Showing posts with label books pre-1950. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books pre-1950. Show all posts

Sunday, March 3, 2013

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, by Agatha Christie

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
By Agatha Christie

You're talking like a thriller by a lady novelist. (Inspector Japp to Hercule Poirot)

In my relatively limited experience with Agatha Christie's Poirot books, it has almost always seemed that the great Belgian detective was a supremely confident and rather unflappable sort. So it came as something of a surprise as this volume opened to find that confidence shaken by something as mundane as a visit to the dentist.

Of course, this being Christie, it stands to reason that we're not seeing Poirot go to the dentist just for purposes of character development. As coincidence would have it, not long after Poirot's appointment concludes he finds out that his dentist has apparently done himself in. Or has he? Well, yeah.

And the plot thickens, as they so often do. The interesting thing about this one is that it's not long before it takes an abrupt turn from being a garden variety whodunit - for lack of a better term - into being something rather different. It would be a mild spoiler to get into this, in my opinion, and it's the type of thing I don't usually care much for in crime and mystery fiction but Christie handles the whole affair so skillfully that I quite liked it.

At one point in the proceedings Poirot remarks that one of the other characters has "the brain of a hen." Which is about how I felt when Christie finally began to work her way around to the solution. This came from way out in left field, if you ask me, but I thought it was nicely done and there was nothing in it that made me want to cry foul.

Then there's the mystery of why this book needed at least three different titles. The 1964 Dell paperback edition that I read was titled An Overdose of Death, with a cover note that the original title was (the quite dreadful) The Patriotic Murders. But apparently the book started life as One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, which makes a great deal more sense, given the content of the book itself. Perhaps the ways of publishers are one of the truly great mysteries.

In any event, whatever you want to call this one, I'd call it an entertaining piece of work that's likely to befuddle the average reader - or maybe it was just me.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Dumb Witness, by Agatha Christie

Dumb Witness
By Agatha Christie

Dumb Witness comes from the same era as the last Agatha Christie book I read - Cards on the Table. In between these two she published Murder in the Mews, a story collection. I have yet to read the latter but all three feature Hercule Poirot. While I liked Dumb Witness quite a bit I liked Cards on the Table quite a bit more and have Mews on my To Be Read list.

The premise of Dumb Witness is a fairly traditional one, as old school mysteries go. A wealthy old woman dies and her surviving relatives behave as surviving relatives so often do in these situations - badly. Poirot takes this one on pretty much as a cold case, when he receives a letter from the deceased a few months after her death.

Needless to say there are some issues here that would suggest that foul play was involved and Poirot and Hastings waste no time in getting down to business. I won't say too much more about the plot and execution of this one except to note that Christie offers up a fairly significant clue that I managed to miss the significance of until sometime after I'd finished the book. But that's not particularly unusual for me and as a result I've decided not to take up crimesolving any time soon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cards on the Table, by Agatha Christie

Cards on the Table
By Agatha Christie

Elmore Leonard once said that part of the secret to his success as an author was in leaving out the parts most readers skip. Which is a quality I've always attributed to Agatha Christie. I've only read perhaps a dozen or so of her books, but with one or two exceptions I tend to find myself blazing through them like Evelyn Wood's star pupil.

Which brings us to Cards on the Table, which I'd rank at the top of the heap of those dozen or so Christie books. The premise here is quite simple but also contrived, almost to the point of being absurd. Which didn't matter much to me since Christie turned the whole business into such a fine yarn.

Said premise finds bridge games going on in adjoining rooms in the home of a rather unlikeable party host. At one table are a foursome of detectives and law enforcement types, including one Hercule Poirot. At the other table are a quartet who will become the chief suspects in the murder of the host. Who is killed during the game while sitting by the fireplace in the same room as the suspects.

In the challenge (of sorts) to the reader that precedes the story, Christie points out that this is a mystery that will be solved by considering the psychology of the suspects, rather than the traditional system of gathering clues, recreating movements and whatnot. Scotland Yard's Superintendent Battle, who was present at the time of the murder, takes the latter route toward solving the crime. Poirot, not surprisingly, focuses more on what the suspects remembered about the bridge game, their memories regarding the layout of the room and other things that will help him understand the way they tick.

