Spellbinders in Suspense ★★★★☆

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Title: Spellbinders in Suspense
Series: ———-
Author: Alfred Hitchcock (Editor)
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 215
Words: 77K



Synopsis:

From the Inside Cover

These are mystery-suspense stories. Some will keep you on the edge of your chair with excitement. Others are calculated to draw you along irresistibly to see how the puzzle works out. I have even included a sample or two of stories that are humorous, to show you that humor and mystery can also add up to suspense. So here you are, with best wishes for hours of good reading. –Alfred Hitchcock

Includes the following 13 stories:

The Chinese Puzzle Box – Agatha Christie

The Most Dangerous Game – Richard Connell

The Birds – Daphne du Maurier

Puzzle For Poppy – Patrick Quentin

Eyewitness – Robert Arthur

Man From The South – Roald Dahl

Black Magic – Sax Rohmer

Treasure Trove – F. Tennyson Jesse

Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper – Robert Bloch

The Treasure Hunt – Edgar Wallace

The Man Who Knew How – Dorothy L. Sayers

The Dilemma of Grampa DuBois – Clayre and Michel Lipman

P. Moran, Diamond-Hunter – Percival Wilde

My Thoughts:

I must have read this back in the day because I recognized over 3/4’s of the stories. Now, some of them have been in other anthologies so that would account for some of them, but not the number I remembered. I’d start reading and then it would be “Ohhhhh, I remember how THIS story ends”, etc, etc. I am very sure this is the collection where I was introduced to the Most Dangerous Game (in short story form), The Birds and The Man Who Knew How.

I still labeled this as crime fiction, because it has aspects of criminality involved, but unlike some of Hitchcock’s other collections, this doesn’t focus nearly so much on that. I wasn’t sure what else to label it as, so inertia won out 🙂

While this was not as thrilling or exciting as some of the others, I’d choose this one collection if I had to recommend one so far. With the authors and stories involved, it gives a very broad collection upon which to build a good literary foundation, even for a Hitchcock book. Let me put it another way. The first story was a Poirot story and while I HATE Poirot with a passion, I still went on and read the entire book. I don’t know what higher praise I could give.

Oh wait.

If you read this book:

  • You will win the lottery
  • Your hair will be the style you always wanted but couldn’t get because of Nature
  • You will be at your ideal weight
  • People of the opposite gender, complete strangers, will come up to you and tell you how amazing you are and how they wished they knew you better
  • Hollywood will pay you 100 million dollars to make a movie about your life, starring your choice of actor to play you
  • You will get a magic fridge that is always full of just what you want to eat, AT THAT MOMENT!

If none of that appeals to you, then you shouldn’t read this book. I’m actually writing this post on my new Lear Jet while on my way to check out locations in the Bahamas for the movie “The Bookstooge Chronicles”. And I’m drinking a Pina Colada Bang. That I just took out of my magic fridge.

’nuff said.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

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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.

Cthulhu Lives! (Cthulhu Anthology #1) ★★★✬☆

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Title: Cthulhu Lives!
Series: Cthulhu Anthology #1
Editor: Salome Jones
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Cosmic Horror
Pages: 235
Words: 80K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

  • FOREWORD by Leeman Kessler
  • UNIVERSAL CONSTANTS by Piers Beckley
  • 1884 by Michael Grey
  • ELMWOOD by Tim Dedopulos
  • HOBSTONE by G. K. Lomax
  • ON THE BANKS OF THE RIVER JORDAN by John Reppion
  • DARK WATERS by Adam Vidler
  • INK by Iain Lowson
  • DEMON IN GLASS by E. Dane Anderson
  • SCALES FROM BALOR’S EYE by Helmer Gorman
  • OF THE FACELESS CROWD by Gábor Csigás
  • SCRITCH, SCRATCH by Lynne Hardy
  • ICKE by Greg Stolze
  • CODING TIME by Marc Reichardt
  • THE THING IN THE PRINTER by Peter Tupper
  • THE OLD ONES by Jeremy Clymer
  • VISITING RIGHTS by Joff Brown
  • AFTERWORD
My Thoughts:

I rather enjoyed this anthology. Going into Cosmic Horror though, you have to have the proper mindset. There are no heroes overcoming great odds but ordinary people being overcome with hopeless despair and being devoured (whether physically, psychologically or spiritually depends on the story). Madness, mayhem and murder are the key phrases of the day. Finally, the elder gods are dark gods, uncaring, unmoral and barely able to even interact in this reality without destroying it.

If any of those “rules” are broken, it makes for a very unsatisfactory cosmic horror story. Rites of Azathoth was such a book that just didn’t work for me. On the other hand, The Private Lives of Elder Things was fantastic and everything you’d want from cosmic horror. I went into this book wondering which course on the path it was going to take. I’m glad to announce it took the better (errr, worse?) path and was truly horrific and terrifying as only good cosmic horror can be!

