Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Asey Mayo Trio, by Phoebe Atwood Taylor

The Asey Mayo Trio
by Phoebe Atwood Taylor

I've concluded that Asey Mayo might not be for me. Prior to starting this site I read Out of Order, one of the earlier of the 24 books to feature the amateur detective and I found myself a bit underwhelmed. But not so much so that I wasn't willing to give Asey another shot.

My local used bookstore has a decent selection of Asey Mayo and this time around I thought I would go with The Asey Mayo Trio, a collection of three novellas. Since this is a form popularized by one of my favorite mystery authors, Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe), I decided it was worth a shot.

I flipped to the last of the novellas first, The Stars Spell Death, in which the Cape Cod-based detective tackles a murder in which a prominent astronomer is taken out with a good whack to the head. I wouldn't go so far as to say I didn't like it and I can't quite put a finger on what was lacking but I was underwhelmed enough (again) that I decided to skip the other two novellas and move onto the next item on my To Be Read pile.

About the best I can come up with by way of pinning down what I didn't like is to say that the plot just seemed to be a series of incidents strung together for no real purpose and with no real interest for the reader - or at least for this reader. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm done with Asey for good, but I'll probably think long and hard before trying another one.


  1. I sympathize. Although Rex Stout mastered the novella format, I don't think Taylor ever really did. (You will see in the Wikipedia entry under her name that she was "in constant need of money" and this may explain her need to write novellas for magazines.) I suspect if you didn't like Out of Order, you won't like her Asey Mayo novels at all, but if I may recommend Spring Harrowing (1939), Banbury Bog (1938), Octagon House (1937) or any of her novels as by Alice Tilton, you might find these of more interest. Taylor is best when she has a long-form plot that allows her flair for sheer lunacy to take centre stage; she is good at creating crazy characters and reasonable people who do very unreasonable things. It's hard to write the "funny mystery" and many people, including me, think she's one of the best at it. H.R.F. Keating called her "deft".

  2. I've always been quite a fan of Asey and I tend to prefer those taking place during WWII for their descriptions of "the Home Front" and the effects of the war on civilian life but I admit to preferring her Alice Tilton books for their screwball style comedy. Of course I'm a big fan of Craig Rice for the same reason, the humour.