Trouble in Triplicate (Nero Wolfe #14) ★★★✬☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Trouble in Triplicate
Series: Nero Wolfe #14
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 159
Words: 71K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

BEFORE I DIE:

The meat shortage of 1946[1] has drastically affected the menu at Wolfe’s dining room table and left him in a foul mood. A notorious gangster, Dazy Perrit, arrives at the brownstone to enlist Wolfe’s help and, over Archie’s protests, Wolfe invites him inside. Archie fears that Perrit will tell Wolfe something that Wolfe would prefer not to know, but Wolfe wants meat and thinks that Perrit’s black market connections might enable him to get it.

Perrit gives Archie a phone number to call for a possible supply of meat, and then tells Wolfe his problem. He has a daughter, whose existence and identity he has kept secret in order to protect her from his enemies. One of them, Thumbs Meeker, has recently let Perrit know that his daughter’s existence is no longer a secret; however, he does not know her name or location. Perrit has found a grifter named Angelina Murphy who is on the run from authorities in Utah, and has installed her as his daughter in his Fifth Avenue penthouse in an attempt to draw attention away from his real daughter. Angelina has begun to blackmail Perrit, demanding large sums of money in exchange for keeping his secret, and Perrit wants to hire Wolfe to make her stop.

Wolfe dispatches Archie to make contact with Perrit’s real daughter, Beulah Page. Archie learns that Beulah is engaged to marry a law student named Morton Schane and invites them both to dinner at Wolfe’s house. Wolfe uses the occasion to acquaint himself with the couple’s plans and concerns. Later that night, after Beulah and Schane have left, Angelina arrives for an appointment with Wolfe. He threatens to reveal her whereabouts to the Utah authorities unless she gives him 90% of any further money she extorts from Perrit. Angelina responds by threatening to disclose that she is not Perrit’s daughter, but Wolfe rebuffs her, saying that the information will be of no personal worry to him.

As Archie escorts Angelina home, she is killed in a drive-by shooting outside her apartment building. Archie is taken into custody, questioned, and released; when he reaches the brownstone, Perrit and one of his thugs are waiting to talk to him. These two men are killed in a second drive-by. Later that day, Perrit’s lawyer, L.A. Schwartz, pays a visit to Wolfe with news that he has been named executor of Perrit’s estate and entrusted with documents that prove Beulah’s parentage. Wolfe accepts the responsibility — and the $50,000 fee that goes with it — and schedules an appointment with Beulah, Schane, and Schwartz.

The meeting is further joined by Saul Panzer, Meeker, and an associate of Perrit’s named Fabian. Wolfe reveals Schane as the murderer, having become suspicious at the dinner after Schane made a nonsense comment about a simple point of law. Schane had been in league with Angelina in Utah, but decided to focus on Beulah instead after coming to New York, and Perrit had figured out what he was doing. The fingerprints he left on his wineglass at dinner confirm his identity and criminal background. Schane shoots at the group but misses, and Saul, Fabian, and Meeker return fire, with Saul’s bullet killing Schane.

Six days later, the meat shortage ends. Archie comments to Wolfe on the way in which Wolfe orchestrated the meeting to bring about Schane’s death without leading to criminal charges being filed against anyone else present, then leaves for a date with Beulah.

HELP WANTED, MALE

Publisher Ben Jensen pays a visit to Wolfe’s office, intent on buying protection for himself after receiving a death threat in the mail. [1] Wolfe declines the offer, giving Jensen some advice on how to look out for his own safety, and Archie provides him with the name of an agency that does bodyguard work. Jensen had been involved in one of Wolfe’s earlier cases,[2] in which an Army captain named Peter Root had offered to sell him classified information. Root was brought before a court martial and sentenced to three years in prison.

The following morning’s newspaper carries a report that both Jensen and the bodyguard he hired have been shot and killed; Wolfe denies to Inspector Cramer that he is taking any interest in the case. That day’s mail brings a death threat addressed to Wolfe, identical to the one Jensen received. Since the Root case is all that Wolfe and Jensen had in common, Wolfe and Archie track down current information on everyone connected to it, including Root’s family and fiancée, Jane Geer. Archie hurries to fill his end of the order before he must leave for a meeting in Washington, D.C. with his superiors in Army Intelligence. He locates Jane and brings her to the brownstone, but they are both surprised to find Jensen’s son Emil—an Army major—waiting at the door. Wolfe does not come down to meet them, but instead orders Archie over the in-house telephone to send them away.

While in Washington, Archie notices a help-wanted advertisement in a New York paper, calling for male applicants who are the same height and weight as Wolfe. Sneaking out of his meeting and hurrying back to Manhattan, Archie is surprised to see someone other than Wolfe in the detective’s custom-built chair. Wolfe introduces the man as H.H. Hackett, who has responded to the ad and is being paid $100 per day to impersonate him at home and in public. He is using Hackett as a decoy to draw the fire of would-be killers so that he can determine who might want him dead.

Wolfe has determined, from information provided by Army Intelligence, that Root and his parents had no apparent involvement in the murders. He asks Archie to bring Jane in for an interview, with Hackett doubling for him while he observes from the peephole in the office wall. Archie now understands why Wolfe sent her away earlier; he did not want her to see him in person so that she would be fooled by Hackett as a stand-in. Jane and Emil arrive for the appointment together, having developed a close relationship since Archie last saw them. He puts them in the front room and goes to consult with Wolfe about Emil’s unexpected presence, but the sound of a gunshot startles everyone.

Rushing into the office, Archie finds that a bullet has been fired through Wolfe’s chair and into the wall behind it, apparently from the front room, and that Hackett’s ear is nicked. Archie finds an old, recently fired revolver hidden in the front room, and Wolfe reveals himself to the visitors and takes charge. He calls Cramer to inform him about the weapon, which turns out to be the one that killed Jensen and the bodyguard, and pits Jane and Emil against each other in an effort to draw out the killer. However, the case turns in a new direction when he notices a cushion missing from the front room’s couch. It is soon found in the bottom drawer of Wolfe’s desk; this discovery, along with the fact that one of the guns in Archie’s desk has been recently fired, allows him to solve the case and turn the culprit over to Cramer.