I did stay up late a couple of nights because I got caught up in the “one more story” syndrome which has come to represent, to me, the pinnacle of the short story collection. If you can’t put the book down, it has done its job perfectly.

Salome Jones has done a fantastic job of putting together stories and while some are pushing the edge of graphic, either violently or sexually, none of them go into what I’d classify as gratuitous. After the couple of short story collections at the end of November, I am thankful for an editor who has dash of good taste in what stories are chosen.

The reasons this was 3 ½ stars instead of higher is because in one story the writer specifically states how the puny god of the christians is as nothing before the darkness of the elder gods. It was the specificity that irked me. I probably wouldn’t have minded nearly so much if all the religions were lumped together in that statement, but nope, had to specifically talk about Christianity. sigh.

I’ve got another couple of volumes of cosmic horror anthologies after this one but I might stretch them out a bit. Too much darkness isn’t good for the soul after all. Just like eating a whole bag of cheetos isn’t good for the body.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A Baker’s Dozen ★★★☆☆

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Title: A Baker’s Dozen
Series: ———-
Author: Alfred Hitchcock (Editor)
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 170
Words: 67K



Synopsis:

From the Inside Cover

NEVER SAY DIE.
For those who had the courage to come back for more, that generous master of suspense has provided a baker’s dozen of the bizarre, a little extra in the way of horror and intrigue. Here is a supreme collection of skin-prickling suspense, cunningly chosen to startle and terrify, by
ALFRED HITCHCOCK

Table of Contents:

F. TENNYSON JESSE – The Mask

AGATHA CHRISTIE – Accident

GRAHAM GREENE – A Day Saved

ROBERT LEWIS – Roman Holiday

SAMUEL BLAS – Revenge

JOHN STEINBECK – The Snake

MARY DEASY – Long Shadow on the Lawn

RAY BRADBURY – The Night

D. H. LAWRENCE – The Rocking-Horse Winner

GEORGES CAROUSSO – The Warden

ELLIS ST. JOSEPH – Leviathan

LOUIS POLLOCK – Breakdown

EUGENE MANLOVE RHODES – The Fool’s Heart

My Thoughts:

This was a decent read and I don’t have anything to complain about but it wasn’t as fantastic as some of the other books that Hitchcock has edited. With authors like Christie, Steinbeck and Bradbury I have to admit I was expecting something a notch above what I got.

In terms of food, it was the difference between the pictures of a hamburger that you see at fastfood places (like McDonald’s) and the reality of what you get. Nothing wrong with the burger and you’re going to eat it and enjoy it. But no one can say that it looks anything like the picture of perfection you see up on the menu or in the ads.

I am content with my time spent with this book but have nothing to rave or rant about. Makes writing this review pretty easy though!

Oh, technically this book is called “A Baker’s Dozen of Suspense Stories” but that is a ridiculous mouthful.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters ☆☆☆☆✬

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Title: Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters
Series: Kaiju Rising #1
Editor: Tim Marquitz
Rating: ½ of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy Short Story Collection
Pages: 444
Words: 161.5K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

Foreword – Jeremy Robinson

Big Ben and the End of the Pier Show – James Lovegrove

The Conversion – David Annandale

Day of the Demigods – Peter Stenson

The Lighthouse Keeper of Kurohaka Island – Kane Gilmour

Occupied – Natania Barron

One Last Round – Nathan Black

The Serpent’s Heart – Howard Andrew Jones

Monstruo – Mike MacLean

The Behemoth – Jonathan Wood

The Greatest Hunger – Jaym Gates

Heartland – Shane Berryhill

Devil’s Cap Brawl – Edward M. Erdelac

Shaktarra – Sean Sherman

Of the Earth, of the Sky, of the Sea – Patrick M. Tracy and Paul Genesse

The Flight of the Red Monsters – Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

Operation Starfish – Peter Rawlik

With Bright Shining Faces – J.C. Koch

The Banner of the Bent Cross – Peter Clines

Fall of Babylon – James Maxey

Dead Man’s Bones – Josh Reynolds

Stormrise – Erin Hoffman

Big Dog – Timothy W. Long

The Great Sea Beast – Larry Correia

Animikii vs. Mishipeshu – C.L. Werner

The Turn of the Card – James Swallow

About the Authors/Artists

Acknowledgments

My Thoughts:

I picked up this collection on the strength of Correia’s name being prominent on the cover I saw. Unfortunately, for me, it was a story he had included in his first Target Rich Environment collection, so I had already read it.

Josh Reynold’s story was about the Royal Occultist, so that was a nice little visit and reinforced my decision to read more in that universe should Reynold ever be able to release more.

Sadly, those 2 were really the only bright spots. Most of the other stories were either Cli-Fi, Angst-ridden or so full of hatred for Humanity that I had to wonder why the authors hadn’t killed themselves in protest of being human. So this was definitely on the path to 2stars. Some of the stories had Buddhist monks, Japanese nuns, Islamic warriors and one and all, they respected the environment, respected women and were paragons of virtue, which I have to admit, didn’t even fly across my radar in any way.

