Category Archives: Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011

THE HECKLER (1960) by Ed McBain

Today we reach another milestone in the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain, one that introduced one of its most nefarious characters. This is the twelfth of my reviews, all of which are listed here. This page will be updated … Continue reading

Posted in 87th Precinct, Ed McBain, New York, Police procedural, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 6 Comments

MILDRED PIERCE (1941) by James M. Cain

In what I hope is not a sign of encroaching old age, I recently picked up my James M. Cain omnibus to refresh my memory of Mildred Pierce before sitting down to watch the new HBO mini-series adaptation starring Kate … Continue reading

Posted in Film Noir, James M. Cain, Michael Curtiz, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 6 Comments

THE JUDGE AND HIS HANGMAN (1950) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt

Originally published in German in 1950 as ‘Der Richter und sein Henker’ by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, this was the first of two books featuring Kommissar Hans Bärlach of the Berne police (they have since been collected in an omnibus volume as … Continue reading

Posted in Colin Dexter, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Georges Simenon, Inspector Morse, Maigret, Police procedural, Switzerland, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 8 Comments

WOMAN IN THE DARK (1933) by Dashiell Hammett

Samuel Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) came to prominence in the 1920s with his short stories about the ‘Continental Op’, published in Black Mask magazine under the editorship of Joseph T. Shaw. His longer works, including his five novels, initially began as … Continue reading

Posted in Dashiell Hammett, Robert B. Parker, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 3 Comments

GIVE THE BOYS A GREAT BIG HAND (1960) by Ed McBain

Today I continue my reviews of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain, all of which are listed here. This page will be updated as I progress through the entire run, which originally was published between 1956 and 2005. Margaret … Continue reading

Posted in 87th Precinct, Ed McBain, New York, Police procedural, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 3 Comments

DEATH ON THE AISLE (1942) by Frances and Richard Lockridge

This is the fourth book in the long-running series featuring married sleuths Mr and Mrs North, written by husband-and-wife authors Richard and Frances Lockridge. The Jerry and Pam North characters first appeared in book form in a collection of lightly … Continue reading

Posted in Dashiell Hammett, Mrs & Mrs Smith, Partners in Crime, Patrick Quentin, Richard and Frances Lockridge, The Thin Man, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 6 Comments

‘TIL DEATH (1959) by Ed McBain

Today I continue my series of reviews of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain (all of which are listed here). It is also the last covering those published before 1960, so it is eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s … Continue reading

Posted in 87th Precinct, Columbo, Ed McBain, New York, Police procedural, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 4 Comments

LADY KILLER (1958) by Ed McBain

Today I continue my series of reviews of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain (all of which are listed here). As it was published before 1960 it is also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge. … Continue reading

Posted in 87th Precinct, Ed McBain, New York, Police procedural, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 7 Comments

MURDER ON SAFARI (1938) by Elspeth Huxley

While compiling my (still work-in-progress) Top 100 Mystery Books, one of the titles frequently suggested for inclusion was this vintage whodunit by Elspeth Huxley. Probably best known for The Flame Trees of Thika, she was a prolific writer publishing nearly … Continue reading

Posted in Elspeth Huxley, Kenya, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 15 Comments

THE CON MAN (1957) by Ed McBain

Today I continue my series of reviews of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain (all of which are listed here). As it was published before 1960 it is also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge. … Continue reading

Posted in 87th Precinct, Ed McBain, New York, Police procedural, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 6 Comments

THE BISHOP MURDER CASE (1928) by S.S. Van Dine

“Philo Vance / Needs a kick in the pance” – Ogden Nash It is only with hindsight that we can properly discern the ebb and flow of patterns in crime fiction and separate the true trend setters, those destined to … Continue reading

Posted in Dorothy L. Sayers, Ellery Queen, Five Star review, Lord Peter Wimsey, Philo Vance, Raymond Chandler, SS Van Dine, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 11 Comments