The murderer is Hackett, actually Root’s father Thomas, bent on revenge against everyone he blames for his son’s imprisonment. After killing Jensen and the bodyguard, and sending the death threat to Wolfe, he responded to Wolfe’s ad and smuggled the murder weapon inside. During a time when he was alone in the office, he took a cushion from the couch, wrapped it around the gun to muffle the report, and fired a shot through the chair and into the wall. He hid the cushion in the desk and the gun in the front room, and made sure to sit in the chair so that his head would cover the bullet hole. While Jane and Emil were waiting in the front room, he took a gun from Archie’s desk, fired into the cushion, and used a pocketknife to cut a gash in his ear before returning the gun. Given one more day, Hackett/Thomas would have been able to kill Wolfe and focus suspicion on Jane and Emil.

INSTEAD OF EVIDENCE

Eugene R. Poor, co-owner of a novelty products company, and his wife, Martha, bring an unusual problem to Wolfe. Poor believes that his business partner, Conroy Blaney, is going to kill him and take full control of the company; he wants Wolfe to ensure that justice is done on Blaney when it happens. Martha has tried to persuade Poor to sell his share of the company to Blaney, without success, but Poor is determined to see his own murderer punished. Wolfe accepts a $5,000 fee, agreeing only to inform the police of what Poor has told him if Poor dies within one year.

Helen Vardis had arrived just after the police got there. She said she had come to see Poor on a confidential matter.

That evening, Inspector Cramer calls Wolfe with news that Poor is dead, his head blown apart by an exploding cigar in his own apartment. Visiting the scene, Archie learns from Martha that she and Poor had started off to visit Blaney at his estate in White Plains for a business discussion, but Poor had decided during the trip not to go. She left him at a tavern along the way, went to the meeting alone, and picked him up on the return trip. Once back in the apartment, he had opened a fresh box of cigars and lit one, but it exploded with great force and killed him. Archie also meets Joe Groll, the foreman at the company’s factory, and Helen Vardis, an employee. Blaney also arrives at the scene and is shocked to see Poor’s remains.

The next day, Cramer brings news to Wolfe that every cigar in that box had been rigged with a small but powerful explosive capsule, manufactured for military use by a different company, and that two of Martha’s hairs were found inside. Wolfe considers this to be evidence against her involvement, since a person involved in such painstaking work would be careful not to leave any traces. Blaney visits the brownstone as well to argue for his own innocence, but his annoying manner soon drives Wolfe to send him away. Wolfe calls Saul Panzer in to investigate, having taken an interest in finding photographs of Poor when he was alive, and Archie catches up to Groll for a talk and realizes that Helen has been following them. The three search the company offices and find several hiding places, one of which contains four explosive capsules.

At the brownstone, Wolfe tests one of the capsules by placing it in a coffee percolator and lighting its fuse; it explodes violently enough to damage the percolator and hurl its lid across the office, barely missing him. Wolfe dispatches Archie to take two of the others to Cramer, who threatens to get a warrant for the last one. Wolfe takes a sudden interest in a newspaper article about a man found dead in White Plains with his head crushed, and calls the local district attorney to confirm his identity as Arthur Howell, an employee of the company that had manufactured the capsules. Once the body has been identified, Wolfe sends Archie to see Martha with a photograph of Poor (obtained by Saul) that has the last capsule taped to it. Archie warns Martha that he has orders to deliver her to either Wolfe or the police, but she instead kills herself by putting the capsule in her mouth and setting it off.

A furious Cramer confronts Wolfe at the brownstone, but Wolfe maintains that he has broken no laws in prodding Martha to suicide. He had realized that the man who came to see him was an impostor, since Poor was an experienced cigar smoker and the man had barely been able to light one properly. Martha chose Howell for her plot to kill her husband because he bore a strong resemblance to Poor, and she persuaded him to give her some of the capsules so she could spike Poor’s cigars. During her supposed meeting with Blaney in White Plains, she met with Howell and killed him, running over his head with her car. The photograph that Saul obtained was actually of Howell, but Archie mistook it as one of Poor because he did not know of Howell’s existence at the time.

Cramer points out that it was Martha who paid Wolfe the $5,000, but Wolfe counters by saying that Poor got his money’s worth even if he did not directly pay the fee.

My Thoughts:

For whatever reason, the novels about Wolfe that are actually 3 novellas just never work quite as well for me as a full novel.

I didn’t catch on, until I was writing this post and copied the info from Wikipedia, that each story was about a person impersonating someone else. I think part of that is that I don’t try to solve the mystery ahead of time in books like this. I don’t care who did it or why. Just tell me and give me some interesting character interactions along the way.

And dang, the way everybody carries pistols around in their pockets? Sign me up for some of that please. None of this “concealed carry” license nonsense. Not that my state has that nonsense anymore, but there’s enough floating around the rest of the country to make up for it, le sigh.

Part of me wonders how Archie and Wolfe have gotten on so well together for so long. I would have shot Wolfe by now or at least put dog poop in one of his favorite dishes, thus prompting him to shoot me. The friendship and the tension are not something I have first hand experience with, as anyone who bothered me as much as Wolfe bothers Archie, I would have simply walked away from without another word. But that tension, as I’ve written before, is what makes these books. The murders themselves are usually pretty ho-hum and pedestrian but how everyone interacts is what is the peas day resistance. And Freedom Fries. Take that, french language!

Once again, I am pleased with another Nero Wolfe book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Tales of Terror ★★★✬☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Tales of Terror
Editor: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 771
Words: 306.5K



Synopsis:

From the Inside Cover & TOC

Be afraid—be very afraid: the master of suspense is serving up 58 bloodcurdling tales for your delectation. These suspenseful stories all appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and in the words of Hitch himself, they “are guaranteed to chill and unnerve.” Bill Pronzini contributes “The Arrowmont Prison Riddle,” Margaret B. Maron has “A Very Special Talent,” Barry M. Malzberg offers “A Home Away from Home,” and Patricia Matthews chronicles “The Fall of Dr. Scourby.” Meet a girl who stalks Jack the Ripper, a clairvoyant writer of newspaper obituaries, a homicidal partygoer in a sanatorium, and a police detective who lives vicariously through the exploits of one of his most notorious suspects: they all populate these frightening pages. Caution: not recommended for late-night reading—except for the very brave!

Includes the following 58 stories:

NEDRA TYRE – Killed by Kindness

JOHN F. SUTER – Just a Minor Offense

ROBERT BLOCH – A Home Away from Home

JOSEPH PAYNE BRENNAN – Death of a Derelict

BILL PRONZINI – The Arrowmont Prison Riddle

LAWRENCE BLOCK – The Dettweiler Solution

VINCENT McCONNOR – The Whitechapel Wantons

ISAK ROMUN – Cora’s Raid

NELSON DeMILLE – Life or Breath

WILLIAM BRITTAIN – A Private Little War

JOHN LUTZ – Have You Ever Seen This Woman?