Then I read stories like “Conversion” and “Fall of Babylon” and this completely entered into Blasphemy territory. They didn’t make me angry or upset, I just sighed and shook my head. It was evident that the authors despised Christianity, not just didn’t believe it and that showed through like a drop of blood on a white canvas.

So between the religious hypocrisy and the blasphemy, this is getting the rare ½ star. Last time that happened was with Torchship Captain. Not good company to be in.

As I was writing this review, I realized that the editor’s name sounded familiar. If I had paid more attention and realized Tim Marquitz was involved with this project, I never would have touched this with a 10foot pole. Certainly explains the blasphemy and religious hypocrisy.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

The Best Science Fiction of the Year (2015) ★☆☆☆☆ DNF@5%

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Title: The Best Science Fiction of the Year (2015)
Series: The Best SF of the Year #1
Editor: Neil Clarke
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF Short Story Collection
Pages: DNF@5%
Words: DNF@5%



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

“Introduction: A State of the Short SF Field in 2015” by Neil Clarke

“Today I Am Paul” by Martin Shoemaker

“Calved” by Sam J. Miller

“Three Bodies at Mitanni” by Seth Dickinson

“The Smog Society” by Chen Quifan

“In Blue Lily’s Wake” by Aliette de Bodard

“Hello, Hello” by Seanan McGuire

“Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfiang

“Capitalism in the 22nd Century” by Geoff Ryman

“Hold-Time Violations” by John Chu

“Wild Honey” by Paul McAuley

“So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer

“Bannerless” by Carrie Vaughn

“Another Word for World” by Ann Leckie

“The Cold Inequalities” by Yoon Ha Lee

“Iron Pegasus” by Brenda Cooper

“The Audience” by Sean McMullen

“Empty” by Robert Reed

“Gypsy” by Carter Scholz

“Violation of the TrueNet Security Act” by Taiyo Fujii

“Damage” by David D. Levine

“The Tumbledowns of Cleopatra Abyss” by David Brin

“No Placeholder for You, My Love” by Nick Wolven

“Outsider” by An Owomeyla

“The Gods Have Not Died in Vain” by Ken Liu

“Cocoons” by Nancy Kress

“Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World” by Caroline M. Yoachim

“Two-Year Man” by Kelly Robson

“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer

“Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan” by Ian McDonald

“Meshed” by Rich Larson

“A Murmuration” by Alastair Reynolds

2015 Recommended Reading List

My Thoughts:

I made it to the 3rd story before giving up. Horribly depressing. Perverse. Self-righteous. Smug.

While Clarke didn’t write these stories, he did choose them as the Best of 2015. That is just horrible. I think I’m going to be avoiding anything else with his name on it from now on.

If Woke Cli-Fi is your thing, then have at it. As for me, I’m going to go read something that is actually good.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Anti-Social Register ★★★★☆

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Title: Anti-Social Register
Series: ———-
Author: Alfred Hitchcock (Editor)
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 168
Words: 64K



Synopsis:

From the Inside Cover

Once again Alfred Hitchcock, not-so-secret agent of the underworld, has been discovered consorting with known madmen, murderers, ghouls and other unsavory characters. Posing under a cloak of respectability, Hitchcock is clearly seeking to torpedo the Good Life. Although Hitchcock will not admit this sinister charge, the evidence is stacked against him, as witness his: ANTI-SOCIAL REGISTER.

A new and diabolic masterpiece of propaganda from Hitchcock and a handpicked team of talented collaborators totally dedicated to the cause of terrifying the good, the kind, the innocent of the world.

Includes the following 14 stories:

INTRODUCTION—Alfred Hitchcock

TUNE ME IN—Fletcher Flora

A QUESTION OF ETHICS—James Holding

THE TRAP—Stanley Abbott

A HABIT FOR THE VOYAGE—Robert Edmond Alter

THE EMPTY ROOM—Donald Honig

I’LL GO WITH YOU—Hal Dresner

THE WATCHDOGS OF MOLICOTL—Richard Curtis

THE AFFAIR UPSTAIRS—Helen Nielsen

I’M BETTER THAN YOU—Henry Slesar

A SIMPLE UNCOMPLICATED MURDER—C. B. Gilford

DEAD DRUNK—Arthur Porges

THE LAST AUTOPSY—Bryce Walton

ONE MAN’S FAMILY—Richard Hardwick

YOU CAN TRUST ME—Jack Ritchie

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this, enough so that I bumped it up a whole star from the previous book. Part of it was that almost all the stories were about bad people doing bad things to other bad people or bad people getting rough justice, usually at the hands of other bad people (again).

In A Habit for the Voyage we follow an assassin who kills without conscience and has survived because he knows the habits of other assassins. Well, that doesn’t save him and at the end we realize the person who killed him was another assassin. It was just glorious to realize that fact.

