Monday, January 28, 2019

Printer's Error by Gladys Mitchell

The Carns were receiving anonymous letters, and Mrs. Carn had written for assistance from her London solicitor. Her solicitor had sent his son, Justus Bassin, to deal with the problem. She gladly received Justus and told him about her problems, her husband was not present at this interview. Her husband, Fortinbras Carn, was an author and was finishing up his latest book.  His new book, Open-Bellied Mountain, was creating quite a stir even though it had not yet been published. The letters were threatening, and, quite honestly, Fortinbras was not a popular person even with other authors and critics. She wanted Justus to take charge of one set of corrected galleys of the book which were kept in a large locked cash box. He agreed to stay another day, and went into the village to acquire a razor and tooth brush. On his return, he was shocked to find that Mrs. Carns had been murdered. Apparently by a blow on the head with the cash box which had been taken. The police immediately assumed that Mr. Carns had murdered Mrs. Carns.

A week before these events, Mrs. Adela Lestrange Bradley had gone to visit her nephew, Carey Lestrange, who was a pig farmer. Carey felt that he needed a vacation. Mrs Bradley suggested he take a much needed vacation, and do what he really wanted to do. So Carey decided to take a vacation tramping around painting inn signs. It was during this tramping, that he encountered Justus Bassin, and the two of them resolved to find out more about the murder of Mrs. Carns.

They visited the printer who was to print the book, and found that it was a very antisemitic tract which stated that Priapus was a Hebrew deity, and that Thor was a good Nazi. They also found that the printer was being visited by a Nazi agent. Then body parts began appearing. Ears went to one recipient and a hand to another. Police digging eventually revealed an earless, handless body which turned out to be Fortinbras Carn. Or maybe it wasn't Fortinbras!

Now things get even more complicated. Mrs. Bradley decided to investigate this puzzling situation. There are mad cap rides with George, the chauffeur,enjoying himself. Mrs. Bradley, Justus, and Carey were shot at. Mrs. Bradley undertook an investigation of a nudist colony. The reader must also pay attention to manuscripts, galley proofs, a published book, and the possibility of a printer's error.

This book was published in 1939. It is serious in that it involves antisemitism and Nazis, but it does have its light hearted moments. I have read this book for the 2019 Just the Facts, Ma'am Golden Mystery Challenge, and it will be entered in my detective notebook of Who - A writer.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Vintage Murder by Ngaio Marsh

The group of actors were seated around the table on the stage of the theater when the murder occurred. They were there to celebrate the birthday of leading lady Carolyn Dacres. Everyone was expressing best wishes, and a few gifts were given. Then her husband, Alfred Meyer, announced that if she would cut the red cord near her seat, she would receive her gift from him. She did so and suddenly a jeroboam of champagne rapidly descended from the ceiling and hit Meyer on the head crushing his head and breaking his neck. He was quite dead.

Among the guests at the table was Inspector  Roderick Alleyn of Scotland yard. He had met the actors on the train to Middleton, New Zealand and had become friendly with some of them who invited him to the birthday party. Of course, Alleyn immediately investigated how the murder was carried off. It seems that Alfred Meyer had designed this as a way of presenting a lavish gift. The jeroboam  was attached by a rope over a pulley to a heavy weight. When the cord was cut, the magnum was supposed to descend
slowly because of the heavy weight to which it was attached . The stage hands and Meyer had tested it 12 times that afternoon. Alleyn found that the weight had been removed causing the bottle to descend very rapidly. In addition, a little cord was attached which deflected the bottle from the center of the table where it was supposed to land to the side where Meyer was sitting. I have copied the drawing which Alleyn did showing how the whole thing was supposed to work.

Alleyn was on a working vacation, and wished to have the New Zealand police handle the murder, but when they found out who he was, they insisted he take a part in finding the murderer. The company of actors was employed by Incorporated Playhouses, Inc. which was owned by Meyer and his partner, George Mason, who was now the sole owned. Carolyn Dacres, wife of Meyer, was really in love with leading man, Hailey Hamilton, who had been hoping that she would ask Meyer for a divorce. There were also the younger actors in the company who were engaged in a dispute over some stolen money. Also there was a Maori physician. Dr. Rangi Te Pokiha, who was a witness at the death.

