#815: Gold Comes in Bricks (1940) by A.A. Fair

Gold Comes in Bricks

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I wasn’t expecting to get a review out today, but a sleepless night and the ice-cube-on-an-oil-slick-fast prose of Erle Stanley Gardner combined to make Gold Comes in Bricks (1940), the official third entry in the Bertha Cool and Donald Lam series, fly past in no time at all. No, you didn’t miss anything, I haven’t yet reviewed the official second entry Turn on the Heat (1940) — I still don’t own about half of this series, having disposed of my original copies yeeeeears ago — I’ll try to fill in the gaps in my collection and reintroduce chronology from now on. Did I mention my sleepless night? Distraction was needed, and Gardner always delivers in that regard.

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#809: The Clock Strikes 13 (1952) by Herbert Brean

Clock Strikes Thirteen, The 2

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Just a few days ago it was my lot to be unimpressed by the concluding volume of one series, and so time is ripe for me to be slightly underwhelmed by the fourth and final novel to feature Herbert Brean’s photographer-sleuth Reynold Frame. This feels like the thousandth book I’ve read this year to which my response has been “Yeah, it was okaaaay…”, but it’s sort of pleasing to finally encounter something by Brean that fails on its own terms — though if you can’t help but go into this “ten people trapped on an island, then murder intrudes” story expecting an update of And Then There Were None (1939), you do so at your own damn peril.

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#803: Pick Your Victim (1946) by Pat McGerr [a.p.a. by Patricia McGerr]

Pick Your Victim

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The cover of this Dell mapback edition of Pick Your Victim (1946) by Pat/Patricia McGerr is one of the oddest I have ever encountered. Not only does the front imply a masked — or, y’know, deformed — serial killer disposing of their victims with the eponymous pick (in the book it is the verb and not the noun, and the sole victim is strangled), but the map on the back is…sorta useless, since the environs of the strangulation are completely irrelevant, making them ill-suited to illustration. The book has other problems besides these, but quite what Dell thought they were selling would probably take a book of its own to explain.

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#802: Minor Felonies/Little Fictions – ‘The Vanishing Passenger’ (1952) and ‘Hard Case’ (1940) by Robert Arthur

Herewith, my thoughts on the last two stories in Robert Arthur’s Mystery and More Mystery (1966) collection that I’ve not previously read. Not “the last two stories”, you understand, because there are two more in the book after these. But those actual last two stories, coming next week, I’ve encountered previously. Grammar’s a bastard, isn’t it?

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#782: Below Suspicion (1949) by John Dickson Carr

Below Suspicion

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After a year — a year, people — of mind-numbing repetition and drudgery against a background of tragedy, Below Suspicion (1949), John Dickson Carr’s forty-sixth book in twenty years and the 18th to feature Dr. Gideon Fell, was exactly what I needed…for the simple reason that it is so very, very different. Ten years from now I could reread this and be appalled that I ever thought it so great, but right now it is manna from heaven: eerie, baffling, infuriating in many ways, and fascinating given the direction we know Carr’s career took from this point in how it blends the classic detection he had excelled in with the historical mysteries he was about to launch himself into.

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#777: Circumstantial Evidence – The Baffle Book (1930) by Lassiter Wren and Randle McKay [ed. F. Tennyson Jesse] Problems 22 to 28

I struggle to think of the last thing I read that disappointed me as much as F. Tennyson Jesse’s 1930 edit of Lassiter Wren and Randle McKay’s Baffle Book puzzles. From stories where subtle changes in detail make finding the solution impossible (‘The Warfield-Cobham Jewel Robbery’) to those whose insistence of physical evidence is so ignorant as to defy explanation (‘The Wayside Mystery’) it’s been a…not good time.

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