The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan by Stuart Palmer (1941)
Hildegarde Withers is on vacation in Hollywood when she is recognized by Harry Wagman, who in turn has recognized her from a previous case. Wagman is a Hollywood agent, and he thinks Hildegarde would be perfect as technical consultant on Mammoth Studio’s new Lizzie Borden movie. When one of the writers mysteriously falls and breaks his neck, Hildegard is sure it’s murder, and it will take more than technical advice to solve.
Having read The Penguin Pool Murder, and enjoying it so much, I was very much looking forward to reading this one. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it for several reasons. The humor struck me as dark and mean. Nor did I find anything entertaining about the eccentric Hollywood types. Even the attempts at turning their Lizzie Borden into a glamorous love story fell flat for me. And interestingly, I found that Hildegarde lacked personality in this one. Oscar, as his old cigar chopping self, was the only saving grace.
Oh well…they can’t all be winners.
My Judgment – 2/5
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2015 Bingo: Read one book with a detective “team”
Calendar of Crime – April #6 Original publication month
30 Days Hath September by Dorothy Cameron Disney and George Sessions Perry (1942)
Tom and Sally are spending Labor Day weekend at their vacation home on the Connecticut shore, and preparing for a visit from their old friend Jenny Iverson. It’s a visit they’re not looking forward to. A cold, damp mist has settled over the shore, their hot water heater is busted, and the wood they’ve ordered hasn’t been delivered. The visit is Jenny’s idea and Sally, who’s hoping to be hired as her assistant, knows they don’t have a choice in the matter. But then Jenny isn’t on the train, but her suitcase is at their house when they return there. It’s all a puzzle, until they find a body. Tom is suspect #1, then the list grows to include their whole crowd of friends, who’ve know them, and Jenny, since childhood. Tom wants the murderer found, because he knows it’s not him. But that means pointing the finger at one of the people he grew up with.
So, is this book a part of a series that Disney wrote and I’m just not aware of it? I ask because from the beginning I felt as if I’d walked into the middle of a conversation, with characters I’m supposed to know, and have a full understanding of their backgrounds and relationships. And these are relationships that are more than a little complex. This is a group of supposed friends with issues—lots of issues. Secrets and undercurrents abound.
The investigation, as performed by the police chief, is ludicrous (breaking into a suspect’s house while they sleep to perform a search—huh?). The identity of the murderer is so transparent (what killer puts groceries away after they’ve ransacked someone’s house?) as to be laughable. Also, the jealousy, bitterness, backstabbing, and snide comments amongst the characters made it feel more like domestic fiction than crime fiction.
I think it’s pretty clear by now that I did not enjoy this book in the least. Actually, the only reason I even finished it was because I needed it for my Calendar of Crime challenge (#1 Month in the Title!). Plus, I can’t say that I wasted too much time on it since it was a fairly quick read.
My Judgment – 2/5
Previous Rulings – Dead Yesterday
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2020 Vintage Mystery Challenge –Commandments/Rules/Common Devices: #7 The detective himself must not commit the crime. (Knox) The detective himself, or one of the official investigators, should never turn out to be the culprit.
Calendar of Crime – September #1 Month in the title