The Mysterious Bookshop

All Things Mysterious Volume Ninety-Nine

The Trial--Part One


The courtroom was packed to bursting. There wasn’t even room for a fly to buzz into the airless space. It was the Trial Of The Century, the third such in the last fifteen years. The late Mr. Mayhew, boss of the territory, was being tried in absentia for racketeering, even though his defense team was at a disadvantage, what with their client being deceased.  Not being tried in absentia, but live and in person, were Breck and Prell, as accessories, along with Sonny the big dog, who was in his own small cell. One wag was heard to observe, ‘So how are they gonna punish the dog if he’s convicted?  Give him fleas?’

From their exclusive viewing gallery, Cinnamon and Raffles kept a close eye on Sonny, lest he escape from confinement and cause the cats to flee.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I propose that we cut right to the crux of the matter.  I propose that we learn of the insidious crime wave perpetrated by these miscreants--’


‘Sustained. Counsellor, you know better than that,’ barked Judge Blusster.

‘I beg the court’s pardon.  I will rephrase.’

‘See that you do.’

‘I propose that we learn of the insidious crime wave allegedly perpetrated by the accused right from the victims.  I call Cinnamon Costello to the stand!’

This generated so much commotion from the gallery that the judge had to bang his gavel and shout ‘Order!’ several times, which he hated to do.  At length the bailiff called, ‘Cinnamon Costello to the stand!’

Cinnamon stood up in his seat, stretched, yawned, and washed a front paw for a moment, then sauntered up to the front of the courtroom.  In his own good time, he clambered up on the witness stand and looked around imperiously.

Mason Perry took the lead.

‘Now, Mr. Costello, you were simply minding your own business, weren’t you, when you were suddenly, wantonly, attacked by someone who was a complete stranger to you?’

Cinnamon had an itch and scratched it.

‘Is your attacker in this courtroom?’

Another itch, darn it!  Perry took the scratching position as a point to Sonny the big dog.

‘Aha!  So you are saying that this canine was your attacker, isn’t that right?

Cinnamon was hungry and meowed.

‘No further questions--your witness.’

Hamilton Sandwich jumped up and crossed to the witness stand. He was holding something in his hand.

‘Now, Cinnamon, isn’t it true that it could have been any dog that chased you?’ The small piece of liver that he was teasing the cat with made Cinnamon meow.

‘No further questions.’


‘Kindly call a human witness,’ said Judge Blusster.

‘I call Detective Avery.’

‘Detective Avery, take the stand.’

And so Avery was duly sworn in and asked about the crime wave that had been sweeping River City for the last two years at least.

Sparks flew when Hamilton Sandwich insinuated that the RCPD was lax in its efforts to reign in organized crime.

‘Isn’t it true, detective, that the Organized Crime Unit made exactly zero arrests in the past two years?’

‘Matter of fact, it is, but--’

‘That’s all, no further questions.’



Mason Perry stood. He was a tall, stout man, with a very dark beard, and, incongruously, a very white mane of hair.  The opinion around the department was that shoe polish was somehow involved.

‘Detective, the burden of proof is not something that can simply be ignored for political expedience, is it?’

‘No it isn’t.’

‘You and your men must be scrupulous in your adherence to the book, isn’t that right?’

‘Yes it is.’

‘So it’s much better to wait and present a solid case than to rush only to see all your hard work thrown out of court, isn’t it?’

‘Yes it is.’

‘No further questions.’


Suddenly the door swung open and there stood The Brown Recluse!  Ellen Amora had snuck out of the courtroom during the lunch break and returned in her guise as the champion of the downtrodden.

Judge Blusster shouted, ‘What’s the meaning of this?’

The Brown Recluse cried, ‘Your Honor, I have an important witness!’



Now what?  There’s always something going on at these trials of the century, isn’t there?  Join us next week for a motion to continue...The Trial!


Meantime, have a look at some corking courtroom dramas:

From the king of the procedural, comes a legal thriller involving copyright infringement.


Books, Crooks, and Counselors by Leslie Budewitz. Subtitled 'How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedures.'  Author Budewitz, in a Q-and-A format, guides writers towards accurate representation of courts of law.

What can you say?  The master.


Questions/Comments/Planted Evidence?









Written by Ian Kern — June 22, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Ninety-Eight

Movie Stars Read Too!

Human beings are apparently hardwired to follow the deeds and misdeeds of well-known and famous people. Many follow gossip columns and websites and peruse the trade papers for the latest on the careers of actors, singers, athletes, and the like.  But here we are concerned with what the anointed noteworthy are reading.


Infamous Ponzi scheme mastermind and crook Bernie Madoff likely has a lot of time on his hands to catch up on his reading, and mysteries/thrillers/suspense rank high on his list:

Riding the Rap, Elmore Leonard

Original Sin, P.D. James

Disclosure, Michael Crichton

Self Defense, Jonathan Kellerman

Nest of Vipers, Linda Davies

Without Remorse, Tom Clancy,

Also, Caleb Carr and David Baldacci make the cut.

Perhaps he can get some legal advice from one of these eminent authors, or at least learn how not to get caught if he ever returns to society and his sordid life of crime.


Even so eminent an author as Mark Twain read for pleasure; indeed, one of the requisites for being a successful author in the first place is voracious reading, for how else would you learn how to tell good writing from bad?

The Club of Queer Trades, G.K. Chesterton. A collection of stories first published in 1905 and involving eccentric retired judge Basil Grant. At one point Grant remarks, ‘Facts--how facts obscure the truth!’  Somehow that sounds familiar.


Despite the popular and incorrect image of Marilyn Monroe as a dumb blonde, she was much more intelligent and well-read than she is given credit for. An avid reader and constantly striving to improve her mind:

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Complete Poems, Edgar Allan Poe

Y_r friendly blogger would be willing to bet that most folks haven’t even started, much less finished, any Dostoyevsky novels. And Edgar Allan Poe pretty much invented the detective story, so he should certainly be in the bibliophile’s library, as he is in Marilyn’s.

Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon has recommended Outliers by Kimberley McCreight, a YA novel about a teen’s search for her missing friend.


