Reviews by Richard Bohan

The Abandoned Room

by Wadsworth Camp

I do not know anything about this author or any other books he may have written. I wish I did, because this is ALMOST a very good book. I wonder if the author ever realized his full potential.

Bobby Blackburn can remeber the first part of the evening when his grandfather was murdered. The problem is, he cannot remember what happened the rest of the night, or how he ended up in the neighborhood of his grandfather's house the next morning.

This is a good locked room mystery , for the most part. The cast includes Bobby, his extremely unpleasant grandfather, his beautiful cousin, a lawyer who gives bad advice, a superstitious doctor who gives the mystery its properly eerie overtones, a somewhat shady Panamanian friend of Bobby's, and a mysteriuous woman in black, along with with two cocksure but not very competent detectives and the District Attorney.

The are some things which detract from the story. That the protagonist is egregiously stupid is part of it, since he never thinks to ask who would benefit if he is successfully framed for the murder. A second problem is that the author suddenly changes the relationships between all of the characters three-quarters of the way through the book. A third is that, in the final pages the author suddenly adds a new supernatural aspect to the story, which is just too much. The final complaint might be that the solution to the locked room problem is somewhat of a let-down, but I have found that this is almost always true in this type of mystery, even those written by masters of the form.

Despite my complaints, I think this is enjoyable light reading. I hope that anyone who knows of more works by this author will let me know.

Reviewed on 2006.10.13

Who Killed Bob Teal?

by Dashiell Hammett

This is a very good but very short story. The protagonist is Hammett's "other" great detective, "The Continental Op." In this story, he called upon to find the murderer of a fellow Continental detective, one whom he trained and whom he regarded as a friend. In thirteen pages, he clears up the mystery. It is worth reading for fans of the hard boiled detective, for the short stories are where Hammett perfected his craft, and where he first developed ideas which later appeared in his novels.

Reviewed on 2006.10.13

The War Terror

by Arthur B. Reeve

This is an annoyingly misleading book. Published in 1915 and with the title THE WAR TERROR, one would expect a novel dealing with Craig Kennedy in combatting espionage and sabotage. It is instead a group of twelve short stories which can pass for a novel only because of the one paragraph seques by which Reeve moves from one story to another.

The misleading is continued in a one page introduction signed by Walter Jameson which says that ...not all of these experiences grew...out of the war, but there were several that did..." If there were several, most of them must have been saved for another book. In this book, only the title story has any bearing on the war.

Now that I have gotten over my snit, I must say that I enjoyed this book. The title story is interesting as an adventure, in which a beautiful anarchist recruits Kennedy to save the life of a German financier/spy she has sworn to kill. In this one Kennedy's detection is of relatively minor importance and his participation is not necessary to abort both the murder and the espionage mission. But it is fun.

The other stories involve Kennedy in his usual role of uncovering murderers, thwarting blackmailers and disrupting heroin gangs through his scientific method. It has the virtue of most Kennedy stories in presenting not bad detection with a picture of the cutting edge of science in the second decade of the twentieth century. Among the delights are the use of a home-made hydrolysis machine to save the life a pet dog and at the same time prevent a murder.

Among the villains and villainies taken on in the book is the then popular and influential, but now discredited, eugenics movement. That story, "The Eugenic Bride", greatly raised my opinion of Reeve's intelligence and courage.

Reviewed on 2006.10.06

The Agony Column

by Earl Derr Biggers

This is a pretty good short mystery story, set in London in the very first days of the First World War. It involves murder, espionage and the arrest of an innocent man, all presented through letters. It also involves a nice romance inaugurated through the agony colony of the Morning Post.

Like most short stories written at this period, the story involves a twist at the end. Alert readers will spot the twist coming. Those who do not appreciate the O. Henry style of short stories will probably be annoyed.

This is Biggers before his creation of Charlie Chan. Defenitely worth reading for mystery fans

Reviewed on 2006.10.04

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