Monday, August 14, 2017

Challenge Complege: Clocks, Cogs, & Mechanisms

R. A. Vucci is hosting the 5th annual Clocks,Cogs, and Mechanisms Reading Challenge this year. When this challenge was first created, the world of steampunk was still fairly unknown, but not new. This is a genre that has been inspired by the works of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and H.P. Lovecraft to name a few. For those who have never experienced steampunk, a typical steampunk novel takes place in the Victorian era and involves lots of steam-powered technologies ahead of their time. There are variations and other time periods that fall into this category, but the Victorian era ones are the most common.

There were the levels to this challenge:

Brass Gears: Read 1-3 books
Flight Goggles: Read 4-7 books
Button-up Boots: Read 8-11 books
Clockwork Corset: Read 12+ book

I don't read a lot of steampunk, but I have enjoyed my brief forays into the genre. So I decided to go light and committed to the Brass Gears level. I finished that up on August 2nd (finally got my review done!). Thanks to R. A. Vucci for hosting this one.
1. The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Payton (5/23/17)
2. Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan L. Howard (8/2/17)

Johannes Cabal the Detective

Johannes Cabal the Detective (2010) is the second novel in Jonathan L. Howard's series featuring the steampunk necromancer. I picked it up at the Friends of the Library Bookstore last December primarily so I could have a second book for the Clocks, Cogs, & Mechanisms Challenge. It helped that it was advertised as "Steampunk meets the classic Sherlockian mystery in this rip-roaring adventure where anything could happen . . . and does." The premise sounded very intriguing.

Johannes Cabal is (as mentioned) a necromancer--he knows all sorts of arcane methods to bring the dead back to "life," albeit very briefly and often (at least in this particular installment) to what seems to be very little purpose. Even in a world of steampunk, his talents are not, shall we say, fully appreciated by the average man or woman on the street and most governments find his occupation distasteful to say the least. Which would be why our first sight of Johannes in this story is of him being held prisoner by the court of of Mirkarvian Empire for attempting to steal (oh, pardon me, "borrow" indefinitely) a rare and mysterious book, the Principia Necromantica, from a local university. 

The Emperor's personal bodyguard was content to allow Johannes to rot away in prison for the remainder of his days, but then the Emperor dropped dead just as plans were being hatched to rouse the peasants into pledging their support for destroying the enemy (that would be anybody the Emperor and company pointed out to them) and taking over whatever neighboring countries they could. How handy to have a necromancer hanging out in the dungeons who can reanimate the Emperor long enough to proceed on schedule. Of course, it will then be necessary to do away with the pesky necromancer immediately thereafter.

Johannes is brought forth from the dungeon, performs a bit of necromancy hocus-pocus, and in the confusion that follows (sometimes reanimations just don't go quite as the customer plans...especially when payment will be in blood--Johannes's), he manages to out-fence the bodyguard and escape. It helps that the re-animated Emperor has somehow incited the peasants to revolt against the Empire instead of wreaking havoc in the Emperor's name. The necromancer heads to the Aeroport, spies a government official preparing to board the newest Aeroship to fly under the Mirkarvian flag--a ship that looks like a cross between a dirigible and an aircraft carrier. Most fortuitously, the government official bears a striking resemblance to our hero and Johannes puts him out of commission, swipes his travel documents and boards the Princess Hortense as Herr Gerhard Meissner, an agricultural civil servant.

He makes it on board without incident and all seems to be going well until he is recognized by the feisty Leonie Barrow--a woman with good cause to dislike him and every reason in the world to denounce him. But she doesn't. Johannes has to wonder what's up. But before he can worry about that for too long, a fellow passenger is dead. It is an apparent suicide; it looks like the man has thrown himself out the window to his death. But Johannes notices a few details that seem to add up to murder and not suicide. He's even more sure when someone tries to toss him off the aeroship as well. He and Leonie team up to try and get to the bottom of the mystery aboard the Princess Hortense. Johannes Cabal is not the only person on board who is not who he seems to be....

Howard has written an entertaining novel of adventure and intrigue filled with sly and witty humor, intelligence, and a fine sense of the absurd. He makes references to adventure, detective, and horror genres with the greatest of ease. It's true that Johannes Cabal is not a warm and fuzzy kind of protagonist. He really doesn't like his fellow human beings very much, but one can't help but like him and root for him to find the person who tried to toss him overboard and discover what's really going on aboard the Hortense. The grand finale which Johannes handles with all the panache of a Hercule Poirot denouement is terrific and the interactions between Johannes and Leonie are worth the price of admission. Overall, the characters are unique and interestingly handled. ★★ and 1/2.