Another Academy Award winner, Kate Winslet, enjoys Therese Raquin by Emile Zola. A Frenchwoman and her lover conspire to kill her husband, only to be haunted by visions of the dead man which makes it difficult to start a new, sordid life together.


Emma Roberts enjoyed Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, and believes that you will too.. Anne Boleyn had better watch her back, with Jane Seymour waiting in the wings!


The late Jeff Buckley, noted musician, enjoyed  A Feast of Snakes, Harry Crews, a gritty and all too real look at life in the small-town south of rural Georgia, with vivid characters and a very strong sense of place.  Some have called Crews’ writing ‘hillbilly noir.’  The darkest of dark comedy.


The late David Bowie was an avid reader and a list of his top 100 titles is readily available for perusing.  Of particular interest to mystery fans is In Cold Blood, the classic ‘non-fiction novel’ by Truman Capote about a shocking multiple murder in 1959 Kansas. Made into an excellent film.

Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Isherwood. A mild-mannered teacher meets a mysterious stranger on a train, a real oddball to be sure.

Hubert Selby, Last Exit to Brooklyn. Similar to Harry Crews but set in Brooklyn; raw, real and all about the pain.  Some of the worst human behavior in the annals of literature, which, strangely enough, is a selling point!


If you'd care to read some of the tales your favorite actors and musicians have enjoyed, we have or can order most of them; if you'd prefer to create your own mystery reading list, why, simply call 212.587.1011 and we'll be glad to steer you in the right direction for some good reading!


Questions/Comments/the never-ending glare of celebrity?

Written by Ian Kern — June 15, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Ninety-Seven

...But I Could Be Wrong--The Work Of Donald Westlake


Donald Westlake (1933-2008) was a versatile, prolific writer who wrote some of the most acclaimed crime fiction in the history of the genre.

Perhaps his most widely known character came about when the author was walking across the George Washington Bridge in the dead of night. He’d been visiting a friend in New Jersey and somehow got on the wrong bus and eventually found himself trudging across the bridge back to Manhattan.  The heft of the bridge, stolidly standing its ground in the wind, inspired in Westlake a character of similar traits--a stolid, unyielding, tension radiating man who would never be softened or made more accessible. Never would Parker, as he became known, be quirky or have his dog help him on cases or, heaven forbid, use catchphrases.  An angry man, but a man simply doing a job, not a crusader but a working class guy who gets up every morning and goes in to the job just like millions of others. After the first Parker novel was published (The Hunter, 1962), Westlake’s editor at Avon told him that if he would change the ending so that Parker escaped from the long arm of the law, he would publish three novels per year with the character.  Westlake, prolific as he was, couldn’t quite make that pace, but was surprised at the request, since Parker was the bad guy!  And so was born one of the most popular and enduring characters in crime fiction.

The Parker books were released under the pen name of Richard Stark, one of Westlake’s many pseudonyms. One of them, Samuel Holt, was created by the author in an effort to learn whether his book(s) would sell by merit as opposed to someone keen on the Westlake or Stark names. It is said that when Stephen King faced the same situation he created his own nom de plume, Richard Bachman, partly as a nod to ‘Richard Stark’ and partly because he was listening to Bachman-Turner Overdrive!

In fact Westlake used numerous pen names, Tucker Coe, Holt, Stark, Curt Clark for his foray into science fiction, and several others.  

Westlake was not a meticulous pre-plotter, he gained inspiration from the previous chapter leading into the next, and was just as focused on his writing as Parker may be said to be on his own work.  And so the stories are not known for a lot of exposition, they get right to the point to the point where a lot of them start with ‘When…’  In Westlake’s stories, and especially the Parkers, people just do things, the whys and wherefores are not explored.


At some point in the late 1960s, Westlake was working on another Parker adventure, but something was wrong.  It kept coming out funny!  That sure wasn’t Parker, and finally Westlake bowed to the inevitable and rewrote the story, embracing the funny, and so was Dortmunder born. A nonviolent schemer and a hard luck professional thief, he is likely one of the few literary characters named after a brand of beer. He shares an apartment on E. 19th Street in Manhattan with his lady friend, who is a supermarket cashier (the first Dortmunder story was published in 1970, when this was actually possible).  That first book, The Hot Rock,  was made into a film starring Robert Redford in 1972.  Having twice done stints in prison, he’s living with the knowledge that if he goes up the river again, he’s never coming back, as it’s three strikes and out. Rather appropriate for someone whose (stolen) family crest bears the motto ‘What’s in it for me?’  The notably dour Dortmunder is usually surrounded by a reliably wacky cast of characters in trying to pull off his hare-brained schemes.


Mitch Tobin got kicked off the NYPD after it was discovered he was holed up in a hotel room with his mistress (the wife of a man he’d arrested who was sent to prison) while his partner was being shot to death. In need of income, and partnered with perhaps the most forgiving woman in all crime fiction, he occasionally takes a case as an unlicensed private eye.  It’s been said that the Parker stories will make you turn pages, while the Dortmunder tales will make you laugh, even as the Tobin adventures will make you cry. A true hallmark of the versatile writer, this time presented as Tucker Coe.

As are screenplays.  Between film and television, Westlake is credited with writing or co-writing 40 scripts, most from his own work.  He wrote and rewrote a James Bond film about a man who was kicked out of Hong Kong when the island was returned to the Chinese in the late 90s.  The Chinese government objected to this portrayal and the studio, nervous about losing the lucrative Asian market, shelved the project.  Never one to waste a good story, Westlake reimagined it as a novel and it will be released Summer 2017 with an afterword by one of the proposed film’s producers. Be on the lookout for Forever and a Death!


It’s probably no coincidence that many noted authors and filmmakers are professed Westlake fans, like Harlan Ellison, John Banville, and Quentin Tarantino. The list of writers influenced by Westlake/Coe/Stark/et al is very long and it’s been speculated that the man influenced more writers than he had readers!  Probably not, given the popularity of his books & characters, but it’s an interesting notion. Most writers dream of having such a far-reaching influence over the literary world, even if that influence didn’t always translate into fat sales. But the writing is terrific, the taste is impeccable, the settings are memorable, and so here are some that you might enjoy:

Forever and a Death available soon, reserve your copy today!

