Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

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The Perfume of Eros: a Fifth Avenue Incident

October 30, 2017

I kept stopping in the middle of Edgar Saltus’ The Perfume of Eros: A Fifth Avenue Incident and asking, “what is this?” I don’t know if I have an answer. The story is contrived. The characters are no more than moderately sympathetic. The point of view is cynical. The prose is kind of delightful.

Royal Loftus is a rich and attractive young man, who seems sort of interested in the beautiful Fanny Price. She definitely likes him, but she would like him to a) show more interest in her and b) stop trying to pick up other girls on the street. Instead, Loftus pays even less attention to Fanny and tricks Marie Durand, the girl she saw him with, into becoming his mistress. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Tom Slade on the River

September 11, 2017

Tom Slade on the River is set a year after Tom Slade at Temple Camp, but it feels like the second half of the same book, and only partly because it resolves a mystery that was set up in Temple Camp.

The first section combines most of my favorite things about Tom Slade. When the scouts arrive at Temple Camp and find a clue indicating that someone is injured and stranded on a mountain, Tom is the only one who immediately decides to try to find him. Everyone else just kind of accepts that something awful is happening, but for Tom it’s a matter of course that he has to at least try to do something. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Rest Hollow Mystery

May 9, 2017

When reading a certain kind of novel, it can be helpful to know that there aren’t going to be that many people in it, and that some of the characters who have been referenced are either identical with each other, or will turn out to be related. A dark-haired young man is introduced, but not named. Then someone tells the story of a dark-haired young man who’s estranged from his family. You slot them into one pigeonhole in your head, and that reduces the chaos to the point where you can maintain a tenuous grip on what’s going on.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, The Rest Hollow Mystery is 100% the kind of book that calls for that technique. But there’s too much going on, and too many people involved, for it to work. The first batch of chapters left me completely disoriented, and the next batch introduced more characters than I had pigeonholes for. And then Rebecca Newman Porter threw in a truly excellent twist. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Room with the Tassels

May 2, 2017

Carolyn Wells’ mysteries are…not very good, in general. The solutions to the mysteries feel like cop-outs. Her detectives and their weird child assistants are entertaining, but because she only ever brings them in for about the last third of the book, they feel like intruders. She’s excessively fond of secret passages, but rarely gets any fun out of them. The characters are inconsistent and usually unappealing, too. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Curious Affair at Heron Shoals

June 17, 2016

The other day I went to the library and read The Curious Affair at Heron Shoals. It’s from later in Augusta Huiell Seaman’s career than anything else of hers I’ve read — it was published in 1940 — and I think it might also be my favorite. Marty, the teenaged heroine, lives in relative isolation with her grandmother and a mysterious parrot. Twelve year old Ted, a piano prodigy, comes for a visit, along with his father and his music teacher, and his interest in the mystery prompts Marty to start investigating.

I love mysteries, but I also love people not hiding things from each other. I do wish Marty and Ted’s friendship was fleshed out a little more (Seaman tells rather than showing, here) but they have an ease and confidence with each other from the beginning that I really enjoyed. And that would be good in itself, but they also don’t keep secrets from the people around them. Ted’s father, Mr. Burnett, is involved in the investigation from the start, followed by Ted’s teacher and, eventually, Marty’s grandmother. Everyone works together, except for one antagonist who eventually turns out not to have been particularly important. The plot is good, too — a mystery with not too much urgency and proper clues, some exciting weather, and Seaman’s trademark trick of linking the past to the present in concrete ways.

I love everyone working together on a common problem in books almost as much as I’m bored by it in board games. And I love books about nice people who like each other, but I can’t quite love Seaman. Her books don’t tend to be very emotionally compelling — she seems unwilling to devote much time or space to developing relationships — so there’s a level that her books never seem to rise to, and I tend to finish them feeling a little unsatisfied. This one resolved some of the emotional threads nicely, but left more hanging. Still, even if there’s not enough there, what there is is really solidly good. The Curious Affair at Heron Shoals made me want more — more of this story and more of her books. It even made me want to reread things of hers I’ve already read. And that’s a pretty good sign.

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Dig Here!

November 28, 2014

Dig Here! is a bunch of familiar elements — teenage girl best friends, missing treasure, a cranky aunt, and abandoned house, etc. — assembled in a way that didn’t feel familiar. I found myself wondering a lot whether this was the book Gladys Allen set out to write.

The main character, Sandy, is the daughter of missionaries. She’s sent to boarding school during the school year and to various relatives during the summers. When Dig Here! opens, she’s facing the prospect of spending the summer with Aunt Cal, who she’s never met, and who is related to her only by marriage. Aunt Cal says it’s okay for Sandy to bring a friend with her, so she invites her best friend, Eve, and it’s a good thing for her that she does. Eve is a much more forceful personality than Sandy is, and she’s also more adventurous, more sensible, and probably smarter. She’s even better at dealing with Aunt Cal, in part because she’s better at cooking and housework and, I don’t know, getting up on time than Sandy is.
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Cleek: The Man of the Forty Faces

November 11, 2014

I really enjoy terrible mysteries, but only a certain kind of terrible mystery. The episodic, gimmicky, pulpy kind that always feel like they were written between 1896 and 1906, whether or not they actually were.

Cleek: The Man of The Forty Faces is pretty much exactly that. It also makes no sense, and is clumsy in ways that mostly make it more interesting.
Hamilton Cleek (not his real name) is the titular character, and the gimmick. He’s a safecracker when the book starts, but that lasts only long enough to qualify as setup. He has a change of heart re: criminal activity after falling in love at first sight, and for the rest of the book he’s a detective working with Scotland Yard.

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