TURN OF THE TABLE (1940) by Jonathan Stagge

“My name is Westlake, not Watson.” ‘Jonathan Stagge’ was the last of the three pseudonyms used by the writing partnership of Richard Wilson Webb and Hugh Wheeler between 1936 and 1952 and is much less well-known than their other collaboration … Continue reading

Posted in Jonathan Stagge, Patrick Quentin, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 11 Comments

THE PUSHER (1956) by Ed McBain

Today I continue my series of reviews of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain, all of which are listed here together with links to my reviews so far. These will be updated as I progress through the entire run, … Continue reading

Posted in 87th Precinct, Ed McBain, New York, Police procedural, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 8 Comments

THE MUGGER (1956) by Ed McBain

At Tipping My Fedora we thrive on challenges and in that spirit have decided to review each and every one of the 87th Precinct mysteries written by Evan Hunter as ‘Ed McBain’. They were originally published in the US between 1956 and … Continue reading

Posted in 87th Precinct, Ed McBain, New York, Police procedural, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 5 Comments

COP HATER by Ed McBain

At Tipping My Fedora we like a challenge and so have decided to review each and every one of the 87th Precinct mysteries written by Ed McBain. A complete rundown of the 55 volumes in the series has been placed here together with links … Continue reading

Posted in 87th Precinct, Ed McBain, New York, Police procedural, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 | 9 Comments

V is for … SOLOMON’S VINEYARD (1941) by Jonathan Latimer

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog is nearing its end as it reaches the letter V – and my second nomination this week, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

SOLOMON’S VINEYARD (1941) by Jonathan Latimer

“I fought in the war,” Jonesy said; “but it wasn’t like this.”

This is a book that comes with a lot of baggage after gaining notoriety as a mystery that was so hardboiled that it wasn’t published uncut in the US for some forty years – does it, could it, really live up to that promise? Is this the book that is to the crime and mystery genre what DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was to ‘serious’ literature – an emancipating, liberating turning point in the genre? Well, no, not all. It’s still a damn good book though. Here’s some reasons why. Continue reading

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U is for … UNNATURAL DEATH (1927) by Dorothy L. Sayers

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog has reached the letter U, and my nomination this week, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

UNNATURAL DEATH (1927) by Dorothy L. Sayers

“I believe this is the case I have always been waiting for. The case of cases. The murder without discernible means, or motive or clue”

This is the third published case featuring Lord Peter Wimsey, that most upperclass of amateur sleuths, and it is one in which he declares himself fascinated by the possibility of cracking a case where no one even believes there is in fact a murder to be solved. In fact this is  a novel all about the way people perceive one reality as opposed to that which may lie underneath, about discerning secret patterns beneath a humdrum exterior and how realities are formed and perhaps even manufactured. Lord Peter comes to believe that, in one sense, he may very well be the one actually responsible for setting in motion a series of murders that, for his intervention, might not in fact have occurred at all. Continue reading

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Blogs what I have read

Unaccustomed as I am to blogging (with apologies to the immortal British comedy duo Morecambe and Wise and their scriptwriter Eddie Braben), I just thought I’d stop for a minute or two to point with amazement at the apparent synchronicity surrounding the great time I have been having of late participating in the blogosphere. Without realising it, I seem to have joined a group of bloggers all of whom celebrate fairly traditional detective stories, with most of us in particular being great fans of John Dickson Carr and Ellery Queen.