For Mitchell Tobin, try A Jade In Aries, the fourth in the series, in a first edition from Random House, only $45.  Call or write for details. 

Questions/Comments/A bridge in Brooklyn for sale?  mike@mysteriousbookshop.copm

Written by Ian Kern — June 08, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Ninety-Six


Raffles and Cinnamon in: The Tail of the Nine Lives Part Three:


The exciting conclusion!

After being knocked off the credenza, Cinnamon had snuck around to the back door, where Raffles was waiting as part of their plan. He’d brought an extra domino mask and helped Cinnamon tie it around his small triangular head.  There!  Now no one would know their secret identities!

Meanwhile Breck and Prell were looking all over the house to find them.

‘Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!’

Now whatever made these fools think that old chestnut would work?

Naturally, Cinnamon was still steaming about the dent in his tail, obtained when Prell had slammed a door on it. Also, the two felines naturally wanted to protect against the threats to their respective staff, Ellen Amora (aka the Brown Recluse) and newly promoted Detective Costello.

For their part, Breck and Prell and Sonny were seeking revenge of their own on the be-masked furries for thwarting their own plan and causing injury to Prell and Sonny the big dog. A clash of titans!

Cinnamon spied something interesting on the floor, underneath the chaise lounge on the sun porch.  The kitties were there while those three idiots (counting the big dog) looked and looked inside the house for them.

He crawled under the chaise and in determining in the age-old kitty way whether it was something dangerous or delicious, saw that it was simply a torn scrap of paper.  But what a scrap!  It said:

Plan For Revenge Against Costello, Avery, and That Dame That Jumps Around In a Trench Coat, and Their Stupid Cats.

Hmpf!  Stupid, are we?  There they are keeping company with a dog and we’re stupid!  We’ll just show them!  He scooped up the paper with one paw and clamped his jaws down on it for a firm grip for travelling. Raffles saw what Cinnamon was doing and purred his approval.  Cinnamon ran out the back door, which had a hole in the screen, and lit out for home.  When he arrived, he saw Costello sitting on the front steps with a sad face.  It didn’t stay sad long, though.  He rose and scooped up his best kitty pal and smothered him with kisses, saying, ‘My best pal!  I thought I’d never see you again!  Come in the house and have some treats and you can sit on my lap and tell me all about it!’

Ordinarily Cinnamon didn’t like being picked up but in this case decided to make an exception.  He made a small noise of urgency and it was then that Costello noticed the scrap of paper in the cat’s mouth. ‘What’s this, pal?’ he queried. As he looked over the note, his normally genial face darkened and he gently set Cinnamon down.  ‘I’ll leave you some treats and then we’ll just see who gets the better of who!’

He put many too many of the cat treats in Cinnamon’s dish, so happy was he to see his pal again, but inwardly he was steaming about the gall of Prell and Breck. He stopped to pick up and brief Ellen Amora, for he knew in his heart that Raffles was part of this operation.

While they were en route to the gang hideout, Raffles was skulking around, incognito in his mask, getting the lay of the land.  He’d snuck back into the house and presently came upon Sonny the big dog, sound asleep under the kitchen table, his favorite spot.  Apparently he’d grown tired of searching for his cat-versaries and decided on a nap.  Now this was a situation too good to miss!  Back out on the veranda, he’d noticed some string and some old bottles and cans that hadn’t yet been returned for deposit and Raffles carefully lined up his revenge, scarcely able to conceal his glee.  When he completed his plan, he crept up to the snoring big dog’s head and let fly with his best yowl.  

Wow!  Sonny the big dog jumped up, made three complete revolutions in mid-air, yelped, and took off like a rocket.  The string of tin cans tied to his tail made an awfully satisfying racket, thought Raffles, and that took care of the big dog.  The softy.

Ellen Amora and Costello, with Cinnamon purring away in the back seat, drove up just then and gaped in amazement as a dog the size of a pony went running pell-mell down the street, clattering along with a bunch of cans attached to his tail and howling at the moon, or in this case, the clouds. Cinnamon leaped in triumph out of the car’s back window to celebrate with his pal and put the final part of their plan into motion.

Back on the veranda through the handy open window, the two conspirators strolled in unison through the house looking for their adversaries.

‘NOW I’ve got you!’ cried Prell as he grabbed Raffles by the scruff of the neck.

That is some really corny dialogue, thought Cinnamon as he unsheathed his claws to help his brother-in-arms.  But that proved to be unnecessary, as Raffles simply sank his teeth into Prell’s other arm.  His yowl of pain rivaled Sonny’s of embarrassment as he dropped Raffles, who landed on his feet and took off towards the rear of the house, with Prell and his bleeding arm in hot pursuit.

Meanwhile Breck was sneaking up behind Cinnamon intending to grab him, but the crook forgot that cats have very sensitive hearing and of course he gave himself away before he was ten steps from his target.  Cleverly, Cinnamon waited until Breck was almost upon him, then took off like a cat out of heck and also went barreling toward the rear of the house.

Since they were lower to the ground and also had four legs to propel them, our feline heroes reached the veranda first and both hid just behind the door.  Cautiously, the two human miscreants eased the door a little ajar, and right at that moment, with exquisite timing, both kitties slammed the door shut on four sets of fingers.  With howls that put Sonny’s and Raffles’ to shame, the two men, clutching their smashed hands, ran blindly out the back door--right into the waiting arms of Costello and---The Brown Recluse!

‘NOW we’ve got you,’ thought Raffles and Cinnamon with satisfaction.  They shook paws and agreed to have another adventure soon.


Will there be another adventure with Raffles and Cinnamon?  Could be!

Written by Ian Kern — June 01, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Ninety-Five

The Brown Recluse, Raffles, and the Tail of the Nine Lives--

Part Two


Continuing ATM Volume Ninety!--Just scroll down to read the beginning of this cat's tale!