Which obviously isn't fair play, unless I missed a key point somewhere, but I guess that's what Christie was getting at in her introduction. Perhaps there was a bridge-related clue hidden somewhere in all this that would have helped me figure it out but I know nada about bridge. In fact, my eyes tended to roll back in my head during the detailed discussions of the games and the scoring, but that was my only minor quibble with what I'd otherwise consider to be an outstanding work and one that comes with my highest recommendation.

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.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie

The Mysterious Affair at Styles
by Agatha Christie

After a few recent posts that were kind of out in left field in terms of traditional mystery content it's back to something that's about as traditional as you can get, the first novel by the master of this sort of thing - Agatha Christie. It's also the debut of Poirot, his sidekick Hastings, and police Inspector Japp.

I'll confess right at the outset that although I liked the book I found it to be tough going, which is admittedly more the fault of the reader than the writer. Although I prefer mysteries that are focused on a puzzle I tend to be kind of a dolt sometimes when it comes to keeping up with the intricacies of plot. To complicate things this time around, I read this book in a large number of very brief installments, which tended to exacerbate the problem. I suspect that if I'd sliced it up into a few large chunks I'd have found it much easier going (note to self...).

But enough about that. If you like your mysteries crammed full of old-school elements, then you should give this one a try. It's got the manor house setting and the once widowed and now remarried head of the household who's been bumped off (or so it would seem). It looks poison might be to blame and it looks like her last will and testament might provide a motive. Naturally there's the usual gang of family members and various other hangers on who had the means and motive to do the bumping, not the least of whom is the victim's second husband, who just happens to be one of those shifty foreigner types (shudder).

As the story goes, Christie wrote this book to win a bet that she could devise a mystery novel in which no reader could determine who the culprit was. Whether or not she succeeded in that is a matter that's up for grabs, but the intricate plot with its myriad twists and turns certainly do make for a challenge.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Suicide Excepted, by Cyril Hare

Suicide Excepted
by Cyril Hare

I wasn't familiar with Cyril Hare (A.A. Gordon Clark) prior to reading this book. According to one source he wrote about ten mysteries in all, most of them novels, between the years 1937 and 1957. This is the third one and features one of his regulars, police Inspector Mallett.

I've been searching for the right word to describe Hare's style and I can't seem to come up with anything. Workmanlike and mundane both came to mind, but since they have something of a negative connotation that's not quite what I'm looking for. What I'm driving at here is that there's nothing flashy or exotic about this book, just a good solid mystery in which the plot unravels in a methodical fashion and leads to a satisfying conclusion - with a fairly decent twist.

Things get underway when the vacationing Mallett strikes up a conversation with an elderly hiker in the hotel where they're staying. Said hiker is found dead of an apparent overdose the next morning but Mallett tries to stay clear of the proceedings for the most part, since he's not really there on business.

At this point the deceased man's family mount their own investigation in hopes of proving that his death was murder rather than suicide. This is critical since a clause in the insurance policy will dramatically affect the size of the payout depending on which is the case. The man's son and daughter spearhead the amateur investigation, aided by the daughter's fiancée.

All of which proceeds quite nicely until we near the end, at which point Mallett decides it's time to stick his nose in again and that's really all I'm going to say about this one. While the twist might not seem so spectacular, depending on your level familiarity with this sort of thing, it was probably reasonably fresh some seventy years ago and worked pretty well for me even to this day.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Not Quite Dead Enough, by Rex Stout

Not Quite Dead Enough
By Rex Stout

I might have known something like this would happen if I left him to manage himself. It is not only bad, it may be helpless. The fathead. The big fat goop. (Archie Goodwin)

The standard for most Nero Wolfe books is that they're either novel length or collections of three novellas. There are only two novellas in this one, as was the case with Black Orchids and probably at least one other title that's not springing to mind right now. These stories date from World War II and find Archie in uniform, as Major Goodwin, and Wolfe making an attempt to do his part for the war effort. As I've mentioned before, I don't see congenital smartass Archie Goodwin as the type to fit into the military so well, but if you can suspend belief on that point these stories are quite entertaining otherwise.