[I'm still dreadfully behind on my reviews--this was finished on 8/2/17.]

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Murderer's Choice: Review

Murderer's Choice (1943) by Anna Mary Wells begins with two cousins sharing dinner at a fine restaurant. Frank Osgood has been cautiously enjoying the meal hosted by his cousin Charles. He's waiting to find out what the catch is. Because there's always a catch when it looks like Charles is being nice to him. The two cousins have been at odds since they were young--with Charles always acting superior and despising the younger boy. Nothing changed when they became men...except they saw little of each other. And now, suddenly, Charles is treating him to dinner. What does he have up his sleeve?

When the brandy is served, Frank finds out. His cousin tells him in the most pleasant way possible that he has taken out a life insurance policy and made Frank the beneficiary as well as having made a will in Frank's favor. (Now Frank knows something is up). Then--within the next six months--he plans to commit suicide and arrange it so his cousin will be tried, convicted, and executed for his murder. He even encourages Frank to tell whomever he likes; after all, who will believe him? Frank is quite sure that Charles is fully capable of arranging things just the way he wants. He knew his cousin hated him, but he never imagined he hated him enough to kill himself just so he could take Frank out as well.

Frank lives in terror, trying to imagine what his cousin's diabolical plan might be--and then Charles dies and the death is determined to be natural causes. Frank knows there must be some false evidence somewhere that points to him and rather than wait for the ax to fall, he hires the Keene Detective Agency to investigate. The Agency assigns Grace Pomeroy, formerly a psychiatric nurse, to take the case. She listens to Frank's odd story and, not quite believing it, she begins to investigate. She can find no evidence of an insurance policy or a will. She does find evidence that Charles squandered his money on something, but there's nothing to show what that something was. She's pretty sure he paid off a doctor to say he had heart trouble and set up a ruling of natural causes, but she can't find anything to show that he planted some twist that will finger his cousin as a murderer. 

The investigation digs up a woman who claims to be Charles's wife, a housekeeper who wants the money promised her  by Charles, and the possibility that Charles was poisoned. But was he? And, if so, who did it? Did Frank do it to strike early and prevent his cousin from framing him? Does that even make any sense? There are plenty of twists and turns in the Wells novel and a surprise ending where Grace employs clever questioning and her knowledge of human psychology to find the solution. 

This is an enjoyable and quick read. Grace Pomeroy is one of the few female private investigators and her background as a psychiatric nurse serves her well in her venture into the detective business. She brings quick insight and a very human touch to her work and finds a very humane solution to the mystery. ★★ and 3/4--almost four.

John has reviewed this one as well over at his very fine blog: Pretty Sinister Books. (That's where I first heard of it...I finally got my hands on it and have gotten 'round to reading it.)

This fulfills the "Flower" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card. 

The Mirror Crack'd: Review

I returned to Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd (1962; APA The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side) after first reading it from the public library when I was in junior high. I've since seen the Joan Hickson version as well as the star-studded production with Angela Lansbury playing Miss Marple and have picked up my own edition of the book so I can revisit the original story.

This story takes Miss Jane Marple into the world of movie stars and a local modern Development when actress Marina Gregg buys Gossington Hall from the widowed Dolly Bantry and brings her director husband and American entourage to live in St. Mary Mead. Jason Rudd, the husband, hopes that living in the small English village will give Marina a bit of quiet and stability--something that has been missing in her life. Marina decides that St. Mary Mead is just perfect and that she wants to really be a part of village life--so she agrees to host the annual fete in aid of the St. John's Ambulance. The party is going well--lots of games and entertainment on the grounds and Marina invites some select guests to come inside to be greeted and to see the house.

It's all going well that is until silly Heather Babcock, connected to the St. John's Ambulance, is introduced to her idol, Marina Gregg. Heather launches into a long and enthusiastic story about how she has already met Miss Gregg before--long ago when Marina was entertaining the troops. Dolly Bantry notices that Marina is no longer really listening to the babbling woman--she's staring over her shoulder with a "frozen" look on her face. When she later describes the scene to Miss Marple, they are reminded of Tennyson's Lady of Shalott:

Out flew the web and floated wide;
     The mirror crack'd from sided to side;
"The curse has come upon me," cried
     The Lady of Shalott.

