Last Update10/20/18

The Rumble Murders by Henry Ware Eliot Jr., Coachwhip, 2017 (originally published in 1932)

The author was the brother of the poet, T.S. Eliot and this originally appeared as by Mason Deal. There are a couple of problems with the construction of the book. Several characters are so interchangeable that I had trouble keeping them straight. The killer is not even mentioned until shortly before he is unmasked, which is usually a major cheat. Neverthless, I enjoyed this considerably. Itís a kind of police procedural without the police.  Two men, one of them a retired detective, are invited for an extended visit in a newly developed community. The day they arrive, someone rather oddly burglarizes their host and steals his handgun. There is a party that night, during which one man abruptly and inexplicably leaves. A strangerís body is found stuffed into the rumble seat of a car the following day, and the days after that another car is pulled from a lake, also with a body in the rumble seat, and this one is the man who bolted from the party. A lost inheritance, contested property ownership, inadvertently swapped guns, a monkey who commits homicide by accident, and a quarry full of old secrets add to the atmosphere. Quite enjoyable. 10/20/18

Death in Albert Park by Leo Bruce, Academy Chicago, 1983 (originally published in 1964)

Three women, none of whom knew the others, are murdered over the course of a few weeks, each stabbed from behind. It looks like the work of a random killer. Carolus Deene decides to investigate as though each crime was distinct and unrelated to the others. Seasoned readers will know that two of the murders were just to divert attention from the third, for which there is a definite motive. I was somewhat disappointed with this one because I thought it was far too obvious who the killer was. One of the spouses inherits a lot of money, has obviously been dominated by his wife for decades, makes radical changes to his lifestyle almost immediately, and shows no grief at all. It was so obvious that I thought it was a deliberate red herring, but it wasnít. 10/15/18

Dead of Night by Michael Stanley, Orenda, 2018, £8.99, ISBN 978-1-912374-25-0

This is the first non Detective Kubo mystery from this pseudonymous writing team from South Africa. The protagonist is a Vietnamese American nature journalist and conservationist who travels to South Africa to find out what happened to a male friend who disappeared weeks earlier. He had been working on a story about the illegal harvesting and exporting of rhinoceros horns when he disappeared and we know from a brief prelude that he got into trouble doing so. The protagonist is a fairly interesting character and I learned some more about South African culture and the rhino horn trade in particular, but I still found this to be inferior to their other books. Possibly the mystery was too abstract this time. 10/8/18

Queen Anneís Lace by Susan Wittig Albert, Berkley, 2018 

The latest China Bayles is another ghost story. Bayles discovers that the building where her shop is situated was once a house whose mistress experienced great tragedy and her spirit has remained behind. There are physical manifestations that lead her to take the matter seriously and try to uncover the real story from the distant past. Albertís previous ghost story was quite good but this one never really caught my interest. And while it doesn't jar as a standalone, this series has been going on for many years, so why hasn't the ghost made itself known previously? It's as though the author wanted to write a ghost story and just tacked on her recurring characters to boost the sales. 10/5/18

The Doubtful Disciple by William Haggard, Corgi, 1969

Charles Russell has mostly retired from heading a British intelligence service and his replacement is more of an administrator than an agent. His first serious challenge comes when agents suggest that a chemical research facility has developed a plague that can differentiate between races and can therefore be dispersed without serious injury to both sides. As usual, Haggard stumbles his way through the plot, frequently confusing the reader by leaving out important information, and his characters apparently act without comprehensible motivation. The author's right wing leanings also become more evident in his later novels. 10/4/18

A Knife in the Fog by Bradley Harper, Seventh Street, 2018, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-63388-486-1 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a famous forensic surgeon, and a female novelist team up to track down Jack the Ripper in this first novel. Victorian London is recreated convincingly and the author has done his Ripper research. The relationships among the three protagonists is well done and the story proceeds smoothly to the conclusion. There is a considerable surprise there, which took me completely unawares, and despite some minor awkwardness it is quite well done. The tension between the two police forces in London at the time is nicely woven into the story, and the forensics are particularly convincing, if a bit gross. The author is a former pathologist and puts his specialty to work here. I canít imagine how this could have a sequel but Iíll be interested to see what the other does with his next book.10/3/18

Our Jubilee Is Death by Leo Bruce, Academy Chicago, 1986 (originally published in 1959) 

Carolus Deene investigates when a successful mystery writer is found buried up to her neck on the beach near her home. She was a thoroughly awful person who was ruining the lives of two nieces, a secretary, two servants, and a nephew, and who was also infuriating her publisher. The case is complicated by the fact that nearly everyone is transparently lying to Deene and the police, and a mystery man who wanders around without apparently talking to anyone. Another solid if undistinguished mystery, but not nearly his best work. 10/1/8

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