From the first paragraphs of Holiday Homicide:
A nut, if you care to believe it, was the first reason for Cotton Moon getting mixed up on a New Year's morning with the homicide in which Myron Jettwick, that prize real estate operator and heel, starred as the corpse.
The second reason was money; the pay-off being old Miss Emma Jettwick's check for thirty thousand dollars...
Cotton Moon's fees have always come high. They've got to, if he's to stay in that state in which he has decided to keep himself. Also if he wants to go plowing about the seven seas on his boat Coquilla in search of rare nuts to add to his collection, and sometimes eat.Cotton Moon has an apartment in a building development called Wharf House, and is allowed to hitch his boat there. Moon and his assistant, Bert Stanley, come upon a young man on the boat landing; he is in pajamas and a dressing gown, standing in the snow. He is distraught because he has found the dead body of his stepfather, Myron Jettwick, and knows that he will be suspected of murder. And thus Cotton Moon gets involved in looking for the solution to the crime.
Even once I realized that the resemblance was too strong not to be intentional, it still seemed strange to me. This novel was published in 1940, and at that time only seven or eight novels had been published in the Nero Wolfe series.
Ignoring the similarities between this novel and Stout's series, this is an entertaining, though often far-fetched story. The story does differ from most Nero Wolfe novels in that the adventure continues with a trip (via yacht) to Tortuagas. There is a storm and more deaths. The story is never really serious, although not laugh out loud funny either.
I planned to read this book earlier in December because I expected it to be a Christmas mystery (which is what I get for not really paying attention to the picture on the cover, which is clearly New Year's Eve attire). However, the story is only peripherally connected to the holidays. It begins on New Year's Day but that was about it. However, the cover does fit the holiday... so still a good choice.
I don't know how I could have missed this author before; I only purchased this book because of the skull on the cover ... and because it was a Dell mapback edition. Rufus King wrote many other mysteries, some starring Lieutenant Valcour, a French-Canadian detective attached to the NYPD. Murder by the Clock was the first in that series, reviewed here by John of Pretty Sinister Books. John has reviewed two other books by King here and here. There are several reviews of books by King at The Passing Tramp blog. Also see Bev's review of Holiday Homicide at My Reader's Block.
And this is why book blogging is a wonderful thing. Had I read this book in isolation, I would have passed on trying other books by the writer. This book is fine, but not the type I would pursue for future reading. But I do think I will try some of Rufus King's other mysteries when I get the chance.
Publisher: Dell, 1940
Length: 238 pages
Setting: New York
Source: I purchased this book.