It had taken Prell quite a while to shake off the effects of the noxious potion he’d accidentally sprayed himself with, but once he did, he was still seething over his defeat at the hands of the Brown Recluse and that infernal cat, Raffles.  Not only that, but he’d apparently lost Sonny as a part of the team for the duration, as the big dog refused to come out of the house, or even the kitchen.  Some guard dog!


Now when was the last time Costello had seen his pal Cinnamon?  Let’s see--the night before last when the stalwart kitty’d gotten his tail caught in the door to the living room.  Next morning, Cinnamon hadn’t even waited around for his breakfast, which had never happened before. He must have been up and out awfully early, as Costello habitually rose with the sun, something which neither Avery nor Cinnamon could understand.  

Since cats are nocturnal by nature, it must have been tricky for Cinnamon to sneak out at daybreak, but it was old hat to Costello, who was criss-crossing the neighborhood before six looking for his missing pal.


It would likely be a fruitless search, though. Cinnamon was at this moment perched on top of a credenza, peering disdainfully down at Prell and Breck.  After his pal Raffles had upset Prell’s plan by sabotaging the flexi-spray bottle, Cinnamon figured that he’d get in on the action by getting even with the bum who’d shut his tail in the door.  It still hurt and there was a funny-looking dent right in the middle where the door closed on it.  Cinnamon was rather vain about his looks and was none too happy with this blemish in his feline studliness.  So he figured he’d disarm them by showing up at their door and yowing and racing to the credenza when they opened up.  NOW he could observe the gangsters in peace, for they couldn’t reach him where he was, and they realized the futility of throwing things at the cat after his leisurely ducking led to several dents and holes in the wall from their mis-hurled missiles.

Eventually Prell and Breck gave up throwing things at Cinnamon and pondered their next move.  They sat across from one another at the living room table and tried to plan their revenge, but were disconcerted by the cat quietly staring at them, unblinking and unmoving.  He could smell the one that shut his tail in the door, all right; he was sitting at the table facing the window.  Presently Breck and Prell became lost in their conversation, which was largely about how they were going to gain their revenge for Mayhew’s going up the river.  They’d already decided that the way they could hurt Ellen and Costello the most was through their cats.  Avery could wait, maybe they could use what was left of his family against him.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Cinnamon (what WAS that smell like a wet blanket?), he himself was being observed from a discreet distance.  Sonny the big dog was underneath the desk in the corner, which was his go-to hiding place since neither human here had ever sat at this desk, or any desk, in their lives.  He’d finally moved from his place under the kitchen table after getting tired of having his polite request for table scraps denied, sometimes with a kick.  Peering out from his place on the floor under the desk, Sonny eyed the cat malevolently.  A different animal than the one who had thwarted their plans the other day, but they were all alike.  They sure smelled alike, that awful stinkweed stench that turned his doggy stomach.


‘Now why the heck is that cat sitting up there like that?’

‘You want him to maybe sit some other way?’

‘You let him in, you big jerk!’

‘Who are you calling a big jerk?’

‘You, you big jerk!’

Prell was trying to think up a suitably witty response to this brilliant repartee, when all of a sudden there was a flying whirlwind of fur.


Sonny the big dog couldn’t take it anymore. To the amazement of Breck and Prell, he came roaring out from under the desk and leapt at the credenza, knocking it sideways and dislodging Cinnamon. But what was this?  One swipe of the paw, and Sonny the big dog ran away, howling!  Was Sonny a coward?  Couldn’t be.  There must be some other explanation.  Suppressing the urge to turn Cinnamon into a tennis racket, Breck ran after the dog and noticed that a claw had lodged in the poor animal’s face.  Deftly plucking it out, Breck was nearly knocked over by Sonny’s sigh of relief.  Now to business. Prell and Breck set about searching for that cat, and just wait until they got their hands on him!  

Oh-Oh!  Now Cinnamon’s in for it!  If they can find him, that is!  Will Breck and Prell get their revenge on the furry sleuth?  Will Cinnamon get even for the dent in his tail?  Will Cinnamon find a suitable hiding place, or will he reveal himself ready for action?  

Written by Ian Kern — May 25, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Ninety-Four


Lieutenant Jones in: Why Is It So Cold? Part Two.

Boy, was it cold in Quaintsville!  It just got colder and colder in defiance of the season and rumor had it that it was all the doing of Mayor Friggsson, who had blown into town on a chill wind. He’d saved the life of a child and parlayed that incident into a political career that catapulted him into the mayoralty.  But why did it keep getting colder?  Lieutenant Jones, time-travelling troubleshooter, and his Quaintsville companion, Flint, who seemed immune to the cold, were determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and had braved the arctic chill to get to the building where it was said the mayor had his headquarters and laboratory.  It made sense that this was the source of the town’s deep freeze, for it got colder and colder as the two men entered the lair.  Undeterred by the signs posted, saying KEEP OUT,  THIS MEANS YOU, DO NOT ENTER, DANGER, NO PARKING, and SECRET LABORATORY THIS WAY ---------->>, they’d had the foresight to bundle up and even though it was slow going, made it at last to the locked door behind which was a low thrumming noise which grew ever louder the closer they got.

Lt. Jones tried the door but it was locked. Over the hum, he shouted to Flint, ‘I’m going to try to break it down!’

Flint shouted, WHAT?’

Lt. Jones shouted, ‘I’M GOING TO TRY TO BREAK IT DOWN!’

Flint shouted, ‘WHAT?’

The Lieutenant shrugged and pointed to the door.  He gave it a good hard kick and nearly busted all his toes for his trouble. That clearly wasn’t going to work.  Time for Plan B!  He fished in his pocket as the hum grew unbearably loud.  He slipped his picklock device into the doorknob and opened up as easy as you please.  The two self-appointed investigators entered, not bothering to keep quiet, since they couldn’t hear themselves think anyway.  The room was full of machines right out of a science fiction film, or maybe a horror picture, and there was a man standing in front of one of them looking for all the world like he’d stepped out of one of those selfsame pictures.  Short he was, with a white lab coat, and frizzy Einstein hair sticking up wildly from either side of his head where bifocals were precariously perched.  The hum of the machines had reached a screaming pitch and the ersatz Einstein waved his hands wildly in the air, as if he was conducting an orchestra.  Lt. Jones and Flint watched in frozen fascination.  Suddenly he whirled and confronted the two interlopers. The thrumming noise of the machinery abruptly ceased.   

