The Uncollected Father Brown Stories ★★✬☆☆

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Title: The Uncollected Father Brown Stories
Series: Father Brown #6
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 75
Words: 20K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

The Donnington Affair

The Mask of Midas

My Thoughts:

“….you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
~ Revelation 3:15b-16

One week after finishing this collection of 2 stories I can’t remember a thing about them. The Father Brown stories had started to wear on me so I was looking forward to a much shorter experience, but I wasn’t expecting something so completely bland that I forgot it right after reading it.

There was nothing bad but there was nothing good, hence the Bible verse. Thank goodness the Father Brown stories are done!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A Study in Scarlet ★★★✬☆

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Title: A Study in Scarlet
Series: Sherlock Holmes #1
Author: Arthur Doyle
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 150
Words: 43K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Part I: The Reminiscences of Watson

In 1881, Doctor John Watson has returned to London after serving in the Second Anglo-Afghan War. He is looking for a place to live, and an old friend tells him that Sherlock Holmes is looking for someone to split the rent at a flat at 221B Baker Street but cautions Watson about Holmes’s eccentricities. Holmes and Watson meet, and after assessing each other and the rooms, they move in. Holmes reveals that he is a “consulting detective” and that his frequent guests are clients. After a demonstration of Holmes’s deductive skills, Watson’s disbelief turns into astonishment.

A telegram requests a consultation in a murder case. Watson accompanies Holmes to the crime scene, an abandoned house on Brixton Road. Inspectors Gregson and Lestrade are already on the scene. The victim is identified as Enoch Drebber, and documents found on his person reveal that he has a secretary, Joseph Stangerson. On one wall, written in red, is “RACHE” (German for “revenge”), which Holmes dismisses as a ploy to fool the police. He deduces that the victim died from poison and supplies a description of the murderer. Upon moving Drebber’s body, they discover a woman’s gold wedding ring.

Holmes places notices in several newspapers about the ring and buys a facsimile of it, hoping to draw the murderer – who has apparently already tried to retrieve the ring – out of hiding. An old woman answers the advertisement, claiming that the ring belongs to her daughter. Holmes gives her the duplicate and follows her, but she evades him. This leads Holmes to believe that she was an accomplice, or perhaps the actual murderer in disguise.

A day later, Gregson visits Holmes and Watson, telling them that he has arrested a suspect. He had gone to Madame Charpentier’s Boarding House where Drebber and Stangerson had stayed before the murder. He learned from her that Drebber, a drunk, had attempted to kiss Mrs. Charpentier’s daughter, Alice, which caused their immediate eviction. Drebber, however, came back later that night and attempted to grab Alice, prompting her older brother to attack him. He attempted to chase Drebber with a cudgel but claimed to have lost sight of him. Gregson has him in custody on this circumstantial evidence.

Lestrade then arrives and reveals that Stangerson has been murdered. His body was found near his hotel window, stabbed through the heart; above it was written “RACHE”. The only things Stangerson had with him were a novel, a pipe, a telegram saying “J.H. is in Europe”, and a small box containing two pills. Holmes tests the pills on an old and sickly Scottish terrier in residence at Baker Street. The first pill produces no evident effect, but the second kills the terrier. Holmes deduces that one was harmless and the other poison.

Just at that moment, a very young street urchin named Wiggins arrives. He is the leader of the Baker Street Irregulars, a group of street children Holmes employs to help him occasionally. Wiggins states that he’s summoned the cab Holmes wanted. Holmes sends him down to fetch the cabby, claiming to need help with his luggage. When the cabby comes upstairs and bends for the trunk, Holmes handcuffs and restrains him. He then announces the captive cabby as Jefferson Hope, the murderer of Drebber and Stangerson.

Part II: “The Country of the Saints”

The story flashes back to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah in 1847, where John Ferrier and a little girl named Lucy, the only survivors of a small party of pioneers, are rescued from death by a large party of Latter-day Saints led by Brigham Young, but only on the condition that they adopt and live under the Mormon faith. Years later, a now-grown Lucy befriends and falls in love with a man named Jefferson Hope. However, Young forbids her from marrying outside the faith, and demands that she marry either Joseph Stangerson or Enoch Drebber, both sons of members of the church’s Council of Four. Ferrier, who has adopted Lucy and sworn to never marry his daughter to a Mormon, immediately sends word to Hope.

Lucy is given one month to choose between her suitors. Hope finally arrives on the eve of the last day and they all escape under cover of darkness. The Mormons intercept the escapees while Hope is away hunting, as their food had run out. Ferrier is killed while Lucy is forcibly married to Drebber and dies a month later from a broken heart. Hope breaks into Drebber’s house the night before Lucy’s funeral to kiss her body and remove her wedding ring. He swears vengeance on Drebber and Stangerson, but he begins to suffer from an aortic aneurysm, causing him to leave the mountains to earn money and recuperate. When he returns several years later, he learns that Drebber and Stangerson have fled Salt Lake City after a schism between the Mormons. Hope pursues them, eventually tracking them to Cleveland, then to Europe.