Just moments after finishing her story and being offered a drink by her idol, Heather Babcock is dead. It doesn't take long to discover that she's been poisoned. But who would poison Mrs. Babcock? She was a self-absorbed woman; nice enough and not at all mean-spirited, but not really thinking about how her actions or words might actually affect others. There doesn't seem to be a motive to kill her, however. Then it's discovered that her drink was spilled and the drink which had the poison in it was Marina's. As Miss Marple mentions when she first hears of the poisoning..."perhaps it was the wrong murder." Now the police are racing to find the killer before they can rectify their mistake and kill Marina after all. But they're going to need pointers from everyone's favorite spinster detective before they arrive at the right solution.

This one continues to delight even after a reread (and watching the filmed versions multiple times). It is interesting to come to it knowing the solution and to watch how Christie practices her art of misdirection. The basic plot is one used in other stories, but I'm always intrigued at the many different ways she was able to use the same idea. 

She also gives us a Jane Marple who has aged and has to come to terms with her advanced years and the changes in St. Mary Mead. The novel is as much social commentary on the post-WWII-era as it is a murder mystery. Given Miss Marple's frailer health, the doctor has suggested she have a companion and Miss Marple is driven to distraction by the woman her nephew has employed for her. She has to find a way to ease Miss Knight out and find someone to live in who won't treat her like an imbecile child. This side story provides Miss Marple with a different way to approach the murder investigation--she isn't as mobile as she once was and all the information has to come to her--through Dolly Bantry and through Inspector Craddock. It is Miss Marple doing her best armchair detective work since The Tuesday Night Club stories.

★★★★  for an entertaining read and interesting social commentary.

This fulfills the "Dead Body" category on the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Challenge Complete: Craving for Cozies

Craving For Cozies 2017 – Reading Challenge
The challenge runs from January 1, 2017 and ends December 31, 2017
There are several levels of participation (click link above for more info or to join). I joined up for the lowest level
Peckish – 1 – 10 Cozy Mysteries 
because it fit in with the other cozy challenge I signed up for which requires 10 books. I did go a little beyond my original plan which put me in the Famished category.
My List:
1. Murder at the Masque by Amy Myers (1/16/17)
2. Zadok's Treasure by Margo Arnold (2/22/17) 
3. Nun Plussed by Monica Qull (3/30/17)
4. Death with Blue Ribbon by Leo Bruce (4/20/17) 
5. Grounds for Murder by Kate Kingsbury (4/26/17) 
6. The Vanishing Violinist by Sara Hoskinson Frommer (4/30/17) 
7. The Polka Dot Nude by Joan Smith (5/2/17) 
8. Murder at Teatime by Stefanie Matteson (5/9/17) 
9. The Ghost & the Dead Deb by Alice Kimberly (6/16/17) 
10. Publish & Perish by Sally Wright (6/22/17)
11. The Barker Street Regulars by Susan Conant (7/20/17) 
12. Lie of the Needle by Cate Price (7/28/17) 

Challenge Complete: Cruisin' Thru the Cozies

This year Yvonne at Socrates’ Book Reviews made things a little more difficult at the Cruisin’ Thru the Cozies Challenge. Instead of open cozy reading, she asked us to meet 10 cozy sub-genres in order to fulfill the basic level. There were higher levels if cozy mysteries are really your thing and you wanted to go crazy. I committed to the first level--Snoop because I thought I'd have trouble meeting all the categories with my own books. I did better than I thought--all books came from my own stacks and only one wasn't eligible for my Mount TBR Challenge as well.
Level one (Snoop) - Read one book in each of these cozy sub-genres (total of 10 books). 
Here is my list:

- One from culinary (anything dealing with food:  restaurants, baked goods, etc.)
Murder at the Masque by Amy Myers [Chef Auguste Didier as amateur sleuth] (1/16/17)
- One from animal related (cats, dogs, birds, etc.)
The Barker Street Regulars by Susan Conant (7/20/17)
- One from craft related (any kind of hobbies - knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, etc.)
Lie of the Needle by Cate Price [sewing/antiques] (7/28/17)

- One from paranormal (witches, vampires, etc.)
The Ghost & the Dead Deb by Alice Kimberly [ghost as main character] (6/16/17)