‘I AM FRIGIDO THE FIRST!’  he shouted, pronouncing ‘Frigido’ with a hard ‘g.’  

‘Man’s a looney tune,’ muttered Flint. ‘Look, buster, what’s your game?’  

‘My game?  Game?  There are no games, there are only actions and reactions!  I am the reincarnation of Willis Carrier, who invented air conditioning in 1902!’

Hoo boy, thought the Lieutenant.  It sure takes all kinds to fill the freeways.

He said, ‘Why are you trying to turn Quaintsville into the North Pole?’

‘North Pole?  North Pole?’ shrieked Frigido the First.  ‘I will make the South Pole look like a beach resort before I’m through!’

‘But why?’

‘A reasonable question, my boy, a very reasonable question!’  Then the scientist stood silent.

Flint said, ‘So how’s about a reasonable answer?  I haven’t got all day.’

‘I, Frigido the First, am the reincarnation of Willis Carrier!’

‘Yeah, you said that.  So what?’

‘Neither he nor I ever got the credit for making the world more comfortable and now I will have my revenge!  When everyone is too cold to move, I will take over the Earth!’

Flint was incredulous.  ‘What do you want, a medal?’

Frigido pondered this for a moment. ‘Well, yes, a medal would be nice.’

‘Well, you ain’t getting one!’ shouted Flint.

‘Of course Carrier got the credit--he’s in the history books and the factory in Syracuse still bears his name,’ said the Lieutenant.

‘Fool! Do you think I’m so easily gulled by your lies?  Never!  I will be Frigido the First, the only man in history to dominate the entire world!’

‘Oh, brother, another one!  Look, mac, why don’t we just sit down and talk it over over an ice-cold lemonade?’ asked Flint.

‘Bah!  Don’t try to distract me with your heat!  You can’t fool me!’

Heat? thought Flint.  What the heck does that mean?  He made one more attempt to reason with Frigido.  

‘Listen, bud, what good is ruling over a big snowball?  Why don’t you use your brains to help people?  Anyway, who wants to rule this lousy planet?  The trouble with this place is, it’s full of people.’

‘Don’t try to distract me!  Frigido the First will be the ruler of Earth!  And now, the final reckoning!’

The madman pulled levers and pushed switches on what appeared to be the main machine, and the mechanical hum returned, rising quickly to the previous screaming pitch.  

Frigido shouted, ‘Today I triumph!’  Just then, the constant wailing of the machines began to lessen; in a moment it died out altogether.  

‘What madness is this?’ cried Frigido.  He frantically threw switches and flipped levers, to no avail. Already the room was a bit warmer.  Then Lieutenant Jones appeared. ‘I’ve pulled the plug on your nefarious plan, you monster!  There will be no deep freeze here in Quaintsville, or anywhere else!’

‘What have you done?  What have you done?  I am ruined! Ruined!’ shouted the ruffian.  Incredibly, before the shocked eyes of Flint and the cool, jaded peepers of Lt. Jones, Frigido began shrinking right in front of them.  Smaller and smaller he became, and the men realized that Frigido the First was melting!  Soon he was nothing but a small puddle on the floor and the threat of the deep freeze was over!  No more would Quaintsville be menaced by a madman. Forever after would Quaintsville be temperate.

The Lieutenant and Flint stood for a moment, reflecting on the end of the cold and the small puddle of what had once been a scientist.  

Flint said, ‘Come to think of it, it is a bit chilly.’

To ward off the cold, take a look at some of these mysteries with Summer in the title:


Questions/Comments/A pastel-colored drink with an umbrella in it?

Written by Ian Kern — May 18, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Ninety-Three


Lieutenant Jones In: Why Is It So Cold?

Lieutenant Jones awoke shivering.  Alert in an instant, like a cat, he looked around to ascertain his surroundings. For a moment he thought he was back at the observation station in the Arctic, where his Russian colleague had taken out his own appendix, but he wasn’t--everything in sight wasn’t covered in snow, for one thing, but it sure was cold.  Why was it so cold?

Or was it?  There were people around, but no one else seemed to be bothered by the frigid air.  For his part, the Lieutenant was very glad he’d been on his way from the coat store where he’d just gotten a new overcoat, nice and toasty.

Those who were milling around, going about their business, did seem to be wearing several layers; all the gents were in three piece suits and fedoras and all the ladies were in elaborate dresses and hats that either were wide-brimmed with feathers or close-fitting to the head and pulled down over the scalp.  The Lieutenant decided he must be in the past, before the dress code was relaxed.  But where?  And why?  Well, he’d find out soon enough, he always did.    

All at once he saw a man in short trousers and a sport shirt standing on a corner looking in all directions as if expecting an attack from who knew where at any second.  The Lieutenant decided, logically, that this would be a good place to begin his queries. ‘Pardon me, old chap, aren’t you cold?’   

‘COLD?  COLD? That’s a bad word around here, friend!’

‘Sorry about that!  But tell me, why are you wearing less clothes than everyone else?’

‘I got shrapnel in the war and am immune to cold. That’s why Friggsson is out to get me!’

Now was this fellow a loony or trying to warn him about something?

‘Friggsson?  Who is that?’  Lt. Jones figured that, if anyone was, this Friggsson character was the key to the whole affair.

‘Oh, it’s a sad, sad story.’

‘Let’s go somewhere and talk. I’ll buy you a cup of piping hot coffee.’

‘Are you trying to kill me or something?  Coffee!  Pah!’

‘Sorry, my mistake, I meant to say an ice-cold lemonade.’

‘That’s more like it!  My lemonade local is right over here,’ and off they went.


The lightly dressed man, who introduced himself as Flint, greedily attacked his ice-cold lemonade as the Lieutenant gaped in awe.  Never had he seen such devotion to a sugary drink which had about as many actual lemons in it as the piping hot coffee that Flint had turned down.  And never had he heard such a story!