In London, Hope becomes a cabby and eventually finds Drebber and Stangerson. After the altercation with Madame Charpentier’s son, Drebber gets into Hope’s cab and spends several hours drinking. Eventually, Hope takes him to the house on Brixton Road, where Hope forces Drebber to recognize him and to choose between two pills, one of which is harmless and the other poison. Drebber takes the poisoned pill, and as he dies, Hope shows him Lucy’s wedding ring. The excitement coupled with his aneurysm causes his nose to bleed; he uses the blood to write “RACHE” on the wall above Drebber to confound the investigators. Stangerson, on learning of Drebber’s murder, refuses to leave his hotel room. Hope climbs in through the window and gives Stangerson the same choice of pills, but he is attacked and nearly strangled by Stangerson and forced to stab him in the heart.

Hope dies from his aneurysm the night before he is to appear in court. Holmes reveals to Watson how he had deduced the identity of the murderer, then shows Watson the newspaper; Lestrade and Gregson are given full credit. Outraged, Watson states that Holmes should record the adventure and publish it. Upon Holmes’s refusal, Watson decides to do it himself.

My Thoughts:

Back in the 90’s I’m 99% (see what I did there? Clever eh?) sure I read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon by Doyle. Fast forward a decade and I realized I didn’t have them reviewed and so began a desultory read through that lasted for all of 5 years and 4 books. I hadn’t begun my Reading Rotation yet and so everything was hit and miss. Well, fast forward to now and the Iron Fist of Bookstooge has set its sights on Sherlock.

Of course, I can’t really take all the credit. Dave started a Sundays with Sherlock series of posts back in late ’19 and that’s what actually got me thinking about Sherlock again. It’s just taken me this long to actually DO something about it 😀

This was written with the intention of introducing Holmes and Watson and as such, it does a very creditable job at it. The first part of the story is all from Watson’s view and sets the tone for the series as Watson as sidekick and observer. Holmes is actually pretty “normal” and while not playing a small part, plays a smaller part than I was expecting.

The shift of tone and narration in the second part was a bit jarring. There is no reason given for the abrupt change or lead in to help us know why we’re suddenly changing venues. It is not until part way through that we (ie, I) realize this is the backstory of the murderer and is setting up all of the reasons for him doing what has been chronicled so far. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the Mormons but if you know your history you’ll also know they don’t HAVE a pretty picture for a past. My personal experience with Mormons has been almost exclusively limited to those who have gotten out of that cult and their stories about the fear and coercion used to try to get them back are pretty scary. The only good thing I can say about them is that they have produced a pretty good crop of SFF writers like Timothy Zahn, Larry Correia and Orson Card. There might be more authors I enjoy who are also mormons that I don’t know about.

Once it is made evident why this backstory is being shown and why the murderer is doing what he’s doing, he moves out of the Monster in the Shadows territory to Sympathetic Character Taking Justice Into His Own Hands.

This was a good read and I am looking forward to the rest of the Sherlock Canon over the coming months and years. Whether he is or not, I consider Sherlock to be the foundation of the Mystery Genre and as such want to get it under my belt (much like my Shakespeare reads). These stories have stood the test of time and I think I am richer for reading them.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Chinese Orange Mystery ★★★☆☆

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Title: The Chinese Orange Mystery
Series: Ellery Queen
Authors: Ellery Queen
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 172
Words: 70.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

A wealthy publisher and collector of precious stones and Chinese postage stamps has a luxurious suite in a hotel that serves to handle his non-publishing business and the comings and goings of his staff, his relatives, and his female friends. When an odd and anonymous little man arrives and refuses to state his business, no one is surprised; he is locked (from outside only) in an anteroom with a bowl of fruit (including tangerines, also known as Chinese oranges) and left to await the publisher’s arrival. When the door is unlocked, though, a truly bizarre scene is displayed.

The little man’s skull is crushed, his clothing is reversed, back to front, all the furnishings of the room have been turned backwards — and two African spears have been inserted between the body and its clothing, stiffening it into immobility. The circumstances are such that someone has been observing every entrance to the room, and no one has apparently entered or left. The situation is further complicated by some valuable jewelry and stamps, the publisher’s business affairs and romantic affaires, and a connection with “backwardness” for seemingly every character. It takes the considerable talents of Ellery Queen to sort through the motives and lies and arrive at the twisted logic that underlies every aspect of this very unusual crime.

My Thoughts:

First off, this whole time (however long since I’ve heard that Ellery Queen was a mystery writer) I have thought that Queen was a woman. A Grand Dame of the Golden Age of Mystery Writers. So imagine my surprise when it turns out that not only is Ellery Queen the writer AND main character of the series but that HE is a young middle aged private detective living at home with his father.

Yeaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh.

There was no real order listed on the library site I borrowed this from so I pretty much randomly poked my finger at a title and said “I am reading YOU”. I guess this is book 8? Didn’t really seem to matter though.

This reminded me of Dorothy Sayers and her Lord Peter Wimsey and not in a positive way. While there were no railroad schedules or pages of fake code to decode, there was an exhausting amount of detail that didn’t matter to me as I just wanted a fething mystery to read about, not solve. I’ve talked about that aspect of mysteries that I despise but since a large segment of the mystery community wants such garbage, well, the authors pander to them and not to me. It was a very shocking realization to my delicate and fragile ego.