However, the cream of the crop for me was You Can Trust Me. A tough guy is hired by a small town mobster to recover an employee who has been kidnapped. Turns out it was a ploy by the employee, his wife and someone else. The tough guy kills them all, takes the money and makes it look like they all turned on each other or that circumstances were different than they were. The story ends with him working for the mob boss and the boss states “I can trust you”. It was just deliciously ironic considering the tough guy had killed 3 or 4 of his men, stolen thousands of dollars and was eyeing his connections.

Something about these collections by Hitchcock really resonate with me. He has a real eye for collecting these stories and does an excellent job of making sure only the best get included. When I look forward to a book I know the author/editor is doing something right!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The End of the World (British Library Science Fiction Classics) ★★★☆☆

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Title: The End of the World
Series: British Library Science Fiction Classics
Editor: Mike Ashley
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 237
Words: 87.5K



Synopsis:

The End of the World
Helen Sutherland

three dooms of london: London’s Danger
C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne

The Freezing of London
Herbert C. Ridout

Days of Darkness
Owen Oliver

Within an Ace of the End of the World
Robert Barr

The Last American
John Ames Mitchell

The End of the World
Simon Newcomb

The Great Crellin Comet
George Griffith

Two by Two
John Brunner

Finis
Frank Lillie Pollock

The Madness of Professor Pye
Warwick Deeping

Created He Them
Alice Eleanor Jones

There Will Come Soft Rains
Ray Bradbury

My Thoughts:

Yeah, this wasn’t half bad. Despite Ashley desperately trying to make this collection a CliFi oriented set of stories, seeing the world end over and over and over was pretty cathartic.

There were a couple of stories where the world didn’t end and I have to admit they kind of made me feel sad, on the inside. There were also several stories where “The World” was encapsulated into London. Typical tribalism at its most petty and annoying.

The bar was super low so I don’t really feel that saying this wasn’t half bad is much of a compliment. This series has felt like the literary equivalent of eating fried vegetables. Not the best tasting and not even good for you. Just one more to go in this series. It’s like the last leg in a marathon before crossing the finish line.

Go me!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Incredulity of Father Brown (Father Brown #3) ★★★☆☆

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Title: The Incredulity of Father Brown
Series: Father Brown #3
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 262
Words: 71K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The 8 stories in this collection are:

“The Resurrection of Father Brown”

“The Arrow of Heaven”

“The Oracle of the Dog”

“The Miracle of Moon Crescent”

“The Curse of the Golden Cross”

“The Dagger with Wings”

“The Doom of the Darnaways”

“The Ghost of Gideon Wise”

The Resurrection of Father Brown

The scene begins with an American journalist named Paul Snaith critically assessing Father Brown’s church and the other clerics there. He quickly changes his mind to please the famous businessman, Mendoza, who walks in with a lavish respect for the Church. Snaith then goes on a journalistic quest to make Father Brown’s name great. Meanwhile in South America, Brown quickly begins to resent his growing fame and after dealing with his likewise growing workload (including endorsing a wine for a man named Eckstein and responding to a letter from a political rival named Alvarez), he goes out on a walk at night. During this walk, as he passes under a bridge, he is attacked by two mysterious men and left injured or killed.

The story shifts over to John Adams Race, an electrical engineer from America who was hired by Mendoza to improve the same small South American town in which Father Brown resides. Race, Chesterton says, is a man who is firmly attached to his Protestant and American background, despite not particularly being devoted to them, and in spite of himself, Race sees in Father Brown a reminder of what he loves about his upbringing. The story flashes back to show Race looking out his window to see Father Brown pass by in the night, soon followed by two other men. Race identifies these men as Eckstein and Dr. Calderon, a physician who attended to Mendoza. Race follows the two men out of suspicion, and immediately after they both disappear under the bridge after Brown does, where there are sounds of a fight.

A mob gathers around the scene and identifies Father Brown to be dead. As Race nears the bridge, Snaith comes out to confirm the story and describe what appears to have happened. As Race looks at the body of Brown, Alvarez, who is also near the body quickly claims to have no part in the murder. Mendoza and Dr. Calderon enter the scene as well, and again pronounce Father Brown dead.

A funeral is held for the simple priest, in which Mendoza decides to give a long, drawn-out speech. In his ramblings, he attacks all atheists, and is soon in a fiery argument with Alvarez, who rages against resurrection of the dead in part of his argument. Snaith silences the two by claiming that Father Brown is beginning to move. Father Brown then sits up and the mob attending the funeral becomes a frenzy of excitement about the event. Father Brown tries without success to calm the crowd, but when he is unable, he runs to the telegraph office to send to the Bishop’s secretary that there was no miracle that had happened.

John Race walks Father Brown back to the church, where Brown begins to attempt to solve his own murder case.