BRIAN GARFIELD – Joe Cutter’s Game

JOHN COYNE – A Cabin in the Woods

EDWARD WELLEN – The Long Arm of El Jefe

JACK RITCHIE – Kid Cardula

JAMES HOLDING – Career Man

LIBBY MacCALL – The Perfidy of Professor Blake

HENRY SLESAR – Sea Change

DONALD OLSON – The Blue Tambourine

WILLIAM P. McGIVERN – Graveyard Shift

BORDEN DEAL – A Bottle of Wine

DONALD HONIG – Man Bites Dog

MICHAEL ZUROY – Never Trust an Ancestor

EDWARD D. HOCH – Another War

ALICE SCANLAN REACH – Sparrow on a String

CLAYTON MATTHEWS – The Missing Tattoo

PATRICIA MATTHEWS – The Fall of Dr. Scourby

STEPHEN WASYLYK – The Loose End

FRANK SISK – That So-Called Laugh

MARGARET B. MARON – A Very Special Talent

BETTY REN WRIGHT – The Joker

HELEN NIELSEN – The Very Hard Sell

RON GOULART – The Tin Ear

CHARLOTTE EDWARDS – The Time Before the Crime

BARRY N. MALZBERG – After the Unfortunate Accident

PATRICK O’KEEFE – The Grateful Thief

TALMAGE POWELL – The Inspiration

ROBERT COLBY – Death Is a Lonely Lover

FLETCHER FLORA – The Witness Was a Lady

PAULINE C. SMITH – Scheme for Destruction

MARY BRAUND – To the Manner Born

RICHARD O. LEWIS – Black Disaster

HAL ELLSON – The Marrow of Justice

IRVING SCHIFFER – Innocent Witness

SAMUEL W. TAYLOR – We’re Really Not That Kind of People

HAROLD Q. MASUR – Pocket Evidence

S. S. RAFFERTY – The Death Desk

AL NUSSBAUM – A Left-Handed Profession

THEODORE MATHIESON – Second Spring

ARTHUR PORGES – Bank Night

BRYCE WALTON – The Contagious Killer

GARY BRANDNER – Bad Actor

MICHAEL BRETT – Free Advice, Incorporated

JAMES M. GILMORE – The Real Criminal

WILLIAM DOLAN – The Hard Sell

BOB BRISTOW – The Prosperous Judds

ROBERT W. ALEXANDER – The Dead Indian

AUGUST DERLETH – The China Cottage

My Thoughts:

There is another anthology that was titled the same but was put together directly by Hitchcock and only had 12-14 stories. This was put together by some chick name Eleanor Sullivan. Good for her.

Overall I enjoyed this quite a bit and thought it was on track to be a solid 4star read. I only saw 2 or 3 stories that I’d read in some of his other collections and with 58 stories thought that was pretty good! Then came the last story, a Pons and Parker story. And Bancroft Pons, Solar’s older, smarter and fatter brother is introduced. It was too much. Solar Pons is a pastiche of Sherlock Holmes and I think it is terribly done. I wish I had never read any of the Pons and Parker stories by Derleth.

The book’s first story was the perfect opener though. A husband and wife are both having an affair and want to kill off the other because divorce would just destroy the other spouse, who lives and breathes to please the other. No need to be mean, just off them and everyone will be happy. Of course, they end up killing each other and it was PERFECT! It was exactly what I would expect from a story edited by Hitchcock.

The rest of the stories ran the gamut from ok to pretty good with the exception of the last as I mentioned above. This is the 12th Hitchcock anthology I’ve read and I’ve still got 8 more to go. I am loving it!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Feast and Famine ★★✬☆☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Feast and Famine
Series: ———-
Authors: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 157
Words: 60.5K



Synopsis:

From the Inside Cover and TOC

In Feast and Famine Adrian Tchaikovsky delivers an ambitious and varied collections of stories. Ranging from the deep space hard SF of the title story (originally in Solaris Rising 2) to the high fantasy of “The Sun in the Morning” (a Shadows of the Apt tale originally featured in Deathray magazine), from the Peter S Beagle influenced “The Roar of the Crowd” to the supernatural Holmes-esque intrigue of “The Dissipation Club” the author delivers a dazzling array of quality short stories that traverse genre. Ten stories in all, five of which appear here for the very first time.

Contents:

1. Introduction

2. Feast & Famine

3. The Artificial Man

4. The Roar of the Crowd

5. Good Taste

6. The Dissipation Club

7. Rapture

8. Care

9. 2144 and All That

10. The God Shark

11. The Sun of the Morning

12. About the Author

My Thoughts:

That’s right, there’s a reason I’ve been avoiding Tchaikovsky for the last year or two. While he can tell some good stories, he also really digs the knife into Christianity. Not organized religion, or Buddhism, or Islam, or any other religion, just Christianity. I “think” I could handle it if he were an equal opportunity mocker, but he’s not. He really lets fly with the story “Rapture” and I realized that while the other stories might be interesting that my time with him is done for good now.

If I need any more fixes of Tchaikovsky, I’ll just go and re-read the Shadows of the Apt decology.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A Season in Carcosa (The King in Yellow Anthology #4) ★★★★✬

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Title: A Season in Carcosa
Series: The King in Yellow Anthology #4
Editor: Joseph Pulver
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Cosmic Horror
Pages: 268
Words: 100K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

This Yellow Madness (introduction) by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

My Voice is Dead by Joel Lane

Beyond The Banks of the River Seine by Simon Strantzas

Movie Night at Phil’s by Don Webb

MS Found in a Chicago Hotel Room by Daniel Mills

it sees me when I’m not looking by Gary McMahon

Finale, Act Two by Ann K. Schwader

Yellow Bird Strings by Cate Gardner

The Theatre & Its Double by Edward Morris

The Hymn of the Hyades by Richard Gavin

Slick Black Bones and Soft Black Stars by Gemma Files

Not Enough Hope by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr

Whose Hearts are Pure Gold by Kristin Prevallet

April Dawn by Richard A. Lupoff

King Wolf by Anna Tambour

The White-Face At Dawn by Michael Kelly

Wishing Well by Cody Goodfellow

Sweetums by John Langan

The King Is Yellow by Pearce Hansen

D T by Laird Barron

Salvation In Yellow by Robin Spriggs

The Beat Hotel by Allyson Bird

My Thoughts:

My goodness, these anthologies are going up and down for me like a teetertotter! When they are good, they are REALLY GOOD and when it’s bad, it’s so bad I can’t finish them. Thankfully, this was on the upper part of the seesaw.