I have to admit, I am not having a good feeling about the longevity of the friendship struck up between me and Queen. I’m giving Queen 3 books to impress me and then it’s cement shoes for him if he doesn’t. These authors think they’re big stuff and as a reader, I’ve learned to put them in their place. With cement shoes.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hangman’s Holiday ★☆☆☆☆ DNF@55%

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Hangman’s Holiday
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #9
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 234 /DNF@120
Words: 63K /DNF@32K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia:

Lord Peter Wimsey stories:

  • “The Image in the Mirror” – Wimsey must help a man with situs inversus, who believes he is going mad after being haunted by a doppelganger.
  • “The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey” – A man studying Basque culture enlists Wimsey’s help in saving an expatriate American woman whom the villagers believe is bewitched.
  • “The Queen’s Square” – Wimsey attends a fancy dress ball during the Christmas season, where several people dressed as chess pieces become suspected of killing a female blackmailer.
  • “The Necklace of Pearls” – Wimsey tries to avoid scandal when a fun-filled Christmas Eve at Sir Septimus Shale’s house turns into an uncomfortable affair after a priceless pearl necklace goes missing.
  • Montague Egg stories:
    • “The Poisoned Dow ’08” – Mr. Egg arrives at a client’s house to find him dead, and the police in need of evidence about a shipment of bottles Mr. Egg delivered earlier.
    • “Sleuths on the Scent” – Mr. Egg uses his knowledge of various professions to flush out a murderer hiding in a pub.
    • “Murder in the Morning” – Mr. Egg finds himself one of those suspected in the murder of a client, and gives evidence at inquest.
    • “One Too Many” – Mr. Egg’s knowledge of the train ticket system helps the police find an absconding banker and his secretary.
    • “Murder at Pentecost” – While trying to win a bet against an Oxford University student, Mr. Egg discovers the motive and opportunity of a very clever murderer.
    • “Maher-Shalal-Hashbaz” – After helping an impoverished child sell her cat, Mr. Egg discovers the cat has run away from its new home and in tracing it back discovers the brutal murder of more than fifty cats and an elderly man.
  • Other stories:
    • “The Man Who Knew How”- A man becomes obsessed with finding and stopping what he believes is a serial killer.
    • “The Fountain Plays” – A man being blackmailed tries to figure out how to rid himself of his tormentor, but finds himself at the mercy of a second blackmailer.
My Thoughts:

This is the book where Sayers and I part ways. I realized it was her, and her writing style, that grated on me and not necessarily the character of Lord Peter Wimsey. I figured this out because half this blasted book wasn’t EVEN ABOUT Lord Wimsey. I felt cheated and tricked.

When Sayers can be bothered, she can tell a great story. The problem is that she messes up her stories by making it all about the mystery and the process instead of the story itself being the central point. I don’t want to solve the mystery or have every blasted detail etched into my brain. I want a good story. Apparently Mrs Sayers disagrees with me and I’m forced to believe that so do her adherents.

Be that as it may, I’m done. This wasn’t the first LPW book that I wished was finished quicker, but the fact that I simply quit after the second Montague Egg story was enough. Enough is enough is enough.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Not Quite Dead Enough ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Not Quite Dead Enough
Series: Nero Wolfe #10
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 150
Words: 51K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Not Quite Dead Enough

Archie has recently joined the Army and is now Major Goodwin. His high rank, as a rookie GI, reflects the fact that the Army recognizes and is making use of his civilian expertise by assigning him to domestic (counter) intelligence, specifically a unit based back in New York City, where Archie lived with his erstwhile boss Nero Wolfe before enlisting.

Since most of his civilian investigations had been done with Nero Wolfe, the Army also wishes to have Wolfe do intelligence investigations, but Wolfe thinks he didn’t kill enough Germans in the previous war and so is more intent on joining the army as a soldier, not intelligence officer.

To this end, pleas from the Pentagon to this effect have been ignored, and indeed the whole household routine Wolfe is (in)famous for has already been abandoned during Archie’s short absence in favor of strict adherence to wartime rations (inconsistent with gourmet dining) and losing weight, which Wolfe and Fritz Brenner (the live-in cook/chef) attempt by morning exercises on the west river banks, while letters not to mention mountains of other correspondence pile up in the previously tidy office/study in the brownstone. As ludicrous as the whole setup might seem, even Goodwin, when he arrives back in New York from Washington to discover it, is unable to budge Wolfe, at least at first.

Meanwhile, on the (scarce) flight back to New York from Washington, Archie has annoyed wealthy and beautiful Lily Rowan, whom he met earlier in Some Buried Caesar and with whom he has the beginnings of a romance, because he has no time for her, even though she has gone to great lengths to get the seat next to his. Lily, by way of counterattack as much as anything, asks him to look into a problem a girl-friend of hers is having. Archie, having assessed the grim situation at Wolfe’s brownstone, seizes an opportunity to be doing something useful, even if he isn’t directly carrying out his assignment from the Pentagon.

