Old-fashioned, eccentric, stodgy, arch and wacky: in all, a silly/charming Boston excursion from inveterate punster McAleer, whose previous work includes a very straightforward biography of Rex Stout. Probability-expert Austin Layman, up for membership in Boston's stuffy Cart-tail Club, soon learns that members are dying off at two-week intervals: Hatherly's been baked to death; Silsbee's been frozen in the fridge; Champney's been blown to bits in a car; and the latest victim, Huddle, was killed by a quill while wearing Quelch's coat. Among the most concerned: Eliot Bradstreet, creator of Great Detective Clayton Poole, whom Austin sort of resembles. His investigation turns up: Parthenia, spinster extraordinaire, who trails a copper wire from her ankle (to ground herself); the Smedley Barlow papers in Aisle 23 of the Boston Athenaeum basement (plus an IRA guns consignment); Ladonna the lady librarian; Simon Spendlow, whose mom was thrown under a train and who himself ended many lives (he created all the endings for Bradstreet's mysteries); a passel of anonymous letters; a fete at the library; and a denouement that's all wet, literally and logically. McAleer's dialogue is awful, but he has a real talent for sublime nonsense, including the most audaciously garbed Club servant, and library statuary with cracks, and without.