Helen MacInnes – Pray for a Brave Heart (1955)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: A Tree
Date Finished: August 30, 2017
TBR #74
Follow the Clues step #75: from Prey to Pray

An ex-soldier, formerly of the Reclaimed Property Division, is asked to help in the search for some lost diamonds that are suspected of being sold to fund Communist work. The mission takes him to Bern, Switzerland, where he becomes entangled with a underground group smuggling dissidents out of Communist territories.

It took me a little while to get into this one, but once I found sufficient time to devote to extended reading, I found it enjoyable. This one straddles the border between WWII and Cold War espionage, as does our hero, who has professional experience, but in this case is acting as a amateur investigator. There are some women characters, both competent and bumbling, who add interest, though the treatment is somewhat typical of 1955. There is also some attention to the setting of both Bern and the small Swiss town where the final action takes place.

I’ll make this my final step in the Follow the Clues challenge and get to work on finishing the cover scavenger hunt.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-08-30


Frank Kane – Time to Prey (1960)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Cigarette or Pipe
Date Finished: August 22, 2017
TBR #73
Follow the Clues step #74: from Hours to Time

Johnny Liddell is unknowingly slipped some mysterious papers in a bar by Chinese woman. Johnny is very shortly thereafter beaten by some thugs and the papers stolen. The woman, who was undercover for the Treasury Department investigating the smuggling of Chinese communists into the U.S., soon is found murdered. The man implicated in the murder is also soon found dead, an apparent suicide, though Johnny doesn’t believe it. He investigates and soon finds connections with a dockside racketeer, who soon frames Johnny for another murder.

A mid-series Johnny Liddell, this one never seems to flow together into any sort of believable mystery. The whole smuggling of communists into the country is never touched upon other than as a reason to have a Chinese woman appear in chapter one and die by chapter three. The villain is exposed early, despite all the efforts to make everything look like accidents, suicides, or frame others for the murders. Kane seems obsessed by mobsters operating on the docks as several of these stories revolve around that. This is the 19th one of these that I’ve read, out of 29, so perhaps I should set them aside for now.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-22

Agatha Christie – Murder After Hours (1946)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Playing cards
Date Finished: August 19, 2017
TBR #72
Follow the Clues step #73: from After to After

An annoying doctor is murdered at a country house. Among the suspects are his wife, his mistress, and a long-departed lover who has recently reappeared. There are also the loopy estate owner and her husband, the milquetoast heir who is pining for the mistress, and another woman who pines for milquetoast. Hercule Poirot, vacationing down the road, pops in to investigate.

Not one of Agatha Christie’s best, with a fairly obvious resolution. The characters are distinct, though annoying. The doctor, who is praised for his energy and life, comes across as a selfish jerk. Christie apparently thought she ruined her novel by bring Poirot into the story, but I’d rather see much more of him and less of these other characters. There is a lot of pining for other people and for a lost past, the definition of which varies from character to character, but suck it up and get over it already.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-08-19

Hugh Pentecost – Die After Dark (1976)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Any Other Animal
Date Finished: August 14, 2017

Follow the Clues step #72: from Before to After

A politician comes to public relations agent Julian Quist with a problem. A woman he has fallen in love with has been murdered. To prevent his campaign from being derailed, and to prevent his handicapped wife from finding out, he asks Julian to investigate. Julian has to investigate the woman’s past and her ex-husband to find out who she was involved with and who may have murdered her.

Although the public relations angle and Quist’s team of employees is an interesting and unusual angle for a detective story, the slight reasons he gives for investigating, and the complete acceptance by the police, are not realistic. Quist is also portrayed as some sort of golden god, as is his partner Lydia. He also makes a number of assumptions that never seem to go down the wrong path, though he doesn’t discover the rather obvious murderer until he is attacked.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-14

Lou Cameron – Before It’s Too Late (1970)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Any Other Weapon
Date Finished: August 13, 2017
TBR #71
Follow the Clues step #71: from Too Late to Too Late

An ex-serviceman returns from Vietnam to his home town, somewhat disabled and looking for work. Now unable to get police work, he takes a job at a collection agency. The first assignment is to repossess a Corvette from a dangerous college thug. He easily repossess the Corvette, but the college kid turns up dead shortly thereafter. The police finger him for the killing, but soon turn him loose for lack of evidence and try to run him out of town. Many others try to do that as well, getting orders from some town bigwig, but he persists in digging around, amid a number of other mysterious deaths.

From the cover, I expected more of a juvenile delinquency/gang thing, but it is much more of a John D. MacDonald-style man vs. corrupt town thriller, such asĀ Death Trap. There are some hippie-type motorcycle-riding college students who do try to rough him up, but there is also Israeli-Arab espionage conflicts that play a much more central role to the plot. The resolution turns out to be rather far fetched, with a very convoluted plot to develop plague bacteria at the local beer factory for use on Israel. Still the writing and the execution turned out to be much better than I expected.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-13

Roy Huggins – Too Late for Tears (1947)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Car/Truck
Date Finished: August 12, 2017

Follow the Clues step #70: from Tears to Tears

A couple out for a drive are tossed a satchel containing $40,000 into the back of their car. The husband, an honest man, is all for turning it over to the police. The wife is not. Her greed leads her down a path of killing and scheming to her eventual downfall. The husband’s sister and a mysterious stranger play a large part in exposing her.

Roy Huggins is known more for his TV and movie work, but this is one of the few novels he wrote prior to that work. Turned into a 1949 film noir classic, this mystery gives that same feeling. Very gripping.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-08-12

James McKimmey – Blue Mascara Tears (1965)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Curtains
Date Finished: August 10, 2017

Follow the Clues step #69: from White to Blue

An honest cop has to fight his own bureaucracy to bring a connected mobster to justice. A gambler with a large amount of money is killed just prior to paying off the mobster. The killer turns out not to be connected to the mobster, but the gambler’s wife soon turns up dead and the mobster and his men are implicated. The cop brings everything down to serve justice.

A good, brutal thriller that moves quickly. I’m very impressed with every McKimmey story I’ve found.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-10b