (1970)

CoffinBird

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: A Redhead
Date Finished: December 13, 2017

Vacationing in Hawaii, Danny Boyd is hired to go to Australia by a beautiful young woman and pose as her fiancé. Two previous fiancés have died mysteriously and she wants to know if they were murdered, and if so, was she responsible, having blacked out during the death of one of them. Her former mob-connected father, a potential suitor, and a catty best friend round out the other possible suspects.

Well, we’re back in male wish fulfillment fantasy land for another short mystery. Set in the author’s own Australia, it has a strange lack of any local color, other than a mention of the ongoing expensive construction of the Sydney Opera House. No graphic sex at all in these, but plenty of nudity. Only having four possible suspects makes the mystery somewhat simple, but the mystery part isn’t terrible, despite the book being completely sexist.

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Frank Thomas – Sherlock Holmes and the Golden Bird (1979)

SherlockHolmesandtheGoldenBird

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Doctor (Dr. Watson, of course)
Date Finished: December 13, 2017

Sherlock Holmes is hired to find a missing gold statue of a bird. He soon encounters various other rival factions also seeking the bird, which cannot be explained by the relatively modest value of the gold. He discovers that hidden within is a fabulous diamond, rivaling the Hope Diamond or other famous stones, once owned by the Pasha of Egypt. Will he and Watson solve the puzzle and locate the gem before the rivals do?

A Maltese Falcon type of quest for Sherlock Holmes as he meets mysterious orientals, master thieves, and recluse millionaires. I have not read enough Arthur Conan Doyle Holmes stories recently to adequately judge how well Thomas does in imitating the style, though it does seem to be lacking the cleverness I would expect from a Holmes story. The story also seems overlong, with various side trips and adventures that do not always seem to prove useful to the investigation. I’d have to rate it as only moderately entertaining.

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Vin Packer – The Girl on the Best Seller List (1960)

GirlontheBestsellerList

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Typewriter
Date Finished: December 10, 2017

A somewhat uncouth young married woman from a small upstate New York town has written a huge best seller of thinly disguised catty depictions of her husband, acquaintances, and neighbors, a la Peyton Place. This has not gone over well with most of those neighbors, eventually leading to murder.

Blech.

There is much, much, much too much about all the various unpleasant people involved and it takes way too long for someone to finally murder her. Stop whining about how bad she has portrayed you and change your behavior, people!

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Robert Arthur – The Secret of Terror Castle (1964)

SecretofTerrorCastle

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Suit of Armor
Date Finished: December 9, 2017

The first appearance of the Three Investigators as they launch their detective service by trying to locate a haunted castle in California for use in a motion picture by Alfred Hitchcock. The boys run into various spooky events as they look deeper into this castle that was once owned by a silent movie star, long thought to be dead.

I had despaired of finding a suit of armor cover for the silver-age scavenger hunt, but luckily found this online. I read this whole series back when I was a elementary school kid, but these still hold up well, with Arthur’s writing style perhaps simplified, but not dumbed down. The secret passages and hideouts within Jupiter’s junkyard, as well as the haunted castle were all fun to revisit. The plot here isn’t terribly complex, but still enjoyable. Bob, being the researcher and library worker, is the one I identify most with, though he doesn’t have a whole lot to do here. I may have to read more of these if I’m going to finish some of these remaining categories before the end of the year.

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Simenon – Maigret in Society (1961)

MaigretinSociety

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Newspaper
Date Finished: December 9, 2017

Inspector Maigret is contacted by the diplomatic service office to investigate the death of one of their retired ambassadors. His housekeeper had reported him dead to that office rather than to the police. The man had already published two volumes of his memoirs, so it is thought that his death was not related to his former position or to any secrets he still held. He had been openly in love with a married woman for fifty years, exchanging letters with her daily, but never having met during that time. She was a princess, married for money and position, while he was still relatively poor. Her husband had passed away just days before and now the couple would finally be together. Is his death due to someone’s antipathy toward that match, or are there other motives at play?

A fairly short investigation into a world of wealthy and privilege, which all puts Maigret ill at ease. Although Maigret digs into the personal lives and characteristics of the suspects, it is a simple paraffin test that leads to the solution. It is still fun to visit Maigret and peak into this world, despite the lack of complexity or length.

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E.X. Ferrars – In At the Kill (1978)

InAttheKillVintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Dead Body
TBR #99
Date Finished: December 8, 2017

A young woman, Charlotte Cambrey, between jobs and looking for a rest in winter, rents a cottage on an estate near a small village. The landlord also gave evidence against her brother in a bank robbery conviction and she wants to investigate him and his lies. Visiting the landowner’s cottage on her arrival, she stumbles across a murder in progress, and meets a mysterious woman who soon disappears. Suspected in part due to the connection with her brother, she soon meets and talks with all of the other renters and begins to investigate the crime with the help of a odd private detective she had met on the train down to the village.

This mystery moves along fairly well and is well plotted. The characters are clearly defined, but oddly seem to share everything they know at the drop of a hat with whomever asks them any question, serving more as plot devices than as real humans. The police are in the background and the investigation by Charlotte is rather haphazard and passive, as the private detective ends up solving the case with only a little bit of help from Charlotte.

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Carter Brown – Had I But Groaned (1968)

HadIButGroaned

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Any Piece of Furniture
TBR #98
Date Finished: December 7, 2017

Television writer Larry Baker meets a young woman in a New York City bar and is invited back to her country house to fight a coven of witches. If I had a nickel for every time this happened in real life… At this country house, he meets a wacky aunt, a stern housekeeper, and a very attractive older sister, who gets him involved with some other risque neighbors, including a sad psychologist. Is this witch business a plot to do away with various heirs to the estate, or are there other motives?

Although the plot is ridiculous and contrived, it is handled well and the mystery is not too terrible, though the attempts at humor remain only attempts. Diverting enough for a quick read.

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