Not Quite Dead Enough
The military wants Nero Wolfe's brain. Well, sort of. They want him to use his smarts for something or other but Wolfe has got it into his head that he wants to be a foot soldier and actively participate in the killing of Germans. Along with Fritz, he is undergoing a rather severe (for Wolfe) training regimen. Major Goodwin goes home to try to talk some sense into his former boss and what do you know, he gets mixed up in a murder. Which he uses as a tool, in a manner of speaking, to get Wolfe back to doing what he does best.

I'd have to say I liked this as well or better than any Wolfe story I've read lately. The plotting of the crime is nothing astounding, as is often the case, but everything else about it is classic Wolfe. Everything else including Archie relentlessly goading Wolfe and Cramer and Wolfe having at it like cats and dog, just to name a few things. Well worth the price of admission, just for this story alone.

The Booby Trap
Perhaps it's not up to the standard of the foregoing, but this one's not so shabby either. Wolfe has agreed to use his brain for the advancement of his (adopted) country's interests and after an unfortunate incident with a hand grenade he's forced to utilize it to the fullest extent. And while Wolfe's never really been a blushing bride when it comes to dealing with criminal types his method for dealing with the bad egg in this story in another league altogether.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why Shoot a Butler?, by Georgette Heyer

Why Shoot a Butler?
By Georgette Heyer

Shall we be murdered, Frank? I thought these things didn't happen.

I have to admit that I was very reluctant to try a Georgette Heyer novel, even after I realized that she'd written a number of mysteries that seem to be rather well-respected. My only prior experience with Heyer are her romance novels, which were quite popular with my mother and grandmother and which I wouldn't have touched with the proverbial ten-foot pole.

It appears that Heyer wrote about a dozen crime novels in all. This is the second of them. As it opens barrister Frank Amberley is on his way to the family mansion when he comes across the butler from a nearby mansion, shot dead in a car and with a young woman standing in the road nearby. Well, the plot thickens, as they invariably do, and a few more stiffs pile up along the way. Amberley, a somewhat arrogant and not so likeable sort, works more or less in concert with the local police, though he obviously feels that he's in another league altogether.

Of course, it's all sorted out in end, but unless I missed some key points along the way, I'd say that this one is insufficiently clued to let even the most perceptive reader in on the secrets that are eventually revealed. Not that I'm the most perceptive reader and in fact I'm probably down at the other end of the scale when it comes to picking up on subtle details and whatnot.

My other quibble with this one, and it's something I've harped on before, is that it's just too long. While there are undoubtedly mystery novels that need almost 300 pages to adequately tell their story this is not one of them. It could probably have benefited from a judicious editor hacking loose a hundred pages or so.

All in all not such a bad experience as the foregoing might have suggested, but I probably won't be seeking out any more Heyer books in the near future.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fer-De-Lance, by Rex Stout

By Rex Stout

There was no reason why I shouldn't have been sent for the beer that day, for the last ends of the Fairmont National Bank case had been gathered in the week before and there was nothing for me to do but errands, and Wolfe never hesitated about running me down to Murray Street for a can of shoe-polish if he happened to need one.
(Opening line of Fer-De-Lance, the first Nero Wolfe novel)

In 2010 and early 2011 I read through most of the Nero Wolfe canon, though I came up about nine books short. I also read a handful of the post-Rex Stout novels written by Robert Goldsborough. Rather than seek out the nine books that I have yet to read I decided to give the Wolfe books another go, this time working my way through the series in order.

Which brought me to Fer-De-Lance, the one that started it all. I have to admit that I had some misgivings about re-reading these books but since the Wolfe books are as much about the characters and their interactions as they are about the whodunit aspect that didn't turn out to be much of an issue. Especially since I don't always have the greatest memory for the assorted and sundry details of plot in a book I first read over a year ago.

