Fire rages through Haunted Mine, economic mainstay of the coalmining town of Genesee, Colorado. Some miners have been rescued, but seventeen still are tragically trapped in the mine’s depths. Tony Sheridan, the handsome, outgoing and seemingly much-adored nephew of Genesee’s “benevolent despot,” old Matthew North, heroically descends to the bottom of the mine in a desperate last effort at rescue. He does not return, however, nor do any of the missing men. All hope is abandoned, the ventilating shaft is shut off and both downcast and upcast are covered over by boards. Five weeks later, after the fire has exhausted itself, the shafts are opened and men descend to clear out the wreckage. At the foot of the main shaft Tony’s scorched body is found—with a bullet through his heart! The bullet entered from the young man’s back in such a way as to preclude suicide. The seventeen men whom Tony had tried to rescue are found dead in the mine behind a half-built barricade, under such circumstances that beyond any possibility of doubt they all must have been dead long before Tony made it into the mine. So who or what on earth could have killed Tony Sheridan?
Before the midnight when young Johnny Angel went whistling up his steps to find a gun jammed unceremoniously into his stomach, he would have described himself as a simple, everyday sort of person.
He loved his job as A-1 mechanic in a defense plant and slaved nights over a union plan to increase production. Other nights he devoted to Janie Allen, to whom he proposed at least once every twenty-four hours.
But a white paper containing a message in mysterious code was thrust into his hand and suddenly he was being pushed around.
Johnny Angel decided to stand up for his own rights. Moreover, he decided to find out just what was going on if he had to buck the whole New York City police department. Before long that was just what Johnny Angel, scuttling through Greenwich Village back streets, was doing, for he had been neatly, beautifully and convincingly framed on a murder charge!
“Johnny on the Spot” is a fast, up-to-the-minute mystery, written with excitement and authority.
When George Gaynleigh, author and “spasmodic” detective novelist , arrives in the wealthy and seemingly contented suburban development of Randall Green as a guest of his friend Ed Marsh, he little suspects that he will soon be embroiled in a crime problem more intricate than anything he ever dared put down on paper. A person or persons unknown has picked up a nasty habit of shooting men and then stashing their stripped bodies in the rumble seats of local cars—most emphatically not a practice calculated to heighten property values! Soon Gaynleigh joins a neighborhood “homicide squad”—comprised of himself, Ed, a journalist and, wonder of wonders, an actual detective—which tries, with help from Ed’s winsome wife, Jeanie, to crack a fiendishly complex murder case.
Henry Lanard was dead, appallingly dispatched with a knife to his chest as he lay on his deathbed, fatally ill with pneumonia. Who would murder a dying man? Seemingly the single clue had been briefly glimpsed by beautiful Ethel Baines, the nurse who discovered her employer’s body: snowy prints left by anonymous footsteps.
Perilously trapped with Ethel Baines in the snowbound Lanard mansion are Henry Lanard’s physician, Alfred Trevor, to whom Ethel is secretly married; Lanard’s frivolous widow, Frieda; his calculating attorney brother Courtney; his sardonic spinster sister, Janet; his handsome black sheep son, Neville; and his servants, Sophie and Cowpers Freedly, respectively cook and butler, and Hodges, the chauffeur. In spirit as well, hovering like a malignant specter over the grim mansion, is the beautiful Elizabeth Lanard, deceased youngest child of the Lanard clan. Additionally, in classic tradition another person unexpectedly appears in the midst of the murder maelstrom that engulfs the mansion.
Will this unexpected guest prove friend or foe? And who in the house of death will survive a long winter’s night of heart-freezing terror, in which an anonymous slayer strikes with impunity again and again?
Huddled on the floor, her body clothed only in the flimsiest of night gowns, lay lovely Marguerite Scholl. Robert Crocker, who first found the body, was suspected of the murder, but Peter Adams, a New York City reporter with an enquiring mind, thought it might have been done by someone else. The trail he picks up and follows leads him to the Pennsylvania Dutch country—from one nerve-racking experience to another—for very soon he discovers that “hexing” has a great deal to do with the murder. Even bluff old Sheriff Reed is nervous when they try to question the dour Kruger, father of the slaughtered girl, the testy Dr. Schneider or the strange Conrad Reifmayer who had put a hex on all the Kruger family. Peter Adams is helped a great deal by a fascinating red-headed girl, but it isn’t until they have shared many a danger together that they finally solve The Hex Murder.
