Authorial Anagrams

In line with my online handle, below are twenty names that authors of detective fiction could have used when they wanted to check into a hotel anonymously. Can you arrange them to find their true identity? Answers – if required – will be provided sometime next week.

  1. Alice F. Milner
  2. Amber Anthers
  3. Archie Lyr
  4. Ayrton Calsnow
  5. Dennis Ducrimp
  6. Eliza R. Swalling
  7. Graham Gary Millen
  8. Helena McInis
  9. Jed Bohun
  10. Jock N. Richardson
  11. Josiah Midas
  12. Lance Frissie
  13. Leonard H. Courtnay
  14. Muriel C. Balance
  15. Moses Gingerone
  16. Nevil Air
  17. Peter Nyprun
  18. Richard Santabinn
  19. Saffron McWellister
  20. Simon Butler

#51 – Mrs McGinty’s Dead

Mrs McGinty was clearly killed by her lodger for the small amount of cash she kept under a floorboard in the house. And James Bentley would have been hanged had not Hercule Poirot been asked to review the case.

Through patient investigation he is able to identify the one anomalous activity that Mrs McGinty took in the days leading up to her death that opens an entirely unexpected motive and a wealth of possible murderers in the village of Broadhinny.

There are distinct parallels to “A Murder is Announced” as once again we are looking for someone who has changed their identity, possibly aided by confusion during the War.

Christie reuses a trick from a previous book but here it is done much more effectively as there is a genuine foundation for it which was definitely not the case in the earlier work.

A solid read, with comedy provided from Poirot’s martyrdom due to his accommodation and a second appearance by detective writer Mrs Oliver, who would become a more regular recurring character in his later cases.

Recurring character development

Hercule Poirot

Doesn’t take risks with his health and turns up his collar out of prudence, rather than necessity.

Regrets that he can only eat three times a day. Beginning with a breakfast of chocolate and croissants, then lunch no later than one o’clock, never afternoon tea, and then climaxing with dinner.

In his early days as a police officer – not a priest! – he had seen plenty of crude brutality and is bored of it.

Generously offers Spence a loan, although that is not what Spence is asking for.

Had been reading a good deal of English poetry in an anthology recently.

Superintendent Spence

It is a long-time since he has seen Poirot, but at most six years since Taken at the Flood.

Was due to have retired eighteen months ago, but stayed on. Will now retire in six months.

Recently moved home and is implied to be married.

Is keen on marrows and roses.

George

Unbeknown to Poirot he keeps beer in the flat.

Mrs Oliver

Described as a large woman in a small car.

Has a great liking for apples.

One of her books is being adapted for the stage and through her we see Christie’s own views on the subject, although by this time she had long-determined to be the only one to adapt her own works:

“But you’ve no idea of the agony of having your characters taken and made to say things that they never would have done. And if you protest, all they say is that it’s ‘good theatre’. That’s all Robin Upward thinks of. Everyone says he’s very clever. If he’s so clever why doesn’t he write a play of his own and leave my poor Finn alone. He’s not even a Finn any longer. He’s a member of the Norwegian Resistance Movement.”

Wrote “The Cat it was Who Died” where a blowpipe was only a foot long and it should have been six feet (Christie acknowledging her own error in Death in the Clouds) and “Death of a Débutante” where at least eight people died before Sven Hjerson had his brainwave. Along with “The Affair of the Second Goldfish” these were available as Penguins at the local post office.

Expresses some of Christie’s frustrations with a long-running character:

“How do I know why I ever thought of that revolting man? I must have been mad! Why a Finn when I know nothing about Finland? Why a vegetarian? Why all those idiotic mannerism he’s got?… And people even write and say how fond you must be of him. Fond of him? If I met that bony, gangling, vegetable-eating Finn in real life, I’d do a better murder than any I’ve ever invented.”

Signs of the Times

The murder took place on Wednesday 22nd November 1950, so the rest of the book is set in the spring of 1951.

The book is named after a nursery rhyme, that unlike other Christie titles such as “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” and “Hickory Dickory Dock” I had not come across before reading the book as a teenager. Its explicit mention of death has probably lead to parents not to pass it onto to their children.

The death penalty, which is the reason Spence would like the case reviewed gives Poirot’s investigation urgency, continued to be used in the United Kingdom until 1964, twelve years after the publication of this book.

