Arthur Upfield – The Mystery of Swordfish Reef (1939)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Boat
Date Finished: May 19, 2017
TBR #37
Follow the Clues step #31: from Herring to Swordfish

A fishing boat out for swordfish with a client disappears off the coast of off New South Wales. A search proves fruitless until the head of the client shows up in the fishing catch in a trawler’s net. No other wreckage can be found. Napoleon Bonaparte (Bony) is called in by the police, even though his outback tracking skills are of little use on the ocean. In order to solve the mystery, Bony must learn about swordfishing, as well as about the people around this small fishing community.

What a pleasure to read a great mystery by a great writer. The fishing is excitingly described, Bony remains a very interesting character, and the suspense is well maintained. Very highly recommended.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-05-19

Ellery Queen Jr – The Blue Herring Mystery (1954)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: A Building (other than house)
Date Finished: May 17, 2017
TBR #36
Follow the Clues step #30: from Blue to Blue

Quite enjoyable for a juvenile mystery, with Djuna investigating some mysterious individuals and actions after hearing about a long-lost treasure, a set of pearls hidden by a whaler some 70 years before. Set somewhere in New England, the whole community is preparing for and participating in the seasonal run of the herring up the river to their spawning, with Scapping Day being the climax of the season and the mystery.

Purchased in 1982 or so in Sioux Falls, I’ve had this one on my shelf for a while. In the end it was a quick read that involved a fairly good mystery with some suspense, as well as various knowledge about whaling and fishing. The mystery is solved through discovery of the perpetrator, rather than through deduction. Still, a fairly good juvenile mystery.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-05-17

John Godey – Killer At His Back (1948)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: A Mask
Date Finished: May 10, 2017
TBR #34
Follow the Clues step #28: from Back to Back

Well, I fell way behind again with these reviews, so let’s get through some of these and catch up.

Killer At His Back was originally known as The Blue Hour, but is abridged here in the Bestseller Mystery. I’m not sure how much was cut, but the story hangs together well enough. I once avoided abridged editions, but now I prefer the shorter length.

In this mystery, a somewhat down-on-his-luck drunk, Harry Calvert, meets some strange folks and is assaulted, though no one believes his account of it. It turns out that they think he has a receipt they need. That receipt is a McGuffin to justify all the chasing around and confrontations, but it somewhat involving. The style feels somewhat like Fredric Brown, in that it is somewhat light, yet suspenseful.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-05-10

Adam Knight – Knife at My Back (1952)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: A Blonde
Date Finished: May 5, 2017
TBR #33
Follow the Clues step #27: from Dagger to Knife

Private detective Steve Conacher, hired to tail a wealthy wife, follows her to a plush Catskills resort hotel. Here he runs into a number of characters, including a night club singer on the verge of stardom, the TV comic in love with the singer, her agent, a dancer, and various others, as well as the obligatory crooked cop. The wealthy wife is soon murdered, which the cops peg as a suicide, until a dealer in stag films also dies.

This is the fourth in the Steve Conacher series, and I liked it somewhat better than I liked Stone Cold Blonde, the second in the series, which I read last year. If it was mentioned in the earlier one, I didn’t pick up on Conacher only being slightly over five feet tall. That put a different slant on his toughness and dealings with the other characters. He spends a lot of time here running around between different characters and different parts of the hotel, and but I found it entertaining.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-05-06

Helen Reilly – The Canvas Dagger (1956)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Written Document
Date Finished: April 24, 2017
TBR #32
Follow the Clues step #26: from 1956 to 1956

A portrait painter falls to his death from the window of his fourth-floor Greenwich Village apartment. A young woman staying in an apartment across the street happens to see the whole thing, including a shadowy figure in the apartment with the painter, indicating that this might not be suicide after all. At first no one believes her, but soon other attacks occur that indicate that a murder may be nearby.

This one is well written, but some of the coincidences are far fetched. The young woman, Sarah, seems to have run in the same circles as the painter, with her aunt having an old house in the Cape Cod-like area where the painter, his ex-wife, her close friends, other odd types, and the painter’s biographer, who she soon falls for, all congregate by chapter four. Inspector McKee shows up, far outside his jurisdiction, but the focus is still on Sarah and the danger she faces. At times suspenseful with an ominous feeling, yet she could have easily removed herself from the area and from danger.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-04-24

David Alexander – The Murder of Whistler’s Brother (1956)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Any Other Animal
Date Finished: April 18, 2017
Follow the Clues step #25: from Brother to Brother

I was looking forward to reading this one, solely based on the title, but it unfortunately did not live up to expectations. It opens in the middle of the murder trial of a mob lieutenant, aka Joe the Whistler, for the killing of a Broadway impresario. Based on the testimony of Bret Hardin, Broadway newspaper man and the hero of this series, the eyewitness testimony of the witness placing the mobster at the scene of the crime is thrown out and the case dismissed. Supposedly, with the case having advanced so far, double jeopardy is invoked and the mobster could never be tried again. At this point, it is obvious that this is the guilty party and the rest of the mystery is Hardin trying to figure out how he was tricked into his testimony and how to get the Whistler. The Whistler’s brother also dies at one point, justifying the title.

In fact, the whole thing seems to be an exercise trying to fit the story into the pre-determined title. Many characters are thrown in, especially in the first three pages, that I had a tough time remembering who was who. Hardin is supposed to be running a newspaper, but doesn’t seem to worry much about deadlines or responsibilities. And, of course, we know who the murderer is from the beginning, not necessarily intentionally, so it seems a somewhat pointless exercise.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-04-18

Thomas B. Dewey – Run, Brother, Run (1954)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Performer (Dancer)
Date Finished: April 8, 2017
Follow the Clues step #24: from Running to Run

A private detective goes undercover in a prison, taking the place of a dead bank robber, in order to gain the trust of a crime boss and find a treasure in stolen jewels. Tagging along as the gang breaks out of prison, the detective has to avoid the gang’s suspicions, keep them from finding out about his sweetheart, and avoid the police.

Hardboiled, suspenseful, and tightly written, this one was enjoyable, though perhaps not groundbreaking in terms of plotting.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-04-08