Hank Janson – Cold Dead Coed (1964)

Cold Dead Coed - frontCold Dead Coed - reverse

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Nurse
Date Finished: August 5, 2017
TBR #68
Follow the Clues step #65: from Cold to Cold

This Hank Janson series seems to be the British equivalent of the Australian Carter Brown series, with various writers giving their impression of an American detective story. Here Hank Janson, the author, places Hank Janson, the character, in a Indiana town, Parma Harbor, near South Bend on the shore of Lake Michigan. Visiting a friend who owns a nightclub, he is invited on a fishing cruise, along with two nightclub performers and a couple of others from the bar. Just before casting off for their day’s fishing, a couple of mobsters, plus a wounded man, take over their cruise and attempt to flee to Canada. The boat runs out of gas in the middle of the lake, as Hank Janson and friends, try to deal with and escape the criminals.

Nothing on this cover has anything to do with the story within, it seems. There is no co-ed in this story, nor any other college students. No women are killed in the story, just four men. The cover blurb says, “Hank’s yearly vacation with two very young and very uninhibited strip tease artists was cut short by murder…” One of the acrobatic performers, not striptease artists, was very inhibited. The back again mentions the strippers, and a shack in the north woods as the focal point of the action, but no shack is mentioned in the story. The story itself is suspenseful enough to be a passable read, with only moderate attempts at Carter Brown-style leering humor. Apparently it was not interesting enough for the publishers to actually read and market, however.

If Hank Janson is really England’s Outstanding Mystery Writing that is a sad state of affairs for England.

The back cover features an add for another novel, Sanitarium of Tears, including a fleeing nurse on that cover image. As this is one of the toughest categories to complete, we’ll count it here.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-05

John Creasey – Death in Cold Print (1961)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Bloodstains
Date Finished: August 4, 2017
TBR #67
Follow the Clues step #64: from Death to Death

A middle period Inspector West story, the 28th out of 43, finds West investigating the murder of a night watchman and his mistress at a large printing company in a small town west of London. Various possible suspects include the husband of the dead woman, competing printing firms, or the owners of the firm themselves. Hindering the investigation at times is the insular nature of the small town, including among members of the police force he must work with.

Some of Creasey’s novels have dragged a bit for me, while others worked quite well, so I’m not always sure what to expect. This one was quite enjoyable up until the ending, which seemed to fall flat and was rather anti-climactic. Also, the ridiculous nickname of “Handsome” for West always jars when coming from fellow police officers.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-04

Alfred Hitchcock’s Death Can Be Beautiful (1972)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Graveyard
Date Finished: August 1, 2017
TBR #66
Follow the Clues step #63: from Death to Death

Another very good collection of suspenseful short stories, all first appearing between 1958 and 1968. Authors include Donald Westlake, Fletcher Flora, Ed Lacy, and Jack Webb (the mystery author, not the Dragnet star). The only one that seems out of place is a Solar Pons story by August Derleth, which while good, does not match the 1960s setting or feel of the other stories. It is often easy to set aside short story collections and not finish them quickly, but this one kept my interest enough to finish quickly. It also worked well for the short reading snippets of time I had available at my conference in Portland and on the train.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-01

Ngaio Marsh – Death at the Bar (1940)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Any Other Weapon
Date Finished: July 30, 2017
TBR #65
Follow the Clues step #62: from Death to Death

A gathering at a Devon inn in a small fishing village leads to death, as a somewhat obnoxious lawyer is poisoned amid a darts contest in the pub. The key to finding the murderer is to determine the manner of delivering the poison, but there are several possibilities, including a poisoned dart pictured above, and a number of suspicious characters.

I found this one to be much better than the preceding several Marsh novels, likely as it was concerned with the several characters at the inn, rather than some high society thing or Alleyn’s snooty background. Perhaps it is also due to the emphasis of the puzzle plot over the social aspects. A good read for the plane ride back from Portland.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-07-30

Hugh Pentecost – Kingdom of Death (1960)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Fog/Mist
Date Finished: July 30, 2017
TBR #64
Follow the Clues step #61: from Death to Death

A cop goes crazy and kills several men before he himself is shot to death. The cop’s estranged brother, a news writer and novelist, digs into the death, uncovering a connection between the men, which all ties into a waterfront mob and a jewel robbery. He vows to break it all up, despite the many lectures he gets from many people on how impossible it all is. And a movie star falls in love with him.

Somewhat preachy at times as various characters expound on the history of the waterfront, the operation of the mobs, and the creation of the commission to fight them in the 1950s. The lead character is determined, but mostly ineffective versus the various mob factions. The writing is adequate, but the story is never quite as involving as it should be.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-07-30

John D. MacDonald – Death Trap (1957)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Dead Body
Date Finished: July 27, 2017
TBR #63
Follow the Clues step #60: from Death to Death

Juvenile Delinquency is the real criminal here as a young wild girl is murdered and a brilliant, introverted misfit is convicted of the crime. The long-departed boyfriend of the sister of the boy returns to the small town to investigate the crime and to try and prevent the execution with only days to go. And also win the girl back. The town, of course, does not want to cooperate, as he tries to expose its seedy underbelly.

A good, taut MacDonald thriller, though some of the 1950s tropes about juvenile delinquency are a bit stale. The sister character, Vicky, isn’t given much to do, and the ending wraps everything up in a nice neat package somewhat unrealistically. Still, it is tough to put down.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-07-27

William Grew – Doubles in Death (1953)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Blunt Instrument
Date Finished: July 26, 2017

Follow the Clues step #59: from Death to Death

A handsome executive gets entangled with a young secretary, while a young mail room clerk envies his life and turns out to be a psycho.

It all seemed so standard and cliched that I wasn’t all that impressed. Turns out perhaps it wasn’t so much cliched as familiar, as I read it before back in 2000. Apparently it wasn’t highly memorable.

The bottle pictured isn’t for drinking, but for use as a blunt instrument, so we’ll count it in that category.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-07-26