Bentley had Young Graybrook allotted to him under the Poor Persons’ Defence Act. The Poor Prisoners Defence Act of 1903 allowed for defendants of insufficient means who pleaded not guilty to be represented with the expenses paid for by the state equivalent to those paid to the prosecution. In 1930 this was updated to cover those pleading guilty in some cases. This was further updated in 1949 with the Legal Aid and Advice Act.

Mrs McGinty, despite being relatively poor, was unable to be removed from her cottage due to the Rent Restriction Act. The Rents and Mortgage Interest Restriction Act of 1915 was brought in to prevent profiteering during World War One, and although intended to be a short-term measure, some aspects of it were not finally repealed until 1918. Who knows what legislation being brought in to combat the coronavirus pandemic may be with us much longer than first expected?

Poirot’s room at the guest house has faded Morris wallpaper. William Morris (1834-1896), a founder of the British Arts and Crafts movement, designed at least fifty floral based wallpaper blocks.

Poirot quotes from the poem “Settle the Question Right” in which each of the four verses ends “No question is ever settled, Until it is settled right”. This is by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) who was American, although Poirot refers to her as “one of your poets”.

Mrs McGinty had a newspaper clipping about Mother Shipton’s prophecies. Ursula Southeil (c.1488-1561) was an English soothsayer or prophetess. The first book to contain her prophecies was published in 1641. Her most famous prophecy “The world to an end shall come, In eighteen hundred and eighty one” was actually made up by Charles Hindley in the 19th century.

Poirot quotes “Beautiful Evelyn Hope is dead” the first line of the poem “Evelyn Hope” by Robert Browning. Someone later quotes “Roses, roses, all the way” from “The Patriot” by the same writer.

Poirot says that Alfred Craig can be found in the Chamber of Horrors. This was originally a “Separate Room” at Madame Tussaud’s waxwork exhibition when it opened in 1802. It took its name from Tussaud’s own advertising around 1843 and over time has housed the likes of Dr Crippen, William Palmer and George Joseph Smith. I was surprised to find that it closed in 2016 and has been replaced with the Sherlock Holmes Experience.

The telephone’s in the area are all automatic, which implies that some still went through manual switchboards.

Poirot refers to “Deirdre of the Sorrows”. She is, apparently, the foremost tragic heroine in Irish legend and her story is part of the Ulster Cycle.

References to previous works

Poirot refers to his own previous retirement and attempts to grow vegetable marrows from The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Poirot refers to the resemblance between a financier and a soap boiler from Liège, a reference to “The Nemean Lion” from The Labours of Hercules.

Mrs Oliver talks to Poirot about “our murder” which was their previous meeting in Cards on the Table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#51 – Mrs McGinty’s Dead – WITH SPOILERS

Mrs McGinty was clearly killed by her lodger for the small amount of cash she kept under a floorboard in the house. And James Bentley would have been hanged had not Hercule Poirot been asked to review the case.

Through patient investigation he is able to identify the one anomalous activity that Mrs McGinty took in the days leading up to her death that opens an entirely unexpected motive and a wealth of possible murderers in the village of Broadhinny.

There are distinct parallels to “A Murder is Announced” as once again we are looking for someone who has changed their identity, possibly aided by confusion during the War.

Christie reuses a trick from a previous book but here it is done much more effectively as there is a genuine foundation for it which was definitely not the case in the earlier work.

A solid read, with comedy provided from Poirot’s martyrdom due to his accommodation and a second appearance by detective writer Mrs Oliver, who would become a more regular recurring character in his later cases.

Recurring character development

Hercule Poirot

Doesn’t take risks with his health and turns up his collar out of prudence, rather than necessity.

Regrets that he can only eat three times a day. Beginning with a breakfast of chocolate and croissants, then lunch no later than one o’clock, never afternoon tea, and then climaxing with dinner.

In his early days as a police officer – not a priest! – he had seen plenty of crude brutality and is bored of it.

Generously offers Spence a loan, although that is not what Spence is asking for.

Had been reading a good deal of English poetry in an anthology recently.

Superintendent Spence

It is a long-time since he has seen Poirot, but at most six years since Taken at the Flood.

Was due to have retired eighteen months ago, but stayed on. Will now retire in six months.

Recently moved home and is implied to be married.

