Review : Willy & Alvirah by Mary Higgins Clark

Plot summary ( from Audible )

Follow the adventures of lottery winning couple Willy and Alvirah Meehan through these best selling short stories . The couple is targeted and pursued by ex-cons after winning the lottery in ” Plumbing for Willy ” , they discover the body of actress Fiona Winter in their New York apartment in ” The Body in the Closet ” , and they help Cynthia Lathem solve the murder of her stepfather in ” Death in the Cape ” . As a special bonus , author Mary Higgins Clark pushes the aura of suspense sky – high in ” Stowaway ” and ” Milk Run ” , a pair of stories set aboard jetliners . . .

My thoughts on the book :

A quick note before getting started with the review – I have given the star rating for individual stories also ( just count the stars next to the title ) . . .

In Death in the Cape *** , Cynthia Lathem has served twelve years for a crime she did not commit – the murder of her step – father . She is back in town looking for answers to the questions which continue to haunt her about the night her step – father was murdered . Luckily for Cynthia , Alvirah is holidaying in town and she is not the one to miss out on a case like hers . . .This one suffers from too much of classic Clark – isms and a very predictable plot – a damsel – in – distress who is determined not to lean on anybody and is on a mission , her Prince Charming standing on the sidelines hoping that she would let him help her and looking only for a cue from her so that he can swoop in and help her in her mission ( obviously that cue is not going to come from our heroine – so Prince Charming should finally put his foot down and make an appearance even if our heroine thinks she can handle it all on her own . . . ) and Alvirah ‘s sunburst pin . . . Still , Clark ‘ s average outputs are superior to some of the much – hyped recent releases which are riddled with plot holes . . .

The Body in the Closet **** has Alvirah trying to hunt down the murderer of an up – and – coming actress Fiona Winter when her favorite playwright nephew becomes the prime suspect . While this is a clever one , Alvirah trying to play the Cupid in every story involving young people is highly exasperating . Also , several of the elements mentioned above have almost become constants with every MHC offering and it does not need a Kirkus to call them out . Still , it would have been a welcome surprise to have at least regulars like Willy & Alvirah evolve with every new anthology – I am expecting Alvirah to go all teary eyed ( and Willy to pragmatically observe that Alvirah should leave the lovebirds alone ) when two young people finally decide to get together after their life – altering ordeal and both never disappoint me . ( Duh ! )

I would suggest that you start with Stowaway ***** & Milk Run ***** – both definitely have some of the elements which I have mentioned earlier but the brilliant plotting makes them fantastic reads ( especially with Stowaway ) . Oh , you can also expect some mid – air drama in the style of movies involving plane hijacking . . . In a nutshell , Stowaway has a flight attendant helping a young boy from the underground evade capture by the Soviet police . In the Milk Run , a flight attendant is entrusted with some secret papers only to find that they have been stolen mid – flight . . . Can she retrieve them before touchdown ?

Alvirah ‘ s long suffering husband Willy gets kidnapped in Plumbing For Willy *** after a bunch of ex – cons watch an episode of the Donahue show in which Alvirah and her husband make an appearance . The ex – cons are sharp as marbles and with Alvirah roping in her sister – in – law Sister Caroline & friends in the rescue mission , you are guaranteed a romp . . .

Rating : 4 / 5

If you have already read Willy & Alvirah , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the book  . If you have any interesting recommendations , please do share them . Until the next review then . . .

The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull ( British Library Crime Classics #4 )

Richard Hull ‘ s brilliant debut ( first published in 1934 ) is considered a masterpiece in the inverted detective fiction sub genre and features Edward Powell , a narcissistic , conniving young man with whom the elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top . Edward lives with his Aunt Mildred in the Welsh town of Llwll . But Edward and Aunt M . are at opposite poles for almost everything that it is no wonder that Edward is seething underneath the effeminate exterior . His aunt ‘ s latest trick is the last straw and E . has finally decided to bump off the old lady . As he is well aware of the repercussions that might come with the suspicious death of his aunt ( who happens to be his only relative on whom he is also financially dependent ) , he decides to take his time to pull off the perfect murder . . .

This had me chuckling too often with it ‘ s highly entertaining narrative with liberal doses of snark despite the dark undertone . With Edward being unparalleled in his dim – witted attempts to do away with the rather astute old lady ( at least for me , I had never come across a murderous protagonist who is too dense as Edward that he shouldn ‘ t have even dreamt of doing away with someone in the first place . Of course , we come across some bungling idiots once in a while in crime fiction who leave a mile – long trail of clues or sometimes leave the job unfinished , but IMHO none can match Edward in terms of his characteristic delusional and unimaginably stupid thought process ) , the middle was somewhat of a drag . But the ending was gold . This might be perfect for a suspense fiction reader if you want to pick up something that would keep you entertained while not being too cozy .