Archie (who tells this story as he does all Wolfe stories), likes Lily but wants to be in control, and in an impish assertion of independence he takes Lily’s friend to the Flamingo nightclub as part of his “investigation”, causing Lily to storm home in a mild fit of jealousy. But soon she asks Archie’s help in a bigger problem: her friend is dead. After rushing to the scene, Archie decides to implicate himself in the crime and get his picture in the paper, reasoning that getting him out of jail is no more foolish a war effort for Wolfe than pathetic dockside exercises. In the end, Archie carries out his assignment from the Pentagon (despite having his picture in the paper as a murder suspect), Lily gets herself a boyfriend, and Wolfe solves the underlying crime, but not without teaching both Lily and Archie a thing or two about the consequences of mixing business with romance.

Booby Trap

Major Goodwin has been working for Army Intelligence for some time already, and has recently concluded a dangerous mission concerning another problem besides the Nazis: greed by munitions contractors jockeying for post-war power, in the present case by industrial espionage concerning an advanced type of grenade.

Although Archie has managed to unravel a major piece of the puzzle by a recent mission in the South, another officer in his unit, Captain Cross, has just been murdered at a New York hotel, and the remaining members of the unit, plus Wolfe and Congressman Shattuck, have gathered in an Army office to discuss some anonymous letters that Shattuck, as Chairman of a Congressional war committee, has been receiving about how industrial espionage is compromising the war effort and is therefore a national security matter. During the meeting, one of the officers, whose son has just been killed in action in Europe, suddenly announces that he wants to go to Washington to confer with General Carpenter, the Pentagon official in charge of the unit. He has brought a suitcase with him, and his highly irregular request is granted. Earlier, Archie has been issued one of the advanced grenades in question which he kept in Wolfe’s house, now his Army barracks, mostly as a souvenir, but Wolfe didn’t like to have it in the house, and before the meeting Archie has returned the grenade to the Army—i.e. the same office.

The meeting breaks up, since the unit is rapidly depleting (one dead, another heading to Washington, the rest under scrutiny because of the letters). As Wolfe and Goodwin are returning to the building later on the same day, a massive explosion is heard. Since the building is operated clandestinely by Army Intelligence, the NYPD, in the shape of Inspector Cramer show up, but Wolfe and Goodwin’s uncooperativeness, normal as it has been in civilian matters, confuses Cramer now that Goodwin wears an Army uniform — the same uniform Cramer’s son is wearing in Australia.[1]

The story ends with Archie taking another date to the Flamingo Club — and not Lily Rowan. Unlike a Sam Spade or Raymond Chandler story, any actual romantic impulses that Archie may have are cleared into the wings, and even this final action is not necessarily a celebration but may itself contribute to the war effort in its own small way.

My Thoughts:

Another 2 novellas squashed into 1 book. The format took me by surprise with Black Orchids but it worked out really well here. Archie being in the Army for World War II was a bit disconcerting at first but since it didn’t actually affect the story line (his assignment was to get Wolfe working on a piece of intelligence work for his country) besides jerking the cops around a bit (more than usual that is), it quickly became background information.

I have to admit that my distaste for WWI or II stories came into play while reading this. More in that I just glazed over details as they just didn’t interest me.

This was the first story where a returning female occurs. We had met Lily Rowan before in Some Buried Caesar and she had fallen head over heels for Archie. She is a control freak used to getting her own way and Archie is an arrogant blowhard used to getting his own way. In other words, a match made in Hell. It did make me laugh to see the sparks fly! I don’t expect to see her again, as Archie seems allergic to settling down or being committed.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Scandal of Father Brown ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Scandal of Father Brown
Series: Father Brown #5
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 239
Words: 65K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

The Scandal of Father Brown

The Quick One

The Blast of the Book

The Green Man

The Pursuit of Mr Blue

The Crime of the Communist

The Point of a Pin

The Insoluble Problem

The Vampire of the Village

My Thoughts:

While not bad, I really didn’t enjoy my read this time. I don’t know if there was more, but I noticed the fact that Father Brown would almost like clockwork make a vague announcement and then express surprise when everyone would proceed on that statement in the logical direction the statement was leading. He’d then explain why they were all wrong and why his statement was still correct. But in a sense that nobody but himself would EVER have thought of.

Plus, I’ve not read the word “Puritan” or some derivative so many times in one novel. Not even the Scarlet Letter ranted against them as much! Apparently wanting to take care of your body by not ingesting various poisons that we all know will kill you is a sure-fire way of being a kill-joy and kill-joys are Satan’s minions. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but it was pretty obvious Chesterton had a thing against Protestants. It was really annoying by the end.

This was the last Father Brown novel in this Chesterton omnibus and I am glad. Like several other mystery writers I have been reading, I’d reached my limit even with judicious spacing out. We’ll have to see what I think of his other writings. I am looking forward to them because despite all my grumblings about Father Brown, I still think they are good writing. They just need to be read at a much greater length (like one a year perhaps) than I was willing to go.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Have His Carcase (Lord Peter Wimsey #8) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Have His Carcase
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #8
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 374
Words: 139K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

During a hiking holiday on the South West coast of England, the detective novelist Harriet Vane discovers the body of a man lying on an isolated rock on the shore, not far from the resort of Wilvercombe; his throat has been cut. Harriet takes photographs and notes that death must have been very recent as the man’s blood is still liquid. There are no footprints in the sand other than hers and those of the victim. Unfortunately, the corpse is washed away by the rising tide before she can summon help.