Is keen on marrows and roses.

George

Unbeknown to Poirot he keeps beer in the flat.

Mrs Oliver

Described as a large woman in a small car.

Has a great liking for apples.

One of her books is being adapted for the stage and through her we see Christie’s own views on the subject, although by this time she had long-determined to be the only one to adapt her own works:

“But you’ve no idea of the agony of having your characters taken and made to say things that they never would have done. And if you protest, all they say is that it’s ‘good theatre’. That’s all Robin Upward thinks of. Everyone says he’s very clever. If he’s so clever why doesn’t he write a play of his own and leave my poor Finn alone. He’s not even a Finn any longer. He’s a member of the Norwegian Resistance Movement.”

Wrote “The Cat it was Who Died” where a blowpipe was only a foot long and it should have been six feet (Christie acknowledging her own error in Death in the Clouds) and “Death of a Débutante” where at least eight people died before Sven Hjerson had his brainwave. Along with “The Affair of the Second Goldfish” these were available as Penguins at the local post office.

Expresses some of Christie’s frustrations with a long-running character:

“How do I know why I ever thought of that revolting man? I must have been mad! Why a Finn when I know nothing about Finland? Why a vegetarian? Why all those idiotic mannerism he’s got?… And people even write and say how fond you must be of him. Fond of him? If I met that bony, gangling, vegetable-eating Finn in real life, I’d do a better murder than any I’ve ever invented.”

Signs of the Times

The murder took place on Wednesday 22nd November 1950, so the rest of the book is set in the spring of 1951.

The book is named after a nursery rhyme, that unlike other Christie titles such as “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” and “Hickory Dickory Dock” I had not come across before reading the book as a teenager. Its explicit mention of death has probably lead to parents not to pass it onto to their children.

The death penalty, which is the reason Spence would like the case reviewed gives Poirot’s investigation urgency, continued to be used in the United Kingdom until 1964, twelve years after the publication of this book.

Bentley had Young Graybrook allotted to him under the Poor Persons’ Defence Act. The Poor Prisoners Defence Act of 1903 allowed for defendants of insufficient means who pleaded not guilty to be represented with the expenses paid for by the state equivalent to those paid to the prosecution. In 1930 this was updated to cover those pleading guilty in some cases. This was further updated in 1949 with the Legal Aid and Advice Act.

Mrs McGinty, despite being relatively poor, was unable to be removed from her cottage due to the Rent Restriction Act. The Rents and Mortgage Interest Restriction Act of 1915 was brought in to prevent profiteering during World War One, and although intended to be a short-term measure, some aspects of it were not finally repealed until 1918. Who knows what legislation being brought in to combat the coronavirus pandemic may be with us much longer than first expected?

Poirot’s room at the guest house has faded Morris wallpaper. William Morris (1834-1896), a founder of the British Arts and Crafts movement, designed at least fifty floral based wallpaper blocks.

Poirot quotes from the poem “Settle the Question Right” in which each of the four verses ends “No question is ever settled, Until it is settled right”. This is by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) who was American, although Poirot refers to her as “one of your poets”.

Mrs McGinty had a newspaper clipping about Mother Shipton’s prophecies. Ursula Southeil (c.1488-1561) was an English soothsayer or prophetess. The first book to contain her prophecies was published in 1641. Her most famous prophecy “The world to an end shall come, In eighteen hundred and eighty one” was actually made up by Charles Hindley in the 19th century.

Poirot quotes “Beautiful Evelyn Hope is dead” the first line of the poem “Evelyn Hope” by Robert Browning. Someone later quotes “Roses, roses, all the way” from “The Patriot” by the same writer.

Poirot says that Alfred Craig can be found in the Chamber of Horrors. This was originally a “Separate Room” at Madame Tussaud’s waxwork exhibition when it opened in 1802. It took its name from Tussaud’s own advertising around 1843 and over time has housed the likes of Dr Crippen, William Palmer and George Joseph Smith. I was surprised to find that it closed in 2016 and has been replaced with the Sherlock Holmes Experience.

The telephone’s in the area are all automatic, which implies that some still went through manual switchboards.

Poirot refers to “Deirdre of the Sorrows”. She is, apparently, the foremost tragic heroine in Irish legend and her story is part of the Ulster Cycle.

