Monthly Archives: October 2019

Black Orchids – Rex Stout

Black Orchids (A Nero Wolfe Mystery Book 9) – Rex Stout originally published in 1942 by Farrar & Rinehart. It Contains the novellas “Black Orchids” and “Cordially Invited to Meet Death“. I read the Kindle Edition from Random House Publishing.

This is two novella length stories. The first one tells the story of how Wolfe became the one who owns the black orchids. In a case where a murder is committed in plain sight at a flower show exhibit, Wolfe will find the killer. Though evidence points to a millionaire orchid fancier Mr. Hewitt, who has been exhibiting his hybridized black orchids, Wolfe sees something else at work here. He will expose the actual murderer. Wolfe’s fee for this serve, why, the rare black orchids themselves. Though Hewitt considers it blackmail, he agrees to this deal. As Wolfe investigates, it seems that the dealings of rival planters and their proxies are behind the murder. In typical Wolfe fashion all the principles in this story are collected at the mansion for the ‘big reveal’. The story reaches its climax in Wolfe’s own orchid fumigation room where the guilty party may just poison Wolfe and his guests.

The second story revolves around a poison pen campaign against a prominent party planner. In typical Wolfe fashion, a small group of suspects is collected, including the planner’s secretary,  assistant, niece, nieces fiancée, and a discrete rogue or two. Just as Wolfe sees the impossibility of the initial investigation, the client turns up dead. Now he has a case he’s much more motivated to solve… and he needs to move quickly, before the next body falls!

According to the obit in the Times the next morning, the funeral service was to be Wednesday afternoon, at the Belford Memorial Chapel on 73rd Street, and of course there would be a big crowd, even in August, for Bess Huddleston’s last party. Cordially invited to meet death. I decided to go. Not merely, if I know myself, for curiosity or another look at Janet. It is not my custom to frequent memorial chapels to look at girls even if they’re good dancers. Call it a hunch. Not that I saw anything criminal, only something incredible. I filed past the casket with the throng because from a distance I had seen it and couldn’t believe it. But when I got close there it was. Eight black orchids that could have come from nowhere else in the world, and a card with his initials the way he scribbled them, “N.W.”

Covenant of Genesis – Andy McDermott

The Covenant of Genesis: A Novel (Nina Wilde & Eddie Chase series Book 4) by Andy McDermott published by Bantam (April 12 2010) 594 pages, I read the Kindle Edition.

Our story starts in the Sands of Oman where a survey crew is using Soundwave to map an oil field. In setting off the charge to make the soundwaves, they uncover a hidden cave. Upon exploring the find, the amazing discovery is transmitted in a feed of images back to their  corporate headquarters. Before they hear back, the crew is killed and the site destroyed by fighter jets of the Saudi air force.

Meanwhile,  in Indonesia,  Nina and Eddie on a new archeological survey for the UN make an unusual discovery of thier own. Upon exploring the find, the amazing discovery is transmitted in a feed of images back to the UN headquarters.  Before they hear back, the crew is killed and the site destroyed by Indonesian pirates. The difference here is that Nina, Eddie and a diver survive.

It’s quite a thrilling adventure with Nina, Eddie and his surprisingly not dead ex-wife Sophia venturing from Indonesia to Antarctica to the Sudan one step ahead of a shadowy conspiracy group comprised of three significant forces, a Muslim,  Jewish and Christian coalition of mercenaries. What it the secret that this cohort is killing anyone who dares to learn the truth.

McDermott writes these adventures that are really longer than they need to be because of all the details he brings to his action sequences.  Although it’s impressively wordy, it’s easily skimmable and though the books are lengthy, they don’t take too long to read. And he is following in the mode of Clive Cussler with these ancient mystery adventures that spark the most interesting what-if speculations.

Good-bye, Cardinal!” shouted Ribbsley, giving di Bonaventura a jaunty wave. The helicopter left the ground, wheeled about, and headed south.
   Di Bonaventura watched it go, then returned to the cave, looking in the direction of the ragged craters marking what had once been the survey camp. There was still cleanup work to be done; the bodies of the men at the camp, or whatever was left of them, had to be found and buried, all evidence of the camp itself removed.
   Anything that could expose the Covenant had to disappear.
   Without a trace.
   Without exception.

Vixen – Ken Bruen

Vixen – Ken Bruen Published by Minotaur Books 2003, 201 pages. A fine British hard boiled police procedural where one character, a doctor, sums it up best… “God help us all if they’re the good guys.” This is the fifth in a series of Inspector Brant stories and an ensemble cast of recurring characters,  like the nick DCI Erika Foster is stationed in. But unlike Bryndza, this novella of Bruen’s follows several characters not focusing on one central character’s perspective.

Written in a terse, almost staccato style, the story starts literally with a bang as a small explosive is set off in a cinema.  Then we jump into lives in progress with pompous Superintendent Brown asking officious Chief Inspector Roberts where the flamboyant  Sergeant Brant, the chip-on-her-shoulder DC Falls and the anxious Porter Nash aren’t on the scene already.

