I'm a huge fan of Patricia Wentworth's mysteries: her best-known detective is Miss Silver, a former governess who hung out her shingle as a private detective after she retired. But that's not all Wentworth (1877-1961) wrote, and Dean Street has published all her non-Miss Silver mysteries. I've read a few of those, but this challenge was a good excuse to read another.
Dead or Alive (1936) is the first of two Colonel Frank Garrett mysteries. The Colonel is head of Intelligence for the Foreign Affairs office, but his main function in this is to snark at the people who are actually involved in the case and then in the end to appear (he actually tells us) as the 'deus ex machina.' Except even then he doesn't make a very good deus... (but no spoilers!)
The main characters are Meg O'Hara and Bill Coverdale. Bill was interested in Meg even when they were teenagers, but then Meg married Robin O'Hara, dashing, but not, as it turned out, good husband material. Bill has just returned from several years working abroad in Chile, where he went after Meg married Robin. Robin also worked in Intelligence and had discovered something damning about the Vulture's gang. The Vulture ends up in jail, but Robin ends up dead, or so the report is at the start of the novel.
But! Somebody keeps hinting Robin's alive. Meg gets a letter saying Robin's alive. Somebody slips into her apartment--only she and Robin had keys--and leaves a message suggesting he's alive. So is Robin 'Dead or Alive'? A body was found, but it had been rolling around in the water for a while, and the identification is likely, but not certain. What to do? Meg always liked Bill, but if her husband's still alive...
This is more thriller than mystery (a thing Patricia Wentworth sometimes does) and the outlines of the solution were pretty clear from early on. For a while I was rather annoyed with Meg, who seemed a bit dither-y. There's nothing worse than a character who makes unnecessary mistakes and then using that as the source of tension. Later it got better, and Bill and Meg's escape from the bad guys at the end was pretty thrilling, and I enjoyed it well enough. Still, while I highly recommend Patricia Wentworth, this is definitely not the one to start with. I don't usually do stars, but this would be 2 out of 5 for me.
In general I've had good luck with Dean Street Press and some others made it on to the blog:
Touch and Go - again more thriller than mystery, but I quite enjoyed this one. Non-series.
E. R. Punshon's Bobby Owen mysteries:
Diabolic Candelabra - set early in WWII. I liked this one a lot.
Music Tells All - early post-war. I liked this, but not as well as Diabolic Candelabra.
Winifred Peck (Penelope Fitzgerald's aunt! Ronald Knox's brother!):
The Warrielaw Jewel - (1933) a wacky family murder mystery.
I've got a couple of other unread Dean Street Press eBooks. I'll try to read another one this month.
Thanks to Liz for organizing this.