References to previous works

Poirot refers to his own previous retirement and attempts to grow vegetable marrows from The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Poirot refers to the resemblance between a financier and a soap boiler from Liège, a reference to “The Nemean Lion” from The Labours of Hercules.

Mrs Oliver talks to Poirot about “our murder” which was their previous meeting in Cards on the Table.

SPOILERS

The assumption regarding the gender of the killer makes much more sense here – we have it in black and white in the newspaper cutting – than in a previous Christie that tried to do the same thing but where there was no basis for the assumption at all.

There is a neat nod to Robin’s being the killer when Mrs Upward says that he “is as good as a daughter to me”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Killer’s Wedge (1959) by Ed McBain

As a student of the genre it behove me to take a look at Ed McBain and his fifty-plus 87th Precinct police procedurals and what better place to start than with another recommendation from The Reader is Warned’s Top 15 Impossible crimes (see this previous post for more details).

Detectives Meyer, Kling, and Hawes are shooting the breeze in the squad room of the 87th Precinct when a woman comes in and calmly sits down at an empty desk and when questioned says that she is waiting for Steve Carella. They explain that she will have to wait outside like anyone else at which point she pulls out a .38 and relieves them of their weapons. She instructs them to call in any other officers on the floor so they call in Lieutenant Byrnes.

He recognises her as Virginia Dodge and she explains that she is going to kill Carella in revenge as her husband, who he put away, has just died in prison. Byrnes is prepared to call her bluff, she can’t shoot all four of them, and she reveals a bottle of nitro-glycerine in her bag.

“Don’t open that door, Lieutenant,” Virginia shouted “or I’ll fire into this bag and we can all go to Hell!”

He thought in that moment before twisting the door-knob, She’s lying. She hasn’t got any soup in that bag, where would she get any? And then he remembered that among her husband’s many criminal offences had been a conviction for safe-blowing. But she hasn’t any soup, he thought, that’s crazy. But suppose she does? But she wouldn’t explode it. She’s waiting for Carella. She wouldn’t… And then he thought simply, Meyer Meyer has a wife and three children. Slowly, he let his hand drop.

And thus begins a tense stand-off between a woman crazed by grief and men who have faced many dangers before but nothing quite like this.

Carella, meanwhile, is investigating a death in a locked-room: surely a simple suicide and yet he suspects murder.

The reader moves between these two strands: the tension at the station as the detectives each try in their own way to bring the hostage situation to an end and the Scott mansion where Carella tries to figure out how murder, if it is murder, could have been accomplished. Interestingly, the reader becomes privy to information that would support his theory, although this does not become available to him.

This book explores the fascinating moral question as Byrnes, who owes Steve an awful lot, and the other 87ers hve to decide whether to let Carella blindly enter into certain death or to risk their own lives to save him.

The story of one character is relevant in the light of the #MeToo movements and feels ahead of its time, as does the positive portrayal of Carella’s wife, Teddy, who is deaf and mute.

By no means traditional GAD fare, at only 141 pages it can be read in one sitting and I enjoyed it very much.

Quite how representative of the series as whole it is, I don’t know, and whilst I won’t be actively seeking out more McBain, I’d certainly pick up some more if I came across it.

What Else I’ve Been Reading Recently

Inspector Queen’s Own Case (1956) by Ellery Queen

Richard Queen has been forcibly retired at the age of sixty-three but is able to get back in the saddle unofficially when a new female acquaintance is the only member of a rich household who insists that the death of a baby boy is not a tragic accident but murder.

A simple tale – if it wasn’t then how would old Pa Queen solve it without Ellery’s help – but well told although part of the solution is pretty obvious.

The Judas Window (1938) by Carter Dickson

A visit to your prospective father-in-law for the first time might be a nerve-wracking experience but you wouldn’t expect it to land you in the dock accused of murder. Yet that is what happens to the unfortunate Jimmy Answell when he wakes up after his drink has been spiked to find Avory Hume dead with an arrow through the heart inside a room bolted from the inside.

Sir Henry Merrivale is foolhardy enough to defend Answell and so begins a trial that will go down in the annals of legal history.

