Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Holiday Homicide: Rufus King


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.

This is another crime novel that is difficult for me to review. I did not know this was a Nero Wolfe / Archie Goodwin pastiche going in, so I was initially taken aback by the the strong similarities between this novel and the Nero Wolfe novels.  Cotton Moon only works on cases when he can demand a high fee to bankroll his hobbies and other upkeep; the narrator is his smart-aleck assistant, who is often kept in the dark. Moon's unusual hobby is collecting rare tropical nuts; Wolfe's hobby is raising orchids. They both have loyal cooks, and they both deal mostly with the well to do.

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.

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Publisher:    Dell, 1940
Length:        238 pages
Format:       Paperback
Setting:       New York
Genre:         Mystery
Source:       I purchased this book.


10 comments:

  1. Sounds like a fun read, Tracy. Sometimes pastiches can really be effective. And I figured that cover drew you in, too...

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    1. Margot, there are some books I think can be enjoyed best on a re-read. I think for me this is one of them. Knowing what it is going in, I will enjoy much more on a second read. And Yes, the cover was the real draw.

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  2. I've never heard of this author and don't think I'll rush to add him to my lists, though his French-Canadian detective has some appeal, so maybe if I'm struggling for a year book for Rich's meme, I'll give him some consideration.

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    1. I agree about the French-Canadian detective, Col. Very interesting. I don't know how easy his books are to find... that will make a difference to how soon I try him out.

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  3. New one on me, but I LOVE that cover, and it must be a great addition to your collection....

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    1. It is a lovely cover, Moira, and now I find I need to look for more of his books. I may not like them that well, since they have been compared to the Van Dine school of mysteries, but definitely want to try some of them.

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  4. Tracy, I like the Dell paperbacks and their covers often prompt me to read the books. I'd like to read the original Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin novels before I read their pastiches. Rex Stout is on my list this year.

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    1. For sure, Prashant, better to read the original Rex Stout novels. There are plenty to choose from, and some of his books have three novellas, although I don't think those are the best place to start.

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  5. I'm crazy for mapbacks. I'd snap this up in a heartbeat, even if the story is lackluster.

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    1. Me, too, Kelly. That is why I got it in the first place. If I had tons of disposable income, I would spend all my time looking for mapbacks.

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