Wednesday, August 19, 2015


The mystery fiction reviewer for Scribner's magazine for August 1938 [HERE] had much to admire that month. Full reviews follow, with offsite links to more info [in brackets]:

~ Death from a Top Hat:
Death from a Top Hat, by Clayton Rawson [HERE] (Putnam, $2), wins all the prizes this month, hands down. It mixes murder, magic—and considerable mirth—to the queen's taste. The first man killed is a nasty delver into the occult, appropriately named Sabbat. The second corpse is Tarot, "King of Cards." The quicker-than-the-eye detecting is done mainly by the Great Merlini, who achieves amazing things with coins—and, in the end, practically the whole Society of American Magicians is called in. It's a dexterous yarn, amazingly well written and cram-jammed with hair-raising surprises.
~ The Wall:
Mary Roberts Rinehart's [HERE] The Wall (Farrar & Rinehart, $2)—a tale of triple homicide in a New England coast summer resort—packs more thrills, suspense, action, and Mrs. Rinehart's own particular brand of humor than anything of hers in this genre since the glorious days of The Man in Lower Ten [HERE] and The Circular Staircase [HERE]. The local sheriff bests the slick city fellers complete-ly, the plot is most intricately tangled, and the unraveling, barring some annoying forecasting of sinister events which aren't too important, is quite satisfactory.
~ Madmen Die Alone:
All the evidence in two murders pointed toward the homicidal maniac who escaped from the asylum in Madmen Die Alone, by Josiah Greene [HERE and HERE] (Morrow, $2), but Capt. Prescott thought differently. Whether he was right or wrong, and what finally "broke" a particularly spooky series of slayings, composes this good example of the Hospital School of murder stories.
~ There Is No Return:
Not long ago someone complained about the dearth of female detectives. The ladies, bless 'em, are coming into their own this month. In There Is No Return, by Anita Blackmon [HERE and HERE] (Crime Club, $2), Miss Adelaide Adams and her friend Ella Trotter, along with a young newspaperman, effectively solve the seemingly supernatural murders which horrified the guests at a dismal inn atop a lonely mountain. Somebody with devilish designs had been fooling around with spirits—ghostly not alcoholic—and the inn is strewn with disemboweled cats, bats, and slaughtered guests. It pans out a little too pat, but the creepy feeling is continuous.

Category: Detective fiction criticism

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