This is a classic Golden Age mystery which was published in 1937. There are a lot of interviews of the everyone concerned. A chart is drawn up of the times involved, and the map of the theater is studied intently. Ms. Marsh, who was from New Zealand, includes descriptions of the scenery, and also deplores the treatment of the Maori natives.

I have read this book for the 2019 Golden Just the Facts, Ma'am mystery challenge and it will be entered in the category of How - unusual murder method.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Murder Challenges Valcour in the Lesser Antilles Case by Rufus King

Wealthy Lawrence Thacker had purchased a yacht, the Helsinor, and had taken friends and family on a cruise to South America and the Caribbean. When the yacht struck a reef, and quickly sank, many of the thirty two on board went down the boat. There were 10 who made it into a lifeboat, and were headed toward an island. This party included Lawrence Thacker, his cousin Erica Land, her aunt, Miss Whitestone, Philip Hasbrook who was another cousin, Edmund Gateshead, a good friend of Thacker, and Lilian Ash, a numerologist. Also in the lifeboat were Oscar Baron and Sarah Gorin who were servants, and Wesley Paget, the first officer and Leighton Klein, the third mate.

They arrived at the island which was barren and which did not seem to have a source of fresh water. They decided to get back in the lifeboat and look for a better place. They took along a container of the drinking water from the yacht which was all of the water that they had. Along the way, they each has a small drink of water and in the heat, they all went to sleep. When they woke up, they discovered that Lawrence Thacker and Leighton Klein were no longer in the boat. The final decision was that they had fallen asleep and fell over the side.

Life went on after they arrived back in New York. Lieutenant Valcour of the New York Police department was assigned to try to find out what had happened to Thacker and Klein. There was a memorial service for the lost men and then there was a reading of Lawrence Thacker's will. Erika Land and Philip Hasbrook received quite a significant amount of money. Lilian Ash, the numerologist received one hundred thousand dollars. Lawrence Thacker had become quite interested in numerology, and Miss Ash would become a real pain in the neck of the family members. Then everyone was shocked when Edmund Gateshead was poisoned and died at a wake that he was giving for the missing men.

Valcour would solve the mystery after Miss Whitestone purchased a similar yacht, and all of the suspects took another cruise to the spot where the Helsinor sank. A diver was hired to go down and search the sunken vessel for further clues which explains the cover of this book.

This book was published in 1934. Rufus King was an American mystery writer.Though he had several detectives in his books, Inspector Valcour who appeared in 11 books was the most popular with readers. I cannot say that I was impressed with Valcour. He was a pleasant, polite detective who got along with everyone, but his detecting skills were not impressive.

I have read this book for the 2019 Just the Facts Ma'am mystery challenge in the category of How - Two deaths with different means. In this novel, people died from drowning and from poison.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Death in the Back Seat by Dorothy Cameron Disney

Jack and Lola Storm decided to leave the expensive life in New York City, and move to a small town where life would cheaper and more peaceful. Lola was an author and Jack was a painter. They found a charming cottage in Crockford, Connecticut. They rented this cottage from Luella Coatesnash, a sixty something woman, who lived in a much larger house nearby. Mrs. Coatesnash repeatedly asked them to run little errands for her - a trip to the grocery store or pharmacy. Jack and Lola did these little trips because they were basically nice people, and they didn't want to antagonize their landlady.

In February, Mrs. Coatesnash told them that she was leaving for a trip abroad. The handyman Silas Elkins would be around to help them if they needed any assistance. After she had gone, the Storms received a very strange phone call. The man calling said his name was Elmer Lewis and the Mrs. Coatenash had said the Jack would pick him up in New Haven and drive him to Crockford. Jack agreed to do this even though he had second thoughts, but did not know how to contact Elkins.

So Jack and Lola drove to New Haven in the rain, and picked up Lewis at the train station. Lewis put a suitcase in the front seat, and said that he would ride in the rumble seat, in the rain. Jack and Lola thought this a very odd arrangement, and Lola observed Lewis watching them through the back window during the trip. Jack drove back at such a speed that he was stopped on the way by police officer Lester Harkway who gave him a warning, not a ticket. When they got to Crockford, they stopped so that Jack could go to the grocery store and Lola to the drug store, leaving Lewis in the rumble seat. When they got back to the car, Lewis was dead. He had been shot.