I went into this a bit worried since Pulver was the editor and I absolutely hated the previous book which was edited and written by him. Thankfully, he only contributed a small part of this. I did realize that I don’t like his writing, period though. There were 1 or 2 poems, which did nothing for me. But Pulver’s story was the only real let down. Not surprising but it’s what kept this from a full 5star.

But most of the other stories were flipping fantastic if you dig cosmic horror. From slides into madness and horror to the unveiling of horrific powers, these ran the gamut from shiver your backbone to a chill of deliciousness running down your spine to the completely inexplicably weird.

I really can’t say that any of these were “better” than the others, but the 2 I do remember are Yellow Bird Strings and Wishing Well. YBS was about a former puppeteer who by the end of the story has become the puppet himself. It was hard to tell if he was going mad or if it was all real. Exactly the right tone for a King in Yellow Story. WW on the other hand, had real IT (by Stephen King) vibes with 2 storylines about kids and them now as adults. A twisted tv show created by a cult of the KIY was the focus and the ending where the main character who appears to be a loser the whole time is revealed to be the son of the King in Yellow, or something like that. It was deliciously spine tingling.

Another absolute winner of a read and I’m pretty happy. These books are definitely not for everyone, in fact I’d say that the majority of readers wouldn’t go for The King in Yellow, but they fit me like a glove, so I’m going to revel in them while I can.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes #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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Series: Sherlock Holmes #4
Author: Arthur Doyle
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 322
Words: 87K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

Silver Blaze

The Yellow Face

The Stock-broker’s Clerk

The “Gloria Scott”

The Musgrave Ritual

The Reigate Puzzle

The Crooked Man

The Resident Patient

The Greek Interpreter

The Naval Treaty

The Final Problem

My Thoughts:

This is the book where Sherlock Holmes so infamously dies. I say infamously because apparently Doyle had the spine of a jellyfish and when the bills came knocking he immediately caved, resurrected Holmes and lived off of his creation. He SHOULD have created another character, called Berlahp Sax and used him instead. Whatever. Doyle is dead so he won’t be listening to any advice I might have had for him.

I enjoyed this more than the previous “Adventures of…” and I think that is because I am not sure if I’ve ever actually read this book or not. I’m pretty sure I read all of Sherlock in highschool but I really can’t remember. So this was all brand new stories to me. That makes a huge difference.

Moriarty is introduced in the final story and everything concerning him takes place in that one short story. None of this silly Long Story Arc building up the dramatic tension. He’s a bad guy, Sherlock clobbers him, metaphorically speaking, and eventually they go mano-a-mano and fall over a cliff. It was a great ending to the story of Sherlock. Personally, if there had been no more Sherlock stories I would have been perfectly happy with how things turned out.

Since that is not how things will be however, I am just as pleased to go on reading more stories about Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Dreadful Time ★★★★☆

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Title: Once Upon a Dreadful Time
Series: ———-
Editor: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 166
Words: 65.5K



Synopsis:

From the Inside Cover & ToC

MURDERERS TO REMEMBER

Greedy husbands, hen-pecking wives, fickle bachelors, nosey spinsters, grumbling servants, wronged maidens, crooked executives, jealous siblings—these are the unsung heroes and heroines of crime. Where professionals rarely execute an inspirational murder, these mere amateurs persecute and kill with passionate ingenuity. But, alas, all too often the brilliance of their acts has to be admired by them alone. For a perfect crime, by definition, must go undetected.

In this volume you are given a rare opportunity to ob serve, with their reluctant permission, these dedicated masters of murder at their ingenious best. It is an experience you are likely never to forget.

DEPARTMENT OF THE DEPARTED

     Alfred J. Hitchcock

A LITTLE PUSH FROM CAPPY FLEERS

     Gilbert Ralston

THE SAFE STREET

     Paul Eiden

NO ONE ON THE LINE

     Robert Arthur

ANTIQUE

     Hal Ellson

SUSPICION IS NOT ENOUGH

     Richard Hardwick

A FAMILY AFFAIR

     Talmage Powell

GRANNY’S BIRTHDAY

     Fredric Brown

THIRD PARTY IN THE CASE

     Philip Ketchum

HILL JUSTICE

     John Faulkner

IF THIS BE MADNESS

     Lawrence Block

ANATOMY OF AN ANATOMY

     Donald E. Westlake

A COOL SWIM ON A HOT DAY

     Fletcher Flora

BY THE SEA, BY THE SEA

     Hal Dresner

BODIES JUST WON’T STAY PUT

     Tom MacPherson

THE DANGERFIELD SAGA

     C. B. Gilford

NUMBER ONE SUSPECT

     Richard Deming

My Thoughts:

This was a very good collection but at the same time it was really, really weird. Being about murder, well, what do you expect? So, some stories were about good guy murdering some scum who deserved it but who had eluded justice. Other stories were about 2 badguys falling out and trying to off each other. While others were about annoying people who get murdered and you feel ok with it. Some were about people getting murdered and the murderer getting away with it, sometimes that was good and sometimes it was a bad thing.

So this really ran the whole gamut. Some stories were fantastic vigilante justice and others were just horrible murder. And the thing was, you could never tell going into a story which part of the spectrum you’d end up on. It was just the right sort of unsettled feeling I’d expect from an Alfred Hitchcock presentation.

“Granny’s Birthday” was probably the most unsettling, as it involved a whole family, led by their Matriarch, as they kill two people who are not part of the family. It was a very short story, no more than a couple of pages, but man, was it intense and shockingly abrupt.

Outside the occasional twinge of “what did I just read?”, I really enjoyed my time with this collection. Overall, the stories edited by Hitchcock are all quite entertaining.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Best of Lester Del Rey ✬☆☆☆☆ DNF@74%

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Title: The Best of Lester Del Rey
Series: ———-
Authors: Lester Del Rey
Rating: 0.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF Short Story Collection
Pages: 350 DNF / 259
Words: 130K DNF / 96K



Synopsis:

TOC

“The Magnificent” [introduction] (Frederik Pohl)

“Helen O’Loy” (from Astounding Science-Fiction, Dec. 1938)

“The Day Is Done” (from Astounding Science-Fiction, May 1939)

“The Coppersmith” (from Unknown, Sep. 1939)

“Hereafter, Inc.” (from Unknown Worlds, Dec. 1941)

“The Wings of Night” (from Astounding Science-Fiction, Mar. 1942)

“Into Thy Hands” (from Astounding Science Fiction, Aug. 1945)

