A fine murder mystery, in the style of Agatha Christie, with a hawk-eyed protagonist and bevy of suspects.


In Ayer’s (Tales of Chinkapin Creek, Volume II, 2012, etc.) mystery novel, the accidental death of an affluent alcoholic may, in fact, be a simple case of murder.

It’s the first party of the summer in French Haven, Maine, at George Wollaston’s home, and many of the guests are inebriated. Afterward, caterer Richard Grassie finds George dead from an apparent fall down the backyard steps. It’s initially viewed as an unfortunate accident; George had a similar stumble just last year. But it turns out that there’s no shortage of people who wanted to see him dead—including his wife, Margaret, who blames him for their son’s suicide, and his teenage daughter, Angie, whom he’d humiliated by loudly disapproving of her attire at the party. When cops find evidence that George may have been drugged, nearly everyone at the party becomes a suspect. It’s up to amateur sleuth Richard, along with police chief Eliot Perham and Detective Le Bel, to solve the murder. Richard is initially afraid he might forget details about that night, so he writes down everything he can remember for the police; it’s a plot point that functions superbly, as it provides a logical reason for him to work with Chief Eliot. It also inserts some drama into the story, as his notes also cause police to question his friend and co-worker Flora. Fans of traditional whodunits will be delighted with this tale, as it exuberantly follows many genre conventions, including suspects who may not be murderers but definitely have secrets to hide. Ayer sets the mystery in the 1980s, which adds to its classic mystery appeal, as there’s no modern technology in sight. The story’s most remarkable element, however, is the way it tackles the serious issue of alcoholism. George’s addiction, for example, has devastated his family, and Richard’s own father was also a heavy drinker. Alcohol even has detrimental consequences for the murder case, as one guest’s intoxication makes her an unreliable witness.

A fine murder mystery, in the style of Agatha Christie, with a hawk-eyed protagonist and bevy of suspects.

Pub Date: April 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-1484980675

Page Count: 272

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2014

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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