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31Jul/120

EP0722: Leonidas Witherall: Murder at Dandy’s Dream

Walter Hampden

Leonidas Witherall goes to the mountains to vacation and has to a save a man from a wire. However, he soon stumbles into fake diamonds and a real murder.

Original Air Date: August 6, 1944

 

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30Jul/120

EP0721: Frank Race: The Adventure of the Darling Debutante

Tom Collins

Mark brings a fellow cabbie who is suspected of murdering his wife to Race.

Original Air Date: March 12, 1949

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29Jul/120

Book Review: Beginning with a Bash

Beginning With a Bash was the first Leonidas Witherall novel written by Phoebe Atwood Taylor under the pseudonym Alice Tilton, published in the UK in 1937 but not in the US until 1972 due to some dubious advise from teh publisher.

The novels opens with Leonidas, former headmaster of a private school down on his luck even though he looks like William Shakespeare accept for his glasses.. The depression wrecked his retirement funds and now he's reduced to being a book store's janitor. A former pupil who is also down on his look comes in on a Saturday. He's been accused of stealing from his former employer and is wandering the streets with his last remaining valuable possession, a set of golf clubs. Very quickly, a body discovered near the store and it turns out to be the former employer, who was killed by a blow from a blunt object. The police quickly take Leonidas' former pupil into custody who conveniently had a grudge against the dead man and was carrying a bag of gold clubs that would be perfect to bludgeon the man to death.

However, Leonidas doesn't believe the young man is guilty and sets out to prove it by Monday morning and find the missing money to boot. Leonidas sets off with the book store owner but quickly acquires a motley crew of assistance including a Italian gangster and his star-crossed girlfriend who is also the sister of her boyfriend's Irish rival and the dead man's housekeeper, as well the widow of a former Massachusetts Governor.

This book is a classic vintage style madcap comedy mystery that sees Leonidas and friends going from one jam to another. The book is light reading with the gangster being more in the style of Damon Runyan than Francis Ford Coppola. The book does include a few regrettable uses of the n-word (although I should note that this may have been removed from some modern editions), but if you can get past that, it's a fun and exciting story full of improbable twists and turns sure to amuse you for hours.

This book has been re-released for the Kindle by St. Swithin Press which has also re-released the last Leonidas Witherall novel, The Iron Clew as well as several other novels in Taylor's Asey Mayo series.
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28Jul/120

Telefilm Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is the oldest Poirot story. In fact, it is the only Poirot story that is in the public domain in the United States (though not the UK). 

Lieutenant Hastings is convalescing and visits some friends at Styles. The matron of the house is killed and suspicion immediately falls on her husband who is Before the matter is officially reported, Hastings seeks the help of Poirot,who is a refugee from Belgium adjusting to life in the U.K. Poirot has to unravel the multiple lies and deception that surrounded the murder and a new will that apparently has gone missing.

I wrote in my review of the Peril at End House, that the producers of Agatha Christie's Poirot opted for a look that made the feature length episode look and feel like just a longer episode of the television. 

In the Mysterious Affair at Styles which led off the third series of Agatha Christie's Poirot, they opted to step it up notch with beautiful shots of the British Countryside and World War I British life. Suchet showed his strength as a performer and his mastery of the Poirot character in his ability to make subtle changes depending on the character's age. In Mysterious Affair at Styles, Poirot is far more obsessive compulsive, and is less adjusted to English life than Poirot did in the episodes set in the 1930s. 

While I think the transition to television lost a little bit of the charm of the book which had you suspecting everyone other than Poirot and Hastings at one point or another, Suchet is still masterful as Poirot and the improved quality makes it a pleasure to watch.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5.0

As of this writing, this film along with all Telefilms through Series 6 is available on Netflix Instant Watch.

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27Jul/120

EP0720: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Howard Arnold Matter

John Lund
An insured (who is a mobster's lawyer) asks the insurance company for protection and Johnny is it.

Original Air Date: October 27, 1953

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26Jul/120

EP0719: Sherlock Holmes: The Uddington Witch

A Scottish lord has been murdered. Rumors of a witch seeking revenge on the descendants of witch hunters abound. Holmes and Watson must find the truth.

Original Air Date: October 31, 1948

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25Jul/120

EP0718: Let George Do It: The Lady in Black

Bob Bailey

A publicity agent has helped a famous fraudulent psychic make a comeback.  However, she's now afraid of her client and asks George's help.

Original Air Date: October 29, 1951

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24Jul/120

EP0717: Leonidas Witherall: Mrs. Mullet Disappears

 Leonidas Witherall

Mrs Mullet disappears in a daring daytime kidnapping and then is returned and dedicated to finding the kidnappers.

Original Air Date: August 6, 1944

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23Jul/123

EP0716: Frank Race: The Adventure of the Hackensack Victory

Tom Collins

Frank is brought in when a freight company belonging to a wealthy family has an undo disappearance.

Audition Date: February 1949

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22Jul/120

Book Review: Red Threads

We continue our review of Rex Stout's non-Nero Wolfe mysteries with 1939's Red Threads.

Red Threads is often presented as an Inspector Cramer mystery: A case where Inspector Cramer is the star and solves the case without any aide from Nero Wolfe. It’s understandable to do that, but lets be clear Inspector Cramer is not the star of this book.

Millionaire Val Carew is founded murdered in tomb of his late wife who was an Indian princess. Carew, who was considering remarrying a white woman, was found scalped.

Jean Farris is in love with the dead man’s son, Guy but becomes angry when he asks her to return a skirt jacket she’d made with rare genuine bayetta thread that Guy had given her from his own jacket. Farris storms off from after this odd request and is then knocked out and wakes up in her underwear with the skirt and jacket gone. She then discovers the reason for the interest in the thread: the murdered man had a thread of bayetta in his hand.

Jean resolves who robbed her and who committed the murder and clear her beloved. It is Jean, not Inspector Cramer who is the heroine of the story and focal point of the story. She makes for a charming and intelligent amateur detective who dominates the narrative and lifts the whole work. Cramer is merely John Law. Stout saw no reason to work up another New York City Police Inspector when he’d created a perfectly servicable one for Nero Wolfe.

Inspector Cramer is not an entirely unsympathetic character in the story. Cramer is an honest cop, even if his methods are not necessarily laudable. Forced to return from his first real vacation in years, Cramer takes to the case with bulldog determination and shows a certain cunning in catching a suspect even if it turns out to be the wrong suspect. And once Jean sets him on the right track, he ties everything up neatly.

I can’t really blame Cramer for missing the solution to this case. At least five people including Jean withheld evidence from him and only one of them was in on the murder. Kind of hard to get the right conclusion without the  right information.

The book’s portrayal of Native Americans was a subject of some concern, indeed the whole foreword to the book was consumed with a critique of this aspect of the book. Woodrow Wilson, the only full-blonded Indian in the story talks like he’s ready to appear in a Republic Western or take up duty outside of a Cigar Store. Stout would treat a Native American character by the same name with far more sophistication and respect thirty years later in Death of a Dude. To me, it was only a minor distraction because the character’s part is relatively minor.

The final chapter is a bit silly and overdone, but overall the Jean Farris character carried the story through with a little help from Inspector Cramer making Red Threads an enjoyable 1930s mystery even without Nero Wolfe.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5.0

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