As Brown describes his assault, he seems to indicate that it was faked. He says the weapons used against him never actually hit him, but instead he seemed to collapse and faint of some unknown source. He mentions to Race that the wine from Eckstein may have been drugged, and Race, who started as a druggist before coming to engineering, confirms the suspicion. In a flash of intuition, Brown realizes the schemes of his would-be murderers and recounts the details to Race. The plan was to fake the priest’s death, then debunk it in order to show Brown as a sham. Brown concludes, saying he must go thank God that he was saved from disgrace and that he had so quickly contacted the Bishop with an unknowing counter-claim to the antagonists’ plot against him and inviting Race to a drink of un-drugged wine.

The Arrow of Heaven

The story opens with Father Brown stepping off of a ship into America. He is immediately assaulted by journalists, then finally, upon answering their many questions, spoke with a tall man in goggles. The man asked if Brown was looking for “Captain Wain” and introduced himself as Norman Drage. The goggled man rambled on a little while and the simple priest was left very confused. Soon the two were driving with Captain Peter Wain down the road, as Wain and Drage recounted stories of two recent murders connected with a mystical “Coptic cup” by a notorious man known only as Daniel Doom.

An associate of Wain’s uncle came into possession of this cup; the man was named Merton. As Wain explains, the previous two owners began receiving threatening letters from Doom before their murders, and at the death of the last victim, the widow was forced to sell many possessions the family had owned; Merton apparently purchased this cup, and presumably has begun to receive threatening letters.

When the three arrive at Merton’s enormous mansion, just as they are about to enter, Drage stops and says that Merton would be too happy to see him, and leaves. Father Brown is curious at this behavior and as he surveys the house, notes with a surprise how thoroughly guarded it is. Wain describes how important Merton is to the world and how vital it is that he is protected while Father Brown laments how caged he must be.

As the pair is about to go into a safe-room to meet with Mr. Merton, Wain’s uncle (Crake) and Merton’s lawyer walk out, having just talked with him about business for a while. Soon Mr. Wilton (the secretary to Mr. Merton) comes out of the safe room to announce that Merton will be available in ten minutes. He also tells the priest of Merton’s schedule and of having only fifteen minutes alone every day to worship the Coptic Cup. He brags of the defenses he apparently devised to protect Merton and claims them to be near- impenetrable. After Brown comments that Wilton seems to be more intent on catching the murderer than saving Merton, the secretary reveals that one of the previous victims of Daniel Doom was his father, so he means to protect Merton, but is very personally connected with catching the killer.

Father Brown remarks that it is time to go in to speak with the millionaire, and as he walks into the inner room, he reveals Merton to have been shot with an arrow and murdered.

Crake, having a history with Red Indian war tactics, along with his nephew Captain Wain, are implied to be suspects of Father Brown’s search to find the murderer and over the course of a few weeks, he speaks with each of them. Potentially, Wain flew a plane over or near the mansion, while his uncle shot Merton with an arrow through an open window. Both men are astounded to realize Brown’s possible story of the event, but the priest refuses to comment on his thoughts.

Soon a conversation with Drage ensues. Whereas previously he was very finely dressed and upbeat, he is now bitter and appears to be clothed much more shabbily. He seems glad that Mr. Merton has died, and praises old Eastern technology and religion that more or less would have helped kill him. Brown quickly dismisses the possibility of Drage having killed Merton, leaving Drage shocked at Brown’s statement that he had needed the victim and would never have killed him.

After another interlude, Father Brown meets with a council of many people who had contact with Merton. There he debunks the idea that Drage could have killed the man, and instead claims that the arrow that was found in the victim most likely had been used to stab him, and later configured to appear as if it had been shot. Further, the priest explains that Wain and Crake could not have been the murderer either. He breaks in to then say that after speaking to Wilton, that Wilton had killed Doom in some wild struggle. Everyone in the room applauds Wilton’s brash justice.

After much questioning, Father Brown reveals that Merton had been Daniel Doom and that Wilton, having hunted for so long to find him, finally killed him in vengeance of his father. The group becomes conflicted and angry, and Brown comments on the necessity of consistency in the case, pausing to mention that by now, Wilton is long gone.

The Oracle of the Dog

In the beginning of this story, Father Brown is petting a dog, next to a young man named Fiennes. The young man informs him of a recent murder and shows him a newspaper clipping describing the details of the case.

A man named Colonel Druce was murdered in his summer home on the coast of Yorkshire. Apparently, he was stabbed to death in his room, but the murder weapon is nowhere to be found. His son, daughter, and secretary all had no idea the murder took place, despite the home having only one entrance down a straight path through the garden. A man named Dr. Valentine (fiance of Miss Druce) was nearby and Druce’s lawyer Aubrey Traill had just met with the Colonel, and both confirmed this story as well. Shortly after Traill met with the Colonel, his daughter came in to see him, only to find his body on the ground.