There’s a lot of great crime and mystery bloggers out there and I have to tip my hat to several that I have recently had the pleasure of getting better acquainted with Continue reading

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THE RED RIGHT HAND (1945) by Joel Townsley Rogers

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog has reached the letter R, and my second nomination this week, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

THE RED RIGHT HAND by Joel Townsley Rogers

“… surely one of the dozen or so finest mystery novels of the 20th century.” - Jack Adrian

There are prolific mystery writers, of great and small acclaim, who become defined by just one work – I’m not thinking of Helen Eustis and her sole adult contribution to the genre, the groundbreaking The Horizontal Man (1946), nor of distinctive but only belatedly recognised authors such as John Franklin Bardin. Rather there are those who, for various reasons, despite producing a number of offerings over their careers, only became popularly known for a small or even single portion of it. In some cases this is just an indication of capitalising on commercial success, as in Robert ‘Psycho’ Bloch for instance, but there are others only known to cognoscenti except for one exceptional title – and Joel Townsley Rogers is certainly one of those authors. Continue reading

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RIDE THE NIGHTMARE (1959) by Richard Matheson

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog has reached the letter R, and my first nomination this week, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

RIDE THE NIGHTMARE by Richard Matheson

“We’re going to Mexico but I had to stop and see you first, didn’t I, Chrissie boy?” said the man. “I been waiting a long time for this.”

A slender, slickly written paperback original that originally sold for 35 cents a copy, it is a breathlessly told tale of youthful rebellion gone sour. Chris Martin is 32, married and the father of a young girl. He runs his own small business, is a new member of the local Chamber of Commerce and he and his wife Helen are managing to save a little money towards buying a bigger place. He is content and seems to be living the Eisenhower-era dream – but this is all turned upside down and inside out within a matter of minutes by an anonymous phone call late one Wednesday evening. Chris has a deep, dark secret … Continue reading

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PUZZLE FOR PLAYERS (1938) by Patrick Quentin

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog has reached the letter P, and my second nomination this week, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

PUZZLE FOR PLAYERS by Patrick Quentin

In 1936 the new ‘Inner Sanctum’ imprint from publishers Simon & Schuster was inaugurated with Puzzle for Fools, which not only was the first book published under the new ‘Patrick Quentin’ byline but also served to introduce a new kind of literary detective. Set in Dr Lenz’s mental asylum, we meet alcoholic theatrical producer Peter Duluth while he is undergoing treatment for depression. Unlike the equally hard-drinking Bill Crane, introduced the previous year in Jonathan Latimer’s Murder in the Madhouse (1935), Duluth really is an inmate and a undercover detective masquerading as one. Duluth was Broadway’s golden boy but after the tragic death of his wife he hit the bottle and his career has gone downhill. Now he is in the sanitarium and in the course of his stay he helps solve a couple of murders; but more importantly he meets fellow patient, Iris Pattison, and the two fall in love. Although a great little book, Puzzle for Fools is not the best in the series, so here I have plumped for the follow-up, which apart from being a superior mystery also has the benefit of having another ‘P’ in the title … Continue reading

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O is for … THE ORIGIN OF EVIL (1951) by Ellery Queen

As the Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog reaches the letter O, my second nomination this week, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

O is for … THE ORIGIN OF EVIL by Ellery Queen

This is the third and last of Ellery Queen’s ‘Hollywood’ novels and indeed the three have been published together as an omnibus, though this does tend to emphasise the massive change of style in the final volume.

Indeed, what we are offered here is a jaundiced view of Hollywood and of the great detective himself, who here acts without the help and support of his father in a story which is much more redolent of the post-war noir sensibility we would more normally associate with Woolrich or Chandler for instance. It is a rich and strange novel, one that while being unmistakably ‘Queenian’ shows authors Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee continuing to explore new formulas to try and incorporate increasingly complex themes within the mystery genre. Continue reading

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O is for … OBELISTS AT SEA (1932) by C. Daly King

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter O, and my nomination, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

