Vultures in the Sky (1935) by Todd Downing

Vultures in the Sky by Todd Downing

8 Stars (8/10 stars)

“What began as a pleasure or business trip for most of us has turned unfortunately into an unpleasant and serious affair. I think the time has come for all of us to put aside our circumlocutions and acknowledge openly the fact that one of us in this car is a murderer.”

All of the passengers on the train to Mexico City are on edge. Maybe it’s the heat, or the vultures, or the railroad strike that has left their train the last one on the tracks. Treasury agent Hugh Rennert’s unease begins when he is approached by another traveler who overheard a strange conversation on the platform: “I’ll get off with you at Monterrey and you can get the money. If you don’t, I’ll blast the train on this trip […] Earrings and cuffs. Don’t forget the special edition.”

Then a tunnel plunges the train car into darkness. When they emerge into the light, one of the passengers lies dead. Continue reading “Vultures in the Sky (1935) by Todd Downing”

Fatal Venture (1939) by Freeman Wills Crofts

Fatal Venture by Freeman Wills Crofts

6 stars (6/10 stars)

Well, we’ve got a bit of a puzzle now, no mistake.”

When a chance meeting with a stranger on a train offers Harry Morrison the opportunity of a lifetime, he grabs it. Charles Bristow has a brilliant new business idea: refurbish outdated ocean liners for inexpensive cruises that move continuously around the British Isles. Rather than a fixed cruise, passengers can hop on or off as they like, more like a floating hotel. Harry’s expertise as a travel agent will be key to making this plan work. Once they’ve added a third partner, bored millionaire John Stott, the enterprise seems foolproof.

Disagreements start cropping up between the partners almost immediately, however, and a competitor is trying to beat them to the market. Tensions rumble beneath the surface, until murder finally strikes during a cruise. Inspector French must plumb these murky depths in search of the truth. Continue reading “Fatal Venture (1939) by Freeman Wills Crofts”

Death on the Nile (1937) by Agatha Christie

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

10 Stars (10/10 stars)

“I am afraid,” he said simply. “Yes, I Hercule Poirot, am afraid.”

Heiress Linnet Ridgeway has everything. She’s beautiful, rich, and completely independent. When she meets handsome Simon Doyle, her happiness is complete. The fact that Simon is engaged to her friend Jacqueline de Bellefort is surely just a technicality. Jackie doesn’t see it that way, however. She devotes herself to making the couple miserable, trailing them wherever they go.

As Linnet confides to Hercule Poirot, the newlyweds hope that a Nile cruise will help them escape Jacqueline. But Jacqueline isn’t the only one who might be dangerous to them. Someone like Linnet, who has so much of everything and takes it all for granted, provokes strong reactions. In the shadow of ancient temples, death has never been nearer, leading to a shocking crime. It won’t be easy for even the great Poirot to uncover a shipload of deadly secrets. Continue reading “Death on the Nile (1937) by Agatha Christie”

The Forbidden Garden (1962) by Ursula Curtiss

The Forbidden Garden by Ursula Curtiss

8 Stars (8/10 stars)

“Wanted: Mature companion to older woman in North Valley. Pleasant surroundings. Cooking, no housework.”

All the neighbors are dying to know what makes Mrs. Marrable’s poplars grow so well in the desert. That’s just one of Claire Marrable’s secrets. After the death of her husband, she decides she would rather be a wealthy widow than a poor one. The only thing holding her back is money, but that’s easily remedied. Rich old ladies are expected to hire companions, and hired companions are often alone in the world with their savings. Mrs. Marrable’s had five companions now, and there are five poplar trees lined up in her garden, all in a row.

But the sixth companion is different. Has Mrs. Marrable finally met her match? Continue reading “The Forbidden Garden (1962) by Ursula Curtiss”

The House Without a Key (1925) by Earl Derr Biggers

The House without a Key by Earl Derr Biggers

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“Twenty-five years of my life are consumed in Hawaii, and I have many times been witness when the impossible roused itself and occurred.”

There have always been two kinds of Winterslips: the proper Bostonian branch of the family, and those who wander the world in search of adventure. John Quincy Winterslip is the first kind, unwillingly dispatched to bring home his aunt Minerva, one of those other Winterslips. Almost a year ago she traveled to Hawaii to visit cousins Dan and Amos, and still has not returned.

The two brothers have been estranged for thirty years, never crossing the fence that divides their property. That would be scandal enough. As soon as John Quincy lands in Honolulu, however, he learns that Dan has been killed. A Winterslip murdered? It just isn’t done. As he helps police detective Charlie Chan gather evidence, John Quincy finds himself far outside of his comfort zone, and liking it. But he soon learns that Hawaii is as dangerous as it is seductive, and “away down underneath there are deep dark waters flowing still.” Continue reading “The House Without a Key (1925) by Earl Derr Biggers”

Till Death Do Us Part (1944) by John Dickson Carr

Till Death Do Us Part by John Dickson Carr

10 Stars (10/10 stars)

“Whatever your interpretation of the facts, don’t you find this situation just a little suspicious? Just a little unsavory?”

Dark clouds are threatening the village fete. Newly engaged Dick Markham and Lesley Grant are too much in love to care, however. Dick shows off his prowess at the rifle range, while keeping a fond eye on Lesley as she heads for the fortune-teller’s tent.

When she emerges from the tent, deeply shaken, it’s clear something has gone wrong. As thunder crashes and lightning throws their shadows on the walls of the tent, Dick confronts the soothsayer. Only this is no ordinary fortune-teller, but a figure from Lesley’s past. Before the man has a chance to share his revelations with Dick, a gunshot rings out. The fortune-teller has been shot—by sweet, shy Lesley. In the days that follow, Dick must face village gossip, a series of impossible crimes, and his own doubts. Is his fiancée a cold-blooded killer? Continue reading “Till Death Do Us Part (1944) by John Dickson Carr”

Murder Begins at Home (1949) by Delano Ames

Murder Begins at Home by Delano Ames

8 Stars (8/10 stars)

“But everybody adored Miranda.” I repeated mechanically an article of faith I was beginning to question.

“Everybody admired her,” he corrected me. “Miranda was the woman on the pedestal. The trouble with pedestals is you’ve got to stay there. You can’t relax.”

Jane and Dagobert Brown are enjoying their American road trip, until Dagobert suggests looking up his old flame Miranda Ross, as they just happen to be in New Mexico. Jane is less than enthused. At first it appears that Miranda doesn’t want to see them, either, until she unexpectedly changes her mind and invites them to visit her ranch.

It quickly becomes obvious that relations are strained at the Palo Alto Ranch. And why is it taking so long for their hostess to appear? “She said you’d be interested in Palo Alto because—well, because she says there’s going to be a murder.” Miranda’s prediction comes true, in ways no one could have expected. Continue reading “Murder Begins at Home (1949) by Delano Ames”