Posts Tagged ‘mystery’


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.


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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A Chain of Evidence

August 27, 2013

The time has probably come for me to face the facts: Carolyn Wells was not a good mystery novelist. I mean, nothing can take away from my love for Vicky Van, but it’s the exception, not the rule. The rule is a book where, when you’re told that a young woman has a domineering husband or relative, you know who the murder victim is going to be. The rule has a massively annoying narrator who is usually a lawyer, even more usually in love with the woman freed by the murder, and absolutely always an idiot.

A Chain of Evidence has perhaps the most stupid narrator of all, a lawyer named Otis Landon who has just moved into an apartment across the hall from the one occupied by Janet Pembroke, her bedridden uncle Robert, and their maid, Charlotte. Robert Pembroke is the inevitable murder victim, and he’s found stabbed in the back of the neck with a pin one morning. The catch is that the murder happened at night, after the security chain on the door was on, so no one should have been able to get in without breaking the chain. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Swimming Pool

August 26, 2013

So, obviously I don’t review things that are still under copyright very often, but and Open Road Media have put out a whole slew of Mary Roberts Rinehart mysteries as ebooks, and I know for a fact I’m not the only one who’s run out of Rineharts to read at Project Gutenberg.

Open Road very kindly sent me an ebook of The Swimming Pool for review, and it’s kind of great, in a very specific, Rinehart during the ’40s and ’50s kind of way. There’s a specific formula you don’t get in her earlier mysteries, where the heroine is the youngest daughter of an old family, usually one whose lifestyle has changed dramatically over the last few decades. She’s usually in her late twenties, and when a man shows up to investigate whatever the mystery is, he’s also her love interest. The closest public domain example I can think of is Where There’s a Will — which I’ve never reviewed, but which is kind of similar to When a Man Marries in tone, but slightly less awesome.

Anyway, considered on its own merits, The Swimming Pool is pretty good. The heroine is Lois Maynard, and yes, she’s in her late twenties, and she’s the youngest daughter of the family, and they’ve definitely seen better times. There’s even a domineering mother, although she’s dead by the time the story begins. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Mystery

April 23, 2013

Halfway through The Mystery, by Samuel Hopkins Adams and Stewart Edward White, I decided that I definitely was not going to review it. But now that I’m done, I kind of feel like I have to. It’s just so weird. At least, it seemed weird do me, but I’m not really in the habit of reading slightly sci-fi pirate-y horror stories, so. Read the rest of this entry ?


Terror Keep

February 5, 2013

Terror Keep might be my favorite of Edgar Wallace’s books featuring J.G. Reeder, but I can’t help feeling that it’s all wrong. Read the rest of this entry ?