1931, and Miss Hildegarde Withers is taking her troupe of school-children on a trip to the New York Aquarium. Not a completely uneventful trip, however, as first Miss Withers apprehends a pickpocket and then, as her charges search for her missing hatpin, a body is found floating in the penguin pool. And it’s no accident.
Enter Inspector Piper – and this begins the first case in Hildegarde Withers career as an amateur sleuth, spanning nearly twenty books and nearly forty years. But it’s a career that I’d only vaguely heard of, and thanks to MysteriousPress.com and Open Road Media, most of it is now readily available. But are you going to want to invest in it?
Mervyn Stone, creator and script editor of the classic science fiction series Vixens From The Void (basically Dynasty in space), doesn’t do an awful lot these days. Most of the time, he’s mooching from convention to convention signing souvenirs from the show, mostly for the same people over and over again. So when he is asked to write a script for the revival of the show as a series of full-cast audio plays, he leaps at the chance.
On the day or recording, which Mervyn had no plans to attend, he receives a note:
“Dear Mervyn. If you want to prevent a murder, then you must attend the recording at the Sounderama studios on Thursday. Signed: a friend.”
Oh, I forgot to mention that Mervyn has solved a few murders in his time – so he races to the studio… and I’ll have to stop the synopsis there.
Ridiculous offer alert!
It’s been a while since I mentioned Nev Fountain’s name on the blog, so it’s well past time to correct matters. I was going to wait until The Axeman Cometh was released (see below) but a couple of things have cropped up to inspire me to bring this post version. One of which is completely free to you, dear reader, and one which is almost as good!
First of all, let me remind you. Nev is the author of the three Mervyn Stone mysteries, Geek Tragedy, DVD Extras Include: Murder! and Cursed Among Sequels, all of which detail the sleuthing exploits of Mervyn Stone, ex-script editor of the long-defunct sci-fi soap opera Vixens From The Void. Basically, the tone is very similar to that of Simon Brett (an inspiration for Fountain) but with much tighter plotting. It should be said that I absolutely love these books to pieces and they were in no small part one of the inspirations for me starting the blog that you are reading. Do click on the links above to check out my early (and probably rather rough) reviews of the books, but to summarise, these are three very clever, play-along-but-you-probably-won’t-work-it-out, fair-play mysteries.
So, on with the news!
Charles Paris, a mostly out-of-work actor and part-time sleuth, first appeared in Simon Brett’s Cast, In Order Of Disappearance in 1975, and followed this with sixteen more appearances until Dead Room Farce in 1998, before exiting, presumably stage left, with nary a word of farewell. Now, fifteen years later – A Decent Interval indeed – Charles has returned in a new adventure.
The horror that is reality televison has produced a search for a Shakespearean starlet to play Ophelia in a touring production of Hamlet and Charles has managed to snag the roles of the Ghost and First Gravedigger. Not due to his talent, such as it is, but due to the fact that since Hamlet is also being played by a reality star – this one not even an actor – the rest of the cast has been hired due to the fact that they are known to be biddable and will not cause a fuss.
But someone is causing a fuss. An “accident” causes the show to lose one cast member and soon another lies dead. Charles inevitably sticks his nose in – but with virtually everyone having a motive, from the cast to the production crew, will he ever get to the bottom of the case – or will he stick to exploring the bottom of whisky bottles?
DC Lacey Flint, still recovering from the events of Now You See Me, is contacted by boss and part-time love interest DI Mark Joesbury with an assignment. Go to St John’s College at Cambridge University, pretending to be a student, and keep an eye on things. The previous week, a student burst into the college evening meal having just set herself on fire. But she’s not the only suicide at the university. As Lacey looks into things, more and more names come to light. Names of young women who have reported having terrifying nightmares. Young women who then go on to kill themselves.
Her point of contact at the University is Dr Evi Oliver – a psychology lecturer who is the one who spotted the beginnings of a pattern in the deaths. But Evi herself is being terrorised, haunted by images that only she knows about – or is it all in her head? Lacey starts to go beyond her brief as she starts to put things together – but then she starts having the nightmares…
I really enjoyed the first in this series when I read it – somewhat to my surprise. So, is it two out of two?
1953, Hallowe’en, at Castle Bronmore in Ireland. In the depths of the Castle, locked in a dungeon chamber, lies the skeleton of an old Irish patriot. In the main rooms of the castle, Colin Keeley, the owner, is holding a Hallowe’en costume party for his friends and family. But Colin has plans for the evening, with the skeleton as the centre piece, for before the evening is out, the skeleton is seen walking and heard talking. What was apparently not part of the plans is a gruesome murder…
Luckily, Gert O’Connell happens to have two friends with her at the party, Judith and Henry Geeth. The last time they got together, they solved a perplexing murder. Can they rise to the occasion and find the truth at Castle Bronmore?
I was sent this a little while ago by the author, Steven Donkin. This is the second book in the series featuring Gert, Judith and Henry and Steven has gone the brave route and turned to self-publishing for this mystery series. So, was it worth the effort?
August 31, 1938. PC Edward Watkins is on patrol that night with no expectations of anything unusual happening. He then
a) spots the silhouette of a plague doctor – complete with a beaked mask – not worn for centuries;
b) bumps into Dr Marcus, Doctor of Crime – wearing old-fashioned clothes – who promptly makes a plague-ridden corpse appear inside a dustbin that was empty seconds before;
c) comes across the boarding house where the victim stayed, only to discover that Dr Marcus and the plague doctors came to collect the victim – only for the victim to vanish into thin air in the middle of a corridor.
And that’s basically just the prologue…