- One from British cozy mysteries (example:  Belinda Lawrence series)
Death with Blue Ribbon by Leo Bruce [Carolus Deene, British history master as sleuth] (4/20/17)

- One career-based cozy mystery (housekeeping, wedding planner, etc.)
Grounds for Murder by Kate Kingsbury [hotel owner/innkeeper] (4/26/17)
- One holiday based (set during any holiday - Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentines, etc.)
Murder at Teatime by Stefanie Matteson [Midsummer's Night (Summer Solstice) and July 4th] (5/9/17)

- One travel mystery (character could be on a cruise, touring another area, etc.)
Zadok's Treasure by Margot Arnold [murder at an archaeological dig in Israel] (2/22/17)

- One historical mystery (any mystery not set in the present) 
Publish & Perish by Sally Wright [set in 1960s; archival researcher as amateur sleuth] (6/22/17)

- One is your choice!  (freebie!)

Nun Plussed by Monica Quill (3/30/17)

Challenge Complete: 2017 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge

Dollycas at Escape With Dollycas Into a Good Book hosted another A-Z Challenge in 2017.

January 1, 2017 – December 31, 2017

The Alphabet Soup Challenge means that by December 31, 2015
your bowls must be full of one book for each letter of the Alphabet.
Each Letter Counts As 1 Spoonful

Thanks for hosting this again! It's always a challenge to get that "X" and "Z." And here are the books that have filled my bowl of alphabet soup:

A: The Arctic Patrol Mystery by Franklin W. Dixon (6/26/170
B: Battle for Venus by William F. Temple (1/7/17) 
C: The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Payton (5/23/17)
D: Death at Swaythling Court by J. J. Connington (1/4/17)
E: Episode of the Wandering Knife by Mary Roberts Rinehart (2/17/17)
F: Fit to Kill by Hans C. Owen (3/22/17)
G: The Green Turtle Mystery by Ellery Queen, Jr. (3/19/17)
H: The Hidden Planet by Donald A. Wollheim, ed (1/9/17)
I: I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison (1/24/17)
J: Juliet Dies Twice by Lange Lewis (7/17/17)
K: The Killing of Katie Steelstock by Michael Gilbert (6/30/17)
L:  A Losing Game by Freeman Wills Crofts (1/31/17)
M: Murder at the Masque by Amy Myers (1/16/17)
N: Nun Plussed by Monica Quill (3/30/17)
O: The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm by James Napoli (4/14/17)
P: The Polka Dot Nude by Joan Smith (5/2/17)
Q: Quick Curtain by Alan Melville (7/14/17)
R: Room for Murder by Doris Miles Disney (7/22/17)
S: The Silent Invaders by Robert Silverberg (1/7/17)
T: They Tell No Tales by Manning Coles (4/19/17)
U: The Unconscious Witness by R. Austin Freeman (1/28/17)
V: The Vanishing Violinist by Sara Hoskinson Frommer (4/30/17)
W: A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion by Ron Hansen (2/18/17)
X: Mink Is for a  Minx by Leo Margulies, ed (6/23/17)
Y: Your Turn, Mr. Moto by John P. Marquand (7/25/17)
Z: Zadok's Treasure by Margot Arnold (2/22/17)


Lie of the Needle: Review

Daisy Buchanan is the owner of Sometimes a Great Notion, a vintage sewing notions and antique specialty shop. She's also a keen amateur sleuth who's been of help to Lieutenant Serrano on several occasions. When the Millbury Historical Society decides to save a 200-year-old farmhouse from destruction at the hands of a greedy and ambitious developer, the ladies come up with an ideal plan. Selling a risque Men of Millbury calendar--just in time for Christmas! They line up a talented photographer and talk everyone from Daisy's husband and a few firefighters to Daisy's friend Cyril and Lieutenant Seranno to baring it all (or, well, nearly all) for a good cause.

But their plans are thrown into disarray when the photographer is found dead and his camera is missing. And where is Cyril? He was the last hunky model scheduled to be captured for posterity by the murdered cameraman. Daisy is positive that Cyril didn't do in the photographer--but if he didn't, then why has he disappeared? Did he see something that has put his life in danger? When an elderly member of the Historical Society is put into a coma from a hit-and-run accident, it begins to look like the mystery has deeper roots than Daisy or Seranno thought. And what does the stitching on an antique sampler in the home of the accident victim have to do with it all?

