The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934) by Ellery Queen

The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“I find homicides quite stimulating.”

Not even Ellery Queen has ever encountered a crime scene quite like this one. Everything about the murder is topsy-turvy—quite literally. The dead man’s clothes are on backwards, furniture and paintings have been turned to face the wall, and a pair of African spears have been thrust up the victim’s trouser legs. The only other clue is a discarded tangerine peel. Ellery and Inspector Queen will have to turn themselves inside out if they hope to stamp out this killer. Continue reading “The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934) by Ellery Queen”

Reprint of the Year Nomination 1: Beat Back the Tide

Footsteps in the Night and Beat Back the Tide by Dolores Hitchens

“It’s terrible when you fasten all your life to a mirage…The worst of it all is when you begin to see the truth—not the truth as the other might have revealed it, but finding it scrap by scrap, little by little. All the time you’re clinging to what you thought was there, and the change, the corruption, is eating it away, and finally there is nothing at all and you think it would be better to die.”

California is a place to reinvent yourself, but what happens when that doesn’t work? When you don’t find what you’re looking for and there’s nowhere left to go? That’s why California noir is the most hopeless. For the characters in Dolores Hitchens’ 1954 novel Beat Back the Tide, California is the end of the line. The gulf between its dazzling promises and what it actually delivers is profound. Everyone has a past they are trying to forget, but, like the tide, it just keeps roaring back. Continue reading “Reprint of the Year Nomination 1: Beat Back the Tide”

The White Priory Murders (1934) by Carter Dickson

The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“This is your own home, isn’t it? Nothing to be afraid of in your own home.”

Centuries ago, the king’s mistress would wait for him in the Queen’s Mirror, a white marble folly surrounded by water on the estate of White Priory. Now, movie queen Marcia Tait awaits her lover there on Christmas Eve. And it’s there that her body is found on Christmas morning, her beautiful face smashed in. But with only one set of footprints in the snow, how did her killer escape? Though murder is the last thing Sir Henry Merrivale wants for Christmas, he is the only one who can solve this impossible crime. Continue reading “The White Priory Murders (1934) by Carter Dickson”

Epitaph for a Nurse (1958) by Anne Hocking

Epitaph for a Nurse by Anne Hocking

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“It’s a terrible thought. To murder anyone. You must have to hate them intensely, and there’s someone going round hating like that. It frightens me.

Nurse Jessica Biggs is the backbone of the small rural hospital where she works. Her colleagues value her skill and efficiency as a nurse, yet her harsh manner has won her no friends either inside or outside the hospital. Plain, poorly educated, and aging, Sister Biggs knows that she cannot rely on anyone else to secure her future. Her position offers her access to sensitive information, things that her patients would not want anyone else to know. Sister Biggs knows how to keep a secret…for a price. Continue reading “Epitaph for a Nurse (1958) by Anne Hocking”

Fer-de-Lance (1934) by Rex Stout

Fer de Lance by Rex Stout

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“Be seated,” Wolfe said. “You must pardon me; for engineering reasons I arise only for emergencies.”

“This is an emergency,” she said.

Maria Maffei is worried about her brother Carlo, who has vanished after accepting a mysterious new job. When police don’t take her concerns seriously, Maria turns to the famed private detective Nero Wolfe, who is larger than life in more ways than one.

Wolfe discovers that Carlo Maffei was taking an unusual interest in the death of university president Peter Oliver Barstow. What is the connection between the seemingly natural death of a blue-blooded academic and the disappearance of an immigrant metalworker? Wolfe and his legman Archie Goodwin are about to learn that the two men are bound by a secret more sinister than they could have imagined. Continue reading “Fer-de-Lance (1934) by Rex Stout”

Crossed Skis (1952) by Carol Carnac

Crossed Skis by Carol Carnac

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“We all set out feeling supremely confident. Everybody liked everybody else. We didn’t all know one another, but everybody was vouched for by somebody. So and so’s friend, he’s O.K. Now we feel we’ve got a snake in the grass and we don’t know who the snake is.”

As assorted Londoners stumble through a dark and cloudy New Year’s Day, some of them have reason to be grateful they are about to depart on a ski holiday to Austria. Sunny skies and bright, clean snow await them. Others are not so fortunate. Inspector Rivers and Sergeant Lancing are stuck back in London, investigating a fatal house fire. The cheerful skiing party seems a thousand miles away from a murder in London, but as the investigation progresses, Rivers wonders just how far murder can reach. Continue reading “Crossed Skis (1952) by Carol Carnac”

The Siamese Twin Mystery (1933) by Ellery Queen

The Siamese Twin Mystery by Ellery Queen

9 Stars (9/10 stars)

“The case,” he said slowly, “far from being solved, has just begun.”

Racing up Arrow Mountain in a desperate attempt to escape the forest fire that has cut off the road behind them, Inspector Richard Queen and his son Ellery are relieved to discover a house at the top of the mountain. Their refuge is short-lived, however. Something strange is going on at the Xavier mansion, a situation that can only end in murder. As the flames creep higher and higher up the mountain, the entire group is facing certain death. What they don’t know is how that death will come—from the fire, or at the hands of a human killer. Continue reading “The Siamese Twin Mystery (1933) by Ellery Queen”

Murder Rides the Campaign Train (1952) by the Gordons

Murder Rides the Campaign Train by The Gordons

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“I want to win this election as much as you do, but I don’t want to arrive at the White House with a corpse.”

Governor Wallace X. Martin knows his presidential campaign won’t win over every voter. Still, he never expects one of them to take a shot at him during a speech. Even worse, however, is the discovery that the shot was fired from his own campaign train. As election day draws nearer, the Martin train speeds across the country, carrying the Governor’s family, campaign staff, supporters, press…and at least one killer. Continue reading “Murder Rides the Campaign Train (1952) by the Gordons”

Common or Garden Crime (1945) by Sheila Pim

Common or Garden Crime by Sheila Pim

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“Whatever might be said against gossip on general principles, if Lucy Bex had not taken an interest in her neighbors, the wrong person might have been hanged when a murder was committed in Clonmeen.”

New faces always cause a stir in the Irish village of Clonmeen, so the arrival of Lady Madeleine Osmund and her family is even more exciting than the annual garden show.

It turns out there’s a bigger surprise in store. Lucy Bex is shocked when her new neighbor Lady Madeleine dies by eating poisonous aconite, the monkshood plant. The coroner declares it a regrettable accident—someone in the kitchen simply confused aconite with horseradish. But Lucy is an avid gardener. She knows that only one garden in Clonmeen contains monkshood. She knows that vandals have been stealing plants from that garden. And ever since the thefts, Lucy has been spotting monkshood all over the village. This can mean only one thing: murder. Continue reading “Common or Garden Crime (1945) by Sheila Pim”

The Port of London Murders (1938) by Josephine Bell

The Port of London Murders by Josephine Bell

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“There were a lot of dangers on this river; that was the fascination of it.”

A drug addict commits suicide by drinking Lysol in her bleak tenement room. A barge full of cargo goes missing in a storm. An old lady holes up in an empty building scheduled for demolition, determined to stay in her home until the last possible moment. These are all typical scenes from London’s Docklands. Sergeant Chandler comes to suspect that these incidents are all related, but he may be out of his depth. Continue reading “The Port of London Murders (1938) by Josephine Bell”