The police were called and officer John Standish considered the evidence and seemed to decide that Jack and Lola were the murderers. This was a decision which would be changed as the investigation continued. Things was become much more complex, and Jack and Lola would take an active part in the final solution of the mystery.

I really enjoyed this book. It is well written with a remarkable number of complications and loose ends to be tied up. Dorothy Cameron Disney was born in Oklahoma in 1903. She worked as a secretary, copywriter, and night club hostess before she took up writing. She only wrote 9 novels. Death in the Back Seat was published in 1936.

I have read this book for the 2019 Just the Facts, Ma'am mystery challenge. It is entered in my detective notebook in the category of How: Death by Shooting.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Puzzle of the Silver Persian

The beautiful silver persian cat named Tobermory came aboard the passenger freighter, American Diplomat, with his human, the Honorable Emily Pendavid. She was sailing from New York to London with her son Leslie Reverson. Also sailing on the ship was Hildegarde Withers, school teacher and amateur detective who was on a well deserved vacation. They were joined by others such as young Rosemary Frasier and her traveling companion, Candida Noring, Andy Todd who was going to England on a Rhodes scholarship, and Mr. and Mrs.Peter Hammond and their son Gerald who was a chronic pest and troublemaker.
As the trip progressed, the various passengers met each other and also met the
steward Peter Noel who was quite friendly with the ladies.  All of the men took
an interest Rosemary Fraser. She apparently met one of the men in a secluded place on the deck. When this was discovered, there was quite a bit joking about this with Rosemary and she did not take it at all well. Then one evening, Rosemary was seen on the deck, and then she disappeared. The ship was searched and she was not found. The captain refused to turn around, because in the time it would take to return to the spot of her supposed disappearance, she would have drowned in the cold Atlantic waters. Still, it was questionable whether she committed suicide, had been murdered, or had found the perfect hiding place on the ship.

When the ship reached London, Scotland Yard was called in to investigate in the person of inspector Cannon. His investigations led him to suspect Peter Noel of a connection to the disappearance. When Noel was questioned, he committed suicide by swallowing cyanide. Another death would follow, and the reader learns more about Candida Noring and the Hammonds. Hildegard Withers would accept the invitation of Lady Emily to come to her castle in Cornwall. The investigation reached its conclusion in Cornwall. Hildegarde Withers, with the assistance of the cat,  discovered the identity of the murderer who was taken back to London by Scotland Yard.

This book was published in 1934. Palmer wrote 14 Hildegard Withers mysteries. I have always found the sleuthing of this prim and proper school teacher to be quite interesting.  I have read this book for the 2019 Just the Facts. Ma'am mystery challenge and it will be entered my detective notebook in the category of What - An animal in the title.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Faintley Speaking by Gladys Mitchell

Mandsell was broke. He had no money and his landlady was threatening to throw him out of his room. He was an author, and his book had been accepted for publication but he desperately needed some payment before publication. He was wandering the streets in the rain when he decided to call his publisher to ask for some kind of payment. As he neared the phone booth, he saw a man leaving it. Just as Mandsell was about to make his call, the phone rang. Mandsell answered it when he had no reason to do so. The voice on the line told him that it was Miss Faintley and she would not listen to Mandsell saying that she had the wrong person. Miss Faintley told him to go to Hagford Station and pick up a parcel on deliver it to Tomson, and ask for a receipt.

Mandsell had no reason to do this, but he decided to do it because it would give him something to do. He went to the station and picked up the package. He remembered seeing Tomson's shop so he went to the dingy shop and gave Tomson the package. He demanded a receipt, but Tomson offered him five pounds instead. To a man with no money this seemed like a very good deal, and he took the money. Finally he could pay part of his rent.

This is the opening of Faintley Speaking by Gladys Mitchell. This mysterous phone call and package would get Dame Beatrice Lestrange Bradley and her secretary. Laura Menzies, involved in a very complicated crime. Laura discovered the body of the murdered Miss Faintley in a deserted house. It was found that Miss Faintley was a teacher at Kindleford school. In order to learn more, Laura volunteered to take Miss Faintley's place at the school. Here she began to suspect other members of the school staff might be involved in whatever it was that Miss Faintley was doing. There are many choice comments on the behavior of school students which make for fun reading. The final solution of the crimes in this novel requires Mrs. Bradley, Laura, the police, and a even a cooperating school teacher.