One thing I really liked about Daisy Buchanan is that she doesn't run to type for amateur detectives in a cozy mystery series. When she finds clues--she tells Lieutenant Serrano. It doesn't matter whether he immediately believes her or not, she tells him. She doesn't run around trying to figure things out all on her own and then get into trouble because of it. I mean, sure, she still runs into trouble in the end--but it isn't because she's kept things back from the police and she gets out of danger pretty quickly without there being a bunch of "luck" involved to keep our plucky heroine alive.

The story has a nice historical background that gives an added layer of interest and Daisy and the recurring characters are well-rounded and believable. I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Millbury. ★★and 1/2.

[Finished 7/28/17. Thanks to Melissa Caldwell for gifting this to me in the 2014 Bookish Secret Santa exchange. Sorry it took so long for me to get 'round to it.]

Friday, August 4, 2017

Your Turn, Mr. Moto: Review

Your Turn, Mr. Moto (1935) is the first story in John P. Marquand's mystery thriller series starring Japan's number one secret agent, Mr. Moto. The only's not really Mr. Moto's story. Yes, he is a vital character, but the real protagonist of this early spy thriller is World War I flying ace Casey Lee. At the beginning of the story, Lee is a bit disenchanted with rhis American homeland. When he first came home from the war, he was feted and paraded and generally fawned over. But when the crowds of grateful Americans longing to hear his tales of bravery in the face of the enemy dwindled, he found that he missed the life of danger and adrenaline which accompanies combat. He then spent time as a stunt flyer and giving testimonials for various products. Which brings us to Tokyo, Japan.

A large tobacco firm offered him the chance to make a flight from Tokyo to the United States with plane and expenses provided. But the longer Lee waited for the the plane to arrive and the publicity machine to get rolling, the more he spent on drink and the louder he proclaimed his disgust for the good ol' U S of A. One night he gets word that the tobacco company has changed its mind about the flight and plans to offer him passage home and nothing else. He gets himself particularly well-lubricated, makes a bigger spectacle of himself than usual, and wakes up to find Mr. Moto attentively waiting up on him in his room. Moto asks him if he truly meant his declarations of the night before--when he declared he was through with America and tore up his passport.

Before Casey knows it, he has pledged himself to Moto's service and gotten himself involved with a beautiful White Russian refugee. They're all after top secret plans that Moto is afraid have fallen into the wrong hands. He, the Russian Sonya, and Moto set sail on a ship bound for Shanghai. Once there, Casey is meant to mix with his countrymen and see if he can discover whether the Americans have the plans. But getting to Shanghai will be a difficult task all on its own. A mysterious man comes into his cabin at night with strange messages. Then the mysterious man is killed. Everyone assumes that Casey has been given the plans and there are those who are willing to kill him for the information. It doesn't help that Casey falls in love with Sonya...even though he's not sure that he can trust her. He'll have to decide soon. Because his own fate and the fate of several nations' naval forces may depend on it.

This is a fairly entertaining spy novel that gives a very good sense of East Asia during the years between the world wars and it provides a fairly complicated look at the Japanese of the time period. Mr. Moto is a spymaster and, in some ways, a bad guy--but he is no stereotypical Fu Manchu and he is a very honorable man. When faced with the resolution which Casey provides, he accepts it and honors his bargain with the American. Were he the typical Asian villain from the time period, he would be threatening all sorts of revenge at being thwarted. 

Casey changes from the dissolute man of the opening chapters to the brave hero of World War I fame. He finds the answers to Mr. Moto's dilemma, fashions his own solution to what to do about the plans, foils a villain more dangerous than Moto....and manages to get the girl in the end. A pretty satisfactory bit of light espionage entertainment. ★★

[Finished 7/25/17]

This fulfills the "Hat" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

August Follow the Clues Reviews

August Mount TBR Reviews

August Vintage Scavenger Hunt Reviews

Book Review Backlog...

