J.J. Marric – Gideon’s March (1962)

GideonsMarch

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Blue object
TBR #97
Date Finished: December 6, 2017

Gideon and the entire police force are preparing for the visit to London of the heads of state for the United States, France, and Germany. This involves attempting to stymie pickpockets, counterfeiters, assassins, and various other unsavory types before the arrival of the V.I.P.s, and especially prevent anything happening during the big procession to the Houses of Parliament. Other investigations are also going on, some of which turn out to be related to the event and others not.

George Gideon is in charge of Scotland Yard’s Criminal Investigation Department and so these books are much more about the administration of a police department than they are on the investigations of individual crimes. Gideon has to manage the various personalities of the staff, as well as give direction to multiple investigations. The politicians they are protecting here are not named, but the characteristics of the president — young, thin, Catholic — obviously refer to Kennedy. Ironically Gideon catches an assassin aiming to shoot Kennedy during his motorcade (here Carriage-cade) one year before the actual assassination.  The only complaint with the Gideon series is that Gideon is a bit too magnificent, while all the shortcomings of his underlings is pointed out. Still an interesting entry in this series.

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P.D. James – Cover Her Face (1962)

CoverHerFace2

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Bottle of Poison
TBR #96
Date Finished: December 3, 2017

A housemaid and unwed mother riles up a wealthy family with her attitude, presence, and betrothal to the son of the family. She is found drugged and strangled in her locked room. Was it one of the family or an outsider? Who was the woman really and what secrets was she hiding? Inspector Adam Dalgliesh is called in from Scotland Yard to this small village to investigate.

The first appearance of Adam Dalgliesh is a bit odd, in that he only reveals small bits of himself and comes off as either an enigma or a blank with his romantic feelings at the end a bit of a surprise. The mystery itself is fine, though overlong. Most of the characters are complicated yet rather unpleasant. The writing itself is adequate, though never outstanding. It was difficult at times to pick the book up again and continue reading, and I’m puzzled at how popular this work is among modern readers.

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Charles Williams – The Long Saturday Night (1962)

LongSaturdayNight

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Damsel in Distress
Date Finished: November 30, 2017

A man finds out his wife has been cheating and lying to him. After being interrogated by the police after the murder of a man who turns out to be her blackmailer, he returns home to find her murdered as well. He takes it on the lam, trying to find the killer before the police find him.

A taut, thrilling, exciting Charles Williams mystery, with plenty of action, as well as the man’s secretary, who turns out to be the clever and creative one in solving the mystery. I hate to say this, but perhaps it was too short, in that the first murder isn’t really explained, but that is such a minor complaint about a very good novel.

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George Harmon Coxe – An Easy Way to Go (1968)

AnEasyWaytoGo

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Blunt Instrument
Date Finished: November 30, 2017

Kent Murdock, newspaper photographer, gets involved with a restaurant altercation with a notorious womanizing portrait painter. Murdock happens to be with his estranged wife. With the fight making the gossip columns, and after a thug attempts to beat him up, Murdock heads over to the painter’s apartment to continue the argument. Entering the apartment, however, he is slugged and soon wakes up to find the dead body of the painter, the murder weapon likely covered with his prints, and the police on their way. He has to stay one step ahead of them as he tries to find the real killer out of a number of characters who had both motive and opportunity.

This is an enjoyable enough Kent Murdock mystery, with the usual likable Murdock and a logical solution. Unfortunately, the surprise ending was no surprise as it was telegraphed from the moment the character was first introduced. Although published in 1968, it felt more like a 1940s or 1950s setting, as there was almost nothing other than a miniskirt and a Mustang dating it to the 1960s. Murdock seems to be more appropriately based in the late 1940s-1950s anyway. There was also little photography or newspaper work until the very end, as Murdock concentrates more on clearing his name than on his job. If only the ending had been better…

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Margery Allingham – The China Governess (1963)

ChinaGoverness

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Tombstone
Date Finished: November 28, 2017

A young man wants to marry a somewhat wealthy young woman. Before her father will give his permission, she being underage, the young man’s background must be determined. He was adopted by a wealthy man just after the war. Largely raised by a nanny, his assumption was that he was the bastard son of a dead brother. Questions have been raised now about his true ancestry, and whether or not he was an unrelated orphan. Were his true parents low class? Horrors! A detective investigating his background has had his apartment vandalized. Who wants to hide the truth?

An anti-adoption mystery as young man must find out his true parents or else will be sure to inherit mental illness. I think he already did. What if he inherits criminal tendencies? What if his true parents didn’t speak proper English and drank coffee instead of tea? Two murders occur during this investigation, but both turn out to be unrelated to this investigation. I understand wanting to find your birth parents, but the motivations here are ridiculous, as are the motives behind the murders. Long parts of this mystery drag, and it only really comes alive in the few instances where Campion shows up. Much ado about nothing.

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John T. Phillifent – The Corfu Affair (1967)

CorfuAffair

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Map
TBR #95
Date Finished: November 27, 2017

A new miniature communication device has been stolen by THRUSH and adapted by a beautiful criminal plastic surgeon and scientist to be implanted into clones to create mind-controlled slaves. The implant procedure also works on normal humans, as Napoleon Solo finds out after he has been captured by the scientist at her hideout castle on the island of Corfu. This turns Solo against U.N.C.L.E. and against Illya Kuryakin until the forces of good prevail. Sorry to give away the ending.

A fairly straightforward Man from U.N.C.L.E. adventure that does away with much of the comedy, and much of the clothing, that prevailed in certain seasons and certain other books in this series. Moderately successful, though perhaps not quite as fun.

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Nick Carter – The Katmandu Contract (1975)

KatmanduContract

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Train
TBR #94
Date Finished: November 26, 2017

Two children of a U.S. senator have been kidnapped in Greece and taken to Nepal by a political organization. The ransom is $1 billion in uncut diamonds, which will help fund the revolution, with the aid of the Chinese Communists. Nick is to be the courier, picking up the diamonds in Amsterdam, taking them to Nepal, rescuing with children, preventing the revolution, and, if possible, retrieving the diamonds. Other agents in Amsterdam have different plans for him.

Strangely enough, the last Nick Carter I read four days ago for the snow category, Operation Snake, was also set in Nepal, but obviously by a different ghostwriter. Here James Fritzhand, whose credit I found at the review at Glorious Trash, concentrates on the action sequences, highly stressing his tae kwon do training and terminology and down plays the usual sex scenes. Nepal is also shown as a much more modern country, with none of the yeti-fighting kookiness of Operation Snake. Nick’s journey to get out of Amsterdam, and the fight against the fairly efficient and slippery assassin he encounters there, takes up more than half of the novel, so that the Nepal section is somewhat anticlimactic. The kidnapping gang’s beautiful female leader, Kanti, the mastermind of this billion dollar plot, only appears for a few pages at the end, with the gang seeming rather amateurish, as Nick easily escapes with the kids and wipes them out  quickly with a well-placed grenade. Still, an enjoyable and quick read.

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