Jul 212014
The Penetrator #21: The Supergun Mission, by Lionel Derrick July, 1977  Pinnacle Books Mark Penetrator Hardin once again heads down into Mexico, courtesy author Mark Roberts. Researching the “wetback situation” (as it’s constantly referred to throughout the book, as well as on the back cover), the Penetrator gradually becomes involved in a plot that involves an island kingdom outside of
Jul 172014
Stark #3: The Chinese Coffin, by Joseph Hedges February, 1975  Pyramid Books (Original UK publication 1973) The success of Don Pendleton's The Executioner was so widespread that Imitation Executioners began to pop up even overseas, this being one such example. Starting life in the UK as “The Revenger,” this series ran for thirteen volumes and documented British mob-buster John Stark’s war
Jul 142014
The Big Brain #1: The Aardvark Affair, by Gary Brandner February, 1975  Zebra Books A few years before he hit it big with The Howling, Gary Brandner turned out this three-volume series for Zebra Books. As Marty McKee notes, this first volume is basically a mystery, and a sort of watered-down one at that. There is nothing particularly exciting or memorable about The Aardvark Affair --
Jul 132014

I make no secret of the fact that my favorite kind of mystery story is the locked room/impossible crime puzzle. I enjoy authors who can lay out a story so that it appears that the crime (or other event) could not possibly have happened, but did. The locked and sealed room, the murder scene surrounded by unbroken fields of snow, the mysterious disappearances, they are all part of the genre. Of course, it requires an exceptional writer to give us such a puzzle and then to explain how the trick was done - and provide the reader with well-hidden clues to the true nature of the problem and its solution.

The late Edward D. Hoch was just such an exceptional writer, a prolific author of short stories who saw one of his tales published in every monthly issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine from 1973 until his death in 2008. You do the math. Hoch created many series characters. One of the most popular was country doctor Sam Hawthorne who invariably was called upon to tackle seemingly impossible crimes - and who, invariably, came up with a rational solution to the mystery.

Crippen and Landru Publishers have been republishing Hoch's Dr. Sam stories in a series of anthologies. The latest, released this Spring, is Nothing Is Impossible: Further Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne, and it is the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, which you can hear by clicking here. Nothing Is Impossible contains fifteen short stories with impossibly marvelous puzzles for Dr. Sam and the reader to solve. Among the problems:

  • A man's throat is cut with an apparently invisible weapon;
  • A circus trapeze artist disappears from his trapeze in mid-act;
  • A teenaged girl rides her bicycle around a corner - and vanishes;
  • Someone is stabbed to death in a cabin surrounded by unbroken snow.

You get the idea. These are tremendously entertaining. Hoch was proud of his ability to vary these puzzles; I seem to recall reading somewhere that he never repeated the same solution. This is the third anthology of Dr. Sam Hawthorne stories reprinted by Crippen and Landru. There's still material for several more, and I hope that those stories too will be brought back for new readers to enjoy. The editor of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Janet Hutchings, provides an introduction to this anthology, offering more background about both the author and this marvelous series. I recommend the package very highly indeed.

Jul 102014
The Executioner #7: Nightmare In New York, by Don Pendleton July, 1971  Pinnacle Books After a few volumes that were entertaining but seemed to be missing something, the Executioner series returns with a bang with this seventh volume, easily my favorite yet of Don Pendleton's original run. Here Pendleton is settling into the forumla that will take him through the next 30-odd books, and what
Jul 072014
The Rapist, by Don Logan October, 1975  Pocket Books Jeez, here’s Don Logan with the feel-good book of the summer!! Seriously though, The Rapist is another of those lurid crime paperbacks copyright Lyle Kenyon Engel, just like Manning Lee Stokes's Corporate Hooker, Inc. And, according to Hawk’s Authors’ Pseudonyms III, “Don Logan” was none other than William Crawford. Last year I read the
Jul 032014
Jason Striker #6: Curse Of The Ninja, by Piers Anthony and Roberto Fuentes December, 2001  Xlibris Books The Jason Striker series came to an ignoble end in April, 1976, and for the next few decades our judo-loving, book-narrating hero was cast into limbo. Then in 2001 Piers Anthony and Roberto Fuentes self-published the series as three trade paperbacks; in the third volume they included the
Jun 302014
Stone: MIA Hunter, by Jack Buchanan February, 1987  Jove Books Some online booksellers mistakenly list this installment of the MIA Hunter series as the first volume, but in fact it falls between the sixth and seventh volumes. Also, this is a double-length tale, coming in at 261 pages, all courtesy our old friend Chet Cunningham, who here turns in his second and final contribution to the
Jun 262014
The Satan Trap, by Nick Carter No month stated, 1979  Charter Books This installment of the Nick Carter: Killmaster series promises quite a lot – I mean the back cover blurb makes it sound like a bast of pure Satanic sleaze, which is my favorite kind of sleaze. And while The Satan Trap does occasionally veer in this direction, it is for the most part a bland sort of spy caper that goes in
Jun 252014

The newest edition of the bimonthly I Love a Mystery newsletter has just been posted for your reading pleasure. For 20 years, this newsletter has provided readers with reviews of all kinds of mysteries. Whatever genre or sub-genre you prefer, you'll find something here that will intrigue and entertain you. I review classic books and classic authors for the newsletter, but I assure you that there are a great many other reviewers and a huge selection of other books to tempt you. Give it a try - it's free!