It is one thing to stumble over a body in a private railroad car, as Asey Mayo, the "Codfish Sherlock," did. It becomes somewhat more complicated, however, when the body promptly disappears. That's what happens in "Punch with Care," by Phoebe Atwood Taylor, another of her humorous vintage Cape Cod mysteries. This one dates from 1946. It is the subject of this week's review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review here.
Taylor wrote some two dozen mysteries featured Asey Mayo, a Cape Cod native whose job (as best we can tell) is as a general factotum, inventor, handyman and overall assistant to the owner of a major automobile manufacturer. But on Cape Cod, where he lives and relaxes, he's also known for his ability to solve puzzling and sometimes extremely complex crimes. "Punch with Care" falls in that category: Asey is asked to find a missing house guest. He finds her - dead - in a private railroad car, holding a punched green rail ticket. But before he can summon police, the body disappears - and that's when it REALLY starts to get complicated.
Many of the Asey Mayo books feature pretty outrageous plots with a fair amount of slapstick humor, and that's certainly true of "Punch with Care." By the way, if that title sounds familiar, it's because it comes from a bit of doggerel verse about railroad conductors, made infamous by Mark Twain:
Punch, brothers, punch with care,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare...
Yes, even that doggerel, which tends to invade your brain somewhat the same way as the song from Disney's "It's a Small World," gets wound into the plot before Asey Mayo unravels it all. It's fun to read - sort of a vintage cozy, if you will. "Punch with Care" is a great way to meet Asey Mayo.
This is another entry in the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge, sponsored by Bev at the My Reader's Block blog. Follow the link to see what others are reading - and I hope you'll decide to join the challenge!