Fiennes reveals he had been walking a dog with Druce’s nephews (Herbert and Harry) near the summer house when the man was murdered. He describes the secretary and the lawyer to Brown, and then goes on to tell of how ominous the walk felt and how the dog howled at just the moment before Druce’s daughter found the body, when previously it had been chasing a walking stick that Harry Druce had thrown into the water. As Fiennes and the nephews neared the house, Fiennes reports that Traill was just leaving and looked happy when normally he was downcast or unpleasant. Just then the dog had started barking furiously at the lawyer, who seemed to flee away.

The priest jumps up after this description and scolds Fiennes for being superstitious and believing that a dog could condemn a man. Fiennes argues by saying that the lawyer had a tie pin that potentially could have fit a stiletto into it. He then goes on to say that one of the nephews who was with him (Harry) had former training as a detective. Harry had seen the dog growl at a few people before, including the secretary (Patrick Floyd), and growling was a better predictor of a dog’s anger than barking. Additionally, Harry had found blood on the shears Floyd was using to trim the garden at the time.

At Brown’s prompting, Fiennes further reveals that Traill had been in the house to help revise the Colonel’s will and that the original witnesses of the signing were Dr. Valentine and the secretary. The secretary had gotten angry with Dr. Valentine for having changed his name at some point, which invalidated the will, to which Valentine made a comment attacking Americans. Druce was very angry at the doctor for this, and later Miss Druce and the doctor were seen whispering to each other something about murder.

Brown suggests perhaps the couple had worked together to kill the Colonel (the will was primarily favoring the daughter), at which Fiennes is appalled. Brown says he cannot do much to actually uncover the situation, but that Fiennes should continue searching and perhaps speak again with Harry Druce.

Several days later, Fiennes comes back, reporting Harry Druce to have committed suicide. Brown states that it was likely to have been the course of action after young Druce realized he had killed his uncle for nothing, after not having been written into the will. Fiennes is aghast and asks Brown to explain the murder.

As Brown describes it, the change of name by the doctor was from a French noble’s title to the old family surname (Brown had heard of the family before). As a point of French etiquette, he considered challenging the secretary to a duel because of the debate of his name, while the Colonel’s daughter tried to dissuade him from this.

Brown tells of how important the dog was to solving the crime, to which Fiennes remarks that it is surprising for him to suddenly trust in the instincts of a dog. The priest mentions that if people were not as superstitious about dogs as they were, then the animals could be used to actually help. He lays out the type of men that the secretary and the lawyer were: nervous, jumpy men; the type to scare suddenly and cut themselves on garden sheers when a girl screams, as well as the type that dogs would instinctively distrust.

Dogs are very straightforward, he says. They bark at people they do not like and people are afraid of dogs that do not like them. However, the murderer would have no fear of a witness who could not talk. Moreover, dogs pursue with everything they have in themselves. So the whine for not having found the walking stick that Harry Druce threw into the water was most likely because the stick had sunk and could not be found. That is, it had to house a sword used to kill the Colonel.

The Miracle of Moon Crescent

The story opens with a man named Warren Wynd sorting letters in an apartment in the town of Moon Crescent. Wynd is described to have an uncanny gift for snap decisions (apparently there is a story of him being approached by three beggars, two of which he immediately sent away, the third going on to be a useful personal assistant of his). A millionaire oil magnate named Silas Vandam is with him in the room, along with Wynd’s personal servant (Wilson) and private secretary (Fenner Collins). Soon, the man dismisses the three of them so he can attend to more work.

In the hall, a man named Alboin comes to speak with Wynd. He speaks of a new atheist religion that Wynd will want to know about. The secretary refuses him access, along with Father Brown who mysteriously appears as part of the group, with no explanation. Brown insists on getting into the room to ensure Wynd is alright, due to having spoken with a man he had helped previously who called some curse down upon Warren Wynd and after doing so, fired a blank shot under Wynd’s window.

Brown insists on checking, and Alboin soon strides forward to simply open the door. However, inside, Wynd is gone. Soon they call the authorities and answer questions until nightfall, at which point they leave and walk around Moon Crescent together. As they look into the distance, they see what appears to be a broken branch in a tree, but as the group gets closer to it, they soon recognize it to be the body of Wynd, who apparently hanged himself on the tree.

The police were soon pelting the group with questions again, making sure to avoid any superstition. Newspapers and magazines picked up the tale too, and attempted to give nearly the exact opposite effect, raving of Father Brown’s mysterious intuition and the superstitions involved in the group. The police hired a famous psychologist named Dr. Vair to speak with the witnesses in order to more accurately assess what happened in the events of Wynd’s death.

The professor begins to interrogate the group (without Father Brown) and attempts to convince them that Brown pulled some sort of trick in order to convince them to believe in a supernatural manner of Wynd’s death. Collins becomes fed up with these accusations of their apparent lunacy or whatever else, and brings the rest of the group to talk with the priest about why the events happened the way they did.

They bring Father Brown in to Wynd’s office a few days later to sign an official report of a miracle. They want Brown to sign first as an honor for having spotted it first; he politely refuses. The group is confounded and asks why, and Father Brown explains the whole event was in fact natural.