“And It Comes Out Here” (from Galaxy Science Fiction, Feb. 1951)

“The Monster” (from Argosy, Jun. 1951)

“The Years Draw Nigh” (from Astounding Science Fiction, Oct. 1951)

“Instinct” (from Astounding Science Fiction, Jan. 1952)

“Superstition” (from Astounding Science Fiction, Aug. 1954)

“For I Am a Jealous People!” (from Star Short Novels, Oct. 1954)

“The Keepers of the House” (from Fantastic Universe, Jan. 1956)

“Little Jimmy” (from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Apr. 1957)

“The Seat of Judgment” (from Venture Science Fiction Magazine, Jul. 1957)

“Vengeance Is Mine” (from Galaxy Magazine, Dec, 1964)

“Author’s Afterword”

My Thoughts:

Several of these stories made quite clear what Del Rey thought about Christianity as a whole but I was able to read past them. Then I got to “For I Am a Jealous People” and it got downright blasphemous. I was teetering on dnf’ing and trying to make up my mind when another sentence hit me. A character is talking about the Bible and God and says something like “I just wish I knew where Jesus fit into all of this”. That did it. The Bible is crystal clear that Jesus is the second person of the Godhead, is not a created being AND is the only way for humanity to get to heaven. It was obvious that Del Rey knew exactly what he was doing as his deliberate misuse of Scripture by a character showed his was very familiar with it.

So dnf’d at 74% and 1/2star for blasphemy.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

Skull Sessions ★★★✬☆

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: Skull Sessions
Series: ———-
Editor: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 161
Words: 62.5K



Synopsis:

From the Inside Cover & TOC

THE DO-IT-YOURSELF MURDER KIT

To do a good, honest job of murder (and nowadays you pretty much have to do it yourself, labor costs being what they are) you need several all-important ingredients.

Choose a weapon. That’s hard. There are just so many of them. But remember, a workman is no better than his tools.

Find a victim. That’s easy. There are just so many of them. But remember, an artist is no better than his material.

Then a plan.

That’s where this book will come in handy. . .

SKULL SESSION

A DEGREE OF INNOCENCE—Helen Nielsen

ONE UNNECESSARY MAN—Talmage Powell

KILL ME, MY SWEET—C.B. Gilford

SAM’S HEART—Henry Slesar

THE INCOMPLETE CORPSE—Jack Webb

LUCK IS NO LADY—Robert Bloch

SWEET SPIRIT—Donald Honig

THE ONLY BAD POLICEMAN—Paul Eiden

THE WITNESS WAS A LADY—Fletcher Flora

THE EPISODE OF THE TELEPHONE NUMBER—Charles Einstein

COME BACK, COME BACK—Donald E. Westlake

ADVENTURES OF THE SUSSEX ARCHERS—August Derleth

FAT JOW—Robert Alan Blair

VACATION—Mike Brett

My Thoughts:

The only fly in the ointment was the “Pons & Parker” story by Derleth (P&P are a complete ripoff of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, not even trying to cover it up at all) and the Fat Jow story by Blair. I just don’t like Jow, as I experienced him in another Hitchcock collection.

Other than that, this was a great collection of crime stories and nasty things happening to unpleasant people. Of course, not all of them followed that formula. “The Only Bad Policeman” is the perfect example. A man defends himself and his 2 boys against a drunk policeman with a martial art from his home country. Everyone cheers him on but the story ends with him getting arrested as he accidentally killed the policeman. Now that’s a downer of a story!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes #3) ★★★✬☆

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 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Series: Sherlock Holmes #3
Author: Arthur Doyle
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 360
Words: 104K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

“A Scandal in Bohemia” July 1891

The King of Bohemia engages Holmes to recover an indiscreet photograph showing him with the renowned beauty, adventuress and opera singer Irene Adler‍—‌the revelation of which would derail his marriage to a daughter of the King of Scandinavia. In disguise, Holmes witnesses Adler marry the man she truly loves, then by means of an elaborate stratagem discovers the photograph’s hiding place. But when Holmes and the king return to retrieve the photo, they find Adler has fled the country with it, leaving behind a letter for Holmes and a portrait of herself for the King. The king allows Holmes to retain the portrait as a souvenir.

“The Red-Headed League” August 1891

Jabez Wilson, a pawnbroker, consults Holmes about a job, gained only because of his red hair, which took him away from his shop for long periods each day; the job for to simply copy the Encyclopædia Britannica. After eight weeks, he was suddenly informed that the job ended. After some investigation at Wilson’s shop, Holmes contacts a police inspector and the manager of a nearby bank. With Watson, they hide in the bank vault and catch two thieves who had dug a tunnel from the shop while Wilson was at the decoy copying job.

“A Case of Identity” September 1891

Against the wishes of her stepfather, Mary Sutherland has become engaged to Hosmer Angel. On the morning of their wedding Hosmer elicits a promise that Mary will remain faithful to him “even if something quite unforeseen” occurs, then mysteriously disappears en route to the church. Holmes deduces that Hosmer was Mary’s stepfather in disguise, the charade a bid to keep Mary a spinster and thus maintain access to her inheritance. Holmes does not reveal the truth to Mary because “There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman”; he had already advised her to put the matter behind her, though she responded that Hosmer “shall find me ready when he comes back.” At the end, Mary’s stepfather escapes and Sherlock Holmes predicts he will commit more crimes.

“The Boscombe Valley Mystery” October 1891

Inspector Lestrade asks for Holmes’s help after Charles McCarthy is murdered, and his son, James, is implicated. McCarthy, and another local landowner, John Turner, are both Australian expatriates, and Lestrade was originally engaged by Turner’s daughter, Alice, who believes James is innocent. Holmes interviews James, and then inspects the scene of the murder, deducing a third man was present. Realising Holmes has solved the case, Turner confesses to the crime, revealing that McCarthy was blackmailing him due to Turner’s criminal past. Holmes does not reveal the crime, but secures James’s release because of the presence of a third person at the crime scene.

“The Five Orange Pips” November 1891

John Openshaw tells Holmes that in 1883 his uncle died two months after receiving a letter inscribed “K.K.K.” with five orange pips enclosed, and that in 1885 his father died soon after receiving a similar letter; now Openshaw himself has received such a letter. Holmes tells him to do as the letter asks and leave a diary page, which Holmes deduces is connected to the Ku Klux Klan, on the garden sundial. Openshaw is killed before he can do so, but Holmes discovers the killers have been travelling on a sailing ship, and sends the captain a letter with five orange pips. The ship is lost at sea.