Rating : 4 / 5

If you have already read The Murder of my Aunt , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the book  . If you have any interesting recommendations , please do share them . Until the next review then . . .

P . S

Speaking of blundering murderers like Edward , one can ‘ t help contrasting them with some of their ingenious counterparts who manage to commit the perfect crime . Check out P D James ‘ The Part – Time Job in which the protagonist goes to great lengths to exact his revenge on his school bully – the ‘ Queen of Crime ‘ has packed a brilliant twist at the end that will explain the title . It is to be noted that several of P D James ‘ short stories have the old sins casting long shadows theme and frankly , some are a tad disconcerting . If you are game enough for some ‘ perfect murders ‘ with sinister undertones , you can check out James ‘ Sleep No More . . .

Check out my review here – https://sherlockedsharon.com/2020/12/24/review-sleep-no-more-by-p-d-james/

Review : The Hog ‘ s Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts ( British Library Crime Classics #3 )

Plot Summary ( from Goodreads ) :

Dr . James Earle and his wife live in comfortable seclusion near the Hog’s Back , a ridge in the North Downs in the beautiful Surrey countryside . When Dr . Earle disappears from his cottage , Inspector French is called in to investigate . At first he suspects a simple domestic intrigue – and begins to uncover a web of romantic entanglements beneath the couple’s peaceful rural life .
The case soon takes a more complex turn . Other people vanish mysteriously, one of Dr . Earle’s house guests among them . What is the explanation for the disappearances ? If the missing people have been murdered , what can be the motive ? This fiendishly complicated puzzle is one that only Inspector French can solve .
Freeman Wills Crofts was a master of the intricately and ingeniously plotted detective novel , and The Hog’s Back Mystery shows him at the height of his powers .

This new edition of a classic mystery is introduced by the crime fiction expert Martin Edwards .

My thoughts on the book :

This is my first Freeman Wills Crofts ‘ read . I picked up this one because I had read that he had been described as ” the soundest builder of them all ” . The chief complaint of several modern reviewers seems to be that the prose could have had some better editing . So , I went into this one determined to like this one – I know this sounds absurd but having read enough suspense trash , I just wanted a decent suspense read with a competent investigator at the helm and an author who plays fair by his or her readers . After reading some of the recent ” suspense ” or ” psychological thriller ” offerings where the story – telling cheats the poor reader to keep turning the pages expecting for something to happen only to find the final third that the book had NOTHING to recommend it as a suspense – no strong motive for the increasing bloody and slasher style crimes , no believable line – up of suspects and most importantly , no deduction to speak of ( or should it be that the author has no idea how to drop the clues that even the lead investigator is clueless and keeps running around ) , I had no great expectations as to Crofts ‘ story – telling abilities but I was looking for a solidly plotted mystery and I am happy to say that I was not disappointed . The man ‘ s solid plotting means that not a minute is unaccounted for ( literally !!!) and the reader is played fair regarding the clues and the narrative is pretty decent .

While Inspector French going over the minutiae repeatedly while taking us through his thought processes during the formulation of his theories can become a tad tedious , still managing to keep the reader guessing till the reveal is a feat by itself . The SOLID motives abound and the line – up of suspects is pretty good . I could excuse Inspector French ‘ s monologues mentally patting himself for his systematic approach to the problem when he gets too pleased with himself after a big break because he doesn ‘ t have a Dr . Watson or Capt . Hastings who would do that for him . With Inspector French , Freeman introduces a detective who is a refreshing change from the egotistic and eccentric eternally single detective(s) who often inhabit a bubble which is void of any human emotions – Inspector French is happily married and most importantly , when Inspector French presents his deductions , we know the thought processes which had led to that final conclusion – it is never so easy as Holmes or Poirot make it out to be ( but it should be mentioned that this does not work in favor of Inspector French ) . One aspect of this work which has NOT aged well is it ‘ s over – reliance on time – tables and alibi verification using ” X takes Y minutes to travel the distance of Z miles in car ” calculations . In this day and age , one cannot simply buy this – even without the traffic , trains running behind schedule and other modern day woes Inspector French ‘ s methods might not have helped much say if he were to work in a village like St . Mary Mead where everyone knows everybody else ‘ s business and frequently neighbors would stop by each other ‘ s house for an impromptu chit – chat . However it should be noted here that these kind of alibi verifications would work for the setting presented in this story . . .

Despite guessing one of the perpetrators about two – thirds into the novel , the climax had a few surprises for me – on the whole this book is a timely reminder why one can trust a Golden Age mystery to keep the reader guessing and rather than the some of the modern ” psychological thrillers ” . . . If you have an interesting recommendations from the recent releases , do share in the comments section . . .

Rating : 3 . 5 / 5

If you have already read the book , you can say in the comments section about your thoughts on the book  . Until the next review then . . .