Tag: modern detectives

Book Review: Body Under the Bridge


Paul McCusker’s Father Gilbert was the lead character in a series of radio plays for Focus on the Family’s Radio Theater. McCusker brings the character back in the novel, “Body Under the Bridge.”

“Body Under the Bridge” has a stunning opening as Father Gilbert confronts a man who’s about to jump off the roof of Gilbert’s church. The man jumps, leaving an object behind. However, Gilbert finds out no one saw the man in the church, and he was committing suicide by another method somewhere else. However, Gilbert still has the object. At the same time, a long-dead body is found at the site of a contentious construction project.

Overall, McCusker’s written a strong mystery. He’s woven an intricate narrative going back hundreds of years, with a complicated web of dark secrets that’s ensnared many of the town’s  inhabitants. The story has a lot of well-done atmospheric moments that increase the tension.

We introduced to a slew of characters, most of whom are likely suspects, and we never quite know who to trust besides Gilbert. The story has several great twists and never drags for a moment. Gilbert is well-written and is believable both as an ex-cop and as a priest.

The reader should be aware this story leans more to the supernatural stories Father Gilbert appeared in such as, “Dead Air,” and does have some disturbing sequences. However, it does mostly steer clear of the melodrama around Gilbert’s family life that  hurt later episodes of the series.

For fans of the original series, this book is a much-welcomed addition to the Father Gilbert canon. If you like detective stories with a supernatural twist, you can also enjoy the book even if you’ve never heard the radio series.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchase

DVD Review: The Last Detective Series 2

Police Constable “Dangerous” Davies (Peter Davison) returns for four more mysteries.

Overall, the series improved both in the quality of the writing and the quality of the cases given to Davies. His professional life is on the upswing as he does seem to be gaining some grudging respect from his boss.

At the same time, his personal life takes a hit. He has to temporarily vacate his rooming house and move in with his friend Mod (Sean Hughes). This creates tension in a relationship that’s mainly been supportive in Series 1. In addition, his estranged wife continues to be horrid. They’re separated, yet she calls him over to complete household repairs and to take the family dog at her convenience. She dates other men and tells him about it. She ignores him when he puts up clear hints that this is hurtful. She gets annoyed when he doesn’t want to hear details about the man she’s going to Paris with for the Easter Holiday.

Despite his griefs, at work Dangerous gets his killer in four separate cases:

Christine: Davies investigates the unexplained death of a lottery winner. The lottery winner had a trophy wife and a mentally challenged Haitian boy as his ward. This one is a good case. The character of Christine, the dead man’s wife, is fascinating. She’s dishonest and evasive, but why? We slowly come to understand her as the episode goes on. It’s a great character story and a good mystery to boot. Rating: 4.5 out of 5

The Long Bank Holiday: Davies has plans for the long Easter Holiday weekend while trying to help a local pharmacist, called a chemist in this show from Britain. Davies comes across numerous humans remains on the chemist’s property. Most of the department is busy processing the crime scene. This leaves him to solve several cases all on his own. Several of them interlink.

This one leaves me with mixed feelings. On one hand, I can appreciate the cleverness of the story. On the other hand, this is almost too clever. The story is far too busy and has way too many plotlines for a 70 minute TV show. A nice show, but it’s a bloated story. Rating: 3/5

Benefit to Mankind: Dangerous goes in for assertiveness training. On anyone else, it would lead to the character going too far and becoming a jerk. Davies is so non-assertive, it just helps him to show a healthy degree of assertiveness that’s required for the job and his personal life. In one case, he demands his wife give him his turn with the family dog. She typically only lets him have the dog when she doesn’t want it. The mystery will require the assertiveness as Davies investigates the apparent suicide of a researcher. Davies is stonewalled at every turn by the owners of the research firm. This episode is fun. The only dumb part is Mod’s awkward attempt to attract the attention of the woman teaching the assertiveness class. Rating: 4/5

Dangerous and the Lonely Hearts: Davies is called in to investigate when a young girl refuses to speak and can’t be identified. He discovers that she’s a refugee and locates the girl’s mother only to find her murdered. The best clue Davies has is the mother’s involvement in a lonely hearts club. He discovers one of the men she’d dated was his boss. The mystery is good and the story also features Davies trying to express his feelings to his wife in a beautifully acted scene by Peter Davison. The one big problem with the episode is that a character attempts suicide. This serves as a red herring but it’s never adequately explained. Rating: 4/5

Overall, this series isn’t perfect, but I thoroughly enjoyed these episodes and they’re definitely worth a watch.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchaser.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your kindle. 

Audio Drama Review: Black Jack Justice Season 1

Black Jack Justice was produced by Decoder Ring Theatre in Canada. Like the Red Panda, it’s a period series. Black Jack Justice is set after World War II and is a detective series in the style of hard-boiled detective shows like Philip Marlowe and That Hammer Guy.

Unlike most narrated private eye series, Black Jack Justice features two detectives and each takes turns narrating the story. The series stars Christopher Mott as Jack Justice and Andrea Lyons as Trixie Dixon: Girl Detective, his partner. Writer Gregg Taylor plays their recurring police foil Lieutenant Sabien.

The format of the series works well. Both characters are hard boiled, but their styles vary. Justice’s narration tends to be a bit more world-weary and sarcastic, while Dixon is lighter and more smart alecky in her approach. It makes for interesting narration and also good banter between the characters.

There’s definition friction between them, and lots of sniping back and forth. Still, there’s a great amount of professional respect as well as a shared sense of right and wrong.

The first season features twelve episodes, unlike future seasons which would included only six. The episode titles in this first season employed many puns on Justice’s name, such as, “Justice Served Cold,” “Justice Delayed,” “Justice be Done,” and “Hammer of Justice.”

Almost every episode has a good mystery plot. The stories are intellectually engaging and often offer surprising solutions. Most have a tone and style that would fit into the golden age of radio. On some issues, particularly the role of women and domestic violence, it feels a bit more modern, but it doesn’t go overboard.

The music is great, particularly what’s used during the narration. It establishes the mood well.

The only episode that left me a bit cold was the series finale, “Justice and the Happy Ending.” The mystery was not challenging and the plot ultimately came down to how Justice would handle a temptation. However, it was somewhat predictable the way it played out.

Still, the season is overall quite strong. If you love golden age detective shows, it’s definitely worth a listen.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Season 1 of Black Jack Justice is available on the Decoder Ring Theatre website.

Telefilm Review: The Saint (2017)

The latest adaptation of the Saint is a direct-to-digital film originally shot as a pilot for a TV series back in 2013. It was released with the recent death of 1960s star Sir Roger Moore, who appears in it.

The production has some good touches. It is certainly not the 1996 Saint film. Saint (2017) felt like the people who had made it had watched Saint films and TV shows and read Saint books, which isn’t something I could have said about the 1996 film or the telefilm

In the 2017 film, the Saint, the Robin Hood of crime, is called by a wealthy thief. The wealthy thief is involved in a scam to electronically move billions of dollars in humanitarian aid money belonging a third world country into an offshore account. After he grows a conscience and doesn’t follow through, his daughter is kidnapped. The Saint has to rescue the girl and make sure the aid money gets to its intended recipient.

This film has got a lot of nice touches that make it feel a little bit more like the Saint. It features two former “Saint actors,” Moore and Ian Ogilvy, who played the Saint in the late 1970s. The film also features Patricia Holm, a character from the novels, and gives the Saint a dopey sidekick who calls him “boss.” That’s vintage Saint of both literature and film right there.

Adam Rayner brings far more charm and charisma to the role than more recent portrayals. He’s not on the level of George Sanders in the 1940s or Moore in the 1960s, but there’s an infectious swashbuckling fun to the way Rayner plays the character and he’s a joy to watch.

Also unlike the 1996 film, the 2017 film gets the idea that the Robin Hood of Modern crime should, you know, be giving to the poor if he robs some crooks. The movie sets the Saint in the same vein as many of the pre-World War II books did.

So where does the telefilm film go wrong?

There are three big problems as I see it. First, there’s too much technobabble. I get that this is the twenty-first century and everything is computerized, but I’ve seen Star Trek episodes with less implausible babbling to support whatever scene is coming up next.

Second is the way Patricia Holm was written. In an updated story like this, it’d be smart to make Patricia Holm balance the Saint in skills, personality, with confidence in herself and who she is that would exceed what was written in novels in the 1920s-1940s.

What they decided to do is to make Patricia into the Maryest of Mary Sues. Yes, the 21st Century Patricia Holm is a computer genius and a self-defense expert who can handle everything herself. In a flashback, she is handcuffed to a jeep in the middle of the dessert. She manages to kill all three of the men holding her while still handcuffed.

Further, she works in as many opportunities to belittle our hero as possible because…Mary Sue. She even tells the Saint that she’s the brains of the operation and he’s just the muscle. Really?

The other big problem can summed up in a simple paragraph:

The Saint is great. Batman is great. Val Kilmer played Batman and he also played the Saint. However, the Saint is not Batman.

We learn at the start of the story that Simon’s family is tied to the Knights Templar (which is  a very good idea), but we also learn the Saint was the son of a wealthy family, both of his parents were murdered before his eyes, someone who mentored him was evil, and he has a gift for disappearing when people turn their head.

And there are a few other things that make this movie reminiscent of Batman Begins. The pilot also hinted that an evil generic brotherhood would be Bat-Saint’s chief opponent rather than the traditional Saint approach of taking on whatever new and interesting villainy offers itself up to be defeated each week.

Finally, the ending feels tacked on and awkward, particularly a line that draws attention to the fact the actor who played Agent Fernak wasn’t available for this scene.

Some minor characters are so horrifically performed, it takes you out of the story, including in that final scene.

Overall, this isn’t a horrible film, but it could have been better and I felt Adam Rayner’s Saint really deserved a better film. Still, as it is, it manages to get enough right about the Saint to make this an enjoyable bit of action schlock. However, its attempts to update the Saint more often than not go awry and this holds it back.

Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchaser.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your kindle. 

Book Review: Mister Monk Goes to the Firehouse


Cause I think you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.
-Lyrics from “When I’m Gone” from “Mr. Monk and the End.” by Randy Newman

True to the song, I’ve been missing Adrian Monk. Watching Elementary and it’s much more forced dynamic has made me appreciate Monk even more. It’s been nine years since his last new case aired on USA and there’s been no follow up TV movies or specials that many had hoped for, even with the proliferation of original streaming content in a world where there’s going to be a YouTube series “Kobra Kai” featuring Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence as adults. And we can’t get a Monk movie made?

However, Monk had adventures that were not on television, but rather in a series of novelizations. I reviewed one when I was first watching the series and thought it was okay, so I gladly picked up another one to get a much needed Monk fix.

The plot of this book was the basis of the TV episode, “Mr. Monk Can’t See a Thing” but this book stands on its own, particularly since the blindness plot isn’t used.

Mr. Monk’s apartment is being fumigated and he’s so OCD even 4-star hotels can’t meet his standards and a 5-star hotel is out because it’s an odd number. So desperate to end a series of embarrassing and tedious visits to hotel rooms, his assistant Natalie Teager invites Monk to stay with her and he agrees before realizing what she’s saying.

At Natalie’s house, Monk finds Natalie’s daughter Julie wants to hire him to investigate the case of firehouse dog who was murdered while the firefighters were out fighting a blaze in the neighborhood. Mr. Monk visits the scene of the fire, where an elderly woman died. The police assumed it was an accident, but Monk proves it murder. So he’s soon investigating the killing of the woman as well as the dog.

This is a pretty solid book. The mystery’s nice and involved with lots of texture, twists, and features, as well as a few nice side mysteries for Monk to solve along the way. It’s also a case that doesn’t end when Monk knows who “the guy” is as he has to put in a lot of work to prove it.

The overall story is pretty well-balanced. There’s some really good humor that captures Mr. Monk’s OCD nature, such as when he deals with Natalie’s cracked dishes by throwing them all out. Yet, it also captures the more endearing aspect of him such as Mr. Monk’s childlike joy at arriving at the firehouse. Reactions to Monk vary from kind tolerance and respect to the rude, disrespectful annoyance from impatient people in a hurry.

There are also some good side characters in the story such as the very lovable Firefighter Joe.

The book is told from Natalie’s point of view, which means we don’t get to see Monk interacting on his own with characters such as his therapist Dr. Kroger. Natalie is a very empathetic person and that helps readers connect with the story. Probably the biggest downside to Natalie as she’s written is that she editorializes everything and could go off on tangents. Thankfully there aren’t too many of those.

Overall, this is an enjoyable book for those wanting a good Monk fix.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchaser.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your kindle.