Evidence has to be presented in a different way in a trial than in the course of a normal investigation and this leads up to the mid-point reveal which partially changes the view of the case but still leaves the central question open until the end. There is an ambiguity on the final page which I think can be interpreted to whatever extent the reader wants to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#50 – They Came to Baghdad

Victoria Jones, newly redundant as a result of her employer hearing her unflattering impersonation of his wife, meets Edward and promptly falls in love. He is about to return to Baghdad and she determines that she will follow him. Aided by her penchant for story-telling she is hired as a companion for a one-way trip to Iraq and as a result gets involved in a far-reaching conspiracy that is trying to achieve something that I have already forgotten.

And that is the overall problem, it is completely forgettable. I know I have read it before but remembered nothing about it and I can’t imagine that I will remember anything from this re-read. There a few nice touches, including a neat way of escaping from a locked room.

However this is definitely the worst of the thrillers that I have re-read so far and one for the completist only.

Signs of the Times

The story is set in 1950 and Baghdad is still in the “sterling area”. Up until 1954 Britain maintained military bases in Iraq.

Captain Crosbie refers to “Dear Uncle Joe” meaning Joseph Stalin, leader of the USSR from 1924 to 1953.

Mr Morganthal says “They got the Shah of Persia last year, didn’t they? They got Bernadotte in Palestine.” An assassination attempt was made on Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1919-1981), the last Shah of Iran, in 1948 but although five shots were fired from a range of three metres, he was unharmed apart from a graze to the cheek. Folke Bernadotte (1895-1948) was a Swedish diplomat and the UN mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1948-49. He was assassinated by Lehi a.k.a. The Stern Gang, a Zionist paramilitary organisation.

Edward invites Victoria to come and have a sausage at the SPO in Tottenham Court Road – no sniggering at the back – but I can’t find what SPO stands for.

Edward had served in the RAF and won a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) for “an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy”.

The rhyme beginning “Jumbo said to Alice I love you” was written to protest against the sale of Jumbo the elephant by London Zoo to P. T. Barnum in 1882.

An unknown man uses the codename “Sanders of the River” after the 1911 short-story collection by Edgar Wallace.

Victoria wonders whether she can make use of UNESCO to get to Baghdad. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation was formed in 1946 and followed on from the League of Nations’ International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation. Its first director was Julian Huxley, brother of “Brave New World” author Aldous.

“The Thief of Baghdad” was showing at the local cinema. Presumably the 1940 version starring Conrad Veidt, best known as Major Strasser in “Casablanca”.

Victoria flies with BOAC. The British Overseas Airways Corporation was created in 1939 following the merger of Imperial Airways and British Airways. In 1974 it merged with British European Airways thus going full circle and becoming British Airways again.

Sir Rupert wonders if Rice’s illness is a case of Scheele’s Green. This is a pigment containing arsenic which may have been the cause of Napoleon’s death as his wallpaper was green and in the damp climate of St Helena may have proved fatal.

Victoria compares herself to the Saracen maid who knew only her lover’s name “Gilbert” and “England”. This is based on the legend of Gilbert Beckett, father of Thomas à Becket, and the Fair Saracen, who followed him home from the Crusades knowing only the words “Gilbert” and “London”.

Mrs Cardew Trench quotes “A primrose by the river’s brim” which is by William Wordsworth.

The lines “When you were a King in Babylon and I was a Christian slave” are a paraphrase from “Or Ever the Knightly Years…” by William Ernest Henley. He was one-legged poet and the inspiration for Long John Silver in “Treasure Island”. His daughter called J. M. Barrie her “fwendy-wendy” which lead to the creation of Wendy in “Peter Pan”.

Someone refers to “the cleverest swindle since the time of Horatio Bottomley”. Bottomley was a ambitious businessman and fraudster, who sailed close to the wind a number of times before being convicted in 1922 for stealing funds from his Victory Bonds Club.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The King is Dead (1952) by Ellery Queen

Ellery and Richard Queen are visited by two gunmen and their boss, Abel Bendigo, who asks them to come with him. They protest that they have other commitments  – although Abel knows that Ellery is “four issues ahead with the editorial work on Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine“- but their objections are ultimately overcome by a letter from no less than the President of the United States!

Abel wishes them to investigate the threatening letters that his brother “King” Kane Bendigo has recently received and so they accompany him to King’s private island base, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. This centre of operations feels very much like a Bond villain’s lair, although his first adventure did not appear until the next year.