Alerted to the discovery by a friend, Lord Peter Wimsey arrives, and he and Harriet start their investigations. The victim is identified as Paul Alexis, a young man of Russian extraction, employed by a Wilvercombe hotel as a professional dancing partner. The police tend to the view that Alexis’s death was suicide and that he had cut his own throat.

Wimsey and Harriet discover that in the period leading up to his death Alexis, an avid reader of Ruritanian romances, had believed himself to be a descendant of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. A series of cipher letters received from an unknown source convinced him that he was being called to return to Russia to take his place as the new rightful Tsar.

Alexis had been engaged to a rich widow in her fifties, Mrs Weldon. Her son, Henry Weldon, ten years older than his mother’s lover and by all appearances a simple and brutish man, is appalled at the prospect of his mother’s remarriage to a gigolo, and at his potential loss of inheritance. He travels to Wilvercombe to monitor the investigation while ostensibly comforting his mother after her loss. Weldon appears to be a likely murder suspect, but he has an unshakeable alibi for the time of Alexis’s death – as do a large number of other possible suspects.

Alexis’s death, staged to look like suicide, is gradually revealed to be the result of an ingenious murder plot that played upon Alexis’s fantasies. He had been lured to the rock by his anonymous correspondent who urged him to be ready to meet a ‘Rider from the Sea’, a rider who it was said would be carrying instructions for his onward journey to Warsaw. Once at the rock, Alexis met his death at the hand of the murderer who had ridden his horse along the beach through the incoming tide to avoid leaving tracks.

Wimsey and Harriet ultimately realise that Weldon is not the simple character he has been presenting, but a criminal who has been living under two different identities. Weldon was himself the rider, and had been provided with his alibi by two co-conspirators, a friend and his wife. Although his alibi was secure for the believed time of death, the investigators discover that Alexis had died far earlier than had been thought. The still-liquid and unclotted blood noted by Harriet when she found the body had been the result of Alexis’s haemophilia. Weldon and his co-conspirators are undone by their unsuccessful attempts to reshuffle their alibis to match the new information about the time of death.

Even as Wimsey and Harriet solve the case, Mrs Weldon has already moved on to another gigolo at the hotel, a sympathetic French dancer named Antoine.

My Thoughts:

I had taken a break from Lord Peter Wimsey after the last book dealt with train schedules in excruciating detail. I do mean excruciating. I read that last August and I figured 5’ish months was probably a good enough of a break, so I dived into this book with fresh vim and vigor.

Only to have all that vim and vigor squashed like so much many sta-puff marshmallows as Lord Peter Wimsey and his beloved Harriet discuss every single way that 2-3 people could get to a specific rock on the coast in time to cut someone’s throat at 2pm, using a combination of horses, walking, and possibly bicycles and automobiles. After I skipped pages and pages and had just come up for air, thinking that maybe I had survived it just fine, then the author takes me down a path of code breaking. Once again, in excruciating detail.

OH. MY. GOODNESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have come to the following conclusions, based on my own keen deductive skills.

  • Mystery readers are not a homogeneous group
  • Some mystery readers just want to piggyback on the overall story
  • Some mystery readers want to solve the mystery themselves
  • Some mystery readers want to solve the mystery BEFORE the detective in the story does
  • Some mystery readers are dolts who the author panders too, thus making every other mystery reader suffer agonies, probably excruciating agonies

While I have zero issues with the overall plots and characters (I rather like them in fact), I simply can’t stand the level of detail that is given. I don’t want to solve the mystery. I suspect that Sayers is writing her stories for the Other Kind of mystery readers. I’m going to read one more Wimsey novel and see how it pans out. Should the exacting details continue, I’ll be done with her.

One funny thing that happened while reading this was that I had misread the title as Have His Carcass, which made total sense as Harriet finds a dead body. Then partway through I realized it was Carcase and was waiting for an automobile to get involved. When it didn’t show up, I went and did a little Grammar Investigating. Turns out “carcase” is an alternate form of “carcass”. I didn’t do any more digging so I’m not sure if its an American English vs Kings English thing, or an Old vs New spelling thing. Do you know?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Black Orchids (Nero Wolfe #9) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Black Orchids
Series: Nero Wolfe #9
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 158
Words: 57.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Black Orchids:

Millionaire orchid fancier Lewis Hewitt has hybridized three black orchid plants in his Long Island greenhouse. Nero Wolfe is wild to have one, so he and Archie Goodwin visit New York’s annual flower show, where Hewitt’s orchids are on exhibit. One of the other exhibits features a daily performance by a young couple miming a summer picnic. The woman, Anne Tracy, attracts the attentions of Archie, Hewitt, and a young exhibitor named Fred Updegraff.

During Wolfe’s visit to the show, Anne’s picnic partner Harry Gould is killed, shot in the head by a gun concealed in the foliage. The gun’s trigger is attached to a long string that reaches to a hallway well behind the exhibit.

After a little inquiry, Wolfe shows Hewitt how his walking stick was used to pull the string and fire the shot that killed Gould. Hewitt is horrified by the prospect of the publicity that would ensue should his part in the shooting, however indirect and unwitting, become known. Wolfe offers Hewitt this arrangement: in exchange for all three black orchid plants, the only ones in existence, Wolfe will solve the murder and deliver the criminal to the police, without publicly disclosing Hewitt’s connection to the crime. Hewitt terms it blackmail, but submits.

