Donald E. Westlake – The Spy in the Ointment (1966)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Why — It made a “best of” list
TBR #124 (72e, 52p)
Date Finished: December 2, 2019

When the secretary of a pacifist organization that gets mistaken for a terrorist organization by a gang organized by a criminal mastermind, he then has to infiltrate that organization for the federal government and defeat them before he is caught.

A comedy romp in the midst of the mid-1960s spy craze, Westlake delivers an entertaining story that doesn’t quite live up to some of his other works, such as the Dortmunder comedic crime series that started in 1970. It still made Anthony Boucher’s Best Crime Fiction of the Year list for 1966.

Just the Facts Silver 2019-12-02

Anthony Gilbert – She Shall Die (1961)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Who — Lawyer
Date Finished: November 29, 2019

A young woman, Hatty Savage, is implicated in the suicide death of her former boyfriend. Although not charged, the village turns against her. Another young woman reveals that the former boyfriend was going to marry her, and soon invites herself into his aunt’s home and life, but when she is murdered, Hatty faces trial. Enter Mr. Crook eccentric lawyer for the defense.

The main characters here are not very likable, but Mr. Crook arrives eventually and saves things through his engaging personality. The mystery has some twists that help deliver a good surprise ending. Very entertaining.

Just the Facts Silver 2019-11-29b

Ellery Queen – The Black Hearts Murder (1970)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: What — Color in the title
TBR #122 (72e, 50p)
Date Finished: November 29, 2019

Troubleshooter Mike McCall is sent by the governor to deal with a potential race riot in a mid-sized city in the unnamed state. In the midst of a mayoral campaign between a African-American candidate and a law-and-order (racist) candidate, McCall has to calm the white mob and the Black Panther-like organization, even as the law-and-order candidate is assassinated.

A Richard Deming ghostwritten tale of racial tensions is full of stereotypes and filler with a obvious killer and conclusion. Attempts to add romance (or sex) seem out of place with the serious subject matter. A sad sell-out of the Ellery Queen name for such a by-the-numbers book.

Just the Facts Silver 2019-11-29a

Helen Reilly – The Day She Died (1962)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Where — At a Country House
Monthly Key Word: She
TBR #121 (72e, 49p)
Date Finished: November 27, 2019

A winter storm in the New Mexico desert has trapped a number of characters at a remote ranch house, where a wealthy and powerful woman has recently died. Among those trapped are Inspector Christopher McKee of New York Homicide, luckily enough since murder soon takes place.

Despite the seemingly random arrival of all the characters, they all end up being interrelated or connected somehow either in New York or in New Mexico. McKee’s isolation and struggles against nature help, if you can get past all of the coincidences that are required to set the story up.

Just the Facts Silver 2019-11-27

2019 Monthly Key Words 2019-11-27

George Harmon Coxe – Deadly Image (1964)

Deadly Image

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Who — An Artist/Photographer
TBR #120 (72e, 48p)
Date Finished: November 26, 2019

Jack “Flash” Casey, newspaper photographer, finds himself involved with a blackmail scheme after a stockbroker friend gets framed with a half-naked blonde. Another friend, a fellow photographer now on the skids, has also involved himself in the scheme but winds up dead. Casey has to deal with scheming family members, along with nightclub musicians and mobsters, before he has to reveal it all to the police.

Casey returns here in his final outing minus most of his toughness and pulp beginnings, as little more than a Kent Murdock copy. The plot, too, is fairly nondescript and doesn’t surprise. It is all pleasant enough, but Coxe was coasting on fumes by this point.

Just the Facts Silver 2019-11-26

Michael Crichton – Easy Go (1968)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Why — A character has job similar to yours
TBR #119 (72e, 47p)
Date Finished: November 18, 2019

An archaeologist stumbles upon the location of a 3,000-year-old tomb of a pharaoh while deciphering a papyrus document. Rather than raise funds and excavate it the standard way, he proposes a scheme to a freelance journalist to steal the contents and ransom them for $50 million. After finding a backer and crew members, the gang attempts to locate this tomb while avoiding Egyptian authorities.

A good heist novel that has an interesting setting in the Valley of the Kings, this one walks through the tomb, step by step, but then moves a bit too quickly through the ransom scheme attempt, wrapping it up all too quickly. That ending feels like a bit of a let down after the work down in locating the treasure. Still I like a good lost treasure story. Still, the lack of documentation of the excavation is galling to this archivist, which we’re considering close enough in profession to an archaeologist for purposes of this contest.

Just the Facts Silver 2019-11-18

Brett Halliday – Murder Takes No Holiday (1960)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: How — Death by knife/dagger/etc.
Date Finished: November 17, 2019

Mike Shayne is persuaded to take a Caribbean vacation in order to recover from some busted ribs. Before he goes, though, a federal agent persuades him to investigate some smuggling activity on the small island he is headed to, where an informant has recently been stabbed to death. Among the characters is a policeman’s widow who Mike once knew and who is now married to one of the men who may be involved with the smuggling ring. Naturally this all leads to trouble and Mike’s type of vacation.

Written by an unknown house author, this one moves along fairly well, though along standard lines. Mike does the undercover bit which is soon exposed. He never does much detecting, just shows up and causes schemes to fall apart.

Just the Facts Silver 2019-11-17