About one year ago, a man had come into town and the moment he’d stepped off the bus, he had been knocked over by a small child running in terror from a big dog that was determined to have small child burgers for lunch.  The stranger snapped his fingers and the big dog stopped abruptly and remained motionless as though frozen in his tracks. After that the amazed and grateful townspeople couldn’t do enough for the man and soon he’d been elected to the Town Council.  From there the man, who called himself Friggsson,  rose through the ranks of city government to become the mayor.  But two months previously he started believing his own press releases and appointed himself ruler for life, with the apparent acquiescence of the population. Following this Friggsson had eschewed public appearances, governing by message or fiat and spending most of his time in what was rumored to be his laboratory downtown.  Only a few weeks before, it started getting very cold all the time, even though it shouldn’t have been. The gratitude of the public shown to Friggsson for saving the life of the child should have been wearing off by now, but few were skeptical of this new style of governance or the big chill.  Since he apparently did not feel cold no matter how low the temperature went, Flint became a thorn in the side of the new mayor, constantly asking questions and generally making a nuisance of himself.  And so it got colder and colder and no one knew why and the city government alternated between threatening Flint and ignoring him

As Flint paused to take a breath and gulp some more ice-cold lemonade, Lieutenant Jones reflected on the incredible story he’d just been told.  No question that this was why he’d been summoned to this place.

‘And there has been no resistance mustered?’ asked the Lieutenant.

‘How can anyone resist when they are nearly too cold to move?’ was the reply.

A good point, reflected the Lieutenant.  ‘Does anyone know where his lair is?’

‘Certainly!  It’s common knowledge.  But getting close to the laboratory means being too frozen to move, much less act in defiance of Friggsson the Frigid.’

Lt. Jones stood, his resolve firm. ‘I need a man like you on my side.  Will you help me?’

Flint stood, his lemonade ice-cold. He looked Lt. Jones in the eye with a steely glance.

‘Not everyone is immune to the cold as I am.  I will help you.’

And so the two were off on what promised to be a great, cold adventure.

The men left the cafe and the Lieutenant noticed that, moving in THIS direction, it got warmer, while moving in THAT direction, it got colder.  Since it was already pretty darn cold, they kept going in the colder direction in the hope that they would soon find the source of the deep freeze.

Colder and colder it got, until it was even difficult to take so much as a step.  How much colder could it get?  How much could Lt. Jones and Flint stand?  Surely they must be close to--

Aha! Standing in front of a nondescript building, even his hair was cold!  This must be it!  Wishing to avoid a frontal assault, the Lieutenant and Flint sidled up to a side door and slipped inside.  Lt. Jones crept up the stairs, which were lined with what appeared to be snowballs, admonishing Flint to stay on the ground floor and keep a guard, lest they be challenged.  Presently the Lieutenant heard a kind of low-pitched humming sound coming from behind a doorway ahead.  ‘KEEP OUT!,’ ‘THIS MEANS YOU!,’ ‘NO TRESPASSING,’ and ‘THIS WAY TO SECRET LABORATORY--->’ signs were plastered all over the door. He figured that these were decoys, so he went in the opposite direction and went down a corridor where the hum got louder and louder until it was almost unbearable.

What will the Lieutenant find?  Can he thwart the sinister attempt to turn the quaint little town of Quaintsville into a giant ice floe?  And what of Flint?  Will he ever be comfortable?  Who is the mysteriouis Friggsson, and what is his plan exactly?  While we’re waiting to find out, have a look at some of these books with ‘winter’ in the title:

(Now that warmer weather is coming, we can take it!)


Questions/Comments/Eiderdown Parkas?



Written by Ian Kern — May 11, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Ninety-Two

Pun On Fourth Down

Y_r friendly blogger has always wondered if the supposition is true, that the writers and editors of cozy mysteries spend as much or more time thinking up truly awful puns for the titles than they do actually writing the book!  Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:


Silence of the Flans

Devonshire Scream

A Frying Shame

Silence of the Jams

Eclair and Present Danger

Caught Bread Handed

War and Peach

Assault and Pepper

Guilty As Cinnamon

Cinco de Mayhem


And several variations along the lines of Paw and Order and Above the Paw and the like.

Why are so many of them food-related?  And so many about dogs & cats, too.

What do you think?  What are some of your favorites, or most cringeworthy titles?  Have you a pet title of your own that you’d publish if only you’d written a cozy in the first place?

By the way, each of the titles listed above is available in a very reasonably priced mass market paperback edition, call or write for details:


Questions/Comments/Pun In the Sun?

Written by Ian Kern — May 04, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Ninety-One A: The Edgar Award Winners edition!

It’s that time again, the Mystery Writers of America bestowed the Edgar Awards last night, and here are the winners:


Best Mystery Novel


Hawley, Noah, Before the Fall, Grand Central. On a small plane headed for New York are eleven passengers, ten from the privileged class and one, a down on his luck painter. But the plane crashes, and the only survivors? The painter, Scott Burroughs, and a four year old, who is now the last remaining member of a family of media moguls. The facts begin to point to a conspiracy--or was it a coincidence that so many powerful people perished?

Best First Mystery Novel by an American author


Berry, Flynn, Under the Harrow, Penguin. Nora takes the train from London to the English countryside, expecting a pleasant holiday with her sister.  But when she arrives she finds that Rachel has been the victim of a brutal murder!  Completely lost, she can’t return to her old life, but neither does she want to involve the police after an unsolved assault soured her trust.  As her obsession with the murder grows, she finds herself as unrecognizable as the sister she thought she knew so well. Paperback Original.

Best Paperback Original

McKinty, Adrian, Rain Dogs, Seventh St./Prometheus.  Ulster cop Sean Duffy is confronted with a locked-room mystery right in the midst of The Troubles. Journalist Lily Bigelow died after a fall from a castle, but the room from which she leapt is locked and no one could have shoved her out the window.  Could they?