You may or may not know what a fer-de-lance is. As I recall, I didn't before reading this book. I won't spill the beans for those who don't but it wouldn't be that much of a spoiler. It's fairly early on that Wolfe works out the clever method by which the murder that drives this book is committed. It's not all that much further before he also determines who the killer is. From there it's just a matter of digging up enough dirt to make things stick.

This being the first book of the series, there were a few things missing that tended to turn up in many, if not most, of the later novels and novellas. One of the most notable, and it obviously has to do with the fact that the crime is committed out of town, is that the long-suffering Inspector Cramer is nowhere to be found. Saul Panzer and some of the other regular operatives are on hand as is one who apparently fell by the wayside before long - the name escapes me at the moment. Also worth noting, Archie apparently has yet to develop that amazing recall of his and at one point even has to go so far as looking up a phone number that he called not all that long ago. And there is no gathering together of the principals in the case for one of Wolfe's grand and theatrical summations.

Fer-De-Lance is also a lot longer than many of the Wolfe novels, as it clocks in at nearly three hundred pages. For me, it seems that the shorter books and novellas seem to work better for the most part but this one didn't really seem to suffer much from its added bulk.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Body in the Library, by Agatha Christie

The Body in the Library
by Agatha Christie

He's gone down to the farm. Looking at pigs and things always soothes him if he's been upset.

It seems that in many of the mysteries I read the author tends to take a leisurely approach, setting the stage, introducing the characters and Lord knows what else before any crimes are actually committed. So it's kind of a nice change of pace when a crime is flung at the reader with almost no preamble, as in Agatha Christie's The Body in the Library.

The library in question belongs to the well-heeled Bantry family. The body is that of a young and attractive young woman and no one in the household seems to know who she is - or so they say. A gang of police spend a great deal of time and energy trying to determine how and why she got there and who did the dirty deed and there are quite a few twists and turns on the way. But it's ultimately Miss Jane Marple - whose presence throughout is comparatively low-key - who puts all the pieces together.

A body in the library might just be the ultimate cliché of the whodunit, but in Christie's hands its rises above all that. This one is certainly worth a look.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Perfect Crime, by Ellery Queen

The Perfect Crime
by Ellery Queen

When I started reading this Ellery Queen book I had another Ellery Queen (And On The Eighth Day) on my To Be Read stack. I'd started it a while back, got fed up and put it aside. I found that book to be something of a slog, to say the least, but I whipped through The Perfect Crime in no time at all.

The only information I can find about this book is that it's supposedly a novelization of a 1941 movie called Ellery Queen and the Perfect Crime. The Pyramid paperback I read is dated 1968 with a copyright of 1942 and mentions nothing about it being a novelization. I'm not really sure what the score is but in any event it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book.

To start with a very mild spoiler, it's pretty obvious to any reader that Ellery is going to hash things out before it's all over and thus the crime is not actually a perfect one. But I quibble. What actually happens concerns a tycoon who has ruined a number of his investors due to some shady business practices. One of those investors just happens to live next door, a fact that comes into play when the tycoon is found dead in his study, having apparently shot himself.

Which is exactly what happened, of course, and everyone accepts this as gospel truth and the book ends there.

But I jest. Of course, Ellery (or anyone else with a grain of sense) isn’t buying the suicide explanation and he springs into action, attempting to sort out exactly what happened. I won't go into much detail for fear of spoiling, except to note that there's a monkey on hand, that naturally the reader is provided with a map to help keep tabs on things, and that this compact novel zipped right along at a nice clip and is well worth a look.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Keeper of the Keys, by Earl Derr Biggers

Keeper of the Keys
by Earl Derr Biggers

I'm not completely sure what I expected as I set out to try a Charlie Chan novel, the first one I've read. I've never seen any of the movies and yet had somehow built up an image of a rather goofy Chinese detective speaking awful pidgin English and spouting quaint homilies lifted from a fortune cookie.

I couldn't have been farther off the mark, except for those homilies, and quite frankly Biggers might have gone a little bit over the top in that particular area. But that's a minor quibble. There is actually another Chinese character who's integral to this book and he does speak awful pidgin English, but Chan is articulate and mild-mannered and yet a rather formidable opponent for anyone who attempts to cross him.

