Monday, August 28, 2017

Black Plumes by Margery Allingham

Margery Allingham writes a beautifully crafted story of murder.  The twists and turns lead you to a smooth conclusion. You think!  But as with other great Mysteries of hers, I became so enamored of the characters I missed the last clue. That only added to the enjoyment. Her writing is deeply entrenched in another Era similar to Dorothy L.  Sayers, but that makes the flow of her words lovely.  Each chapter keeps you firmly turning the page.

Francis Ivory has come to her Grandmother for help.  There is something unnatural and fishy going on in the family business.  Her Brother-in-law is trying to force her to marry against her wishes and his own terror is impinging on the family business.  Her Step-Sister is a hysteric and in bed most of the time.  She either is very frail or scared to death.  Francis decides to take on a fiancée, who can at least protect her from an unwanted marriage.  But can he protect her from the Murders that begin at the family Home?  Death is walking those hallways.

The interaction between the characters is very strong.  Gabrielle, the Matriarch of the family is either very shrewd and capable of murder- or facing senility. At times I suspected both.  That is the beauty of Allingham’s writing. And between the hysteria there is some very real terror going on.  People are dying. The Author is a master at projecting suspense to the Reader.  The tension is carried from Chapter to Chapter as it always is in a good mystery.  I highly enjoyed this Mystery and I am giving it five stars.

The slashing of a valuable painting at the renowned Ivory Gallery in London, one of the most prestigious art galleries in the world – followed by the murder of the proprietor’s son-in-law, Robert, sets the stage for another finely tuned Allingham mystery. The proprietor’s mother, 90-year-old Gabrielle Ivory, holds the key to the web of intrigue and danger that permeates the gallery.

Gabrielle Ivory was once a society beauty. But now, nearing 90, she’s largely disregarded by the younger members of the Ivory clan, who like to imagine Granny as rather a relic of a dead era. That’s a mistake, and it’s not their only one. A series of malicious attacks is threatening the Ivory Gallery in London. Robert Ivory and his high-strung wife, frantic to preserve the status-quo, want to chalk it all up to practical jokes gone wrong. But Gabrielle is not inclined to collude in this delusion.

A brilliant standalone mystery from the author of the beloved Campion books. Golden Age Crime at its intriguing best.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Man of Dangerous Secrets by Maxwll March

Maxwell March is the pseudonym of Margery Allingham. So, if you enjoy her work, which is similar to Dorothy L. Sayers, then this is another mystery you should read. The plot is very thick with characters but that does not deter. From the first page I was intrigued. How could you not be? The book starts with an almost murder and keeps up the tense pace till the end.

The Dealer, is blackmailing four very important Tycoons in their field. He is known only by a Pseudonym. One of the blackmailed, Sir Henry Fern, has a beautiful Daughter- who has lost two
fiancée's in bizarre accidents. But were they accidents? Jennifer Fern is contemplating another proposal when Tony is poisoned. She decides to find someone to help her track down the Killer and stop them. The easiest way for someone to do to become her third fiancée and stay one step ahead of death.

I should "fess" up and say I love these older Mysteries. It is another Era and the stories are interwoven with chivalrous Characters, stolid British Policeman and glamorous Women. But they also contain evil, murder and blackmail. The writing
has an old- fashioned, charming, quality to it that people who read the older mystery classics will recognize and approve. I enjoyed it. 


He was haunted by the face of a girl, a girl lovely beyond all imagining, with stark terror in her wide grey eyes.

Robin Grey is Scotland Yard’s inside man – handling matters requiring a delicacy, integrity, and secrecy outside the jurisdiction of regular government offices. He is a man of details, of observation, and of intuition.

While lurking about Waterloo station on a mission for the Foreign Office, Grey’s interest is piqued by a suspicious looking character. Tailing him, Grey catches the man shove a fellow passenger onto the train tracks. Rushing to intervene, Robin Grey never stops to think that saving the victim might ensnare him in the same sinister plot.

Heiress Jennifer Fern is cursed: tragic accidents have claimed two past fiancés, and she would have lost a third had it not been for Robin Grey’s heroic actions. Terrorized by the torment that stalks her, Grey is drawn to this young woman and feels honour-bound to help her. Tempting fate, he goes undercover to solve this deadly mystery.

But if loving Miss Jennifer Fern means certain death, can Grey protect her, and his own heart, before history repeats itself?

Queen of Classic Crime, Margery Allingham, delivers a dazzling mystery writing as Maxwell March.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

The latest story of Susan Elias MacNeal, The Paris Spy, has all the smoothness of a Chàteau Lafitte Rothschild. The descriptions are lovely on the Rue Saint Honorè, a boulevard filled with People- though there is the palatable taste of fear mixed with patriotism.  I can actually see Paris like a downtrodden flower, with rainy streets trampled by the Germans. The darkness, filled with humiliation   for some... beauty and fashion for others.

Maggie Hope has a job to do for Intelligence. She is posing as a neutral Irishwoman coming to buy her trousseau and accidentally meets the famous Coco Chanel. They attend the ballet and Moulin Rouge together.
That opens the door to the fashionable among the Germans and the French. Four other Agents are there in the huge gathering and an arrest occurs. Two of those four are friends of Maggie and she will not rest until they all complete their Assignments. British Agents have been signing in with information in code and leaving off their security checks. It is vital the Germans do not have the codes.Tension is high as the SOE has a mission to complete and the alternative is death for thousands of Soldiers if any leaks occur.

MacNeal, writes descriptively of the life that the Parisians had in the midst of a takeover by the Germans.The beautiful Women, that German Officers pursued in their boredom, with drink and fashion... may be Collaborators or something else. But the Author also masters the wartime terror of the Agents sent in to bring back information. For those outside the favor of the Nazi Officers are dealt a much different treatment than most of France. They see only starvation and torture.

I have always loved WWII research and the detail that goes into these stories. The glamour of mixing artists and actresses with the  descriptions of creativity in a Country at War and the horror seem to go hand- in -hand. The little vignettes of  courage were touching that those people who went into intelligence faced. For they knew the risks when they were sent behind enemy lines and went anyway. They did not take the easy way out.

I found this book well researched and incredibly moving for the sake of its contents. The tension kept me on the edge of my seat. I read this in one night and couldn't sleep until I had finished it.

American-born spy and code-breaker extraordinaire Maggie Hope secretly navigates Nazi-occupied France to find two brave women during the darkest days of World War II in the latest novel in this New York Times bestselling series—“a treat for WWII buffs and mystery lovers alike” (Booklist, on The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent).

Maggie Hope has come a long way since serving as a typist for Winston Churchill. Now she’s working undercover for the Special Operations Executive in the elegant but eerily silent city of Paris, where SS officers prowl the streets in their Mercedes and the Ritz is draped with swastika banners. Walking among the enemy is tense and terrifying, and even though she’s disguised in chic Chanel, Maggie can’t help longing for home.

But her missions come first. Maggie’s half sister, Elise, has disappeared after being saved from a concentration camp, and Maggie is desperate to find her—that is, if Elise even wants to be found. Equally urgent, Churchill is planning the Allied invasion of France, and SOE agent Erica Calvert has been captured, the whereabouts of her vital research regarding Normandy unknown. Maggie must risk her life to penetrate powerful circles and employ all her talents for deception and spycraft to root out a traitor, find her sister, and locate the reports crucial to planning D-Day in a deadly game of wits with the Nazi intelligence elite.