Best Fact Crime (aka True Crime)


Summerscale, Kate, The Wicked Boy, Penguin.  In the summer of 1895, the Coombes brothers, Robert and Nattie, ages 13 and 12 respectively, were seen gadding about London spending money like a couple of drunken sailors.  They claimed they’d been left alone by their mother and were taking advantage of their newfound freedom.  Their aunt was suspicious, however, and forced her way into the house, where she found the decomposing body of the boys’ mother. Robert quickly confessed to the murder while in police custody, but his lawyers claimed insanity.  A surprise ending worthy of the best thriller will enthrall readers!

Best Critical/Biographical Work


Franklin, Ruth, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Liveright.  Author Jackson (1916-1965) has been unfairly overlooked by the arbiters of American literature.  Renowned for her short story ‘The Lottery’ and the novel ‘The Haunting of Hill House,’ there is much more to her body of work, such as pioneering the ‘domestic horror’ story, as this in-depth biography makes clear. Biographer Franklin reveals the darker underpinnings beneath the prose. $35.00.  (Non-Fiction)


Mary Higgins Clark Award was won by The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd.


Best Young Adult Novel was won by The Girl In the Blue Coat by Mary Hesse.


Best Juvenile Novel was won by OCDaniel by Wesley King.

All of these winners, and indeed most of the nominees, are available at Mysterious Bookshop, 58 Warren Street in the Tribeca section of NYC, four blocks north of the World Trade Center and two blocks west of City Hall/Brooklyn Bridge.  Drop by when you’re in the neighborhood, we’re open Monday-Saturday from 11 am-7 pm, closed Sundays.

Or call 212.587.1011 or write y_r friendly blogger at

Think how impressed your friends and neighbors will be when they see actual award winners on your shelves!

Written by Ian Kern — April 28, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Ninety-One

Man, You Should Have Seen Them Kicking Edgar Allan Poe

It’s that time again, the Mystery Writers of America will bestow Edgar Awards on worthy crime fiction writers this very night, Thursday, April 27.  Here is a rundown of the nominees:


Best Mystery Novel


Burke, Alafair, The Ex, Harper.  Jack Harris thought his world had ended when his wife was murdered three years ago.  Little did he know what fate had in store--he is drawn into a tangled web and finds himself accused of a triple murder!  His ex-girlfriend, Olivia Randall, is one of New  York’s best criminal defense attorneys and agrees to help him. But as her doubts about his innocence mount she is forced to confront her own dark secret that she has kept for twenty years.  


Coleman, Reed Farrel, Where It Hurts, Putnam. Gus Murphy is down and out. The divorced ex-cop is barely hanging on when he gets a call from ex-con Tommy Delcamino who is turning to the only cop he ever trusted to get to the bottom of the murder of a relative.  The problem: Everyone involved has something to hide, the girlfriend, the best friend, the gang enforcer, the mobsters, even the cops themselves.  Can Gus find the killer, rejoin the living, and survive at the same time?  


Faye, Lindsay, Jane Steele, G.P. Putnam.  Jane Steele has been orphaned as a young girl and is mistreated by her misanthropic aunt and evil cousin. She escapes to a school where she must fight for her very life.  Leaving her tormentors behind, she is delighted to find that her aunt has died and that Thornfield, the new master of the house,  is seeking a governess.  Jane takes the position and seeks to learn whether she is the rightful heir, only to fall in love with Thornfield and desperately try to hide her murderous past.


Gaylin, Alison, What Remains of Me, William Morrow.  In 1980, Kelly Michelle Lund shot and killed a famous Oscar-nominated director during a party at his home. The seventeen year old refuses to reveal her motivation, showing only a sinister, enigmatic smile.  She’s convicted and spends a quarter century behind bars.  Now it’s deja vu--film legend Sterling Marshall is dead by gunshot---and it’s Kelly Michelle’s father-in-law!  Is she a killer, or will she pay for another’s crime?


Hawley, Noah, Before the Fall, Grand Central. On a small plane headed for New York are eleven passengers, ten from the privileged class and one down on his luck painter.But the plane crashes, and the only survivors? The painter, Scott Burroughs, and a four year old, who is now the last remaining member of a family of media moguls. The facts begin to point to a conspiracy--or was it a coincidence that so many powerful people perished?

Best First Mystery Novel by an American author


Berry, Flynn, Under the Harrow, Penguin. Nora takes the train from London to the English countryside, expecting a pleasant holiday with her sister.  But when she arrives she finds that Rachel has been the victim of a brutal murder!  Completely lost, she can’t return to her old life, but neither does she want to involve the police after an unsolved assault soured her trust.  As her obsession with the murder grows, she finds herself as unrecognizable as the sister she thought she knew so well. Paperback Original.


Beverly, Bill, Dodgers, Crown. Drug runner East is sent to Wisconsin to kill a witness in a court case. Traveling with his hotheaded younger brother and sent by his uncle, this family affair wrenches East out of his comfort zone, where he is exposed to a greater range of experience and danger than he ever thought possible.  


Ide, Joe, IQ, Mulholland. In the mean streets of East LA, the cops don’t exactly knock themselves out to solve crimes, so the dropout loner they call IQ takes it upon himself to help close the cases the LAPD can not or will not touch. When a rap impresario is endangered, Isaiah must choose from a menu of suspects--a toxic ex, various gangs, a hit man deemed dangerous even by other hit men, and a lunatic attack dog.  Just another day in the ‘hood!  


Petrie, Nick, The Drifter, Putnam.  Peter Ash has spent the year since returning from military service in the Middle East with shell shock that prevents him from being indoors. Guilty over the suicide of a comrade, he travels to Wisconsin to assist the widow, and stumbles across four hundred grand in cash, explosives, and a really big dog.


Wright, Lili, Dancing with the Tiger, Marian Wood/Putnam. In rural Mexico, a meth-addicted grave robber inadvertently unearths the death mask of Montezuma. Among the cast of characters who will stop at nothing to possess it are a Mexican cartel boss, an American art collector, a respected curator and his long-suffering housekeeper, and Anna Ramsey, who seeks the artifact as a way to redeem her father’s reputation and remake her family into a whole unit again.