This novel was written in 1954. I have always enjoyed the novels of Gladys Mitchell. Mrs Bradley is a delightful sleuth with her knowledge of psychoanalysis, and just about everything else under the sun. I have entered this book in my detective notebook in the category of Where - At a school.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Just the Facts, Ma'am Challenge, 2019

I am entering the Just the Facts, Ma'am challenge for 2019. In case you are wondering what this is, you will find this a challenging read of the mystery novels of the Golden Age (up to 1960) and of the Silver Age which follows it.

I am posting the rules of the competition below.

"As was the case (pun intended) in the 2018 challenge, participants in the 2019 version of the Just the Facts, Ma'am Challenge will be playing detective. The objective is to answer all the important questions of Who, What, When, Where, How and Why to complete cases in either the Golden or Silver Mystery Eras (or for the more adventurous, both). I have added two more spaces to each category and have changed up some of the items to check off. [Thanks to Kate from Cross Examining Crime for her helpful suggestions!] See the Detective Notebooks below.
Challenge Levels
   Constable: 6 books -- one from each category
   Detective Sergeant: 12 books -- two from each category
   Inspector: 18 books -- three from each category
   Inspired Amateur: 24 books -- four from each category
   Chief Inspector: 30 books -- five from each category
   Superintendent: 36 books -- six from each category
   Chief Superintendent: 42 books -- seven from each category
   Deputy Chief Constable: 48 books -- eight from each category
   Chief Constable: 54 books -- nine from each category
   Master Detective: 60 books -- all ten books from each category

Golden: Pre-1960
click photo to enlarge (silver card is below)

~All books must be from the mystery category (crime fiction, detective fiction, espionage, etc.). The mystery/crime must be the primary feature of the book--ghost stories, paranormal, romance, humor, etc. are all welcome as ingredients, but not be the primary category under which these books would be labeled at the library/bookstore.

~For the purposes of this challenge, Golden Age Vintage Mysteries must have been first published before 1960. Golden Age short story collections (regardless of publication date) are permissible if they fit a category and provided all stories in the collection were originally written pre-1960. Please remember that some Golden Age authors wrote well after 1959--so keep an eye on the original date and apply them to the appropriate card. Silver Age Mysteries must be first published from 1960 to 1989 (inclusive). Again, Silver Age collections published later than 1989 are permissible as long as they fit a category and include no stories first published later than 1989. Yes, I admit my dates are arbitrary and may not exactly meet standard definitions of Golden or Silver Age."

Silver: 1960 - 1989 (inclusive)

For more information and there is more, visit Bev's web site at Bev is the lady who sets these challenges for us.

I personally will be entering the Golden Challenge, and am looking forward to a fun year of reading.

 My Detective Notebook


Death at the President's Lodging  by Michael Innes, 1936, Academic

 My Late Wives   by Carter Dickson, 1946, Actor

Inspector French and the Box Office Murders   by Freeman Wills Crofts, 1929, Professional.

Printer's Error   by Gladys Mitchell, 1939, Writer

 Murdock's Acid Test  by George Harmon Coxe, 1936, Photographer
Alphabet Hicks  by Rex Stout, 1941. Person's name in the title.

Three Women in Black  by Helen Reilly, 1941. Color in title.

The Puzzle of the Silver Persian   by Stuart Palmer, 1934, Animal in the title.

 The Documents in the Case  by Dorothy Sayers and Robert Eustace, 1930. Includes letters.

There Came Both Mist and Snow  by Michael Innes, 1940. Title with a literary allusion in it.


The Crooked Wreath  by Christianna Brand, 1946. Timing of crime is crucial.

 Death and the dancing footman  by Ngaio Marsh, 1942. During a weather event.

 Brazen Tongue  by Gladys Mitchell, 1940. Set during World War II.


Duplicate Death  by Georgette Heyer, 1951. Set in a capital city.

Faintley Speaking   by Gladys Mitchell, 1954. In a school.