Earlier, Archie had noticed a woman waiting in the hallway behind the exhibit, at around the time that the murderer would have been deploying the string. He now finds her in the crowd that’s gawking at the murder scene. Archie steals her handbag, removes it to the men’s room, searches it for identification, and learns her name (Rose Lasher) and address. He returns the handbag to her – all without Rose or anyone else noticing.

The police want to know more about her and, finishing their questions, they let her go — but surreptitiously follow her. The police lose her trail but Archie knows her home address, where she has been living with Harry Gould. He arrives at Rose’s apartment just as she is about to flee the city, and takes her to Wolfe’s house. There Archie searches her suitcase and finds some printed matter that Rose cannot or will not explain: a clipping of an article by Hewitt on Kurume yellows,[a] a plant disease that is fatal to broadleaf evergreens; a postcard to Rose from Harry, postmarked Salamanca, New York (in the western part of the state); and a work order from a garage, also in Salamanca.

Wolfe gets Rose to discuss some of Gould’s unsavory qualities. Wolfe learns that although Gould was employed as a gardener, he suddenly acquired a bank account containing several thousand dollars[b] and what Miss Lasher terms “a big roll of bills.” From his general awareness of horticultural events, Wolfe knows that an attack of Kurume yellows devastated a plantation of a new hybrid of broadleaf evergreens, about eighty miles west of Salamanca and owned by Updegraff Nurseries. The same disease has affected the exhibit in which Anne and Gould were featured; W. G. Dill, one owner of the company sponsoring it, had asked Wolfe to investigate the source.

Weighing all this information, Wolfe assembles the principals in the fumigation chamber of his plant rooms. He accuses Hewitt of conspiring with Gould to infect the plantations of rival growers, and of killing Gould after the latter began to blackmail him. When a telephone call comes in for Hewitt, Wolfe sends Dill to answer it instead, closes the chamber door, and informs the rest of the group that Dill, not Hewitt, is the murderer. Dill is later found dead in the plant rooms, having turned on the flow of fumigation gas with the intent to kill everyone inside the chamber; however, Wolfe had anticipated this action and diverted the gas to fill the plant rooms instead.

Wolfe tells Cramer that Anne had previously confirmed his suspicions of Gould’s and Dill’s activities. He keeps the black orchids, but Cramer is unimpressed by their appearance, saying that he prefers geraniums. The orchids have a cameo role in the second novella in this collection, “Cordially Invited to Meet Death.”

Cordially Invited to Meet Death:

Bess Huddleston arranges parties for New York society. She has been in contact with Wolfe once before, when she wanted him to play the detective at a party that would feature a mock murder; Wolfe declined to participate. Now, she comes with one anonymous letter in hand and a report of another. They were not sent to her, nor do they threaten her directly: rather, one was sent to a client and the other to a member of the circle in which her clients move. The letters imply strongly that Miss Huddleston has been gossiping about her clients’ private lives.

She wants Wolfe to put an end to the smear campaign – if it continues, her monied clients will no longer trust her and will not hire her to arrange their parties. Miss Huddleston has two employees, an assistant party arranger named Janet Nichols and a secretary named Maryella Timms. Both have access to a box of stationery of the same kind used for the letters. The letters are typewritten, and appear to Miss Huddleston’s eye to have been typed on one of her typewriters. Wolfe tells Miss Huddleston to have Miss Nichols and Miss Timms come to his office.

They do so, and arrive at a moment when Wolfe and Fritz are discussing another attempt at cooking corned beef. This has long been a problem in the brownstone’s kitchen, one never satisfactorily resolved. Miss Timms hears about the dilemma and barges into the kitchen to help. Wolfe is so impressed by Miss Timms’ expertise that he later allows her to link arms with him, and writes to a professor at Harvard concerning chitlins and corned beef.

Apart from the culinary, though, Wolfe obtains no useful information from Nichols and Timms, and sends Archie to Miss Huddleston’s house and place of business to investigate further. There, Archie is bedeviled by a playful chimpanzee, two pet bears and an alligator. He also meets Miss Huddleston’s brother Daniel, her nephew Larry, and Alan Brady, an MD who has been spending time with Janet Nichols. Archie does not get much further at the house than Wolfe did in his office, but he has cocktails on the terrace with the various players. As the butler is bringing more drinks, the chimpanzee startles him and a tray of glasses crashes to the ground. Most of the broken glass is cleaned up, but Miss Huddleston’s foot is cut by a shard and, because of the presence of the animals, Dr. Brady treats the cut with iodine.

Less than one week later, Miss Huddleston is dead, having undergone an excruciatingly painful and drawn out death from tetanus. That, as far as Wolfe is concerned, ends his involvement, but Daniel Huddleston makes a nuisance of himself with the police: he believes his sister was murdered. Daniel is insistent enough that Inspector Cramer comes to Wolfe looking for information. Wolfe has none for him, but after Cramer leaves he drops Archie an exiguous hint: he thinks there is one thing that Cramer should have done during his investigation, and wonders if it has rained during the past week.