CLUES AND CORPSES: THE DETECTIVE FICTION AND
MYSTERY CRITICISM OF TODD DOWNING
Clues and Corpses investigates the life and genre writing of Oklahoma Choctaw detective novelist Todd Downing (1902-1974). Included in this volume are nearly 300 annotated mystery book reviews from the 1930s by Downing and Downing’s essay “Murder is a Rather Serious Business” (1943), as well as analysis of Downing’s own detective fiction, most of which is set in Mexico. A biography of Downing provides details on his life at home and in academia. Preface by Bill Pronzini.
There were the makings of murder in that dinner party, all right. If you had been sitting at that beautifully appointed table as a stranger, you would have thought such a group could hardly be matched for smartness, for culture, for beauty and wit in the women, for keenness and force in the men. But there were no strangers at Martin Cole's table, and each one suspected that behind those clever animated expressions lay greed and jealousy, fear and arrogance and ruthlessness.
Set against the background of the executive offices of a large, modern Fifth Avenue department store, this tale of subtle intrigue and murder moves with swiftness and precision. And, in following it, the reader finds himself constantly surrounded by the fascinating inner world of merchandising fashion, learning the ways of models and buyers and promoters, watching from behind the scenes the extravagant private showings, and sitting in on the councils of the high-powered executives.
THE SPECTRUM OF ENGLISH MURDER: THE DETECTIVE
FICTION OF HENRY LANCELOT AUBREY-FLETCHER AND G. D. H. AND MARGARET COLE
That British mysteries from the Golden Age of detective fiction (customarily defined as the period between the First and Second World Wars) were not only aesthetically but ideologically conservative has long been a commonplace of mystery genre criticism. In The Spectrum of English Murder, Curtis Evans challenges this view by looking at the detective fiction of Henry Lancelot Aubrey-Fletcher and G. D. H. and Margaret Cole, a trio of popular British crime writers from the Golden Age. Although Aubrey-Fletcher, a Great War veteran and member of his country’s traditional gentry elite, and the Coles, prominent socialist intellectuals, wrote about fictional murder from polar points of the political spectrum, the detective fiction of all three authors is alike in that it often defies conventional expectations of between-the-wars British mystery writing.
The Spectrum of English Murder offers both fans and scholars of Golden Age detective fiction an entertaining and illuminating analysis of the works of three of the period’s most interesting crime writers, all of whom merit modern-day revival.
Two of Anita Boutell’s books in one volume, one a classic clued mystery and the other a psychological thriller. In the first, Dr. Archie Storke investigates the death of a gunshot victim in a quaint English village. In the second, a young newlywed confronts her huband’s ancestral home complete with strange relatives and a dangerous cliff.
When John Fordman, millionaire oil man and leading citizen of the west Texas town named in his honor, is discovered dead from a bullet wound to his head inside his luxury Isotta-Fraschini limousine during the shooting of the latest local gusher, Joan Shields, society page editor of the Fordman Daily News, deems the shocking slaying a welcome diversion, as she would much rather be spending her time investigating ballistics and bloodstains than chronicling the convivial activities of the good ladies of the Laff-a-Lot Bridge Club. With the not overly bright local sheriff finding himself utterly baffled by this heinous murder in a small town, Joan calls in Dick Fields, her private detective pal from her recent days in New York, to help solve the crime. Joan and Dick soon have on their hands a veritable ten-gallon hatful of suspects, including journalists, town fathers and even a reputed mistress or two. How many more murders will take place in this torrid Texas town before a daring and resourceful killer is brought to justice?
A small group of Americans find themselves sheltering in an old French town to save expenses after the fall of the American dollar. This pleasant stay off the beaten path is interrupted with the arrival of a brash American businessman and his wife, only to be further spoiled by the death of one of their own. A young schoolteacher finds himself embroiled in the mystery and it isn’t long before another death creates more turmoil. A young couple’s happiness is on the line in this well-written mystery.
The Bank Vault Mystery: On the morning of the thirty-first three engineers accompanied by the manager visited the vault of the Consolidated Bank. Shortly after they left, it was discovered that a bag containing $180,000 in cash had disappeared. And so commenced the famous bank vault case in which Maxwell Fenner, the casual, dapper detective, made a list of six suspects and in tracking them through a maze of motives and two murders found a criminal genius.
Brokers' End: It was a clever set up. The Treasurer of the great bond concern of F. W. Strong lay across his elaborate mahogany desk with a bullet hole in his forehead. His revolver was at hand, the ejected shell gleamed from the carpet nearby. Motive? The House of Strong after forty years of business "without loss to any investor" had, a few days previous, been declared insolvent by the Court and there were rumors in the air of "irregularities" in the books. It was a clever set up, but after Maxwell Fenner had looked it over and glanced significantly at Inspector Bryce, the latter expressed the thoughts of both when he remarked, "I smell something fishy-it's too damned neat." And then commenced the pursuit and detection of what was to become a string of the most diabolically ingenious murders in the experience of the dapper, casual, and disconcertingly naive Maxwell Fenner.