Interspersed between the scenes of interpersonal drama and heavy drinking we follow as the team pursues a scantily-clad, sociopathic siren and her two henchmen, a pair of two bothers, a would-be brains and pure brawn pair of formerly petty criminals as they extort a ransomed from the police to stop the bombings they’ve started. A broad stroke story of colorful characters cast on a canvas of South London’s lesser known drinking establishments.

Angie, in her elation, had let her true self emerge, her eyes no longer guarded, and what looked out was as old as time and primeval in its malevolence.  Ellen had, without realizing it, moved a few feet away, a voice in her head urging her to get the hell out of there. Angie, always sensitive to danger, put out her hand, touched Ellen’s wrist, asked:
   ‘You okay? You don’t look too good.’
   ‘The brandy. I’m not used to it on an empty stomach.’
   She got up, left fast and felt she had indeed supper with the devil. She’d relegate this case to a junior.

The Hidden Staircase – Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew 02: The Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene. Penguin Young Readers Group I read the 1959 revised Kindle Edition.  This Second Nancy Drew story is as good as the first. A nicely crafted story. Not a ‘solve it yourself’ story but a good tale. Reading through this the thought that kept coming around was ‘wholesome’. There is a wholesomeness that envelopes this story.

It starts with Nancy’s friend Helen enlisting her help to solve a ghost haunting mystery at her great-grandmother’s estate Twin Elms. Nany, with her dad’s approval, agrees to help, but prior to leaving for Twin Elms, Nathan Gomber, a attorney representing property owner’s whose land is being purchased for a railroad project arrives and warns Nancy not to leave her father’s side as he is in great danger.

Nancy’s dad encourages her to continue to Twin Elms and help her friend’s great-grandmother as he has business and will be in Chicago for a few days. He say’s that he will rendezvous with Nancy on his way back at Twin Elms. However, he is kidnapped enroute. While Nancy works to discover her father’s where-abouts she continues to discover more secrets about the mansion at Twin Elms. These explorations lead to her father and to a plot to defraud the railroad company he is working for.

I don’t know what technically is considered ‘young adult’ fiction but Amazon has tis listed as good for ages 8 to 12 and grade 3 to 7 which sounds appropriate with the caveat that this edition was written in 1959 and is has some colloquialisms and language that are archaic in today’s parlance. But Nancy is presented as a level headed young woman of eighteen with a keen sense of observation, intrepidness, and perseverance with all the customary manners of a young lady of the 1950’s.


   Nancy ignored Gomber’s remarks. Shrugging, the man pushed his way into the hall. “I know this. If anything happens to your father, you’ll never forgive yourself. But you can’t blame Nathan Gomber! I warned you!”
   Still Nancy made no reply. She kept looking at him steadily, trying to figure out what was really in his mind. She was convinced it was not solicitude for her father.
   Nathan Gomber changed the subject abruptly. “I’d like to see Mrs. Turnbull and Mrs. Hayes,” he said. “Go call them.”

Paper Son – SJ Rozan

Paper Son – SJ Rozan, published by Pegasus Books July 2, 2019. This is the twelfth book in the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith Mysteries.

The major theme on this seems to revolve around family, and family ties that connect through distant, and up to this point, unknown relations. Lydia Chin is told by her mother that she, and her partner Bill need to go to Mississippi and investigate the circumstances of her cousin Leland’s incarceration. .. Lydia doesn’t know if she is more surprised by her mother acknowledging her investigating profession, or the fact that she has cousins she never knew about in Mississippi.

When she gets there she’s greeted by her uncle Pete,  her cousin Jefferson’s been arrested for the murder of his father, her uncle, Leland. And we learn the another unknown cousin of hers, Raymond,  uncle Paul’s son, is running for governor of Mississippi. Paul’s son in law Frank gives the reader an insight into who race and family play out in politics here in Mississippi.

Through the course of the investigation, Lydia and Bill come across two sisters, one recently deceased and the other in a nursing home. Through them we see a subplot weaving through about how the bitterness we carry around not only affects our lives but the lives of those left behind.

But the title of this novel Paper Son goes to the heart of the story. The original Paper Son, Lydia’s great-grandfather, becomes a ‘paper son’ when friend of the family returns from worming on the railroads in the United States in the late 1800’s. And, because of immigration law changes, Chinese people are not able to emigrate to the United States as freely as they had been able to. A loop hole in this law allows children of Chinese people already living in the United States to come here from China. Because her great-grandfather changes his identity to become the son of the family friend he is able to emigrate and enjoy the benefits of opportunities.

   My mother made a wordless, but nevertheless easy to understand, sound. She said, “Have you discussed the situation with the White Baboon?”
   Wait. Was my mother really asking me what Bill thought?
   “Yes,” I said cautiously. “He’s – ” I stopped myself before I said stumped. Why cap this new well at the moment it started to flow? “He doesn’t see the answer yet, either. But we’re working on it.”
   “Please continue to work on it.” My mother paused, and I could have sworn her voice softened the tiniest bit as she said, “The Delta of Mississippi is not different from other places. Cuckoos do not hatch from robin’s eggs there. This is only a case, Ling Wan-ju. It’s more important than others because it involves family. But for all that, this is no different from other cases you have solved. You must use the same detecting methods you have used in the past. Please call me tomorrow when you have made progress.”
   And she hung up.