Five Passengers from Lisbon / Wake for a Lady / The Murder in the Stork Club (Mignon G. Eberhart) pdf, epub, doc

Finished The Murder in the Stork Club on 3/10/12

Vera Caspary wrote the short novel The Murder in the Stork Club as a result of an idea by Herbert Mayes, editor of Good Housekeeping. During a nine-week stop in New York City—waiting for a passport so she could go to England to write the screenplay for a British production of her novel Bedelia—Good Housekeeping paid all her expenses and for her dinners at the Stork Club so she could soak up the atmosphere for the story. And it shows...luminaries such as Walter Winchell, Dorothy Lamour, Tallulah Bankhead and Frank Sinatra (among others) all make cameo appearances in Caspary's story of a murder that seems to take place right in front of everyone who was anyone in the 1940s.

The victim is a man named Henry Thoreau Pendleton— a rich man who loves women and wine and when full of the latter will gladly tell stories of the ladies he had loved and lost. As the novel says: "He was [only] thirty-nine but age could not wither, nor custom stale, the infinite variety of his love affairs." And he didn't mind who knew about them. In fact, he had recently revealed to Walter Winchell that he intended to publish a book made up entirely of the love letters he had received over the course of his romantic exploits. Hot stuff and steamy reading...or so he claimed.

Pendleton had arrived at the Stork Club to have dinner with a mysterious lady in mink. Everyone knew that he just recently been thrown over and they all were curious who this latest conquest was. But nobody recognized her. Which in the Stork Club was odd. But odder still was the fact that after dining alone with her, Pendleton went home and promptly died from nicotine poisoning. Did the woman in fur doctor his coffee before leaving his table for the night? Or perhaps it was his ex-wife who stopped by for a friendly chat before his date arrived? Maybe Winchell had a secret axe to grind? Sherman Billingsley, owner of the club, has also stopped by the table that night.

Unfortunately, since Pendleton waited to pass on until he was out of the club, there is no real evidence of how the poison was delivered. And the police are left wondering while they search for the unknown woman. Which suits Joe Collins, private detective, just fine. He knows who the mysterious lady is and he's determined to find out who the real killer is before the police discover that it was is wife who shared Pendleton's table that night. [That's no spoiler, by the way. We know who the mystery lady is in chapter two.]

The story is a three-way game of cat-and-mouse with Collins and his wife trying to stay off the official radar while the murderer tries to hide from both parties. It is fairly clued and a nice little view of life in New York during the war years. As has been true with both Laura and Evvie (top-notch full-length mysteries), the characters are well-drawn and I enjoyed Joe and his wife Sara very much. A delightful entry for both my Dangerous Beasts Theme for the Vintage Challenge and for the What an Animal Challenge (among others). Four stars.

Finished Five Passengers from Lisbon 3/11/12

World War II in Europe has just come to an end. Five desperate people want to leave Europe as soon as possible—they don't mind buying their passage on a Portuguese cargo ship. They just want to get out. But they don't expect the ship to sink. Or to be set adrift on the ocean in a lifeboat with three crew members. Or to be rescued by an American Red Cross ship—only to find that one of the crew members has been murdered.

The rescue ship's captain has his work cut out for him. There doesn't seem to be any way to prove who took advantage of the storm-tossed sea to do away with the third officer of the Portuguese ship. And there doesn't seem to be any motive. Before the story is over there will be two more murders and two murderous attempts and more than one secret will be revealed. And, of course, with the story having been written in 1946 there are Nazis involved. But can you, the reader, discover the culprit before all is revealed?

Mignon Eberhart's short crime novel is characteristically full of suspense with a little bit of romance thrown in. There are plenty of clues and red herrings—and I changed my mind several times before the end. And, no, I didn't guess correctly. A good, solid three star story.

Finished Wake for a Lady by H. W. Roden 3/12/12

Wake for a Lady by H. W. Roden is the third short novel in a Detective Book Club 3-in-1 omnibus. I already read the other two for the Vintage Mystery Challenge and decided I might as well finish off the book while I was at it. That would be the only reason I can give for reading this one.

It's a mean streets of New York City, tough guy, private eye kind of book. It's gangsters and their mouthpieces and guys toting gats. And talking in the most incredible cliches. ("... if I ever run out of ice cubes on a hot night I hope she's around to talk to my Frigidaire. It was that kind of voice.") With women named Gorgeous—Gorgeous O'Hara. Really. The kind of book that I don't really do much of.

So....what we have. We have Spike Madigan, owner of Madigan's Dry Cleaning & Pressing Shop (and all its affiliates). Found dead in the offices. Last person known to have seen him—Gorgeous O'Hara whose one goal in life is to go to Hollywood and make it in the movies. She thinks Johnny Knight will make that happen—even though he's just a PR guy for toothpaste and whatnot. He's also friends with Sid Ames, private eye, a fellow who's hopefully gonna keep Gorgeous out of the slammer. And the longer the book goes on, the better that prospect looks. Because there are suspects crawling out of the woodwork. There's Madigan's wife who says she didn't take much notice of his philandering ways (but gets pretty worked up discussing it nonetheless) and Madigan's stepson who detested him. There's Tony Farino who is known as (but not proven as) a gangster-type behind booking agencies and shady clip-joints. There's the money missing from Madigan's safe...and the clue of the wandering fingerprint. And more action than you shake a stick at.

And somehow it just never comes together. I kind of like Gorgeous. Even though she's got her one-track movie mind going on (popping up to ask Johnny what he's doing about her contracts at the most unlikely moments), she still manages to rescue Johnny from the tough guys. No wilting violets here. Best character in the bunch. But I didn't like the rest of the regulars enough to seek out any more books by Roden. One and a half stars.

Average for the whole edition: 3 stars

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  • Publisher:Detective Book Club
  • File: 1.6 Mb
  • Pages 459
  • Rating: 4.37 (3 votes)


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