I'm hoping to post a flurry of back-logged book reviews and also hoping to do the books justice even though the earlier ones are rapidly falling through the sieve that is my memory these days. I somehow managed to get completely derailed from my read and review express train and am currently six reviews behind schedule. (Yikes!) Then....I need to get around to the P.O.M. Award for July.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Room for Murder

Judging from the cover of Room for Murder (1955) by Doris Miles Disney, it would seem that after going to the dogs I have now changed my allegiance to cats. Except that cats don't really have a whole lot to do with the story. Sure, Aggie Scanlon, one of our main characters, has taken on the nursing duties of three kittens when their mama doesn't want to be bothered with feeding them. And...she's even named them Wyken, Blyken, and Nod. And maybe they reflect her penchant for taking in the motherless and abandoned. But they have nothing to do with the death of Mr. Robert Lovejoy. And they certainly don't have anything to do with solving the mystery. 

Oh...and there aren't any blonde young women running around in nightgowns either. So, you might ask, what do we have? Well, as mentioned above, there is the death of Mr. Robert Lovejoy. So I'm guessing that's him on the cover. But you never know. That might be an entirely different dead body that has nothing whatsoever to do with the story. (What? Oh...okay, I'll get on with it.)

The Misses Kate and Aggie Scanlon are sisters of Irish extraction who run a rooming house at 1228 Drum Street in Somerset, Connecticut. They live there with several boarders as well as their niece, Teresa, who has lived with them since she was a toddler. She is now of marriageable age. The aunts despair of Teresa ever finding a suitable husband--for which read rich, well-established in a good job (doctor, lawyer, etc.), and Catholic. Teresa has shown no interest in any of the prospects who have had the aunts' seal of approval thus far.

Of the sisters, Kate is the level-headed one. She has charge of the house, does the cooking, and generally vets any prospective roomers. Aggie is more flighty, romantic, and apt to take in anybody who looks like they need a good home. Her one other vice (as these things are viewed by Kate) is reading true crime magazines. She was a maid in service before the sisters took on the rooming house and even now she does the maid's work--general cleaning and "doing up" the rooms. When Mr. Robert Lovejoy came looking for a room, he was very seedy looking and not all the type that Kate would have approved of. Fortunately for Mr. Lovejoy, Kate wasn't at home and Aggie had him installed in a room before Kate can object.

Mr. Lovejoy isn't the ideal roomer. Oh, he's polite enough and causes no trouble while he's alive. But he has the air of the rolling stone about him, has no job--though he claims to be looking, and has the odor of alcohol about him more often than Kate believes necessary. He comes home one night having had one (or two) more than his limit, exchanges a few words with Aggie, and then later Aggie hears him drop his shoes on the floor and stumble into bed in the room above hers. Later that night, she is awakened by an unknown sound. She then hears odd, shuffling shoe-shod footsteps above her head. She wonders in her half-wakened state why Mr. Lovejoy would put his shoes back on to go to the bathroom and falls back to sleep.

When morning comes, Mr. Lovejoy is discovered dead below his opened window. Chief of Detectives Zimmerman and Lieutenant Birdsall hear Aggie's story of Lovejoy's return home the night before, take one look at his bed, and decide that the man came home blind drunk, felt sick, stumbled to the window for air, and fell out. Sergeant Dennis Callahan and Aggie aren't convinced. Miss Aggie tries to impress upon the ranking officers the importance of the footsteps--she's just sure they weren't Mr. Lovejoy and both she and Dennis wonder why the man didn't cry out or grab the curtains to try and save himself. 

At first Dennis is just a little curious and uses the small irregularities as an excuse to return to the house and get better acquainted with Teresa (whom he has taken quite a shine to--to the aunts' dismay, after all he's just a policeman). But with Aggie's dogged determination to play detective herself and her steadfast belief that Mr. Lovejoy was murdered forces Dennis to look more closely at everything and soon he's following up clues--from those mysterious footsteps to a newspaper article kept by the dead man to references to a barroom brawl that happened years ago and resulted in another man's death. Clues that lead him to a startling conclusion.

Disney writes a perfect blend of domestic suspense and standard mystery. There are clues that a clever reader can follow to their logical conclusion and, while there aren't a large number of suspects, it is very interesting to follow Miss Aggie and Dennis in their separate investigations. Disney also provides a good dose of humor in this story--the interactions between Kate and Aggie over the latter's apparent lack of good sense is well-played and funny. Though the sisters squabble, it's apparent that there is a great deal of affection between them that has kept them together all these years. There's quite a lot of interest in this slim volume; it's amazing how much Disney packs into 176 pages. Deft charactizations, human interest, humor, and nicely done suspenseful mystery. ★★★★

This fulfills the "Cat" category on the "Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.