Review of Two Vintage Crime Novels

(Above: Homicide squad, NYPD 1970s. Fashion was their true victim.)


Sick to Death by Douglas Clark


End of Chapter by Nicholas Blake

At the end of every month, my library takes all the book sale books and marks them down to $1/bag. At a price like that, it’s easy to just grab several, in the hope that one of them will be a real winner. Both of these books were in my latest haul. Neither was a real winner, but they weren’t a waste of time either.

The first book features a pair of English detectives who don’t like each other paired up to investigate the death of a pretty young diabetic girl. The second features a private gentlemanly type detective called in to find out who’s causing trouble at a English publishing house. Both were written and published in the 1970s.

One definite thing about these books – they are white. Really white. Kind of like that picture up there. Apparently people of color had not been invented in England in the 1970s. Neither had female cops. Women are around, but mostly as victims, secretaries, suspects, nurses, and even – wow – as a publishing executive. So Blake wins on that one, but not by much.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, although odds are small that anyone else will actually read these two. But the books are fairly predictable, and I spotted the murderers without any trouble. Our private eye gets attacked – shock! – but of course, he’s fine. The characters are also predictable, flat, and kinda dull. Motive and solution are pretty straightforward, with again, the edge given to Blake.

I have read some by Blake before – The Widow’s Cruise and Thou Shell of Death were both better than this one – but Clark was a new author. I won’t bother to seek out anything else by these two, but if I find something by them, I think I will read it too. There’s a nostalgic old-fashioned sort of mindlessness in reading books like this. It’s sort of like watching an old episode of Dragnet or something – fun just because it’s so foreign to a modern viewer. 2.75 stars for Clark, 3 for Blake.




Book Review: Two for the Show

Reading Decathlon, book 8

Two for the Show

by Jonathan Stone

Plot: Chas works as an investigator, but his only client is an unusual one – Vegas magician Wallace the Amazing. Chas is the reason Wallace can mystify his audience by knowing everything about them. It’s a hidden partnership, but it’s worked for 20 years. Then one day something goes wrong with the show. As Chas tries to find out what happened, he gets pulled into hidden identities, kidnapping, and violence. Just when you think you know what’s happening, the plot shifts and you’re left with nothing but questions.

Pros: I love the basic idea of the Vegas mentalist and his hidden staff. I liked the sudden shifts in the plot, the way Stone keeps you guessing.

Cons: So many! First, the characters. Their motivation was unconvincing. I never understood why people were after Wallace. And why was Chas so sneaky and crafty is some things, and so trusting in others? But the biggest problem was Wallace. Everything in the story revolved around him. I like that he remains a mystery, even at the end of the book, but I didn’t think anything about the guy made sense.

Another drawback was the pacing. Stone would stick these long pages of interior monologue and explanation in there where they didn’t belong and only slowed the action down. I get it already. Move the story forward.

I picked this one up because I loved Stone’s previous book, Moving Day. But this one is such a disappointment. I think with some editing, it could be worth reading. But as it stands – don’t bother. 2.2 stars