My Thoughts:

This collection of two novellas was perfect. Twice as much Wolfe and Archie is twice the fun. It is the essence of Stout’s writing that we get here. Even though this is number 9 in the series, I would recommend this to someone who wants to get a taste for Nero Wolfe (no, not that way. I don’t promote canniblism on this blog after all!) as you’ll get two stories to see if the setting and writing works for you.

While I wouldn’t want to live in the time period of Wolfe and Archie (I just realized, I use Nero Wolfe’s last name for him but Archie Goodwin’s first name for him. I wonder why?), I would be dead of my diabetes after all, I REALLY like how the author has Wolfe and Archie knowing their rights as citizens and forcing the police to abide by said rights and the police do it. They exist to solve the crime, not prevent it, and they take that job very seriously. What’s more, both Wolfe and Archie expect that, and nothing more, from the police. They’re not cowering in the brownstone waiting for somebody else to do everything for them. They take a whole heaping load of responsibility on themselves and don’t whine and complain (well, Archie does, but that goes with the job I think) and write letters to the editor, etc. Reading about mature people is refreshing, and it’s sickening that it’s refreshing too.

The writing is as good as ever and once again, I would highly recommend this book if you want to experience Rex Stout’s writing and to see if Wolfe and Archie will be your cup of tea. With two stories, you’ll know for sure one way or another by the end. And you don’t need to have read any of the previous books to understand anything here (I think). Stout does a good job of making each book stand on its own two legs. And there is only ONE perspective, Archie’s. I’d poke this book into John Gwynne’s eye if I could and make him eat dirt on the strength of that alone! (for those not in the know, Gwynne tends to have about 100 perspectives in his bloated novels and none of them are actually important or necessary)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Where There’s a Will (Nero Wolfe #8) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Where There’s a Will
Series: Nero Wolfe #8
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 171
Words: 61.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The famous Hawthorne sisters — April, May and June — visit Nero Wolfe in a body to ask his help in averting a scandal. After the shock of their brother Noel’s death three days before, they have been dealt another shock at learning the terms of his will. May, a college president, insists that Noel had promised to leave $1 million to her school; however, the will leaves each sister nothing but a piece of fruit and passes almost all of Noel’s estate to a young woman named Naomi Karn. The sisters want to hire Wolfe to persuade Naomi to turn over at least half of the inheritance so that Noel’s widow Daisy will not bring a case to court that would cause a sensation.

Daisy’s unexpected arrival interrupts the conference. She wears a veil at all times to cover the disfiguring scars left after Noel accidentally shot her with a bow and arrow. She discovered that Noel was having an affair with Naomi and now hates the entire Hawthorne family as a result. Wolfe assures her that he will consider her interests in addition to those of the sisters and attempt to negotiate with Naomi on their behalf.

Later that day, Inspector Cramer interrupts another meeting with the news that Noel had in fact been murdered. He had been killed by a shotgun blast while hunting on his country estate; it was assumed that he had tripped and discharged the weapon, but further analysis of the evidence has led the police to discard this theory. Archie is called away to help Fred Durkin keep an eye on a man whom Fred had been tailing – Eugene Davis, a partner at the law firm that drew up Noel’s will, who had been seen in a bar with Naomi. Davis is now drunk and passed out in a run-down apartment.

On Wolfe’s orders, Archie travels to the Hawthorne mansion on 67th Street, where he finds Wolfe, the family and other associated individuals gathered to meet with the local police. Archie finds, to his surprise, that there are apparently two Daisy Hawthornes in the house. One is meeting with Wolfe and accusing April of the murder, based on the fact that a cornflower was found next to the body and April had had a bunch of them with her. The other is speaking to Naomi in the living room. The one meeting with Wolfe turns out to be the real Daisy, and Wolfe later determines that the other was actually April in disguise, trying to get information out of Naomi about the will and the relationship between her and Noel.

Later in the day, Archie finds Naomi strangled to death, her body hidden in an alcove next to the living room. Wolfe slips out of the house without telling Archie and has Orrie Cather drive him back to Wolfe’s brownstone on 35th Street. After being confronted by the Hawthornes, Daisy spitefully claims to the police that April is the murderer, and she is arrested by the authorities. Meanwhile, June’s daughter Sara tells Archie that someone has stolen her camera. The film it contained had already been sent off to be developed, and Wolfe and Archie later retrieve the pictures. After examining them, Wolfe warns Sara that her life will be in danger if she returns to the estate and has her stay at the brownstone. Cramer threatens to arrest Wolfe as a material witness to Naomi’s murder, but Wolfe counters by threatening to turn evidence of the murderer’s guilt over to a local newspaper instead of the police.

With all of the principals assembled in his office, Wolfe accuses Davis of switching Noel’s actual will (which left generous bequests to Daisy, his sisters and May’s college) with a forgery that leaves nearly the entire estate to Naomi, in a plot to win her affections, and of killing Noel and Naomi. When Glenn Prescott, another of the law firm’s partners, agrees with this theory, Davis angrily accuses him of the murders. Wolfe then reveals his evidence: one of Sara’s pictures, which shows Prescott wearing a wild rose in his lapel, a flower that he could not have obtained in the city. He had picked it at the scene of Noel’s murder, discarding the cornflower he had worn (later found near the body), and had only remembered after Sara had taken the photograph. Prescott is placed under arrest, and Archie decides to keep the material witness warrant as a souvenir.