Threatening letters continue to appear, specifying the exact time at which King is to be killed and lo, it comes to pass at the very hour predicted King is shot – but by an empty gun and through two solid walls!

Ellery goes all Hercule Poirot in investigating the psychology of the Bendigo family – which gave me a laugh out loud moment – to understand Who is responsible and from that point he is able to understand the How.

I appreciated the How but it does demonstrate that Queen père et fils have made remarkably little progress in one particular area of detection since the beginning of the series.

This book comes in at number 11 on Ed Hoch’s list of The Top 15 Impossible Crimes and coincidentally is number 11 from the list that I have read. I have Carter Dickson’s “The Judas Window” and “He Wouldn’t Kill Patience” – numbers 5 and 13 – on my TBR pile which just leaves “Too Many Magicians” by Randall Garrett and “Invisible Green” by John Sladek to find.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death and the Visiting Firemen (1958) by H. R. F. Keating

I read almost all of Keating’s Inspector Ghote mysteries as a teenager and so became aware of this intriguingly titled book and finally bought it on the strength of the title alone, knowing nothing else about it.

Foster P. Schlemberger, president of the American Institution for the Investigation of Incendiarism Incorporated, and some of his members have arrived in England for a joint convention with the Fire Prevention Society.

For reasons that are still unclear to me, George Hamyadis has arranged an old-fashioned coach tour for Schlemberger from Southampton to London, and has hired a number of people to make this happen: Major Mortenson and Joe Dagg, coaching experts (practical), Mr Smithers, coaching expert (theoretical), and actors Richard Wemyss, Kristen Kett, and Daisy Miller. John Fremitt, president of the FPS, and Dagg’s young son Peter make up the party.

When plans for a staged highway robbery, complete with antique pistols, are revealed, the reader is not surprised that death ensues.

Up to the murder, the book is a good as there are a number of possibilities of what could happen, but unfortunately the most obvious is chosen and from then on there is a lot of staying up late to catch people doing stuff but letting them get away and finding documents but not reading them etc and just being uncooperative with the police for no real reason.

The solution relies on a wonderfully subtle clue, but one that deserves a better book than this – perhaps even this if it had been condensed into a novella or even a short story.

So based on a single data point I can conclude that you shouldn’t judge a book on its title!

One final word – I love the cover design, and whilst you can’t beat the simplicity of the original green Penguins, it is a whole lot better than the photographic images they eventually moved onto as seen below with “A Puzzle for Fools”.

What Else I’ve Been Reading Recently

Cat of Many Tails (1949) by Ellery Queen

A serial killer nicknamed The Cat has strangled five New Yorkers in the space of eleven weeks. At this point the case is handed over to Inspector Richard Queen and so, reluctantly, Ellery returns from his self-imposed retirement to track down a killer who hides in the shadows.

The midpoint reveal is excellent and gives a very good reason for one of the patterns that Ellery has already identified. From that point the hunter becomes the hunted and the nerves of all involved, including the reader, are stretched to breaking point: can The Cat be caught and neutered or will they successfully pounce again?

This makes reference to another serial killer novel, Agatha Christie’s “The ABC Murders” so make sure you read that first. It also follows on directly from the events of “Ten Days’ Wonder”, so unlike The Nationality Object Mystery novels which don’t need to be read in order, it does pay to read from “Calamity Town” onwards chronologically, excluding “There Was an Old Woman”.

Brad at Ahsweetmystery has a lot of love for this one so do check out his take here.

A Puzzle for Fools (1936) by Patrick Quentin

Since returning to GAD fiction, I have been meaning to get hold of some PQ, but this was recently accelerated by the announcement that Curt Evans would be speaking on them at this summer’s Bodies from the Library conference and so I ordered the six “Puzzle” titles of which this is the first.

Peter Duluth has checked himself into the Lenz Sanatorium in order to stop drinking. One night he hears a voice warning that there will be murder. Doctor Lenz, the director of the facility, takes his report seriously as he is aware of a general unrest around the place and asks Peter, as someone whose mind, unlike his fellow patients, is basically healthy to investigate.

The mental hospital setting is well done, with its lack of privacy and lack of trust, both of Peter’s fellow patients and the staff. I found this an enjoyable read and if I had read it more carefully and not got an incorrect mental picture of the murderer I may have had more chance of solving it. I look forward to reading the next in the series.