The story takes place at Lake Tahoe, in winter, which is quite a novelty for the Hawaiian detective. He's been called there to tackle a fairly mundane job but when he arrives at the lakefront house he finds his employer has called together the current husband of his ex-wife, an opera singer, as well as two of her other ex-husbands. The opera singer turns up before long and not so long after that she turns up dead, shot to death in an upstairs room.

From here on out Chan works hand in hand with the local sheriff, who admits that he's not really qualified to do this sort of thing, and the sheriff's retired father who preceded him as sheriff. Together they manage to sort it all out and while the crime and solution were nothing terribly exceptional the entire package was sufficiently well constructed to make for quite a page-turner.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Nine - And Death Makes Ten, by Carter Dickson

Nine - And Death Makes Ten
By Carter Dickson

John Dickson Carr is known for many things, but one of the things I like best about the dozen or so of his books that I've read is the sense of atmosphere he's able to create. He does this to great effect - at least at first - in the unfortunately titled Nine - And Death Makes Ten.

It's early in World War II and a group of nine passengers are making their way across the Atlantic on an ocean liner designed to carry many more people. It's a dicey time to be making such a voyage, given the likelihood of being picked off by enemy submarines. A chance that's only enhanced by the fact that the ship is carrying a cargo of military equipment.

You might not be surprised to find out that before long a murder takes place. Not long after, and fairly well into the book, the ninth of the ship's passengers is revealed - it's none other than Sir Henry Merrivale. Whose buffoonish mannerisms pretty much shoot that whole oppressive atmosphere thing in the foot. Before it's all said and done there are more murders and the explanation of the rather complex crimes takes up a considerable chunk of the book.

As I noted recently in a review of the movie version of The Dragon Murder Case, featuring Philo Vance, it's a whole lot of fuss and bother to go to just to bump someone off, especially on an ocean liner where you could probably just push them over the rail, with no one being the wiser. But if you're reading these intricate GAD puzzle mysteries you're probably not a real stickler for realism. I'm sure not.

For some additional perspective, see what Puzzle Doctor had to say about this one.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Second Confession, by Rex Stout

The Second Confession
By Rex Stout

I've noticed something as I've been reading my way through most of the Rex Stout Nero Wolfe stories and a handful of the Robert Goldsborough knockoffs. The stories in which Wolfe has a personal interest in the case he's working on tend to be more interesting than those in which he's just trying to collect a fee. Which is all that he's trying to do at the beginning of The Second Confession.

As things get rolling Wolfe has been called upon by a captain of industry to confirm that his daughter's boyfriend is a card-carrying Communist. Once upon a time this was the kind of thing that was considered to be pretty serious stuff. Archie is dispatched to do the legwork, engages in a couple of legally and ethically dicey actions to further that end and lo and behold, the plot thickens, with a certain party hitting Wolfe where it really hurts. I won't go into it much further than this, except to say that this is the second novel of a trilogy (of sorts) in which high-powered gangster Arnold Zeck plays a role. The final volume - In the Best Families - pulls out all the stops, but this one ain't so shabby either.

Which isn't much of a review, when you come right down to it, but in the interest of not spoiling things I'll just say that this made for some good reading and would probably be even better if you read the three Zeck books in order, something that I didn't do.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Great Black Kanba, by Constance and Gwenyth Little

Great Black Kanba
By Constance and Gwenyth Little

You don't run across books by the Little sisters every day (or at least I don't) and so I was looking forward to reading this one. Then I started it. And set it aside about halfway through. And then came back to it several weeks later determined to give it another chance. And plowed through the rest of it with no small amount of effort solely for the reason of seeing how they were going to wind things up. And cut loose with a great big sigh when I'd finally wrapped it up.

The Little sisters were Australian-born New Jerseyites who wrote a total of 21 novels between the years 1938-1953. For whatever reason they chose to use the word "black" in the titles of all but the first book. I read The Black Paw a while back and recall that I was not disappointed by it at all. The sisters have been described as writers of "screwball cozies" and while that tendency was apparent in The Black Paw it wasn't here.

