Spider House – F Van Wyck Mason (1932)

SpiderHouseF Van Wyck Mason has been on my radar ever since Tomcat reviewed The Fort Terror Murders roughly a year ago.  The wacky map included in the book caught my attention, as did the off-the-wall treasure hunt plot.  That kind of pulp appeals to me a bit and brings back memories of the old books I used to stumble upon at my grandparent’s house when I was a kid.  Mix in some sort of golden age murder mystery and I’m game.

There’s a lot to choose from when it comes to Van Wyck Mason.  His library rivals the likes of Carr and Christie, although much of it seems to have focused on spy thrillers and adventure laden retellings of America’s bloody past.  A tip I stumbled upon in the comment section of the review for The Fort Terror Murders was to keep an eye out for books with “murder” in the title from the 30’s – apparently that was the run where Van Wyck Mason was doing his mystery bit.  While I struck out on finding an appealing copy meeting that criteria, I did snag this killer Handi Book Mystery edition of Spider House with a truly vintage cover.

Continue reading “Spider House – F Van Wyck Mason (1932)”

Advertisements

Murder on the Links – Agatha Christie (1923)

MurderOnTheLinksIs it just me, or is this one of Agatha Christie’s best books?  Crooked House?  Enjoyed it.  Death on the Nile?  Loved every minute.  After the Funeral?  Yeah, didn’t see that coming.  And yet, when it comes down to pure country house jamboree, Murder on the Links throws it down.

I’m not expecting anyone to agree, mind you.  But still, when I search through all of the lists of top Christie that I’ve seen, I’m kind of stunned that Murder on the Links isn’t even making a showing.  Really.  When I think back through all of the Christies that I’ve read (which admittedly isn’t that many), it seems as good as any.

No, it doesn’t have that masterpiece of an ending that you get from Murder in Retrospect.  No, it doesn’t have the hook of say, Death Comes as the End or Cards on the Table.  No, it doesn’t have the memorable twist of… well, I suppose I could list ten titles that you all know and love.

Continue reading “Murder on the Links – Agatha Christie (1923)”

The Ghosts’ High Noon – John Dickson Carr (1970)

GhostsHighNoonThis may be the longest gap in my Carr reading since I started this whole thing.  I read The Blind Barber nearly three months ago, and I’ve only now gotten back to Carr.  It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my last read – it was much better than everyone seems to think it is – but rather that The Ghosts’ High Noon is so damn long.  Well, not that long in the scheme of things –  a mere 300 pages – but longer than your typical Golden Age detective fiction (I realize we’re about twenty five years past the period on this one).  Plus, it’s stuffed in this Carroll and Graff edition that packs 300 pages in twice the height of your typical 40-60’s paperback, so it looks damn formidable.

Formidable because of when it was published – 1970.  John Dickson Carr’s better days had passed by the mid-sixties.  His previous novel, Papa La Bas (1968) has no redeeming value and was quite a chore to get through – dragged across three weekends if I recall correctly.  And so 300 pages of a potentially awful read wasn’t exactly an exciting prospect.

Continue reading “The Ghosts’ High Noon – John Dickson Carr (1970)”

Sailor, Take Warning – Kelley Roos (1944)

SailorTakeWarningThe husband/wife writing team behind the Kelley Roos name put out a series of light hearted mysteries/thrillers staring the husband/wife amateur sleuths Jeff and Haila Troy.  At least two of these mysteries that I’m aware of – The Frightened Stiff and Sailor, Take Warning – feature an impossible crime, and so I’ve been snatching them up as the opportunity arises.

Sailor, Take Warning is set following the events of The Frightened Stiff.  Don’t worry, you don’t need to read them in order, but it is The Frightened Stiff that establishes the Troys as a detective couple of some notoriety.  The “sailor” in the title refers to a model yacht club that sails their boats in a lake in New York City’s famed Central Park.

Continue reading “Sailor, Take Warning – Kelley Roos (1944)”

Trial and Error – Anthony Berkeley (1937)

TrialAndErrorMy only experience with Anthony Berkeley so far has been The Poisoned Chocolates Case.  Famous as it is for its multiple solutions, I was just as struck by Berkeley’s acerbic wit.  Each character was so deliciously smug in their observations of others, and yet so completely blind to their own foibles.

Trial and Error may not feature as tight of a mystery as The Poisoned Chocolates Case, but it more than makes up for it with a steady feed of wry observations.  Anthony Berkeley, through his characters, is so delectably smarmy that I can only imagine that he was the blueprint for Christianna Brand’s work that was to come in the following decades.  No other mystery writer seems to come close when it comes to communicating an entire story solely via sardonic observations.

Continue reading “Trial and Error – Anthony Berkeley (1937)”

Wilders Walk Away – Herbert Brean (1948)

WildersWalkAwayIt took me a while to track down a copy of this book for the price that I wanted to pay for it – mostly because I’m a stickler for getting an edition with a cover that I want – and finally won out when a friend got me the IPL edition for Christmas.  Leave it to fate that immediately after finishing reading this, I stumbled upon a vintage Pocket Books edition for $5, but that’s my life…  And hey, an IPL is always more than welcome in my home.

Wilders Walk Away has this interesting reputation: an excellent read, a unique take on the impossible crime, and yet not a book to read solely for the impossible elements.  And, as it happens, if you want to save yourself some time, I’m basically going to grouse on and one about those exact points below.

Continue reading “Wilders Walk Away – Herbert Brean (1948)”

The Fourth Door – Paul Halter (1987)

FourthDoorFor a first novel, Paul Halter sure swung for the fences.  Two locked room murders, a no-footprints crime scene, unexplained events at a seance, and a prominent magician character – sounds like something out of impossible crime classics like Clayton Rawson’s Death from a Top Hat or Hake Talbot’s Rim of the Pit.  Just like many a band’s debut effort is the culmination of all of those ideas dying to get out, you can get a sense of how the The Fourth Door was that first raw effort for what Halter was yearning to create.

The Darnley house has plagued the imagination of neighborhood children since the supposed suicide of Mrs Darnley years ago.  Although covered with brutal stab wounds all over her body, suicide was the only conceivable explanation for Darnley’s death, as her body was found tucked away in a small attic room with the door bolted from the inside and the only window sealed.  Ever since, neighbors have reported occasionally seeing a mysterious light in the attic room late at night.

Continue reading “The Fourth Door – Paul Halter (1987)”