Mar 242014

Asey Mayo was probably the only person on Cape Cod who didn’t care about the big charity auction. Everybody else was eager to bid on the items up for sale – largely because they had heard rumors that the late John Alden had hidden a lot of cash inside something that would be sold at the auction. Asey didn’t care. He didn’t think much of those rumors and he hated auctions. He just wanted to go fishing. So it was just his bad luck to be on hand when one of those auctioned items was opened – and turned out to contain a corpse.

Welcome to the auction in Going, Going, Gone, a 1943 Asey Mayo Cape Cod mystery by Phoebe Atwood Taylor. It’s the subject of today’s audio review on the Classic Mysteries website. You can listen to the entire review by clicking here.

Because Asey Mayo, also known as “the codfish Sherlock,” is on the scene…and because it is wartime and a lot of the usual authorities are busy elsewhere…he finds himself stuck with the job of investigating the murder. That proves to be difficult and fairly dangerous. Poor Asey finds himself knocked out when he tries to catch someone prowling around at night and very soon after that finds himself tied up and dumped unceremoniously in the woods right next to the equally trussed policeman who had been left on guard.

All this is told in a surprisingly cheerful manner. Phoebe Atwood Taylor was very good at making the events in her Asey Mayo books light enough so that the humor never seems out of place. She manages to keep a smile on the reader’s face no matter what seems to be happening. Asey Mayo, who stars in two dozen of Taylor’s books, is a wonderful character, and the Cape Cod background provides a first-rate setting for these mysteries. If you haven’t met Asey before, Going, Going, Gone would be a fine introduction.

This is another entry in the My Reader’s Block blog Vintage Mystery Bingo reading challenge, filling the square on the Golden score card for “a book by an author you’ve read before.”

Dec 082012

I’ve mentioned in my review this week that I generally prefer the later Asey Mayo books in Phoebe Atwood Taylor’s series. One of those, which I reviewed here a couple of years ago, was “Punch with Care ,” originally published in 1946 and one of the last books in the series. I also did an audio review of the book for the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.

“Punch with Care” manages to be both quite funny and a pretty good mystery at the same time. First, Asey Mayo finds a body lying in a private railroad car belonging to a local rail enthusiast. She’s holding a green ticket, neatly punched. Asey begins to investigate…and the body disappears. And we’re off and running on a track that leads to kidnapping, another murder – and some odd clues.

There are plenty of laughs, so if murder isn’t your idea of a joke, you may want to skip it. But it really shows off Asey Mayo at his best – and Phoebe Atwood Taylor at hers.

Dec 032012

Meet Asey Mayo. A life-long resident of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. A remarkably handy handyman, an enthusiastic fisherman, the right-hand-man of Bill Porter, a wealthy young man whose Porter Motors is a major automobile manufacturer. As it turns out, it’s a good thing Asey is around when his boss is accused of murder by the local policeman, a young man whose primary job is being a clerk in a small general store. It’s up to Asey Mayo to prove his boss didn’t do it – and to solve “The Cape Cod Mystery,” the title of the 1931 book by Phoebe Atwood Taylor which introduced Asey Mayo to the reading public. “The Cape Cod Mystery” is the subject of this week’s audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the whole review by clicking here.

The book begins in the midst of a brutally hot summer in the Northeast – the kind of summer, in the days before air conditioning, that led city dwellers to escape when they could to places like Cape Cod. Miss Prudence Whitsby, the narrator of “The Cape Cod Mystery,” finds herself overloaded with letters and telegrams from friends and acquaintances hoping to get an invitation to stay at her home. She manages to avoid most of them, though she does invite a few people to stay with her.

However, she has a new next-door neighbor, an author named Dale Sanborn, who quickly manages to get himself murdered. That local policeman immediately arrests Bill Porter for no particularly good reason. Enter Asey Mayo, who begins to investigate on his own and quickly discovers that just about everybody in the area had a good reason to hate Dale Sanborn. And we’re off on a romp through the small back roads of the Cape, the interconnected families and friends, and any number of suspicious circumstances, as Asey Mayo uncovers the truth about the murder.

Phoebe Atwood Taylor wrote some two dozen books featuring Asey Mayo. As the series went on, she introduced more humor into the books. But this first book in the series is a little more serious – though there’s still plenty of humor, not to mention some first-rate Cape Cod homilies.

 I have always enjoyed the Asey Mayo books, and while there may be a few rough edges here, it’s still vintage Mayo and, of course, vintage Taylor. The dialogue is colorful; at one point, for example, Asey observes, “It can’t be done, as the feller said when he tried to chew his elbow.” Silly? Sure, but fun. and Asey is a good detective – although he tends to keep his clues hidden from everyone (including the reader) for too long. But then, as he observes to Prudence Whitsby near the end of the book, “Even ole Sherlock Holmes, Miss Prue, had to do somethin’ funny every so often so’s folks would keep on bein’ ‘mazed by him. He had to let ‘em know he was thinkin’ about fifteen miles ahead of ‘em, so’s they could say wasn’t he wonderful when he broke down an’ explained it all.”

Well, OK. I’ll drink to that, I suppose. I do find Asey Mayo is delightful company – and if I like the later books in the series somewhat better than I like the first one, there’s still more than enough fun here to recommend “The Cape Cod Mystery.” It’s still in print and available as a paperback; there’s also an edition for the Amazon Kindle.

May 032012

I have always enjoyed the mysteries of Phoebe Atwood Taylor, including the ones about Leonidas Witherall, written as “Alice Tilton.” I have reviewed several of them, and I thought I’d put links to some of the previous reviews here for anyone who might like to read more of her work:

Starring the “Codfish Sherlock,” Asey Mayo:

And featuring Leonidas Witherall:

The Witheralls are farce, to be sure, but there’s a lot of humor in the Asey Mayo series as well – more so in the later books than the earlier ones. Most are available, new or used, in paperback editions. Your favorite mystery bookseller should be able to find them, or try