Great Black Kanba is the nickname of a train that's making its way across Australia. Along for the ride are one Cleo Ballister, who is suffering temporary amnesia and may not actually be Cleo Ballister at all. At some point she meets a group of people who may or may not be distant relatives that she's never seen before. They all climb aboard, a few murders take place, Cleo's memory starts to come back in bits and pieces and 240 plodding pages later it's all sorted out.

Brevity is the soul of wit, as the saying goes, and I'd propose that it is also the soul of the detective story. My thoughts on this one are the Littles should have done as Elmore Leonard famously said and leave out the parts that no one reads.

More on the Little sisters here.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Red Threads, by Rex Stout

Red Threads
By Rex Stout

One of the high points of the Nero Wolfe novels, for me and probably a lot of other readers as well, is the love/hate relationship between Wolfe, his smartass sidekick, Archie Goodwin, and the perpetually harried Inspector Cramer. Which makes for some entertaining exchanges, to be sure. But if you've ever wondered why Inspector Cramer is not the focal point of his own series you need look no further than Red Threads, which Stout published in 1939, after about five or six Nero Wolfe books had seen print.

Which is not to say that Red Threads is necessarily a bad book. I wouldn't go quite that far. What I would say is that it is very methodical and workmanlike and devoid of many of the qualities that made the Wolfe books so easy to breeze through. Without those qualities about all you have left is a plot, which almost nobody ever accused Stout of having a good handle on, and what seem like endless blocks of dialogue. Here's a book that could have been stripped down to the novella length of many of the Wolfe stories and probably wouldn't have lost anything in the translation.

The plot is actually not such a bad one, by Stout's standards. A wealthy man is bludgeoned to death inside the elaborate shrine he's built to his Native American wife. He's found with a scrap of red yarn clutched in his fist of the type known as bayeta, which is apparently a type of Native American fabric with quite a pedigree. From there to the solution it's basically just a whole lot of legwork (and dialogue) to sort out the whole mess.

What I found oddest about this one is that we really don't know any more about Cramer by the time it's all said and done than we did at the beginning or than we might have learned from one of the Wolfe stories - except that he has a daughter in high school. That's really it.

I'd rank this one as an interesting curiosity for serious Wolfe fans, but that's about it. Then again, as a fairly serious Wolfe fan, it might just be that I'm not able to be truly objective about its merits or lack thereof.

For some perspective on this one from back in the day, look here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Seven Faces, by Max Brand

Seven Faces
By Max Brand

My local library system is not exactly overflowing with classic mysteries so when I came across a volume by Max Brand (Frederick Faust) I was rather surprised. Especially since I had assumed that Brand was more of a Western writer. As it turns out, I was right. The Max Brand Web site calls him "The World's Most Celebrated Western Writer."

But given that only about 300 of his estimated 500 books were Westerns that leaves a fair amount of room to delve into other genres, such as this mystery. Seven Face deals with the problem of how a man traveling on a train under police guard could be taken from said train and bumped off in a rather gruesome manner. As the plot thickens it turns out that there was a partnership gone bad some years back at a mine in Nevada and some old scores are now being settled as a result.

Not too bad, all in all, though Brand's pulp leanings are quite in evidence here. This is a fast-paced, rollicking tale that reads like it was written by someone who spent little time lingering over the finer points of fiction writing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The House Without the Door, by Elizabeth Daly

The House Without the Door
By Elizabeth Daly

It appears that Elizabeth Daly wrote about sixteen books chronicling the adventures of Henry Gamadge in the years from 1940 to 1951. Gamadge is an expert in rare books and documents and an amateur detective who is assisted in the latter venture by his wife and his live-in assistant Harold.

In The House Without the Door Gamadge is called upon to find out why a woman who had been acquitted of her husband's murder some years back has come close to becoming the victim of four separate attempts on her life. He springs into action and methodically goes about sorting it out. The ending was certainly not one that I saw coming but maybe a more shrewd reader of these kinds of books would have done so.

Worth a look. Here's some more info about Daly.