Monday, May 21, 2018

The Casino Murder Case (1934)

dustjackets.com

Major characters:

  • Philo Vance, the dilettante detective
  • John F. X. Markham, District Attorney
  • Ernest Heath, sergent, Homicide squad
  • Mrs. Anthony Llewellyn - prominent social worker
  • Richard Kincaid - her brother, and owner of the Casino
  • Amelia Llewellyn - her daughter, an art student
  • Lynn Llewellyn - her son, a night club lizard and gambler
  • Virginia Llewellyn - Lynn Llewellyn's wife, formerly Virginia Vale, stage star
  • Smith, the Llewellyn butler
  • Morgan Bloodgood - croupier at Kincaid's Casino
  • Dr. Allan Kane, friend of the Llewellyns
  • Dr. Rogers



Locale: New York City


Synopsis: Philo Vance receives an anonymous letter indicating some harm is to come to members of the Llewellyn family and they should be watched, especially on a certain date. Vance contacts D.A. John F. X. Markham. Vance then visits Kincaid's Casino on the indicated date, to keep an eye on Lynn Llewellyn. While gambling, Lynn collapses and a doctor immediately recognizes it as poison. No sooner is he hospitalized when word comes that his wife, Amelia Llewellyn, has died at home from poisoning.


Review:

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Kennel Murder Case (1933)

dustjackets.com

Major characters:






  • Philo Vance, the dilettante detective
  • John F. X. Markham, District Attorney
  • Ernest Heath, sergent, Homicide squad
  • Archer Coe, collector of Chinese ceramics
  • Brisbane Coe, his brother
  • Raymond Wrede, friend of the Coes
  • Hilda Lake, niece of Archer Coe, engaged to Raymond Wrede
  • Signor Eduardo Grassi, officer in the Milan Museum of Oriental Antiquities
  • Liang Tsung Wei, the Coe cook
  • Gamble, the Coe butler
  • Luke Enright, an importer
  • Major Julius Higginbottom, dog breeder
  • Miss MacTavish, a Scottie dog
  • Doris Delafield, owner of Miss MacTavish


  • Locale: New York City

    Synopsis: District Attorney John F. X. Markham is summoned to the scene of a murder, and as usual, invites his more perceptive friend Philo Vance along. At the residence of Archer Coe, they find he is apparently dead in a locked room - they can see him sprawled through the keyhole. They break in to find he has been shot. The medical examiner arrives, and finds Coe was dead long before he was shot, adding another mystery. 

    During the investigation an injured Scottie dog is discovered in the house, and no one recognizes it, or knows how it got in. There is also evidence a valuable Chinese vase has been broken, and an inferior piece substituted in its place. A search is started for Coe's brother, Brisbane Coe, who was in the house when all this happened. Eventually he is found - dead - in a closet in the home. 

    The Scottie dog seems to be the key. If they can trace the dog and find its owner, some light can be shed on the murders.

    Review:

    Despite the title, the book does not have any connection to a kennel, other than a brief visit to one late in the book. This is a locked-room mystery with a pile of loose ends: a victim who was dead before he was shot, a brother also murdered, a mystery dog injured, a broken vase, a missing weapon. 

    While delving into the worlds of ancient Chinese ceramics as well as dog breeding, the reader need not be knowledgable of either to enjoy the book. These side topics are minor. The big mystery is why and how is a dead man shot inside a locked room. The rundown of clues is standard police procedure and leads to the solution. 

    The book includes the usual S. S. Van Dine lectures and footnotes on obscure topics which may be skipped over. Was he being paid by the word?



    Thursday, May 3, 2018

    The Dragon Murder Case (1933)

    dustjackets.com

    Major characters:

    • Philo Vance, the dilettante detective
    • John F. X. Markham, District Attorney
    • Ernest Heath, sergent, Homicide squad
    • Sanford "Monty" Montague, engaged to Bernice Stamm
    • Rudolf Stamm, hard-drinking fish collector, and owner of the Stamm estate
    • Matilda Stamm, his mother, who seems to predict the future with 100% accuracy
    • Bernice Stamm, his daughter
    • Gale Leland, neighbor and friend of the family
    • Alex Greeff, stockbroker and guest of the Stamms
    • Kirwin Tatum, guest of the Stamms
    • Teeny McAdam, guest of the Stamms
    • Ellen Bruett, writer of love letter to Sanford Montague
    • Ruby Steele, actress
    • Trainor, the Stamm butler
    • Mrs. Schwarz, nurse-companion to Mrs. Stamm
    • Doctor Holliday, Stamm family physician

    Locale: Inwood (northern Manhattan), New York City

    Synopsis: This is a locked-room mystery, but the room is a pool! Sanford Montague dives into the "Dragon Pool" (a small pond) on his property and never comes up. Where did he go? Is he dead or alive? He is thought to have run off with Ellen Bruett, who wrote a note arranging a meeting that night. When he does not reappear, the pool is drained, and his body is not in it. However, there are strange foot and claw marks on the hard bottom of the pool.

    Matilda Stamm, elderly mother of hard-drinking Rudolf Stamm, is convinced there is a dragon that lives in the pool, and protects the Stamm family by killing its enemies. This is supported by the fact there have been two deaths in the pool already. She states the dragon then flies away with its victims to dispose of their bodies elsewhere.

    Nearby are several deep glacial pot-holes. The body of Montague is found in one, mutilated by claws, and apparently dropped from a height. Some time later, Alex Greeff goes missing. His body is likewise found in the same place, again mutilated and dropped.

    Philo Vance rounds up the key to a family vault located near the pool, and enters it to find that it is connected with the deaths.

    Review:

    This is my favorite Philo Vance novel. The murders are so unique and outlandish, and all evidence points to the legendary dragon being the culprit. Philo Vance seeks out the truth by eliminating all other possibilities. The novel stays on topic for the most part, except for a several page diversion as Vance displays his knowledge of various tropical fish.