In The Dartmouth Murders, Dartmouth College student Ken Harris finds a fellow undergraduate hanging outside the dormitory, but events soon prove it was murder, not suicide. As events unfold, and more deaths follow, Ken finds himself questioning the motives of everyone around him. Even his attorney father, helping the police in their investigations, comes under suspicion. The murderer won’t be unveiled until a secret past is uncovered.
“Spider” Meech, an elderly detective, finds himself facing the most challenging mystery of his career in The Wailing Rock Murders. Visiting his young ward and her friends in a great house on a seaside cliff, murder casts a pall over the party. The mystery becomes twisted with a dark family history and twin Gothic manors. In the background, a wailing wind portends death.
Kansas oil man Ralph Loundon is found murdered and dumped on a strawstack, and there is no end of suspects. Steven Steele, crack amateur detective, is on the case!
First published in 1936 as A Frame for Murder, The Strawstack Murder Case offers a baffling mystery in an unusual setting for a Golden-Age mystery. Author Kirke Mechem (1889-1985) was the Executive Director of the Kansas State Historical Society, and brought his wealth of knowledge and love for Kansas scenery to this, his only published mystery novel. (A second mystery, that dealth with themes his publisher was uncomfortable with, unfortunately seems to have been lost.) An oil well fire, Jamaica ginger, a furry primate, and White Castle hamburgers all make appearances in this fun mystery.
Marina Grazie, coloratura soprano, had at least one thing in common with the old gray mare—she wasn’t what she used to be when she was the darling of the Metropolitan. One characteristic, however, she had retained—“a gift for inspiring impulses to violence.” These impulses boiled to the surface among her entourage when she came out of a well-deserved retirement to join the Monte Calvo Opera Company on a tour of the Pacific Coast. Each of them jealously guarded the secret of his own past, but all were united by their bitterness toward the aging prima donna who ruled their lives with a whip of fear. On a sentimental pilgrimage to Lucifer’s Pride, a grim, half-finished castle on the banks of the Columbia River, Marina’s last aria was ended with that homely implement of which Hamlet soliloquized—“a bare bodkin.” During the next twenty-four storm-tossed hours, Tony Graine, the tenor in her company, uncovered a story of intrigue, jealousy, blackmail and revenge as wild as the blizzard which whined around the ancient castle. No police and no detectives were present to delay his brilliant quest of the solution to the deadly riddle.
Murder Ends the Song (1941) is more than a fresh and amusing mystery novel. Into its thrill-packed pages is woven the fascinating atmosphere of the operatic stage, with its petty intrigues, its strange artistic quirks, and the spell which music spins about its devotees.
During the Golden Age of detective fiction Marian Gallagher Scott (1892-1943) wrote scores of pulp crime stories and five well-received detective novels. Leaving her job as a typist in Topeka, Kansas, Scott took up acting as a circuit Chautauqua performer, appearing with her husband, Earl, on stages across small-town America. In the late 1920s the couple retired from acting and turned to crime fiction as their occupation. With the flair of a natural entertainer Marian Scott in her mystery novels offers readers exciting stories with interesting characters and intriguing puzzles.
In Dead Hands Reaching (1932), dark clouds gather as actress Dallas Gentry returns to Willow Valley seeking a divorce from her tyrannical older husband. (A Courtney Brade mystery.)
The brutal Minnesota slaying of a mysterious hermit woman in Death's Long Shadow (1946) leads investigators back to decades-old misdoings in a forbidding New England town. (A Courtney Brade mystery.)
Murder mars a small-town New England wedding in the highly-praised Tall Man Walking (1936). Sophisticated psychiatrist Kenneth Borden investigates as the bodies pile up and a lack of material clues stymies the police.
A peddler’s murder upsets the peaceful environs of Alder Valley, as shameful secrets come to light in The Attic Room (1942). (A Courtney Brade mystery.)
Willoughby Sharp wrote two excellent fair-play mysteries, but rather than highlighting a master private detective, these are well-plotted police procedurals with characters that bring lively interaction to their pages.
Murder in Bermuda takes us to that lovely island, where a murder jars the local police force into surprised but efficient action. Is the murderer a tourist, a local, or a passing sailor? And what does it have to do with a New York kidnapping?
Murder of the Honest Broker opens with two murders of a similar strange nature, but with little else to connect them. Inspector Bullock is on the case, a no-nonsense and brash police detective who sorts the clues and follows the leads by the book. Amusing and puzzling, the NY Times Book Review called it.