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.
Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Where — At a school
Monthly Key Word: Night
TBR #116 (71e, 45p)
Date Finished: October 27, 2019
A killer is abducting and torturing young school boys. The police are on the trail, which has led them to a country boarding school. An undercover officer in a teaching position works to prevent the next crime and apprehend the culprit.
Some good suspense and action as this one develops quite well, despite being a bit slow in the early chapters focused on the school and activities of the boys. Once you get past the cricket matches, things progress quickly. Very good.
Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: What — Means of Murder in title
Monthly Key Word: Ride (August)
TBR #98 (60e, 38p)
Date Finished: September 1, 2019
High-priced private detectives Costaine and McCall are called to California at the request of their old Army commander who is now running an amusement park on a pier. The owner’s sister is fronting a land development project backed by the mob and they want the cheap amusement park gone so it won’t drive down the land values. A number of deaths and accidents have occurred at the pier and the duo have to find the culprits in a hurry.
The death ride refers to a roller coaster accident that kills a number of innocent people, thus being the means of murder. Surprisingly the amusement park keeps operating and people keep coming to it, despite all the death. Costaine and McCall are still cartoon characters, but not nearly as bad as the previous book in the series, Hot Dam. Still, Todhunter Ballard, the author behind the Neil MacNeil pseudonym, wrote so many better books than this series that this one is a disappointment, though a somewhat enjoyable disappointment.
Monthly Key Word: Mountain
TBR #56 (37e, 19p)
Date Finished: May 5, 2019
A man raised by Apaches is hired by a gold hunting crew to get them through Indian territory to a mountain held sacred by the Kiowa, where there also seems to be an semi-abandoned gold strike. They come across a man and a woman in the desert, which leads to even more trouble after they join the crew. Greed, cruelty, cowardice all play into the tensions among the crew as they try to avoid detection by the Kiowas and get as much gold as they can.
This story moves along quite well. The story is almost cinematic, which fits in appropriately with Huffaker’s career, with the characters drawn as to fit typical 1950s western character actors. Imagine Clint Walker or George Montgomery as Larimer, Gene Evans or Leo Gordon as Tronco, Jack Lord or Henry Silva as Henry Coffin, Myron Healey as Jud, Mona Freeman as Lorna, Perhaps that makes some if it cliched, depending on your reaction to the many, many movies that fit this bill. Ok, it is cliched, but still fun.
Monthly Key Word: Hunt
TBR #54 (36e, 18p)
Date Finished: April 30, 2019
A lawman is sent in undercover to the newly opened up Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma to capture the Sundance Kid, a notorious hold-up man whose identity is unknown. Hooking up with another outlaw band that is being out-maneuvered by the Sundance Kid, the lawman has to prevent his identity from being known while also trying to discover the Kid’s identity.
This is certainly not the Robert Redford version of the Sundance Kid, as he largely remains at a far distance from this story, appearing only once while wearing a hooded mask. The story largely concerns the lawman’s work within the other outlaw band, which has two main factions and several individuals who may themselves be the Sundance Kid. Much of the story is internal dialogues of the lawman as he examines various scenarios, with very little action. Nye also uses various dialects, accents, and poor grammar for the various characters, making smooth reading very difficult. I don’t remember being this disappointed with other works by Nye, but this one was a big letdown.
Monthly Key Word: Luck
TBR #35 (22e, 13p)
Date Finished: March 14, 2019
A gambler finds a burning ranch and a dead man on his ride into a small northern Montana town. Attempts to get him to ride on lead him to stay, investigating the murder and other crimes at the request of an invalid rancher with a large spread and two difficult daughters. Someone is leading the ranchers against the encroaching farmers, with rustling and murder mixed in.
Essentially a mystery novel, this one brings in some of the criminals at a very late stage in the story, leading to a unsatisfactory conclusion. The writing style is also oddly stilted, interrupting the story flow. Despite several female characters, they don’t receive much attention. Disappointing.
Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Where — In a locked room
Monthly Key Word: Who
TBR #25 (16e, 9p)
Date Finished: February 22, 2019
When the Murder Club finally reunites after the war, most members are missing, but a French professor tells a story to two younger visitors about an impossible murder that occurred on the top of an isolated French chateau tower several years before. A young woman, Fay Seton, is blamed, even though there was no way for her to be present at the murder. Supernatural powers are ascribed to her for this event and others. When the young man hires her to be the librarian at his own English home, other mysterious events follow and Dr. Gideon Fell attempts to clear up the mystery.
The mystery elements become secondary to the psychological thriller aspects of this story, even though they confound with typical Carr tricks. The dialogue is overwrought at times, with many exclamations and interruptions, as well as much physical action as the story races toward its conclusion. Archons of Athens! The nymphomania theme that gives this novel its historical significance is much more veiled than any modern treatment would be. The typical Carr romantic subplot happy ending is tempered by this issue.