Claire’s clever solution, however, arrives only after endless shoals of red herrings—including one that requires...


Pink fluff, that gourmet treat concocted of Jell-O and Cool Whip, is the favorite snack of retired Palm Springs decorator Stewart Chaffee, but it’s also an excellent description of theater director Claire Gray’s second dalliance with murder—the murder of Stewart himself. The day after he deposits a mysterious document with Merrit Lloyd, his personal banker, Stewart and his wheelchair are crushed beneath the refrigerator where Bonnie Bahr, his home nurse, had stashed his latest supply of pink fluff. An automated camera at the entrance to Stewart’s gated home in Rancho Mirage has obligingly snapped photographs of every car that visited Stewart that fatal Monday morning, but in the absence of fingerprints at the scene or intimate knowledge of Stewart’s intimates, Palm Springs Detective Larry Knoll aptly remarks, not for the first time (Desert Autumn, 2001): “I’m man enough to admit it—I could use Claire’s help.” Tearing herself away from final rehearsals for that gossipy classic Laura, Claire effortlessly summarizes every suspect’s age, physical appearance, and sexual orientation; gives all her information-rich colleagues in and around Desert Arts College the opportunity to dispense educational discourses on the meaning of a painting’s provenance and the difference between fine and applied arts; and comes up with the sudden brainwave that solves the case.

Claire’s clever solution, however, arrives only after endless shoals of red herrings—including one that requires intervention by publisher/sleuth Mark Manning, visiting from Craft’s other series (Hot Spot, p. 615, etc.)—so fragrant that they can only be marking time until the curtain’s ready to fall.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-30501-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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This ran in the S.E.P. and resulted in more demands for the story in book form than ever recorded. Well, here it is and it is a honey. Imagine ten people, not knowing each other, not knowing why they were invited on a certain island house-party, not knowing their hosts. Then imagine them dead, one by one, until none remained alive, nor any clue to the murderer. Grand suspense, a unique trick, expertly handled.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 1939

ISBN: 0062073478

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dodd, Mead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1939

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The parts with Nero Wolfe, the only character Goldsborough brings to life, are almost worth waiting for.


In Archie Goodwin's 15th adventure since the death of his creator, Rex Stout, his gossipy Aunt Edna Wainwright lures him from 34th Street to his carefully unnamed hometown in Ohio to investigate the death of a well-hated bank president.

Tom Blankenship, the local police chief, thinks there’s no case since Logan Mulgrew shot himself. But Archie’s mother, Marjorie Goodwin, and Aunt Edna know lots of people with reason to have killed him. Mulgrew drove rival banker Charles Purcell out of business, forcing Purcell to get work as an auto mechanic, and foreclosed on dairy farmer Harold Mapes’ spread. Lester Newman is convinced that Mulgrew murdered his ailing wife, Lester’s sister, so that he could romance her nurse, Carrie Yeager. And Donna Newman, Lester’s granddaughter, might have had an eye on her great-uncle’s substantial estate. Nor is Archie limited to mulling over his relatives’ gossip, for Trumpet reporter Verna Kay Padgett, whose apartment window was shot out the night her column raised questions about the alleged suicide, is perfectly willing to publish a floridly actionable summary of the leading suspects that delights her editor, shocks Archie, and infuriates everyone else. The one person missing is Archie’s boss, Nero Wolfe (Death of an Art Collector, 2019, etc.), and fans will breathe a sigh of relief when he appears at Marjorie’s door, debriefs Archie, notices a telltale clue, prepares dinner for everyone, sleeps on his discovery, and arranges a meeting of all parties in Marjorie’s living room in which he names the killer.

The parts with Nero Wolfe, the only character Goldsborough brings to life, are almost worth waiting for.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5040-5988-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Mysterious Press

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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