My Thoughts:

Here I am at the eighth book in the Nero Wolfe series and I am having a hard time not simply reading these one after another. I am REALLY enjoying these. What I find amusing is that the “mystery” of each book I can totally take it or leave it. I don’t try to solve what is going on or even care. I like the interactions between all of the various characters whether main or side.

Archie is still pretty starchy and it’s not worn on me at all. Wolfe continues to be as peremptive, eccentric and fat as ever and THAT hasn’t worn on me at all either. I am surprised he hasn’t died from a heart attack but some people have all the luck I guess. Each book introduces side characters who are great. In this one we have the fore-runner of the Hollywood Glam-Mom. Each of the Hawthorne sisters, while sharing a certain something, are not just 3 names give the author more room to maneuver. They are key individuals in the story and each one reacts differently and has different situational pressures on them. One is a mom, one is married to a high ranking political man and another is an actress. And then you have the lawyers Prescott and Davis. Oh, they are everything you want in lawyers in a mystery story like this. It was like giving someone a one-two punch and then doing a Rocky Balboa dance around the ring to read about them. And finally, the cops and various law enforcement officers. They have hassled Archie and Wolfe in every single book and most of the time Wolfe just throws utter defiance back in their face. While I am a law-abiding citizen and believe in law and order and that the officers of the law are to be obeyed and respected, I also like seeing citizens knowing their rights and using them properly. The Law IS at a disadvantage because it has to abide by the laws in place, and that has consequences. Badguys will get away or manipulate things, but once the Law starts changing itself to suit the situation, that way leads to tyranny. And revolution and bloodshed, which is not a good thing. So the first step to prevent that is an informed citizenry and Wolfe and Archie are stirling examples of that. Bravo boys!

Now, the one thing that bugged me. We have been told time and again that Wolfe is eccentric and won’t leave his house. We’ve seen examples of this. But so far, in these eight books, Wolfe has ended up leaving his house more times than he’s stayed. In this book he goes to the Hawthorne house and ends up doing most of his work there before running back to his house to keep out of the hands of the law. It isn’t a big thing, but all of these “exceptions” make it hard to accept that it is a big deal for him to leave the house. And that’s about my only problem with this book 😀

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Secret of Father Brown (Father Brown #4) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Secret of Father Brown
Series: Father Brown #4
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 218
Words: 63K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

  • “The Secret of Father Brown” (framing story)
  • “The Mirror of the Magistrate”
  • “The Man with Two Beards”
  • “The Song of the Flying Fish”
  • “The Actor and the Alibi”
  • “The Vanishing of Vaudrey”
  • “The Worst Crime in the World”
  • “The Red Moon of Meru”
  • “The Chief Mourner of Marne”
  • “The Secret of Flambeau” (framing story)
My Thoughts:

Wikipedia totally let me down for this book. While it has had synopses for the previous book collections of short stories, there was no entry for this compilation. Makes me wonder how the people there can sleep easy at night, knowing they abandoned me in my hour of need. Not only that, they also let down every single one of you who is reading this. You expected a snapshot of the stories contained in this book and what do you get? Just a lousy TOC. My goodness, I hope you are properly outraged at this disturbing display of laziness and lack of hard work. I know I am!

Shame, shame, shame.

As I noted in my “CR&Q: The Secret of Father Brown” post, this book felt like it encapsulated the essence of Father Brown and what Chesterton was trying to convey through him. While Chesterton and I disagree on some things, maybe even big things (he was a staunch Roman Catholic and I’m a 7th Day Adventist), our views on God certainly do align. And not just on God the Father but the entire Trinity, which is how it should be.

Therefore as I was reading these stories, instead of viewing them as a mystery story, or a story about Justice Here and Now (which is one of the issues Chesterton and I differ on), I viewed them through the lense of knowing people as individuals and not as a class or type. As is written in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Once someone realizes their proper place before God and what Christ’s sacrifice has truly done, how they interact and view the rest of humanity is going to change. But the significance of Christ’s sacrifice is absolutely essential. If I just take the first part, that we are all sinners and cannot live up to the perfect standard that God has requires (it’s not an arbitrary line He drew in the sand, it is part of His very character), then chances are that I’ll either start enslaving other humans, because why not, they’re scum destined for hell so why not start hell a little early for them, OR I’ll become an arrogant asshat thinking how much better I am than them (ie, the Pharisee who prayed and thanked God that he wasn’t like “that” tax collector next to him). But once I realize the universe shattering revelation of Christ’s sacrifice, every person I meet has to be treated like the object of God’s love and sacrifice, because they are.

Christians can spend their entire lives learning this lesson and letting the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Trinity) imprint it on their hearts and minds. Some of us do better than others. But this collection of stories reminded me, again, that Christ didn’t die just for me, but for every single individual person in the entire world, past, present and future. It is humbling and encouraging all at the same time.

The fact that this book got me thinking along these lines is why it got 4stars. It was better than some of the so-called devotionals I’ve read in the past.

Rating: 4 out of 5.