O is for … OBELISTS AT SEA by C. Daly King

C(harles) Daly King penned seven mystery books  in the 1930s before turning his back on fiction to concentrate on psychoanalysis. His books, some of which are very hard to obtain today, are marked by an impish sense of humour, some highly original ideas and some slightly obscure ones as well, not least of which is: what is an ‘obelist’? By starting at the beginning perhaps we can find out. This was the first of King’s novels and the first of his ‘Obelist’ trilogy, all of which combine murder, travel and psychiatry. It is set on a luxury transatlantic liner, the SS Meganaut, traveling with over 1,000 passengers from New York to Cherbourg. One evening lightning shorts out the generator and the first class smoking lounge is plunged into darkness. While the lights are out a shot is fired and when they return, self-made multi-millionaire Victor Smith is dead, a his female companion’s pearl necklace has been stolen and another man, shady lawyer De Brasto, is literally holding a smoking gun. But nothing is what it seems. Indeed it turns out that Smith has not one but two bullets inside him, one immediately on top of the other,  even though only one shot was heard – and neither has been fired from De Brasto’s gun. To add to the confusion, while the daughter is later pronounced dead she later vanishes from the doctor’s surgery. Continue reading

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N is for … NINE TIMES NINE (1940) by Anthony Boucher

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter N, and my nomination, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

NINE TIMES NINE by Anthony Boucher

This golden age mystery is one of several fine examples of the genre that, like Clayton Rawson’s Death from a Top Hat (1938) and Edmund Crispin’s Love Lies Bleeding (1948), were inspired directly by the work of John Dickson Carr, the master of the locked room / impossible crime story. In this particular case, the book is not only dedicated to Carr, but in fact has an entire chapter devoted to discussing one of his novels. Continue reading

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L is for … THE LEAGUE OF FRIGHTENED MEN (1935) by Rex Stout

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter L. My contribution this week is also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge. L is for …

THE LEAGUE OF FRIGHTENED MEN by Rex Stout

There are some books that in order to properly savour you have allow them time to properly ferment, books of such standing that to properly appreciate their vintage you must allow for expectation to build, perhaps even over a matter of years or perhaps decades before you metaphorically uncork them. To put it more prosaically, there are books that you know are probably really, really good and you are prepared to indulge in some serious deferred gratification so as to not to ruin them. I knew after my first Carter Dickson experience (the wonderfully titled, THE READER IS WARNED) that I would want to read all the author’s books – and the same went after my first encounters with Raymond Chandler (THE BIG SLEEP), Graham Greene (BRIGHTON ROCK), Ellery Queen (FACE TO FACE), Ross Macdonald (THE CHILL), Margaret Millar (THE SOFT TALKERS), John le Carre (CALL FOR THE DEAD) and so many other that, over thirty years later, I still read with undimmed pleasure. And I am glad to say that for most of these writers there are still a few examples of their work, in some cases major ones, that I have left deliberately untouched, saving them as small investment for my future, perhaps to stave off a time when I will no longer be able to contemplate one. That list has of course been getting shorter and shorter as the years have gone by, and THE LEAGUE OF FRIGHTENED MEN is one of the last of the unread Rex Stout books on my shelves – and I finished it today, having first made plans to read it overt twenty years ago. Was it worth the wait? Continue reading

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The 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reached the letter K. My contributions this week have been four of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain with titles starting with the letter K. Why four? There were just too many good ones to choose from is one answer – another is that actually this is all the fault of the Puzzledoctor! In an exchange over at his fine blog we discussed potential titles that might fit the letter K, L and M as part of the Alphabet of Crime meme, particularly from the hard-boiled and police procedural categories of which I am a particular fan. Batting titles to and fro, I was suddenly struck by quite how many of Ed McBain’s books from the 87th Precinct series start with the letter K – and, as I have them all, I thought I would try something different this week. I would blog on four of the novels, all published between 1958 and 1959, to explore quite how varied the series could be but choosing them also so that I could submit all of them towards my pre-1960 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge currently running over at Bev’s Block. To go directly to those reviews, please click on the following links:
Killer’s Choice
Killer’s Payoff
Killer’s Wedge
King’s Ransom

This post however is by way of an introduction to Ed McBain and his 87th Precinct series, which consist of 55 volumes Continue reading

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K is for … KING’S RANSOM (1959) by Ed McBain

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter K. My contribution this week is made up of a quartet of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain published before 1960 so as to also be eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge. Today’s book is …
KING’S RANSOM (1959)

“If you try to figure out what motivates a crook, you go nuts.”
“You’re destroying a boy’s faith in detective fiction,” Meyer said.