The shot, Brown explains, caused the victim to initially look out his window. Immediately, Wilson, who was a big strong man, from the floor above (where he was sent to collect papers) slipped a noose around Wynd’s neck and hoisted him up, killing him. An unknown third man likely helped to get the body out to the tree, far away from the apartment, where the group found him hanging. As Brown reveals, these men were likely the three homeless men that Wynd sized up many years ago and passed off without having known them.

The Curse of the Golden Cross

This mystery starts in the Moravia, a ship travelling to England. Immediately introduced are Professor Smaill and Lady Diana Wales, along with the ship’s register, Paul Tarrant. Also sitting at the table, Chesterton says, are Father Brown and a man named Leonard Smyth.

The group has a conversation on the Byzantine empire, Smaill’s specialty, and at the end, Brown points out that the professor mostly avoided the subject altogether. The professor seems to instantly trust Brown and launches into a description of some recently discovered tomb in Sussex. In it was found a special cross that has great importance to history, but a fabled curse as well. However, as he describes it, the curse seems more likely a conspiracy.

Smaill jumps into another tale of his own golden cross, the only one similar to the other that has just been uncovered. Upon finding it in a labyrinth in Greece, Smaill realized there was a man following him in the ancient catacombs. The man threatened him and promised that someday he would murder the professor, were the cross not given up. Every now and then, the man still sends the professor notes to tell him that the plans for murder are going well. Smaill describes him as a cold, methodical man, likely from the West, due to the detached sense of a collector simply trying to find the prize. With the discovery of the new cross, the mad-man apparently increased his threats sevenfold and is desperate that Smaill never get his hands on the second cross.

The professor and the priest disembark to go to the tomb and upon arriving, find the entire group from the dinner table already at the tomb with them. The group meets with the Vicar of the church under which the tomb was found, and begins to explore the dark caverns leading to the golden cross. They finally reach the room in which the cross is held, and just as Smaill reaches out to touch the cross, the large stone slab of the coffin the cross is lying in slams shut, smashing the professor painfully in the head.

It is found out, after the professor is taken to a nearby doctor, that the Vicar has committed suicide. Father Brown goes to speak with the dinner party group, who then is ranting about the curse and how it will destroy them all. Brown dismisses this notion and tells of the falsehoods in the history of the stories associated with the tomb. Additionally, the cross seemed to be rigged to a small wooden peg that was holding the casket open. When the professor pulled the cross, the peg fell out, shutting the coffin, and hitting him in the head. But Brown reveals it was really the vicar who had been in the coffin; the maniac who had been pursuing Smaill thought that he had finally committed the murder and wanted to end his own life abruptly. Smaill recovers after a while and the group is able to go on with their lives in peace.

The Dagger with Wings

The renowned priest is called up one day by a doctor/ policeman named Dr. Boyne. A man named Aylmer had three sons and an adopted son named John Strake; when he died, he left a great fortune to Strake, but the three sons disputed the case with the law and managed to get the inheritance. Strake swore he would kill all three, and so far two are dead. Arnold Aylmer is the last alive and he is requesting police protection. The other two brothers died of apparent suicide or accident, but there is a chance Strake had managed to simply kill them masterfully and get away with it. Aylmer is now demanding police protection after his servants left because of his increasing agitation and impatience. Boyne admits that Father Brown is called in to be a compromise to Aylmer’s demand.

When Brown gets to the mansion, it is dark and lonesome. He cannot get in, nor does there appear to be anyone at home. The place appears to have been barricaded. Finally, Father Brown manages to climb in through a window and is immediately confronted by a ragged Aylmer. The two begin to speak, and Aylmer recounted the deaths of both of his brothers and seeing a shadowy figure before their deaths, near the scenes of their murders. On the body of both men, notes were found with winged daggers on the notes, similar to threatening notes they had received before.

Aylmer brings the priest another note he had recently received with similar design and shows off a blunderbuss capable of firing silver bullets. He speaks a good deal about superstition and when he goes upstairs to get a picture of Strake to show Brown, the priest calls the police office to request backup.

Suddenly, there is a shout and the sound of gunfire, and Father Brown finds himself soon standing over the body of Strake along with Aylmer, who apparently shot him in some sort of confused vision of some sort. The man is satisfied that he has finally killed the apparent murderer of his brothers and goes back into his house to have a drink.

Aylmer tries then incessantly to convince Brown of some sort of universal existence among all things, which Brown denies. The priest then convicts Aylmer as the true John Strake for having killed the last of the brothers, just as the police arrive to detain Strake, who is even boastful of his murders.

As Boyne probes for answers, Brown uncovers the murder. Just as Brown had been entering the house, Strake had killed the last brother. He quickly swapped clothing and being much larger than Aylmer, hung the body in a cloak on the hat-stand, putting a hat over the head to cover it up. Then he put on the victim’s nightgown in order to pretend to be Aylmer, and went down to meet Brown.

