Read Recently — December 2014 — Great Detectives

Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland by Ace Atkins

This is Atkins’ second Spenser novel; for reasons that escape me I seem not to have picked up the first one (an error which I have remedied, and I will be writing it up in 2015, hopefully before December).

Henry Cimoli asks a favour of Spenser, something he has never done before. It seems that someone has been trying to buy up the building where his Condo is located; Henry doesn’t want to sell because he has good memories there and about half the other owners agree (they’re all old people who, for their own various reasons, just don’t want to go). But the would-be buyers sent thugs around to . . . debate the matter, and Henry wants Spenser to do his debating for him.

Of course, it isn’t as simple as just beating up a couple thugs; as Spenser looks deeper into things he finds that the buyers are tied into an attempt to open a casino in the Boston area. Two sides are bidding on it and the side that is trying to buy out Henry’s building are connected to the Vegas mob. Hawk’s out of town, so for back-up Spenser has only his apprentice, Zebulon Sixkill (who first appeared in the novel bearing his name. It might have been Parker’s last). Spenser has taken on Vegas before (also Vega$, heh heh), so he can certainly handle himself, but will things be too much for Sixkill?

This one gets twisty and pretty grim before the end. Sixkill’s a recovering alcoholic and the tension throws him off the wagon at one point and the question throughout the last half is will this get him killed or will he get his confidence back? There are certainly several vicious murders and a real mystery as to who might be behind it all.

Atkins’ second Spenser is, overall, a middle-weight addition to the canon. Not bad, and if you have liked prior Spenser novels or Atkins’ own work, this is recommended.

Have His Carcase: a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery by Dorothy L. Sayers

Harriet Vane is a mystery novelist back in 1932. She was recently accused of murdering her fiance and cleared of the crime by Lord Peter Wimsey, who is smitten with her. To get away from it all she goes on a walking tour of south England. Wandering onto a beach after a lunch-time rest, she discovers the body of a man reposing on a flat rock. His throat has been horribly sliced open with a straight-razor, which is still on the scene. Not at all upset by the corpse or the blood, Vane takes a number of photographs and retrieves a few artifacts from the corpse, including the razor, and then heads for town to report it (she also calls the press, since this could be good publicity for her upcoming novel).

Generally, the police think it was suicide, but they can’t be sure because they can’t find the body, it having been carried away by the tide. Since Harriet must remain in the area until the coroner’s inquest, she is soon joined by Lord Peter, who is concerned that she will become a suspect again, and intends to clear her by either proving it a suicide, or by catching the true murderer.

This is the first Peter Wimsey mystery I’ve ever encountered, and it’s a good’un. The mystery is complex and the suspects are many, the social scene of the south-England resort towns is fascinating for someone in this century, and both Peter and Harriet are great characters. The one thing that gave me pause was the way Peter kept asking her to marry him even though she always said no. After a couple of exchanges, though, it became clear that both of them regard it as something of a game. She has no intention of marrying him (yet) and he just sees this as part of the courtship process. Strangely, I cam to picture Lord Peter as being played by the younger Fred Astaire. Possibly because he looked so good in a top hat.

Anyway, a fun book, and recommended. I’m gonna seek out other Lord Peter books, if I can find any.

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