Category: Book Review

Book Review: Trent’s Last Case

Trent’s Last Case (1913) features amateur detective Philip Trent being called in to solve the murder of a business tycoon with many enemies and a complicated relationship in the tycoon’s own house.

Trent is  a departure from the thinking machines that dominated detective fiction of the time. He was an eccentric, a romantic, and a painter with a light touch and a good deal of humor. Still, he also has a sharp mind.

The case itself is a solid puzzle. Trent uses his deduction and wit to come up with a clever solution which proves to be wrong. We don’t learn who the murderer is until the very end, and the person who did it was someone you never would have guessed.

The story had a great impact on the future detective novels. There is a little bit of over-indulgent social commentary to wade through, particularly after the start. However, even after over a hundred years, the novel holds up well as a light and engaging read.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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Graphic Novel Review: The Golden Game

The Golden Game collects two separate graphic novel stories featuring the characters of John Steed and Mrs. Peel from the 1960s TV show, the Avengers. The comics are set after Mrs. Peel’s departure from the TV show and were originally published in 1990 as three comic books by Eclipse and then reprinted by Boom Studios in 2012.

The first story, “The Golden Game” was written by famed comics writer Grant Morrison and takes up two thirds of the book. It finds Tara King (Mrs. Peel’s replacement) having disappeared, leading Steed to turn to his old protégé for assistance as they find a tie-in to a mysterious group of game player.

“The Golden Game” does feel like it could have been done on TV if they’d had the budget. The art by Ian Gibson is superb. From the colorful characters to the imaginative solution (complete with a world-threatening danger) to the final pages, everything about the story feels genuine to the era and very imaginative.

“The Deadly Rainbow” was written by Anne Caufield and finds Mrs. Peel reunited with her husband for a second honeymoon in a quaint English village after his return from the Amazon. However, trouble has followed them. There are some interesting character insights with Mrs. Peel trying to reassure herself that she was back with her husband and nothing crazy was going to happen, though of course it did.

The plot is a bit more outlandish, and it isn’t told with the same panache as “The Golden Game.” In addition, while the art was done by the same artist, the visual realization of this story is not quite as good as in the other tale. Still, it’s an okay story with a few interesting features.

Overall, this a nice collection with Grant Morrison’s story making the book a must-read for fans of the 1960s classic.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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Audiobook Review: The Frightened Fish


In the Frightened Fish, a man travels around New York city panicking every time he sees a silver fish. The last time he does, it’s in front of the building containing the office of Doc Savage, which sets the Man of Bronze on the trail of a mystery that leads him to post-War Japan and a plot to take over the Earth.

The timing of the book is different from most Savage books, which are set in the 1920s and 30s. This story is set in the heart of the Atomic Age when a whole new slew problems have risen to test the man of Bronze. The story is shorter than the other Doc Savage novels I’ve reviewed, but I think the brevity helps as it gives the tale a bit more focus and the plot builds at a solid pace.

The set up is a bit artificial when you get down to the explanation which adds up to “supervillain ego” mixed the idea of being so desperate to make sure our hero doesn’t foil his plot that the villain reveals it to him. Still, the plot is clever enough, with plenty of intrigue and adventure along the way.

In this story, Doc Savage is a bit more gruff and occasionally abrupt with aides, but  he is also a bit more human and relatable as he even falls in love, something that shocks his aides.

Despite its difference, the story remains true to Doc Savage, while also managing to explore many interesting dynamics of the time and featuring a solidly memorable villain. This makes a great read for Doc Savage fans.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5.0

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Book Review: The Saint Bids Diamonds


The Saint is often called, “The Robin Hood of Modern Crime” but rarely has the phrase meant much. In the Saint movies and radio shows, as well as the most of the Saint TV episodes I’ve seen, he is effectively a crime fighter who fights with his own inimitable style. Of course, early in his career in fiction, the Saint was a bit of a thief, but when I read, The Saint vs. Scotland Yard,I found that early Saint robbing from rich ne’er do-wells but pretty much keeping the prize for himself.

Yet, in,The Saint Bids Diamonds, it all fits quite nicely. The Saint arrives in Spain determined to take on “the ungodly” in the form of a gang of jewel thieves. However, he finds some of the gang beating an old man . He and his thug of a sidekick, Happy, rescue the old man and his daughter. The old man is a jewel cutter that had been enticed by the gang leader to a life of crime and then double crossed and forced to continue to work as a jewel cutter. He escaped when he bought a lottery ticket that won the equivalent of $2 million, which the gang is determined to claim for its own, and it appears that they managed to swipe the lottery ticket from the old man.

The Saint goes undercover with the group to discover they officially don’t have the lottery ticket, the group is drowning in a safe full of jewels and plan to rob the American Ambassador’s wife to increase the pot. The Saint calls it a thieve’s Picnic. Yet, there’s trouble. The lottery ticket and its hope of big instant wealth has got the crooks all trying to double cross one another.

The story really does allow the reader to see the Saint as a mischievous angel against the unscrupulous ungodly, as he concocts one story after another to throw them completely off balance.

The story has some very funny moments. The only time the Saint gets in real trouble is when his self-confidence gets the better of him at the end of the book’s second act.

The Saint also shows his gallantry and sense of honor as he responds to the affections of the jewel cutter’s inexperienced daughter, Christina. Their final scene together is touching and nicely done.

Overall, the plot and characters are both enjoyable. The only weak spot is that much of the story relies on stereotypes about Spain and uses them frequently, as well as a term that has become a charged racial slur, though Charteres didn’t mean it that way at the time.

Despite this is a flaw, this is a fun read and a nice look at the Saint just before he became more like the hero we know him as today.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

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Book Review: Some Buried Caesar


Nero Wolfe has one of the most extensive recurring supporting casts of any detective in literature: the crook Fritz, Inspector Cramer, and the three teers (Saul, Fred, and Orrie.)

Some Buried Caesar (1939) is surprising in that it’s completely devoid of all of that, with Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin being the only recognizable features. Indeed, Wolfe and Archie only appear in his famous Brownstone in the final post-mystery scene.

In Some Buried Caesar, while driving to an exposition to enter Wolfe’s prized orchids in it, Archie and Wolfe are involved in a car accident. In their efforts to help, Wolfe is trapped on a stump by a prized bull. They’re rescued and offered hospitality by the bull’s owner, Thomas Pratt, who plans (to the horror of local stockmen) to barbecue the prized bull for publicity for his automat. Clyde Osgood, the son of Pratt’s rival, makes Pratt a bet that he will not barbecue Caesar that week.

Subsequently, Clyde Osgood is found dead in Caesar’s pasture. Wolfe doesn’t say anything until asked to investigate by Fredrick Osgood, the dead man’s father. Wolfe believes he has the evidence of who the murderer is but he has to come up with another plan when that evidence goes up in smoke.

This book is a showcase of Stout’s genius for creating entire communities of characters with complex relationships between them. Among the characters introduced was Archie’s longtime girlfriend Lily Rowan. Wolfe is at his most wily and sagacious, showing that he can operate out of his element if he has to. Archie is probably at his most amusing at this book. My favorite part is when Archie is arrested and attempts to organize a union among the prisoners. This is one of the finest books in the Wolfe canon and the best of the pre-War Nero Wolfe novels.

Rating: Very Satisfactory.

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