Sunday 31 December 2017
LAWRENCE BLOCK - AS DARK AS CHRISTMAS GETS (1997)
In addition to the four novels (No Score, Chip Harrison Scores Again, Make Out With Murder, and The Topless Tulip Caper), Lawrence Block wrote two short stories about young Chip Harrison. Both take place after the four novels, and feature Chip (The Lecher in the Wry) as he is in the third and fourth books—i.e., the assistant of Leo Haig, a sort of road company Nero Wolfe. The first story, “Death of the Mallory Queen,” appeared in 1984; 13 years later, “As Dark as Christmas Gets," was written for a pamphlet that served as Otto Penzler’s Christmas gift. Every year Otto commissions a story from a writer of his acquaintance, with the sole requirement that the story be set in his establishment, The Mysterious Bookshop, and that it involve the crime or the threat of a crime. The story was subsequently published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.
The story, deeply imbued with the mystique of the mystery community, involves a missing manuscript, and a cast of characters who may ring a bell or two, seasonal or otherwise. And, along with Harrison and Haig, the bookstore proprietor plays a vital role...
A big intro for what is just a short story.
I've read Death of the Mallory Queen previously, but haven't yet tried any of the longer form Chip Harrison novels. From my limited experience of Chip, he's my least favourite of the recurring Block characters I've encountered. Far rather a dose of Scudder, Keller or Bernie. The jury is still out on Tanner as I haven't read him yet either.
The events take place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. A party on the eve sees an unpublished Cornell Woolrich manuscript disappear. A Christmas Day reunion with the seven possible culprits, our party host and our puzzle solver, Leo Haig along with assistant Chip, sees the mystery solved.
I did like the reveal of the manuscript's journey during the course of the party. Each guest has a possible motivation for acquiring the manuscript either for personal or professional reasons. With regards to the setting and the resolution, see the first intro. paragraph above - no reputations were damaged during the resolution of our mystery.
An ok story, which didn't especially feel festive to me but it's another notch on the scoreboard.
3 from 5
Death of a Mallory Queen - thoughts here.
Read in December, 2017
Published - 1997 or 2011 (copyright notes 1997, Kindle details 2011)
Page count - 36
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle