Triple Jeopardy (Nero Wolfe #20) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Triple Jeopardy
Series: Nero Wolfe #20
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 184
Words: 67K

From Wikipedia:

3 novellas comprising:

“Home to Roost”

Benjamin and Pauline Rackell engage Wolfe to investigate the death of their nephew Arthur, paying him a $3,000 retainer. Arthur had begun to show increasing support for the Communist Party, but confided to Pauline that he had been recruited by the FBI to infiltrate the group’s New York organization. At a dinner party, he had brought out a pillbox from his pocket, set it on the table, and taken one of the vitamin capsules inside, only to die a few minutes later from cyanide poisoning. The other capsules in the box were found to be genuine and harmless. Pauline insists that one of the other five dinner guests must have learned the truth about Arthur and slipped the poisoned capsule into the box while he was not paying attention.

Archie visits both the local FBI office and Manhattan Homicide but is unable to get any useful information; at Wolfe’s request, he arranges a meeting with the Rackells and the dinner guests at Wolfe’s office. Of these latter five – Ormond Leddegard, Fifi Goheen, Della Devlin, Henry Jameson Heath, Carol Berk – only Heath is known to have ties to the Communist Party. Wolfe questions the group about the dinner party and the pillbox, not mentioning Arthur’s FBI status in order to avoid tipping them off, and inadvertently sparks a confrontation between Della and Fifi over Heath’s affections. Fifi says that Arthur told her he lied to Pauline about working for the FBI, a claim Pauline adamantly denies.

The next day, Archie engages Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin, and Orrie Cather to keep Heath under constant surveillance and arranges for the Rackells to see Wolfe again. Wolfe tells them that he is convinced there was an eyewitness to Arthur’s murder, and offers to find that person and get the truth for a fee of $20,000. Benjamin is unconvinced, but Pauline is eager to accept the offer, and Wolfe sends Archie to visit Della and Carol in their shared apartment that night. Della says that Carol has gone to a show, but Archie finds her hiding in a closet and listening in. After she leaves, he offers Della $10,000 to tell the police that she had seen Fifi switch the capsules; she does not immediately say yes or no, and he leaves to update Wolfe and Saul.

The next morning, both Inspector Cramer and FBI Agent Wengert visit the office to confront Wolfe. They have learned of Archie’s offer to Della and are furious, but Wolfe points out that their best course of action is to let him proceed, neither supporting nor opposing his plans. Archie gets updates on Heath’s movements throughout the day, culminating in a meeting with a woman in Central Park at which Saul is eavesdropping. Arriving at the location, Archie finds that the woman is Pauline and brings both of them to the office. With Saul’s corroboration, Wolfe determines that Heath arranged the meeting in order to persuade Pauline not to pay for Wolfe’s scheme to get Fifi convicted.

Wolfe reveals that his offer to the Rackells was meant to draw out the murderer, as he had no concrete evidence or witnesses. He accuses Pauline of Arthur’s murder, having become suspicious of her after she accepted his offer so quickly. She had seen it as a way to frame someone else for her crime and keep her own Communist leanings from becoming public. Wolfe pressures Heath into agreeing to tell him how much Pauline has contributed to the party, in order to keep himself from being associated with her criminal trial.

The next day, while Cramer and Wengert are going over the details of the case with Wolfe, Archie reveals that he knows who had been the real infiltrator sent by the FBI. It was Carol, who would have learned about the $10,000 offer from Della and was the only person who could have informed Wengert of it so quickly. Now that the case is over, she accepts Archie’s offer of a drink.

“The Cop-Killer”

Returning to the brownstone from his morning errands, Archie finds two surprise visitors waiting for him on the stoop: Carl and Tina Vardas, both of whom work at the barbershop that Wolfe and Archie frequent. Jacob Wallen, a police detective, had visited the shop earlier in the day in order to question the employees as to their whereabouts on the previous night. After he had questioned Carl and Tina separately, they fled the shop for fear of being deported back to their native Russia, from which they had illegally made their way to New York City three years earlier. Archie puts them in the front room, tells Wolfe of their arrival, and goes to the shop.

Several police officers, including Sergeant Purley Stebbins, are already there when he arrives, and Inspector Cramer arrives soon afterward. Wallen has been found dead in a manicurist’s cubicle, stabbed in the back with a pair of scissors. While waiting for a shave, Archie learns that Wallen had been investigating a hit-and-run accident the previous night in which two women were struck and killed by a stolen car, and he had carried that evening’s newspaper with him. He had used the cubicle for his questioning, and his body was found there some minutes after talking to the last of the employees. Since Carl and Tina fled the shop, suspicion falls on them first. Janet Stahl, a manicurist, claims in overly dramatic fashion that she killed Wallen, but Archie does not believe her.

Once his shave is finished, Archie returns to the brownstone and finds Wolfe eating lunch with Carl and Tina. Further questioning of the couple reveals that neither of them knows how to drive a car, which is enough in Archie’s mind to clear them of any guilt in the hit-and-run. They remember that Wallen had carried his newspaper flat as if it had just come off the newsstand, rather than rolled or folded up in his coat pocket, and had set it down that way on the table in the cubicle. Surprised by the arrival of Cramer, Archie moves them into the front room in order to keep him from finding them. Cramer is unconvinced that Archie’s visit for a shave was only a coincidence, especially since has never gone to the shop for only a shave, but cannot see how any of the employees could afford Wolfe’s fees. During the visit, Cramer learns from a phone call that Janet has been injured.

Returning to the shop, Archie finds Janet recovering from a blow to the head and willing to talk only to him. She again over-dramatizes the incident, claiming that Stebbins assaulted her, but Archie uses her theatrics to question her further about the timeline of the morning’s events. He calls in with an update for Wolfe, who soon surprises everyone by showing up for a haircut and asking for his usual barber, Jimmie Kirk. As Jimmie begins to work, Wolfe addresses the group with a list of assumptions he has made concerning the hit-and-run and Wallen’s death:

That Wallen found some object in the car to lead him to the shop

That he carried it with him when he entered the shop

That it was inside his newspaper

That the murderer found and either moved or hid it

That neither Carl nor Tina was the murderer

That the object is still inside the shop

That no proper search for it has yet been made

With prompting from Wolfe, including a suggestion to check the shop for Wallen’s fingerprints, Cramer realizes that the object in question must have been one of the magazines in the waiting area, which are labeled with the shop’s name and address. Janet remembers seeing Jimmie carrying one wrapped in a hot towel, as if he had been steaming it, and Jimmie dives for the magazines only to be tackled and arrested. He had jumped bail in West Virginia on an assortment of charges, including auto theft; while working at the shop, he had developed a habit of stealing its magazines, one of which he left in the car after abandoning it. Wolfe grumbles over the inconvenience of losing his barber to a murder charge.

In the final chapter, Archie suggests that Wolfe call in a few favors with Washington officials so that Carl and Tina can legally remain in the United States. Wolfe comments that he has been a naturalized citizen for 24 years.

“The Squirt and the Monkey”

Archie Goodwin takes an unusual assignment to help cartoonist Harry Koven recover a gun that has been stolen from a desk drawer in his home office. Harry, creator of the popular Dazzle Dan comic strip, intends to have Archie place his own gun—the same model as the stolen one—in the drawer, then open the drawer in the presence of the five people he suspects of the theft and watch their reactions. These five are Harry’s wife Marcelle, his friend Adrian Getz (nicknamed “Squirt” by Harry), his agent/manager Patricia Lowell, and strip artists Pete Jordan and Byram Hildebrand.

Arriving at the Kovens’ house, Archie is escorted to a room with a blazing fireplace; the heat is for the benefit of Rookaloo, a pet monkey kept in a cage in this room. After Archie puts his own (unloaded) gun in Harry’s desk drawer, Harry becomes indecisive about his plan and asks for time to gather his courage, during which Archie meets the other five and learns of various tensions between them. Several hours later, once Harry is ready to proceed, he and Archie re-check the drawer only to find that Archie’s gun has been switched for Harry’s. Archie subsequently finds Getz lying dead in Rookaloo’s room, shot in the head, and Rookaloo is holding Archie’s gun (now loaded) and shivering in a draft from a now-open window.

When the police arrive, Archie makes a full statement and is then arrested by Inspector Cramer for violating the Sullivan Act, since he had been carrying Harry’s gun at the time and did not have a permit for it. Cramer’s decision is based on Harry’s untruthful account of the day’s events, in which he claims that he only invited Archie to discuss the idea of introducing a detective storyline into Dazzle Dan. Wolfe’s detective license is suspended; he secures Archie’s release on bail the next day—for both the weapons charge and a material witness warrant that has been sworn out against him—and files a $1 million slander lawsuit against Harry for damaging his reputation.

Wolfe has the past three years’ worth of Gazette issues delivered to the office, and Lon Cohen briefs Archie on various grudges that Harry and the others have against Getz, who turns out to be the owner of the Kovens’ house. Later that day, Wolfe and Archie have a hidden tape recorder installed in the office, with controls in the kitchen. Wolfe searches through the Dazzle Dan strips in the Gazette and takes interest in two characters, Aggie Ghool and Haggie Krool, who have a severely lopsided business relationship that favors Aggie. When Patricia stops by the office, Wolfe questions her about portrayals of a monkey in the strip—first depicted maliciously, then suddenly made to appear sympathetic. Patricia admits that Jordan and Hildebrand have very different opinions about Rookaloo, explaining the shift, and also says that she gave it to Getz, who in turn left it in Marcelle’s care without asking her. Patricia denies Wolfe’s statement of a rumor that the idea for Dazzle Dan originally came from Getz.

That night, Wolfe gathers the principals in his office and allows Cramer to attend as well, on the condition that he remain silent and observe through the office peephole for the first half-hour of the meeting. Wolfe secretly records a portion of the conversation, then plays it back in order to leverage information out of the group. The Aggie/Haggie characters represent the uneven split between Getz and Harry, as indicated by their initials (A.G. and H.K.); Getz, the strip’s actual creator, took a 90% share of the strip’s revenues and allowed Harry only 10%. Marcelle reveals that she had tried to persuade Harry to stand up to Getz and denounces him for never having the courage to do so. She tries to blame Harry for the murder, but Wolfe points out that her disdain for Rookaloo led her to open the window in the hope that the draft would kill it—a mistake that proves her guilt. Cramer places Marcelle under arrest, with Wolfe’s admonishment that he would have been able to close the case much sooner if he had believed Archie’s statement.

I really enjoyed these 3 novellas. I don’t know if I actually enjoyed these more than previous Wolfe novella collections or if I’ve just accepted that a good story can still be had in 60 pages. Whatever the reason, I had zero hangups this time around. For which I am thankful.

I absolutely love Archie and Wolfe’s interaction with the police. It is almost always adversarial yet they still all acknowledge the professionalism of the other. Of course, even here we can see how power wants to accumulate more power to itself. The cops are constantly pushing for more power, to deal with the bad guys better, but at some point if they got their wish they’d become 3rd world thugs. Also Archie and Wolfe both fully know their rights and the limits and protections of those rights. How many citizens today in America can factually layout why they can do what they think they can (or why they legally can’t)? Sadly, not nearly enough.

This was one of the times that I was tempted to read another Wolfe book right after this and bedamned to my reading schedule. I just wanted MORE. But not giving in to my literary cravings is what keeps me loving these Wolfe books. If I gave in, I’d get tired and burned out (unless I was Fraggle and read the whole series 3 times in a row in like a year or something totally cray-cray). While my reading rotation is highly personalized, it is that way because it works. I haven’t had a reading slump in years and I want to keep it that way. So with regret but determined, I put Wolfe away for another month or so.


Curtains for Three (Nero Wolfe #18) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Curtains for Three
Series: Nero Wolfe #18
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars Appended to 4
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 149
Words: 70K

This is another collection of 3 novellas and consists of:
The Gun with Wings
Bullet for One
Disguise for Murder

While I enjoyed this collection, part of that was because I was determined to overlook the novella aspect and simply enjoy the stories for what they were instead of what I wanted them to be, ie full novels. So I dinged a half-star right out of the gate. Then the final story, Disguise for Murder, had appeared in a previous collection and while it was still a good story, I dinged a good star and a half off for wasting my precious time on old material when I wanted new stuff.

So still happy with this read but not as happy as I could have been if it was all new stuff. Of course, now I’ll actually pay attention to the names of the novellas as I suspect this will happen again. Can’t trust publishers not to make an easy buck by gypping their customers. Bunch of lowlifes. If I was Archie Goodwin I would bust their chops for doing such a thing to me.

Ahhh, the life of a book reader/reviewer isn’t for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. Thankfully, since I’m doing all the drama, you don’t have to. But feel free to chime in. So, if any of your “father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommates” had any drama too, let me know. I’m all about those family drama stories after all.

★★★☆☆ Appended to ★★★★☆

It turns out that I had read the story “Disguise for Murder” as “The Affair of the Twisted Scarf” in the Alfred Hitchcock Collection “I Want My Mummy” back in June of 22.  Because I didn’t pay enough attention to figure out what I had read when, I am un-penalizing this collection because it’s my own fault. Thanks to Fraggle for setting me straight on this.

Three Doors to Death (Nero Wolfe #16) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Three Doors to Death
Series: Nero Wolfe #16
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 151
Words: 65K

A collection of three novellas. I am finding that I do not enjoy these collections nearly as much as the full novels. There is nothing wrong with the novellas collected together but it is like getting one serving of eggnog (1/2cup, misers!) when I want to simply chug about 3cups worth of the stuff.

Plus, in one of the stories not only does Wolfe leave his house, but he goes blundering about in the dark, in the snow, through a stream, to break into a house. I found it too unbelievable. It would have been like me recommending the Tripitakas to all of you. Inconceivable!

I am tempted to skip all of the books with “Three” in the title so I don’t have to deal with this, but the fact is that I still do enjoy these and skipping them would make me sad. So it’s time to pull up my big boy pants and just read the books. All of them. The Great and Powerful Bookstooge will never be accused of not manning up.


Stories for Late at Night ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Stories for Late at Night
Series: ———-
Editor: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 436
Words: 184K


Not Quite Dead Enough ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Not Quite Dead Enough
Series: Nero Wolfe #10
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 150
Words: 51K


From Wikipedia

Not Quite Dead Enough

Archie has recently joined the Army and is now Major Goodwin. His high rank, as a rookie GI, reflects the fact that the Army recognizes and is making use of his civilian expertise by assigning him to domestic (counter) intelligence, specifically a unit based back in New York City, where Archie lived with his erstwhile boss Nero Wolfe before enlisting.

Since most of his civilian investigations had been done with Nero Wolfe, the Army also wishes to have Wolfe do intelligence investigations, but Wolfe thinks he didn’t kill enough Germans in the previous war and so is more intent on joining the army as a soldier, not intelligence officer.

To this end, pleas from the Pentagon to this effect have been ignored, and indeed the whole household routine Wolfe is (in)famous for has already been abandoned during Archie’s short absence in favor of strict adherence to wartime rations (inconsistent with gourmet dining) and losing weight, which Wolfe and Fritz Brenner (the live-in cook/chef) attempt by morning exercises on the west river banks, while letters not to mention mountains of other correspondence pile up in the previously tidy office/study in the brownstone. As ludicrous as the whole setup might seem, even Goodwin, when he arrives back in New York from Washington to discover it, is unable to budge Wolfe, at least at first.

Meanwhile, on the (scarce) flight back to New York from Washington, Archie has annoyed wealthy and beautiful Lily Rowan, whom he met earlier in Some Buried Caesar and with whom he has the beginnings of a romance, because he has no time for her, even though she has gone to great lengths to get the seat next to his. Lily, by way of counterattack as much as anything, asks him to look into a problem a girl-friend of hers is having. Archie, having assessed the grim situation at Wolfe’s brownstone, seizes an opportunity to be doing something useful, even if he isn’t directly carrying out his assignment from the Pentagon.

Archie (who tells this story as he does all Wolfe stories), likes Lily but wants to be in control, and in an impish assertion of independence he takes Lily’s friend to the Flamingo nightclub as part of his “investigation”, causing Lily to storm home in a mild fit of jealousy. But soon she asks Archie’s help in a bigger problem: her friend is dead. After rushing to the scene, Archie decides to implicate himself in the crime and get his picture in the paper, reasoning that getting him out of jail is no more foolish a war effort for Wolfe than pathetic dockside exercises. In the end, Archie carries out his assignment from the Pentagon (despite having his picture in the paper as a murder suspect), Lily gets herself a boyfriend, and Wolfe solves the underlying crime, but not without teaching both Lily and Archie a thing or two about the consequences of mixing business with romance.

Booby Trap

Major Goodwin has been working for Army Intelligence for some time already, and has recently concluded a dangerous mission concerning another problem besides the Nazis: greed by munitions contractors jockeying for post-war power, in the present case by industrial espionage concerning an advanced type of grenade.

Although Archie has managed to unravel a major piece of the puzzle by a recent mission in the South, another officer in his unit, Captain Cross, has just been murdered at a New York hotel, and the remaining members of the unit, plus Wolfe and Congressman Shattuck, have gathered in an Army office to discuss some anonymous letters that Shattuck, as Chairman of a Congressional war committee, has been receiving about how industrial espionage is compromising the war effort and is therefore a national security matter. During the meeting, one of the officers, whose son has just been killed in action in Europe, suddenly announces that he wants to go to Washington to confer with General Carpenter, the Pentagon official in charge of the unit. He has brought a suitcase with him, and his highly irregular request is granted. Earlier, Archie has been issued one of the advanced grenades in question which he kept in Wolfe’s house, now his Army barracks, mostly as a souvenir, but Wolfe didn’t like to have it in the house, and before the meeting Archie has returned the grenade to the Army—i.e. the same office.

The meeting breaks up, since the unit is rapidly depleting (one dead, another heading to Washington, the rest under scrutiny because of the letters). As Wolfe and Goodwin are returning to the building later on the same day, a massive explosion is heard. Since the building is operated clandestinely by Army Intelligence, the NYPD, in the shape of Inspector Cramer show up, but Wolfe and Goodwin’s uncooperativeness, normal as it has been in civilian matters, confuses Cramer now that Goodwin wears an Army uniform — the same uniform Cramer’s son is wearing in Australia.[1]

The story ends with Archie taking another date to the Flamingo Club — and not Lily Rowan. Unlike a Sam Spade or Raymond Chandler story, any actual romantic impulses that Archie may have are cleared into the wings, and even this final action is not necessarily a celebration but may itself contribute to the war effort in its own small way.

My Thoughts:

Another 2 novellas squashed into 1 book. The format took me by surprise with Black Orchids but it worked out really well here. Archie being in the Army for World War II was a bit disconcerting at first but since it didn’t actually affect the story line (his assignment was to get Wolfe working on a piece of intelligence work for his country) besides jerking the cops around a bit (more than usual that is), it quickly became background information.

I have to admit that my distaste for WWI or II stories came into play while reading this. More in that I just glazed over details as they just didn’t interest me.

This was the first story where a returning female occurs. We had met Lily Rowan before in Some Buried Caesar and she had fallen head over heels for Archie. She is a control freak used to getting her own way and Archie is an arrogant blowhard used to getting his own way. In other words, a match made in Hell. It did make me laugh to see the sparks fly! I don’t expect to see her again, as Archie seems allergic to settling down or being committed.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Jerico’s Garrison Finish ★★☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Jerico’s Garrison Finish
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 86
Words: 23K


Jim Orchard is a hard worker, a tough man and one with a lot of ability. He’s also a soft touch and whenever someone appeals to him for aid, he gives it even if they give no actual proof of the need they claim to have. Jim wants to marry Sue Hampton. Thankfully, Sue has a head on her shoulders and has set a goal for money that Jim must accumulate for their house and future children before she’ll marry him.

The book opens with Jim having made that money but on the trip back to Sue losing it all. His only chance of getting the money before the date comes due that Sue has been patiently waiting for, for years mind you, is win a horse race, riding a horse that left its owner a broken man and who nobody else has ever been able to ride.

To complicate things, a rival rancher, Gary Munn, has decided that he wants to marry Sue himself. He also has brought in an eastern racing horse to slyly win the race and become the richest man in the region.

Jim tames the horse, wins the race and gets Sue to marry him.

My Thoughts:

Well, this is the last Max Brand story I’ll be reading. Not because of anything egregiously wrong but because of the complete and utter mediocrity of it all. I’ve been reading Brand’s stories since May of 2020 and almost none of them rose above a mere competency. The only reason I’ve kept on so long with him is because he was the only western writer I had on tap and I like keeping my reading rotation fresh with a plethora of genres. Unfortunately, instead of keeping things fresh, every time I saw Brand’s name coming up I began to dread it. Like broccoli, which I won’t eat as an adult, not even if you pour cheese sauce on it. So I finished this story, thought to myself “Well, that was pretty stupid and unenjoyable” and as such I realized I was done with Brand.

While the synopsis might make Sue sound like a gold digger, she’s actually the only wise person on this story. Unfortunately, she has a very small part. When she and Jim are married, she’ll be the one making things work, even if Jim does the actual work. She’s a saint for marrying him as far as I’m concerned. Jim is one of those people I can’t stand, the irresponsible generous man. It’s not that he is “too kind”, he’s not. It’s that he thinks money can solve everyones problems and gives no thought to those depending on him to keep his money for his own needs. He’s the kind of guy who would give his last dollar to the Salvation Army bell ringer, while his kids are at home starving. Thankfully, almost losing Sue seems to have changed him slightly by the end of the book.

Gary Munn was just a total jerk. He wanted to see Jim destroyed from before the story was even started and as such he tried to destroy his reputation, both in the community and with Sue. He bet everything he owned on his horse and since it lost, his evil deeds rebounded on his head and he reaped the just rewards.

Unfortunately, none of those characters was enough to overcome Brand’s blandness. I do admit I’d like to try to find some authors to keep the western genre going, but it’ll probably take some effort on my part. I’m not a huge fan of hard work when it comes to my hobby. I might try to chase down some standalone Louis L’Amour books, but we’ll have to see.


I had no idea what a “garrison finish” is. I had to go look it up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It stated: “a finish in which the winner comes from behind at the end”. If I had known that when I stated the book it totally would have destroyed what tiny bit of tension there was.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Aunt Paradox (Reeves & Worcester Steampunk Mysteries #3) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Aunt Paradox
Series: Reeves & Worcester Steampunk Mysteries #3
Author: Chris Dolley
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Steampunk Mystery
Pages: 91
Words: 28K


From the Publisher

HG Wells has a problem. His Aunt Charlotte has borrowed his time machine and won’t give it back. Now she’s rewriting history!

Reggie Worcester, gentleman’s consulting detective, and his automaton valet, Reeves, are hired to retrieve the time machine and put the timeline back together. But things get complicated. Dead bodies start piling up behind Reggie’s sofa, as he finds himself embroiled in an ever-changing murder mystery. A murder mystery where facts can be rewritten, and the dead don’t always stay dead.

My Thoughts:

This was SO MUCH FUN!!!!! Being familiar with HG Wells’ story The Time Machine, while not an absolute necessity, definitely makes everything that much funnier. And the author plays around a LOT with Babbage and uses him as the kind of “every genius”, as in Babbage’s Cat, ie, is it dead or alive? I’m sure you all know it wasn’t Babbage’s Cat, but since Babbage is the one who helped the automatons to be created, he gets to be the resident world genius.

Dolley gets right into the horror of Aunts that is prevalent in Wodehouse and really amps things up. Wells’ Aunt takes 40+ copies of herself from history for her upcoming birthday and obviously chaos insues. In fact, HG Wells turns into a girl in one of the iterations. It was hilarious.

I also thought Dolley did a good job of wrapping things up so that the timeline established was the only timeline. Nice and neat and orderly. Speaking of neatly, all of this was done in under 100 pages. For feth’s sake Sanderson, Gwynne and some of you other frakking authors, take note. A good story can be told without drowning me in your pomposity and super-overabundance of words. Mr Dolley, I salute you for your brevity and wit. More authors should be like you.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reggiecide (Reeves & Worcester Steampunk Mysteries #2) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Reggiecide
Series: Reeves & Worcester Steampunk Mysteries #2
Author: Chris Dolley
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Steampunk Mystery
Pages: 68
Words: 21.5K


From the Publisher

Guy Fawkes is back and this time it’s a toss up who’s going to be blown up first – Parliament or Reginald Worcester, gentleman consulting detective.

But Guy might not be the only regicide to have been dug up and reanimated. He might be a mere pawn in a plan of diabolical twistiness.

Only a detective with a rare brain – and Reggie’s is amongst the rarest – could possibly solve this ‘five-cocktail problem.’ With the aid of Reeves, his automaton valet, Emmeline, his suffragette fiancée, and Farquharson, a reconstituted dog with an issue with Anglicans, Reggie sets out to save both Queen Victoria and the Empire.

My Thoughts:

I laughed almost the entire way through this book. Dolley has captured the spirit of PG Wodehouse and while I won’t say he’s improved it, he’s distilled it to its essence and captured it in under 100 pages. I hadn’t even realized how short it was until I went looking for the data. It didn’t feel like a long book but it still felt like a complete story. That takes some talent as far as I’m concerned.

I do like that Reggie is affianced and not a single guy bumbling around. So far there have been no marriage proposal shenanigans and I’m guessing Dolley is staying away from that particular aspect of the original Jeeves & Wooster. Emmeline makes for a great catalyst to “make things happen” as she’s a spitfire, dynamite and ball of wax all rolled into one.

A small part of me wants to complain that these novellas about Reeves & Worcester aren’t long enough, but if I am being honest, they are just the right length. Long enough to be funny but not so long that they wear out the humor and send the reader off in a bad mood.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Above the Law ★★★☆☆

abovethelaw (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Above the Law
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 83
Words: 22K



Black Jim is a notorious outlaw known for robbing stage coaches of their payload of gold. Ruthless and a deadshot, several small towns have banded together and offered a big reward for his capture, dead or alive.

An out of work actress conceives a plan to have her partner pretend to be Black Jim, “capture” him, take the reward money and then once she has left, have her partner reveal he really isn’t Black Jim. What could go wrong with that? Of course, the real Black Jim shows up and takes the actress prisoner and also the other actor.

Black Jim is living in a community of outlaws, who are “Above the Law” and when he brings a woman into the mix, things get heated. The actor devolves and fits in with the other outlaws and they plan to kill Black Jim, steal all of his stolen gold and take the Actress for themselve.

Black Jim and the actress are married, make a daring escape and decide to go legit.


My Thoughts:

A classic “woman finds out outlaw has a heart of gold”. Not as mawkish as I was afraid it might be at the beginning. However, the short length saved it from becoming tedious.

This is my 3rd foray into the western genre. While L’Amour I would consider a success (in my reading I mean), Zane Grey was a complete flop. Based on this story, ol’ Max Brand is going to fall squarely in the middle.

Honestly, I’m hoping to read as much of his stuff as possible just to change up my reading.



bookstooge (Custom)

Dead Letter (Arcane Casebook #0) ★★★☆½

deadletter (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Dead Letter
Series: Arcane Casebook #0
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 96
Words: 31.2K



In 1930 New York, the sorcerers are the powerhouses of magic and the runwrights are the poor cousins. Private detective Alex Lockerby is definitely in the latter category, plying his meager magic skills to help people the regular cops ignore while barely making ends meet.

What Alex needs is a break. Just one good case to get his name out there and start bringing in business. When ambitious beat cop Danny Pak gets stuck trying to solve a John Doe murder, it might just be the break Alex has been looking for.

As Alex and Danny team up they begin to unravel a tale murder, jealousy, and revenge stretching back over 30 years. A tale powerful forces don’t want to come to light. Now the cop and the private detective must work fast and watch each other’s backs if they hope to catch a killer and live to tell about it.

Alex meets Leslie, Danny and his sister Amy and several of the cops we know from the series.


My Thoughts:

I didn’t bother with putting up the conclusion to the “mystery” as it was almost more of a side note that was the vehicle to introduce us to all these various characters.

In that regards, this novella was a complete success. Even while Leslie (the secretary) is leaving the series in book 4, it was still nice to see how she and Alex were introduced. Amy was a fun include, even though she has zero presence in the series. Danny, I have to admit, I was hoping for more of a connection between him and Alex. They came across as just 2 people helping each other out rather than friends, but now that I write that, that is how it comes across in later books as well.

Alex is a loner and while he intersects with other people, he doesn’t seem to need a group of friends. I can totally relate to that 😀



bookstooge (Custom)