Friday, June 24, 2022

Steve Liskow, Before You Accuse Me


Steve Liskow, Before You Accuse Me
© 2018 Stephen Liskow
ISBN 978-198351-6092

Chris Guthrie, who was a Detroit cop before a horrible injury forced him out of the PD, is now a PI.  And he receives a phone call from a lawyer in Connecticut.  His ex-wife Sarah (they divorced a decade prior; a photographer, is now the director of the fine arts department at Wesleyan University.  She has remarried to a high-priced surgeon, Sam Henderson.  The lawyer tells Guthrie that the Hendersons have asked him to ask Guthrie to come to Connecticut to investigate the death—the murder—of Frederika ,(Rika) Holmstadt a financial adviser (with whom Sam has been getting investment advice and with whom he had been an affair—making him a suspect.  And,, as it transpires, Holmstadt had been stealing from her clients.   It doesn’t help that the gun the Hendersons had has, uh, disappeared Guthrie and Megan Traine (a computer wizard, talented keyboard player, and Guthrie’s long-time companion have come to Connecticut to see if they can find evidence exonerating Sam.

The Hendersons have 3 kids—Clara and Ike from Sam’s first first marriage and Max together.

That’s the setup, and the relationships between the adults are strained.  The kids(Max, the youngest; Ike, just entering high school and very much wanting to make the basketball team; and Clara, a budding pianist who really bonds with Meg are a delight (although a sub-plot, it’s fairly important to the story).  The interactions between the local cops and Chris & Meg work effectively.  And that’s all I’m going to say about the plot.

I will say this:  Before You Accuse Me is the best mystery I have read this year—and the best one I read last year.  In addition to being a stellar mystery, it is a fine study of the relationships between the adults and also the kids.  I’ very glad I have more opportunities  to soend time with Guthrie and Traine.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

 Frederic Brown, Night of the Japperwock

I just finished re-reading Frederic Brown's masterpiece Night of the Jabberwock (a masterpiece  in my opinion, anyway).  Of course, almost any tale that makes good use of Lewis Carroll's "Alice" is likely to be worth your time.  If you aren't familiar with the plot, the potted version is that the owner (Doc Stroger) of a small Illinois town newspaper receives a late-night visitor, Yehudi Smith.  Smith claims to be a member of an exclusive society, the Vorpal Blades*.  And he's there to engage Stroger in a midnight incursion into a house on the outskirts of town.  He wants Stroger to accompany him, and Stroger, who is a devotee of the "Alice" stories agrees.  Surrounding that, we have the tribulations of running a small-town newspaper and ruthless bank robbers.  Also dead bodies in the trunk of a car.  A poisoning. And much more.  Despite the centrality of the "Alice" stories, I would not call this a cozy mystery--the body count is somewhat too high for that.  I don't know how, exactly,  to categorize it.  (I will say that I don't understand how Stroger can function, given the quantity of whisky he  ingests over the course of the night--the ability of anyone to function after drinking that much whisky would be beyond me, anyway.  I will also suggest that, if you come across a tiny bottle with a label "Drink Me" on it, you abstain.)

I would strongly recommend that, if you have not read Night of the Jabberwock, you do so.  And if you have read it, re-reading it would be a treat.
This might be a good time.

*I would join the Vorpal Blades instantly if I had the chance.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Steve Liskow, Nowhere Man 

I have a bad habit of buying things for my Kindle & then forgetting about them. But in the last couple of days I read Steve Liskow's "Nowhere Man" and read it in two sittings. The main character is a PI (ex cop) Zack Barnes) who gets hired by the widow of a wealthy (and deceased) businessman. She wants him to check out the man who seems to be cyber-stalking (which may be too strong a description of the events). In some ways it's not something I usually get caught up in--I tend to shy away from stories which have too much to do with the PI's personal life--but this one incorporates the personal with the investigation nicely. And the conclusion is explosive. On of the best I've read so far this year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Dolores Gorden-Smith, A Hundred Thousand Dragone


Dolores Gordon-Smith, A Hundred Thousand Dragons
Severn House (c) 2010

This is the fourth mystery featuring Jack Haldean.  He's a writer in 1920s England who finds himself investigating murders, generally in cooperation with a Scotland Yard detective (Bill Rackham , who does appear, somewhat tangentially, here).  Haldean becomes involved in the death that occurs on the night of a fancy dress ball in rural England.  The dead man has been burned to a crisp. which makes identifying him difficult, and raises the question of whether it was an accident or murder.  It was murder, of course.  And it was a murder that had its origin in wartime Europe.  

As Haldean and the local police superintendent investigate, it becomes (slowly) apparent that the murder had its origins in the war, and likely somehow tied to archeological explorations in the middle east.  And that large sums of gold (a thousand pounds or more) are likely involved.  (An ounce of gold in the early 1920s would have been worth about $20 --or, nearly £5 per English Pounds.  A thousand pounds of gold would be 16,000 ounces--just over $1 million (£80,000).  (The equivalent of over $20 million today).  And Haldean's treatment in captivity (told in a fairly lengthy flashback) during the War plays a significant role.

By a little over half way through, Haldean decides that he has to return to the Middle East to confront the murderer and deal with his own prior encounters with him.

This is not the best book in what is (for me, at any rate) a marginal series.  The identity of the murder/gold thief is clear by around half-way through; the rest of the story of getting Haldean (and a newly-married couple, whoa re friends of his) to the "lost" city of Petra and confronting the bad guy.  There are some good moments--the best ones revolve around Haldean's interpretation of some fairly obscure documents.  Gordon-Smith does an excellent job of depicting the desert.  But by the time we get to the desert there's little suspense remaining.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Seven Rex Stout novels, in dust jackets

After I finished my previous post, I decided to focus on Rex Stouts.  So here are images of 7 Nero Wolde novels (written, of course, by Rex Stout).  He wrote 32 Nero Wolfe novels (if I counted correctly), and at this point finding the books with dust jackets has become difficult--and pricey.   Therse are the ones I have.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

10 images

 In the photography class I'm taking at the Indianapolis Art Center, our most recent assignment is to create a series of images which are shot using the same lighting, the same exposure choices, and the same image sizes, but with different, but related images. What I chose to do was to shoot the dustjackets of a number of mystery novels. Why that choice? No particular reason. Anyway, here they are.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Rex Stout, Bad For Business: A Tecumseh Fox Mystery

 Bad For Business:  A Tecumseh mystery (1 of 3)

Rex Stout, (c) 1940.  

I think all three of the Fox booksare better than they are generally considered to be.  Fox is a nicely conceived character (even if his name is fairly obviously borrowed from Nero Wolfe.  The owner a gourmet food company, Arthur Tingley, is murdered in his office, and his niece is assaulted.  His adopted son (but there’s a surprise coming about him), a financier with an interest in a rival food company, and a VP in yet another food company have been on the premises.  Fox, a PI whose home base is in upstate New York (but all the of his recorded cases—the others are Double For Death and The Broken Vase—take place in New York City.  I think all three of the Fox books are well above average. [As are the other non-Wolfe bools--The Hand in the Glove (Dol Bonner—who appears sporadically in the Wolfe bools); The Red Threads (Inspector Cramer, and The Sound of Murder (Alphabet Hicks). The crucial clue takes a while for Fox to recognize, but overall the story is taut and moves right along