“The Man with the Twisted Lip” December 1891

Neville St. Clair, a respectable businessman, has disappeared and his wife claims she saw him at the upper window of an opium den. Rushing upstairs to the room she found only a beggar who denied any knowledge of St. Clair – whose clothes are later found in the room, and his coat, laden with coins, in the River Thames outside the window. The beggar is arrested, but a few days later St. Clair’s wife receives a letter from her husband. Holmes concludes, then proves, that the beggar is actually St. Clair in disguise; he confesses that he has been leading a double life as a beggar, making more money that way than in his nominal work.

“The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” January 1892

A “Blue Carbuncle” is stolen from a hotel suite, and a former felon is soon arrested. However, an acquaintance of Holmes discovers the carbuncle in the throat of a Christmas goose. Holmes traces the owner of the goose, but soon determines that he was not the thief by offering him a replacement goose. The detective continues his search, first to an inn and then a dealer in Covent Garden. The dealer refuses to provide Holmes with information about the source of the goose, but Holmes observes another man trying to find the same information, and confronts him. The man, the head attendant at the hotel, confesses to his crime. Holmes allows him to remain free, arguing that prison could make him a hardened criminal later.

“The Adventure of the Speckled Band” February 1892

Helen Stoner worries her stepfather may be trying to kill her after he contrives to move her to the bedroom where her sister had died two years earlier, shortly before her wedding. Stoner is herself now engaged, and Holmes learns that her stepfather’s annuity (from the estate of his wife‍—‌Stoner’s mother) would be greatly reduced if either sister married. During a late-night investigation of the bedroom, Holmes and Watson discover a dummy bell-pull near a ventilator. As they lie in wait a whistle sounds, then a snake appears through the ventilator. Holmes attacks the snake with his riding crop; it retreats to the next room, where it attacks and kills Stoner’s stepfather.

“The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” March 1892

An engineer, Victor Hatherley, attends Dr Watson’s surgery after his thumb is chopped off, and recounts his tale to Watson and Holmes. Hatherley had been hired for 50 guineas to repair a machine he was told compressed Fuller’s earth into bricks. Hatherley was told to keep the job confidential, and was transported to the job in a carriage with frosted glass, to keep the location secret. He was shown the press, but on closer inspection discovered a “crust of metallic deposit” on the press, and he suspected it was not being used for compressing Fuller’s earth. He confronted his employer, who attacked him, and during his escape his thumb is chopped off. Holmes deduces that the press is being used to produce counterfeit coins, and works out its location. However, when they arrive, the house is on fire, and the criminals have escaped.

“The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” April 1892

Lord Robert St. Simon’s new American bride, Hatty Doran, has disappeared almost immediately after the wedding. The servants had prevented an old love interest of his from forcing her way into the wedding breakfast, Hatty had been seen in whispered conversation with her maid, and Inspector Lestrade arrives with the news that Hatty’s wedding dress and ring have been found floating in the Serpentine. Holmes quickly solves the mystery, locating Hatty at a hotel with a mysterious, “common-looking” man who had picked up her dropped bouquet after the ceremony. The man turns out to be Hatty’s husband Frank, whom she had thought dead in America, and who had managed to locate her only moments before she was to marry Lord St. Simon. Frank and Hatty had just determined to go to Lord St. Simon in order to explain the situation when Holmes found them.

“The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” May 1892

A banker asks Holmes to investigate after a “Beryl Coronet” entrusted to him is damaged at his home. Awakened by noise, he had found his son, Arthur, holding the damaged coronet. Arthur refuses to speak, neither admitting guilt nor explaining himself. Footprints in the snow outside the house tell Holmes that the banker’s niece had conspired with a blackguard to steal the coronet; Arthur had discovered the crime in progress and the coronet had been damaged during his struggle to prevent it being stolen. He had refused to tell his father the truth of the crime because of his love for his cousin.

“The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” June 1892

Violet Hunter consults Holmes after being offered a governess job subject to a number of unusual conditions, including cutting her hair short. The wage is extremely high, £120, and she decides to accept the job, though Holmes tells her to contact him if she needs to. After a number of strange occurrences, including the discovery of a sealed-off wing of the house, she does so. Holmes discovers that someone had been kept prisoner in the wing, but when Holmes, Watson and Hunter enter, it is empty. They are accused of freeing the prisoner, who was the daughter of Hunter’s employer, who sets his dog on them, though it attacks him instead. It is revealed that Hunter had been hired to impersonate her employer’s daughter so that her fiancé would believe she was no longer interested in seeing him, but the daughter had escaped and the pair later married.

My Thoughts:

I remembered the gist of almost all the stories from my read in 2009, so this wasn’t a taut read. More comfortable really. Like putting on a pair of old slippers.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Lord Emsworth and Others (Blandings Castle #6) ★★★☆☆

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: Lord Emsworth and Others
Series: Blandings Castle #6
Authors: PG Wodehouse
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Humor
Pages: 179
Words: 73K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

“The Crime Wave at Blandings”

US: Saturday Evening Post, 10 & 17 October 1936

UK: Strand, January 1937 (as “Crime Wave at Blandings”)

Plot

Lord Emsworth’s sister, Lady Constance, has decided that Emsworth’s grandson George needs a tutor to keep him in line over the summer holidays and chooses Rupert Baxter, Emsworth’s former secretary. Emsworth is worried that Constance is trying to get the controlling and unpleasant Baxter reinstated as his secretary. George, who does not want to be tutored during the summer holidays, dislikes Baxter, and Emsworth sympathizes with George. Meanwhile, Lord Emsworth’s niece Jane is engaged to George Abercrombie. Constance disapproves since Abercrombie does not have money or a job, and wants Jane to marry someone else. Lord Emsworth previously agreed to give Abercrombie the position of land agent at Blandings, but Constance pushes Emsworth, who just wants to be left alone so he can read Whiffle on The Care Of The Pig, to rescind the job offer. This dismays Jane.

The butler Beach brings an airgun and a box of ammunition to Emsworth. The gun was confiscated from young George on Lady Constance’s instructions. George shot Baxter in the seat of the trousers while Baxter was tying his shoes. Emsworth again sympathizes with George. He reminisces about a time in his youth when his sister Julia borrowed his airgun to shoot her governess, and Beach mentions that he also had an airgun when he was young. Later, Emsworth sees Baxter outside bending over to pick up a cigarette. Acting on an impulse inspired by his childhood memories, Emsworth shoots Baxter with the airgun through a window. Baxter angrily comes into the room, thinking that George shot him again. Constance, however, suspects that Emsworth shot Baxter. Jane saw Emsworth shoot Baxter and threatens to tell Constance unless he writes a letter to Abercrombie giving him the land agent job. Emsworth writes the letter for her.

