Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

This book of greed, corruption, and a truly remarkable amount of violence is the first appearance in a novel of the Continental Op. By some, this book which was published in 1929 is considered to be an American classic.

The Continental Op had come to Personville (called Poisonville by the characters in the book) at the request of Donald Willsson, the editor of the local newspaper, to investigate and clear up the corruption in the city. Donald Willsson was murdered before the Op even had a chance to talk to him. So the Continental Opp went to visit Elihu Willsson, Donald's father. Elihu in the past had controlled the city. He owned the Personville Mining Company, the First National Bank, the newspapers. a US senator, two representatives, the governor and the mayor, and a few other things. When a strike developed at the mine, Elihu called in hired thugs to break it up. They did end the strike and when it was over, they took over the city.

For a payment of ten thousand dollars, the Continental Op told Elihu that he would continue with what Donald wanted him to do. Elihu paid up and the Continental Op took on Pete the Finn, Lou Yard, and Max Thaler who with the help of Noonan, the chief of police, were running the illegal businesses in the city. The Op made friends with Dinah Brand, a rather slovenly woman, who was mixed up in all this in someway or other. She seemed quite willing to tell the Continental Op about the goings on in the city.

So here we have the set up for one man to tackle the crime, corruption, and violence in Poisonville. He would call in two other operatives from the Continental Detective Agency, but he was still in charge of the investigation, and he knew that the boss of the agency would not approve of what he was doing. It is remarkable that a movie was never made of this book, but I see that it is supposed to be the basis for Kurosawa's movie Yojimbo. 

I have read this book for the 2018 Just the Facts Ma'am Golden Mystery Challenge. In my detective notebook, it will be entered in the category of Why - Out of my comfort zone. It was indeed not in my comfort zone. There was far too much violence and bloodshed. I did enjoy Hammett's writing; he had a wonderful way of turning a phrase.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham

Albert Campion first encountered Judge Crowdy Lobbett on a ship returning to England from the United States. He learned that Lobbett had narrowly avoided death a number of times in the recent past. Now on this ship, Campion was instrumental in saving Lobbett from  being electrocuted in a magician's act. After the ship landed, Lobbett's son, Marlowe,  came to Campion, and asked for help in protecting his father. It seemed that Lobbett's life was threatened by a man called Simister who seemed to be evil incarnate.

Mystery Mile was a very small village on the coast of Suffolk. It got its name from the cloud of mist which seems to always hang over the village. The manor at Mystery Mile was a very old building dating to the 1500's. The squire was twenty three year old Giles Padgett who lived there with his twin sister Biddy. Campion brought Judge Lobbett, Marlowe, and Lobbett's daughter, Isopel to stay in the manor at Mystery Mile where they would be much safer than in London. Here they met the village rector, Swithin Cush who was a frequent visitor to the manor.

On their first evening, a roaming fortune teller named Anthony Datchett visited the manor and told the fortune of the Padgetts, the Lobbetts and Swithin Cush. The fortune teller left, and Swithin Cush went back to his rectory and shot himself. Cush left short notes to the residents of the manor house, and a red chess knight as clues for them to investigate.

What follows is a story of Campion's efforts to protect Judge Lobbett and to find out the identity of the mysterious Simister. This will result in quite an active battle with the henchmen of Simister and the effort to confront Simister in the dark and fog on a very dangerous part of the English coast.

This is the second Campion book and it was published in 1930. Campion is portrayed as a pale young man with very large glasses. He talks in a remarkably glib manner which is annoying to the people he is talking to as well, I should think, to the reader. I found this book quite an engaging read and Ms. Allingham provided enough suspense to keep the reader going.

I have read this book for the Just the Facts, Ma'am mystery challenge. It will be entered in my detective notebook in the category of How - Death by Shooting.