Category: Book Review

Audiobook Review: Terror Town


Terror Town finds a small town New England librarian wondering what happened to a bright farm boy who frequented the library. The teenager turns up dead under mysterious circumstances and he’s the only the first to die as the town is gripped by panic as the body count rises.

Originally released in 1956 and re-released as a standalone Novella, Terror Town is a very good time capsule. It captures the feeling and mood of its era. The idea of a peaceful town suddenly beset by homicides with no great detective around to sort things out, but rather local police doing the best they can, is different for the era.

Yet, at the end of the day, the story only goes so deep. The librarian’s unrequited love for the town deputy who can’t seem to get it in his head that the girl next door has grown into a woman to be taken seriously takes up too much energy and isn’t really resolved. The solution is decent, but a little bit predictable.

It’s an okay audiobook, but not the best example of Ellery Queen’s work.

Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0

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Book Review: The Campus Murders

Released in 1969, the Campus Murders by Ellery Queen introduced Micah McCall. The premise is an intriguing one. McCall is a Special Assistant to the Governor of an unnamed state who is called in to act as a troubleshooter.

In this case, he’s looking into the disappearance of the daughter of one of the Governor’s intra-party political rivals on a small campus, troubled by unrest. His status is a nice feature. He’s not a policeman, but his standing as “the Governor’s Man,” gets grudging cooperation from the police.

McCall finds himself not particularly trusted by the police and being over thirty, he is not welcomed and not fully trusted by most of the radical college students attending the college.

On the positive side, the mystery isn’t bad, and if you want a taste of the 1960s and how the problems on campus were viewed, this book certainly gives a perspective and captures the spirit of the time. There’s nothing more 1960s in the book than Nature’s Children, a group of college students who demonstrate while wearing grotesque masks in the buff and haze McCall.

On the negative side, the book drags at times, particularly before the first murder in the book. It is so focused on the campus issues and getting all these various student perspectives that it really has troubling remembering that it’s a mystery. And when it comes to the big issues of the day, it offers a simple pat solution that minimizes the complexity of the issues it’s addressing. McCall’s characterization doesn’t age well, particularly when it comes to women, but even by the standards of the time, it’s hard to see his behavior as anything but boorish and shallow.

Otherwise, it’s not horrendous but neither is it compelling. It’s a fairly competent book, but it left me completely uninterested in further installments in the series.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.0

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Graphic Novel Review: A Secret History of Space

This graphic novel collects Issues 4-7 of Boom Studios’ Steed and Peel series based on the 1960s TV show, The Avengers. 

The four issues cover three separate story lines but there is a sense of them being tied together. The art is superb and really fits with the imaginative, often larger than life world of the Avengers as beautiful concepts are explored.

The first Issue features Steed and Mrs. Peal attending a masquerade ball with some dangerous intruders. It’s probably the simplest story in the book, but the art is very good, even though black and white are the predominant colors.

The middle issues are probably most speculative in the book in a plot that involves blackmail of high government officials, secrets from space, and time travel.

The final issue is typical of many actual episodes of the Avengers as Steed and Peal investigate a series of unexplained unwarranted suicides in a small Welsh town. The ending is a little quick, but the concept is well-realized.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable book for fans of the 1960s series. While being single issue stories does make the first and last issue slightly less complex than you’d otherwise expect, writer Caleb Monroe does a marvelous job capturing the spirit and feel of this classic series.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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Graphic Novel Review: Steed and Mrs Peel: A Very Civil Armageddon

This trade paperback collects Issues 0-3 of the ongoing Steed and Mrs. Peel comic book series from Boom Studios.

These issues are written by an Eisner award winning comic writer and Mark Waid and get off to a strong start in Issue 0 with several people with high security clearances apparently doing Rip Van Winkle acts and waking up to find its the future and people from the future want their now “out of date” knowledge for “historical purposes.” The solution to this is clever and it feels like something that could have been expanded and broadcast in the 1960s.

The problem becomes that the next three are a single story arc where Steed and Mrs. Peel witness the seaming end of the world and end up in an underground bunker surviving thanks to the villains of the last piece. What’s going on is painfully obvious based on the first story and disappointingly the writing falls a little short of capturing the fun of the original TV series.

The book isn’t bad. The art is fairly good throughout and the first issue is enjoyable, however the three-part story arc in Issues 1-3 makes this a bit harder to get into.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.0

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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