Young, Heather, The Lost Girls, Morrow.  Sixty years ago, little Emily disappeared from the family’s lakeside vacation home in Minnesota. Lucy still lives there and has written an account of that family trauma and willed the home to grandniece Justine. Justine will use the place to hide herself and her daughters from an abusive husband...

Best Paperback Original


Dilts, Tyler, Come Twilight, Thomas & Mercer. Everything is copacetic for homicide detective Danny Beckett.  He’s working well with his fellow detectives, he’s getting along with his romantic partner, and he’s solving some cases.  Until he catches a suicide that turns out to be murder, a bomb destroys his car, and then he finds he must choose between department protocol and saving a life.


Dugoni, Robert, The 7th Canon, Thomas & Mercer.  A teenaged hustler has been murdered at a San Francisco shelter for boys and their priest/mentor stands accused. Father Thomas Martin proclaims his innocence and his attorney Peter Donley stands with him. But a cutthroat DA seeks headlines, and a cop obsessed with vengeance have their own agendas, none favorable to Martin or Donley.


McKinty, Adrian, Rain Dogs, Seventh St./Prometheus.  Ulster cop Sean Duffy is confronted with a locked-room mystery right in the midst of The Troubles. Journalist Lily Bigelow died after a fall from a castle, but the room from which she leapt is locked and no one could have shoved her out the window.  Could they?


Abbot, Patricia, Shot In Detroit, Polis.  Middle-aged photographer Violet Hart is down on her luck just now, Living in Detroit she’d specialized in shots of burned out buildings and the like, but her luck changes, kinda, when she’s asked to photograph a deceased young man at the service. She shoots at least a dozen more in this vein, inadvertently putting herself in harm’s way.


Yocum, Robin, A Brilliant Death, Seventh Street. Teenager Travis Baron longs to learn more about his mother, who died in an accident when he was an infant. But there is doubt, as her body was never found, and Travis’ father, in his grief, purged the house and his mind of any memories or evidence of her existence. Travis and his best friend begin piecing together the facts in the case with the help of a disgraced detective who had served time for falsifying evidence.


Ziskin, James W., Heart Of Stone, Seventh Street. Ellie Stone is relaxing at the Adirondack lakes when two poor souls plunge to their deaths. But the cops learn that the two victims didn’t know one another, so how did they come to meet their ends together?  Ellie investigates, and in the upstate NY of the 1960s, must navigate cold war passions, old grudges, betrayal, lost ideals, and somehow stay alive in the bargain.

Best Fact Crime (aka True Crime)

DiMaio, Vincent & Franscell, Ron, Morgue: A Life in Death, St. Martin’s.  A collection of the noteworthy cases, or corpses, that Dr. DiMaio worked on during his career. Included are the inside stories of murder victim Trayvon Martin and the exhumation of Lee Harvey Oswald.  Author DeMaio emphasizes the importance of impartiality and traces the evolution of the science to its position today in confirming or refuting evidence.


Leamer, Laurence, The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, Morrow. March 1981, Mobile, Alabama. Two hapless Klansmen are on the prowl for a black man to murder in retaliation for a jury’s failure to come to a verdict in the case of a black man accused of murdering a white man.  They find a teenager walking home alone, cut his throat and leave him hanging from a tree. The aftermath puts race relations in Alabama front and center, and the Klan subsequently got sued into the Stone Age.


Murphy, Paul Thomas, Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane, Pegasus Crime.  In 1871, a bobby patrolling a desolate London district happened upon a horrendously battered woman, who slipped into a coma and died days later. It was quickly discovered that she was a sixteen-year-old servant of the noteworthy Pooks family, and the family’s son was arrested for the murder.  A real life legal drama pitting a hard-luck servant versus a rich white kid.  The more things change…..


Sanders, Eli, While the City Slept, Viking. Isaiah Kalebu had a history of mental illness and violence witnessed by  family members, police, mental health workers, lawyers, and judges.  But no one was willing or able to step in and prevent the terrible murder committed by Kalebu. Author Sanders won a Pulitzer Prize for his newspaper reporting of the crime and hopes society will heed the call for better treatment of mental illness.


Summerscale, Kate, The Wicked Boy, Penguin.  In the summer of 1895, the Coombes brothers, Robert and Nattie, ages 13 and 12 respectively, were seen gadding about London spending money like a couple of drunken sailors.  They claimed they’d been left alone by their mother and were taking advantage of their newfound freedom.  Their aunt was suspicious, however, and forced her way into the house, where she found the decomposing body of the boys’ mother. Robert quickly confessed to the murder while in police custody, but his lawyers claimed insanity.  A surprise ending worthy of the best thriller will enthrall readers!

Best Critical/Biographical Work


Ackroyd, Peter, Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life, Nan Talese.  Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) didn’t have a brief life, but it was certainly eventful!  From his decidedly peculiar childhood to his start in UK silent film to his Hollywood classics, we see a concise portrait of a guardedly jolly man who loved practical jokes and made darn good pictures!


Brunsdale, Mitzi M., Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime: Works and Authors of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden Since 1967, McFarland.  Far from a dry listing of Scandinavian crime authors, author Brunsdale delves into the cultural context of each country’s crime fiction writers, including the pioneers Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall, along with Steig Larsson, who popularized the genre in the North. Also included are adaptations for film and television, stories by other authors set in the countries mentioned, awards bestowed in each country, and more.

Franklin, Ruth, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Liveright.  Author Jackson (1916-1965) has been unfairly overlooked by the arbiters of American literature.  Renowned for her short story ‘The Lottery’ and the novel ‘The Haunting of Hill House,’ there is much more to her body of work, such as pioneering the ‘domestic horror’ story, as this in-depth biography makes clear. Biographer Franklin reveals the darker underpinnings beneath the prose. $35.00.  (Non-Fiction)

Skal, David, Something in the Blood, Liveright.  Since its first publication in 1897, Dracula has spawned an entire industry revolving around the vampire milieu.  But author Bram Stoker remains a largely unknown and mysterious figure.  Until now.  With newly discovered documents at his disposal and years of research behind him, author Skal has created the definitive biography of the creator of a timeless icon. $35.00.




Written by Ian Kern — April 27, 2017