My Thoughts:

Another good collection. The first story really struck home, what with people trying to “create” a miracle so they could later debunk it and lay all the blame on Father Brown. What really struck me though was Father Braown’s reaction. He wasn’t angry or upset, he was just glad that things hadn’t gone as planned and thus discredit Christ. I wish I had such concern myself.

In the previous books it was evident that Father Brown wasn’t interested in bringing the criminals to justice but in redemption. In this book he doesn’t even go that far. Many of the mysteries are simply figured out and left at that. While I was resigned to no justice in previous books, this was too much.

The stories were pretty good and I was really in the flow of them until it became evident about nothing happening. Once I realized it was becoming a pattern I kind of rushed through the rest of the stories just to finish up.

I really hope the next Father Brown collection works out better :-/

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Rolling Gravestones ★★★☆☆

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Title: Rolling Gravestones
Series: ———-
Author: Alfred Hitchcock (Editor)
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 179
Words: 69K



Synopsis:

From the Inside Cover

ALFIE DOES HIS THING

The only grass that Alfred Hitchcock gets high on is the kind that grows in the cemetery, and the only acid that blows his mind is the sort that can be thrown in someone’s face. Diabolical death is Alfie’s special kick, and he wants you to enjoy it, too. For that purpose, he’s harvested a brand new crop of terror tales, and served them up to you with grisly relish. Here is the master’s personal choice of fifteen spine-chilling spellbinders.

Introduction by Alfred Hitchcock

A PLACE TO VISIT

      Stephen Marlowe

CALL ME NICK

      Jonathan Craig

DEAD STOP ON THE ROAD SOUTH

      Robert Colby

RUSTY ROSE

      Edward Hoch

HENRY LOWDEN ALIAS HENRY TAYLOR

      Helen Nielsen

THE ENORMOUS $10

      Jack Ritchie

FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED

      Rog Phillips

THE EXPLOSIVES EXPERT

      John Lutz

I HATED THE HIRED MAN

      H. A. DeRosso

A SINGULAR QUARRY

      Ed Lacy

SLEEP IS FOR THE INNOCENT

      Henry Slesar

SORRY, RIGHT NUMBER

      Charles Einstein

FREE ADVICE, INC.

      Michael Brett

A SWEET YOUNG THING

      Mary Linn Roby

THE PRICE OF FAME

      Richard Deming

My Thoughts:

This was just a very weird read. Not in a Twilight Zone, throw you a curveball kind of weird, but a plain old fashioned weird that actually kind of creeped me out. Some stories DID have a twist but enough didn’t that it kept me on my toes. I must say that psychologically speaking, Alfie played me like a bassoon.

Two of these stories stood out to me above the rest.

The first, A Place to Visit, dealt with a Straight Arrow dying, going to hell and partying it up with naked chicks and having the time of his life. The devil tells him that unfortunately, Straight Arrow has been too good and so he’s going to be sent up to Heaven, with all the clouds and harps. It’s also where his wife is planning on going, so Straight Arrow will be with her. Oh the horror! BUT! The devil tells him that the devil can make a deal with him. The devil will revive Straight Arrow for five minutes and all he has to do is kill his wife, so she’ll go to heaven and Straight Arrow will go to hell and back to partying with naked supermodels. Straight Arrow takes the deal and the story ends with rather predictable results. I have to admit that I laughed my head off when Straight Arrow learns the truth and has the floor literally pulled out from under him, plunging him into the burning stygian pits of hell. Despite the rather “questionable” theology, it was a really good story. Now I’ve ruined it for everyone else but come on, who couldn’t see that ending? No deal with the devil ever turns out good.

The second, Sorry, Right Number fit my misanthropic self like a glove. It was about two couples, one older and one younger, that have to share a party line for their telephone. If you don’t know what a party line is, go google it. It will build character. Well, the old lady is always hollering at the younger couple whenever they try to use the phone to the point where they’ve learned to pick up the receiver without making any noise. The younger husband does this one day and over hears the older husband making plans to murder his wife because of reasons. The younger husband shares the info with his wife and they debate what they should do. The younger husband finally decides that they need to call the police. When he picks up the line the old wife is on the telephone and chews him out for “listening” to her conversation. So he hangs up and lets nature takes it course. How great is that?!?!?

While those two were the highlights, none of the others were duds. Alfie chose well with these set of stories and I enjoyed them. The main reason I gave this only 3 stars is that the book as a whole didn’t pop for me and I don’t ever plan on re-reading this. A great filler and something different, but not something grand or great.

On a side note (I was going to say tangential, but there’s nothing tangent about it), there’s a certain blogger who usually asks if that is him on the cover, or me, or some such thing. I’ve decided to take a pre-emptive approach this time. Dix, you are the gravestone and I am the motorcycle. Alfie is of course Alfie. With that out of the way, I can now cogitate the important things, like why Ken is always arraying himself against mortals like Sir Otsy. No fear of me ever running out of things to learn.

Rating: 3 out of 5.