Evan Hunter first came to prominence as the author of The Blackboard Jungle (1954), an expose of juvenile delinquency that was turned into an even more successful movie by MGM shortly afterwards. For the next 15 years or so Hunter would continue to publish serious mainstream novels on topical subjects and many of these would also be adapted for the cinema, including Strangers When We Meet (book 1958, film 1960), A Matter of Conviction (1959, filmed in 1961 as The Young Savages) and Buddwing (1964, filmed as Mister Buddwing in 1966). During these years Hunter also became a successful screenwriter, adapting his and other people’s works for the cinema and television. The impact of the latter can certainly be felt in the crime novels he started to publish under the ‘Ed McBain’ byline starting with Cop Hater (1956), the first novel in the 87th Precinct series. Continue reading

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K is for … KILLER’S WEDGE (1959) by Ed McBain

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter K. My contribution this week is made up of a quartet of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain published before 1960 so as to also be eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge. Today’s book is …

KILLER’S WEDGE (1959)

“There was, of course, no such thing as a locked-door murder mystery.”

McBain makes his first great stylistic departure in this, the eight volume in his 87th Precinct series, juxtaposing two radically different cases and two completely different traditions within the mystery genre, the whole kept tightly bound together by the exertion of the titular pressure – and all taking place in a single afternoon. In fact the novel takes place in just under 4 hours in total. Continue reading

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K is for … KILLER’S PAYOFF (1958) by Ed McBain

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter K. My contribution this week is made up of a quartet of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain published before 1960 so as to also be eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge. Today’s book is …

KILLER’S PAYOFF (1958)

“You can carry deduction only so far”

This novel continues directly from Killer’s Choice, the previous book in the series, and begins about 10 days later. It includes some of the same characters from that novel and in fact even reveals the name of the murderer in passing, so the two should definitely be read in sequence if possible. It is still June 1957 but the balmy weather has turned to rain and one evening, in the style of a 1930s gangster hit, a man is gunned down from a passing car. But Sy Kramer isn’t shot with a tommy gun – rather, it’s a hunting rifle and he wasn’t a mobster but a blackmailer, albeit a prosperous one living the high life. And now it’s up to detectives Kling, Carella and Hawes to find out which of his victims decided to turn the tables and become a predator. Continue reading

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K is for … KILLER’S CHOICE (1957) by Ed McBain

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter K. My contribution this week is made up of a quartet of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain published before 1960 so as to also be eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge. Today’s book is …

KILLER’S CHOICE (1958)

“Like on Dragnet?”
“Better than Dragnet” Kling said, modestly.

This entry, the fifth in the series, made two significant adjustments to the roster of characters courtesy of an appropriately dramatic departure and a major new addition to the team of detectives.

Set in June 1957, it follows two murder cases which criss-cross and ironically overlap but which are otherwise completely distinct and separate. Annie Boone is found shot dead inside the liquor store where she worked as a cashier, covered in alcohol and shards of glass in what appears to have been part of a frenzied but inexplicable destruction of the stock. Indeed the boss seems sorrier about the loss of his merchandise than of his faithful employee. That same night one of the 87th precinct’s toughest detectives, the violent and cynical Roger Havilland, sees a dazed young man sitting on the sidewalk outside a shop. Uncharacteristically he actually tries to help, but is repaid by a violent shove through the shop’s plate glass window. The detective’s carotid artery is severed by a shard of glass and bleeds to death while his assailant makes a fast getaway. The man had in fact just attempted to rob the shop and had been shot in the shoulder by the barely conscious proprietor as he escaped. Continue reading

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