Baxter eavesdropped on their conversation and knows Emsworth shot him. To keep Baxter from telling Constance, Emsworth reluctantly offers him his old job as secretary, which Baxter gladly accepts. However, Beach later delivers a note from Baxter in which he declines the job and says he will leave Blandings. Emsworth fears Baxter has decided to tell Constance after all, and Jane advises him to deny everything Baxter says. Furthermore, Beach announces he is resigning. Constance admits she shot Beach with George’s airgun on an impulse. Though Emsworth had thought he remembered Julia shooting the governess, it had actually been Constance. Emsworth is alarmed about their indispensable butler resigning but relieved that Constance can hardly reproach him now.

In front of Constance, Baxter accuses Emsworth of shooting him, which Emsworth denies, and says he was willing to return as secretary until Emsworth shot him a second time, though Emsworth only shot him once. Constance wants Baxter to stay, but Emsworth insists that Baxter will go, and that Jane will marry Abercrombie as she wants to. Beach tells Emsworth that he is resigning because he acted on an impulse and shot Baxter (though Baxter mistakenly thought Emsworth shot him again). He is not resigning because of Constance and says her shot actually missed. Emsworth convinces Beach to stay by telling him that Baxter is leaving, and decides to test his aim by again shooting Baxter through a window. Baxter shouts and immediately leaves on his motorcycle. Beach raises a glass of port in a toast to Emsworth’s success.

“Buried Treasure”

UK: Strand, September 1936

US: This Week, 27 September 1936 (as “Hidden Treasure”)

Plot

Mr Mulliner’s nephew Brancepeth wants to marry his beloved Muriel, but hasn’t a sou to do it on, so her father Lord Bromborough is forcing her to marry the boob of the first water Edwin Potter (heir of Potter’s Potted Meats). Bromborough has a weakness, though: his great moustache Joyeuse, which he compares favorably to Love in Idleness, the facial decoration of Potter’s father Sir Preston. Having been invited to Rumpling Hall to paint a portrait of Lord Bromborough, Brancepeth realizes that if he can turn a moustachless Bromborough into an animated cartoon in Hollywood, fame, fortune, and Muriel are his.

“The Letter of the Law”

UK: Strand, April 1936

US: Red Book, April 1936 (as “Not Out of Distance”)

Plot

The President’s Cup and the love of Gwendoline Poskitt occasion the only time the Oldest Member ever saw profit from driving into anyone. Young Wilmot Byng loves Gwendoline, but has recently smitten her father (a member of the Wrecking Crew) a juicy one on the leg for holding up play. To win her hand, the Oldest Member recommends that Wilmot appease Poskitt, and he does so—up to the day of the President’s Cup match. In that match, Poskitt plays well above form, but ends up in match play against Wadsworth Hemmingway, an ex-lawyer-turned-golfer who carries the Book of Rules in his bag and makes it his best club. With one swing, Wilmot ensures that Poskitt gets the Cup and Wilmot gets his bride.

“Farewell to Legs”

US: This Week, 14 July 1935 (omitting Oldest Member introduction)

UK: Strand, May 1936

The title is a play on Ernest Hemingway’s 1929 novel, A Farewell to Arms.

Plot

The betrothal of Evangeline Brackett to Angus McTavish is built, in large part, on the way she bites her lip and rolls her eyes when she tops her drive, says the Oldest Member. But when Legs Mortimer takes up residence in the Clubhouse, Evangeline’s mind wanders from her golf, and Angus worries that she is losing her form for the Ladies’ Medal. But the scales fall from Evangeline’s eyes when Legs does the unthinkable on the links.

“There’s Always Golf”

US: Red Book, February 1936 (as “A Triple Threat Man”)

UK: Strand, March 1936

Plot

Clarice Fitch was a force to be reckoned with, recalls the Oldest Member, and weedy, bespectacled accountant Ernest Plinlimmon is powerfully affected by the impact of her personality. But like hundreds of others, he escapes her notice, until he encounters her on the eighteenth fairway, needing a four to win the Medals Competition. But she is not playing—she is tying her shoelace. When a forceful woman comes between a man and a coveted tournament medal, she sees the true depths of his soul.

“The Masked Troubadour”

US: Saturday Evening Post, 28 November 1936 (as “Reggie and the Greasy Bird”, with different setting & characters)

UK: Strand, December 1936

“Reggie and the Greasy Bird” is a rewritten version of the story with different characters, created because Wodehouse needed the money for his taxes.[2]

Plot

At the Drones Club, two Beans see Freddie Widgeon handing money to a greasy-looking man. A Crumpet explains that the man, Jos. Waterbury, is a professional pianist, and Freddie feels obliged to give him money occasionally. The Crumpet tells the following story.

Freddie has lunch with his uncle, Lord Blicester (pronounced “blister”). Blicester has invited his friend Lady Pinfold and her daughter Dora to lunch. He wants Freddie to marry Dora. Freddie falls in love with Dora. She volunteers at a sort of Mission where they are putting on an entertainment. Freddie sings for the event, accompanied by Dora on the piano. He is a hit and invites the audience to return in a week for buns and cocoa. However, he does not have enough money to pay for the food. His uncle gives him ten pounds, but Freddie thinks he needs more. At the Drones, Freddie sees a kid, Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps’s cousin Egbert. Fellow Drone Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright says that Egbert can hit anything with a Brazil nut fired from a catapult. Freddie bets Catsmeat five pounds that Egbert cannot shoot the hat off an old gentleman leaving a cab. Freddie loses the bet, and sees that it was Blicester whose hat was knocked off. Incidentally, Blicester came to get two pounds ten shillings back.

Freddie decides to sing in an East End music hall’s Amateur Night to win the five-pound prize. He pays Waterbury five shillings to be his accompanist. Blicester is nearby, so Freddie disguises himself with a mask and calls himself The Masked Troubadour. Freddie sings well, but a red-headed man in the audience, “Ginger” Murphy, recognizes Waterbury. He throws an egg at Waterbury, which misses. They argue and a food fight breaks out. Waterbury flees to a pub, where Freddie and Murphy follow. A bar-room brawl ensues. Outside, Blicester sees Freddie get thrown out. When he grabs Freddie’s arm, Freddie mistakes him for a brawler and hits him in the midriff before rejoining the brawl. The next day, Blicester decides to send Freddie away to the country for a few weeks. Freddie calls Dora and tells her everything; she hangs up on him. Waterbury thanks Freddie for saving him in the brawl, and plays on Freddie’s sympathy to get some money from him.

