Patricia Wentworth – Dead or Alive (1936)

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Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Spider
Date Finished: November 24, 2017

The rejected suitor of a young woman returns to England to find her widowed and virtually penniless. Her husband has disappeared and is presumed dead, although someone is leaving mysterious clues for her that indicate that he may still be alive. Her wealthy scientist uncle has become even more absent-minded and is now secluded away from her on a strange country estate with mysterious new servants who refuse access to him.

Whereas the heroine inĀ Hue and Cry, the only other Wentworth I’ve read, was spunky, this one is a wishy-washy dud. Is her husband alive or dead? Does she love Bill, the former suitor? She can’t decide anything until we spend 200 pages talking about it. Sure, there are wishy-washy people in real life, but we don’t have to waste time reading about them. The end picks up a bit as she is pursued around the grounds of the country estate in the dark, until the deus ex machina ending, but she also manages to faint twice during that chase. The villain is good, but this seems to be part of a series, so she escapes to do harm is some further book. I had to work to keep from putting this one down.

And that completes the Golden Age Cover Scavenger Hunt card.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-11-24

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Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries (2015)

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Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Any Holiday Decoration
Date Finished: November 22, 2017

Fifteen Golden Age Christmas-related mystery short stories are collected here by Martin Edwards. Some are well known, such as “The Blue Carbuncle” by Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as mysteries by Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Edmund Crispin, while others are from unknown and forgotten authors. Although the inclusion of the well-known drives sales, it is a shame that others by long out-of-print authors may have been omitted to include these that are available through many other sources.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-11-22

David Frome – Homicide House (1949)

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Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Spooky House
Date Finished: November 17, 2017

Mr. Pinkerton returns after a 10-year gap for his final adventure. Here he is residing in post-WWII London in a boarding house situated in a partially bombed-out square. One of the destroyed houses belonged to a family that now resides in the boarding house, which Pinkerton secretly owns. That family consists of an invalid mother, a dutiful daughter, and a crotchety aunt. The father of the young woman absconded with a valuable painting and some funds 25 years before. The appearance of an American former-G.I., who has come hunting for the young woman, along with Mr. Pinkerton’s bumbling, lead the family to believe he is really after the father. Hilarity ensues. No actually, murder ensues. Who is covering up what and who keeps bumping people on their heads?

The good beginning, which primarily deals with the romance, and the adequate ending hardly make up for the long, drawn-out sections in the middle, as Frome (aka Leslie Ford or Zenith Brown) uses four sentences of florid description to respond to every sentence of dialogue. Mr. Pinkerton does little but bumble around, and plays no part in the resolution, other than one chance remark. The resolution is pulled out of thin air by the police inspector, but at least it requires some actual action. At least we don’t have to hear about the greatness of the American South as we do in many other Leslie Ford works.

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Jonathan Latimer – Sinners and Shrouds (1955)

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Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Butler/Maid/Servant
Date Finished: November 14, 2017

A newspaper reporter wakes up in a strange apartment after a black-out drunk night-on-the-town. In the bed next to him is a dead woman, who turns out also to be a reporter on the same Chicago paper. He has to reconstruct the previous night before the police catch up with him, not knowing himself whether he is innocent or not. Many on the paper once worked on a Texas newspaper owned by the same conglomerate, where they once covered or had ties to a criminal duo called Larry Trevor and the Hooded Nun. How does that relate to this current crime?

Unlike most stories of this kind, the reporter has friends and a lawyer who believe him and work to prove his innocence, so he isn’t quite the lone wolf. There is also an element of humor, though not a complete screwball comedy as Craig Rice would write. There are quite a few characters, as there would be in real life, but it was difficult to keep them all straight at times. The plot also gets a bit convoluted and implausible, though it remains entertaining. I look forward to reading more by Latimer.

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Edward S. Aarons – Girl on the Run (1954)

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Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Staircase
TBR #86
Date Finished: November 11, 2017

An engineer in France on his way back to the U.S. delays his trip to help out a young woman with whom he is in love. A year previously she had chosen to be with his friend rather than the engineer, but now that friend has become a smuggler and crook, somehow involved with a crowd after the young woman, Lorette. Her father has been kidnapped to either reveal the location of a Templar treasure or to reveal where he has found a vein of uranium. A communist organization is behind the kidnapping, while the smugglers and the policeman they’ve corrupted are working for their own ends. The engineer must fight through them all, and find the treasure, to rescue the girl.

Another competently told tale from Aarons that doesn’t break any new ground but gives us some entertaining action and suspense.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-11-11

George Bellairs – Death of a Busybody (1943)

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Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Carriage/Wagon
Date Finished: November 10, 2017

The mean, prying gossip of a small village is found dead, face down in the vicar’s septic tank. Who didn’t want to kill her? Seems like everyone had a motive, and most also had alibis, though one is clearly false.

A rather sedate mystery with a number of colorful characters and some rustic accents. The mystery itself isn’t very difficult, as the fake alibi is easy to spot. It took me a while to get through this, in large part due to a busy work week, but also due to the various character dialects, which slowed down the reading. The strength here is the characters, though the dead woman herself isn’t that clearly drawn.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-11-10

Agatha Christie – The Seven Dials Mystery (1929)

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Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Clock/Timepiece
TBR #86
Date Finished: November 3, 2017

A young man is murdered in his bed at an English country house, surrounded by eight alarm clocks that his friends have placed there as a joke. The man’s friends take it upon themselves to investigate the murder, which soon involves them with a mysterious masked band and a plot to steal some valuable industrial plans.

Despite the lively and entertaining young woman who becomes the focus of the novel, Bundle as she is known to her friends, I was a bit disappointed that the plot left the country house and got involved with the typical masked criminal gang. How mistaken I was. Christie, as usual, pulls a surprise ending and nothing is as it seems. Entertaining, though a bit long.

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