Scales of Justice  by Ngaio Marsh, 1955. In a small village.

 Prescription for Murder  by Hannah Lees, 1941. In a hospital.

Groaning Spinney  by Gladys Mitchell, 1950. Any outdoor location.


Crossword Mystery by E. R. Punshon, 1934, Death by Drowing

Death in the Back Seat   by Dorothy Cameron Disney, 1936. Death by shooting. 

Murder Challenges Valcour in the Lesser Antilles Case   by Rufus King, 1934. Two deaths with different means. 

Vintage Murder   by Ngaio Marsh, 1937. Unusual murder method. 

Death at the Bar  by Ngaio Marsh, 1941. Death by Poison. 


  Beast in View  by Margaret Millar, 1956. Won an award.

  Strong Poison  by Dorothy Sayers, 1930. Made a Best Of list.

 Bedeviled  by Libbie Block, 1947. First letter of author's first and last names the same as mine

  The Whistling Hangman  by Baynard Kendrick, 1937. Author from my county.

   With a Bare Bodkin   by Cyril Hare, 1946. Read by a fellow challenger.

Detective Notebook Wrap-up

 We have reached the end of 2018 and this will be my final post for the Golden Mystery Challenge for 2018. I have read 36 book which are listed below. It has been an enjoyable year of reading. Once again, I will thank Bev for all that she does.

My Golden Detective Notebook

Swan Song  by Edmund Crispin, 1947. An Academic.

Murder in a Hurry  by Richard and Francis Lockridge, 1950. A crime solving duo.

Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer, 1933. An amateur detective.

 Death at the Medical Board  by Josephine Bell, 1944. In the medical field.

 The Crimson Clue  by George Harmon Coxe, 1955. A Photographer.

  The Curved Blades  by Carolyn Wells, 1915. Matriarch of family.

Head of a Traveler  by Nicholas Blake, 1949, Pseudonymous author.

The Black Curtain  by Cornell Woolrich, 1941. Color in the title.

 Murder After Hours  by Agatha Christie, 1946. Published under more than one title.

 The American Gun Mystery by Ellery Queen, 1933. Means of murder in the title.

   Mrs. McGinty's Dead  by Agatha Christie, 1952. Reference to a woman in the title.

 Bad for Business  by Rex Stout, 1940, Title contains two words beginning with the same letter.

  An English Murder  by Cyril Hare, 1951, During a recognized holiday.

The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie, 1932.Time/Date in Title.

  Death of a Fool  by Ngaio Marsh, 1957. During a performance.

   The Case of Jennie Brice  by Mary Roberts Rinehart, 1913. During a weather event.

    Death on the Nile   by Agatha Christie, 1937. During a cruise.

    Night at the Mocking Widow  by Carter Dickson, 1950. During a special event.

  Fire Will Freeze   by Margaret Millar, 1944, In a country house.

  Death in the Tunnel  by Miles Burton, 1936, On a mode of transportation.

 Murder on Paradise Island  by Robin Forsythe, 1937, On an island.

 The Dutch Show Mystery   by Ellery Queen, 1931. In a hospital.

Verdict of Twelve  by Raymond Postgate, 1940. Features a courtroom scene.

 Murder of a Lady   by Anthony Wynne, 1931. In a locked room.


The Dead Can Tell  by Helen Reilly, 1940. Death by drowning.

Dark Death   by Anthony Gilbert, 1953, Two deaths by different means.

Cold Poison  by Stuart Palmer, 1954. Death by poison.

 Mystery Mile   by Marjorie Allingham, 1930. Death by shooting.

 Footsteps in the Dartk   by Georgette Heyer, 1932. Death by strangulation.

 A Blunt Instrument   by Georgette Heyer,  1938, Death by a blunt instrument.

A Dram of Poison  by Charlotte Armstrong, 1956. Won an award of any sort.

 The Greene Murder Case   by S. S. Van Dine, 1927. It made a "best of" list.

  Red Harvest  by Dashiell Hammett, 1929. Out of my comfort zone.

 Scarecrow by Eaton K. Goldthwaite, 1945. An author I have never tried.

Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh, 1939. An author I have read and loved before.

What Mrs. McGillicudy Saw  by Agatha Christie, 1957. Book made into film.