The version titled “Reggie and the Greasy Bird” features Reggie Mumford and is very similar to the Freddie Widgeon version. Reggie is a member of the Junior Rotters Club instead of the Drones, where his fellow member is Beano Bagshot rather than Catsmeat. His uncle is Lord Uppingham, and the girl he falls for is Constance Rackstraw. At the Amateur Night competition, he is accompanied by the greasy-looking pianist Sid Montrose. Ginger Murphy’s name is not changed.

“Ukridge and the Home from Home”

US: Cosmopolitan, February 1931

UK: Strand, June 1931

Plot

Ukridge arrives at his friend Jimmy Corcoran’s house at 3 a.m., dressed in his pyjamas and mackintosh. He relates to his friend how he had been left in charge of his Aunt Julia’s house, and had come up with the ingenious idea of renting out rooms to an exclusive clientele of boarders while she was away.

For a time the plan goes smoothly. With the staff bribed to help, he fills the house with paying guests, and rakes in their money while playing the gracious host. However, meeting an old friend of his Aunt’s, he hears she is returning sooner than expected, and tries to think of a way to get rid of the guests before their contracted stays are up.

After a plot to imply the drainage in the house is faulty fails, Ukridge decides to claim the house is infected with Scarlet fever, but receiving a telegram from his aunt saying she will arrive in Paris the following week, and knowing a trip there always takes his aunt a few weeks, decides to delay shutting down his plan to grab a few more weeks rent.

Soon after, the house is aroused by shooting. One of guests, the retired Lieutenant-Colonel B. B. Bagnew, convinced he has seen a burglar, opened fire with his service revolver. Ukridge calms the house, but on retiring to bed, finds Aunt Julia hiding in the cupboard, convinced the butler has gone insane. Ukridge attempts to smuggle her out of the house, but she insists on getting some things from her bedroom. Entering the room, she disturbs the guest staying there, who screams; the Colonel rushes in and opens fire once more. Ukridge, taking advantage of the confusion, grabs his coat and slips away, ending up at his friend’s bedside in the small hours of the night.

“The Come-back of Battling Billson”

US: Cosmopolitan, June 1935

UK: Strand, July 1935

Plot

Corky, having had a story idea turned down by Hollywood, attacks the talking picture, but his friend Ukridge comes to its defence. He has, he says, always had a special affection for the talkies. He tells his friend why…

About to be left alone once more at his Aunt Julia’s house, Ukridge realises he can make some quick cash by renting out the lawns to a party of folk dancers. Of course, Aunt Julia’s trip is unexpectedly cancelled, and Ukridge needs some cash to pay back the dancers, who are upset at having their party cancelled at the last minute.

Ukridge sets up a bout for “Battling” Billson, using the man’s desire to wed his girl Flossie to persuade him to take part. Finding Billson’s training methods (mostly involving ale and cigars) somewhat lacking, Ukridge inveigles the big boxer into his Aunt’s house as an odd-job man, allowing him to personally supervise the training regime. His aunt is a little nonplussed, but is soon persuaded everything is alright.

The training continues apace, but Billson seems to be benefitting little. His waist expands and his wind does not. The butler Oakshott, it emerges, having wowed Billson with his dignified manner, is now plying the boxer with an excess of food, cigars and port. Ukridge has just discovered that the conniving butler has money on Billson’s opponent in the upcoming bout, when Aunt Julia learns of Ukridge’s dance scheme, and throws him out of the house. He tries to persuade Billson to leave with him, but the big man resolutely refuses.

Ukridge, seeing disaster loom, fetches Flossie to the house to talk some sense into Billson. They find he has gone to the movie theatre with the butler, and hasten down there, but Flossie is as weak before the butler’s fatherly gaze as Billson himself. All four of them end up in the cinema, at a screening of The Jazz Singer. When the talking starts up, Billson is enraged, calling loudly for quiet in the cinema. The audience reacts strongly, fighting ensues, and Billson is hauled off to jail for two weeks. He emerges trim and in top form, easily besting his opponent in the ring.

“The Level Business Head”

UK: Strand, May 1926

US: Liberty 8 May 1926

Plot

Corky is surprised to find himself dining at Ukridge’s Aunt Julia’s house, where he is not usually welcome; Ukridge explains that he has recently acquired a certain degree of power over his aunt, thanks to his having pawned her brooch. He explains…

Ukridge runs into Joe the Lawyer, a notorious bookmaker, and is offered the chance to buy a half-share in a dog with excellent prospects. Ukridge can’t afford the stake £50, of course, so at first refuses, but later that day Aunt Julia, about to depart on yet another tour, tasks him with collecting her brooch from a jeweller’s and locking it safely in her desk. He pawns the brooch, and hands the cash over to Joe the Lawyer. The next day, Joe informs him that the dog has died and offers to reimburse him £5, leaving Ukridge considerably short of the money he needs to buy back the brooch.

Angelica Vining, a friend of Aunt Julia’s, arrives having been told she can borrow the brooch and lent the key to the drawer, but Ukridge pockets the key and sends the woman away. He heads to Lewes races to rake back some money, and there meets Joe the Lawyer once more. He tries to borrow money from him, but is refused, and learns that Joe has raffled the dead dog for a considerable sum. He gets a lift with Joe to the next race meet at Sandown Park Racecourse, as a favour.

On the way, the car overheats and breaks down. Visiting a nearby house to fetch water, they find it guarded by a fearsome dog; Joe, afraid of dogs, drops his bag full of money in the garden as he flees. Ukridge sees that the dog is harmless, and tells Joe he will retrieve the bag for £50, an offer which Joe accepts, but while Ukridge is playing merrily with the dog, Joe grabs the bag himself, and refuses to pay.

When Joe goes off to find water elsewhere, Ukridge meets the owner of the house, and buys his dog from him for 5 shillings. He puts the dog in the car, and when Joe returns and finds he cannot get into his car, Ukridge offers to sell him the dog, for £100. He then charges a further £50 to remove the dog from the car, returns it to its previous owner, and returns home with his pockets full.

Aunt Julia, returning in a rage at hearing her friend has been refused the loan of her brooch, tells Ukridge she is sure he has pawned it; she makes him force open the drawer, and is deflated to find it sitting there, having been returned just in time, giving Ukridge an advantage over his distrustful aunt.

My Thoughts:

The ONE story about Blandings Castle was amusing. All of the others, not nearly as much.

Rating: 3 out of 5.