I have now read somewhat more than half of Stuart Palmer's books featuring Hildegarde Withers, the New York City schoolteacher who manages to spend a significant amount of her time solving murders with her (frequently frazzled) friend, homicide detective Oscar Piper. As a general rule, I really enjoy them - they're funny without being farcical, they often are built around so-called "impossible" crimes, and the central characters are thoroughly engaging.
I have reviewed several of these books, and you can find links to all the podcast audio reviews at this blog's backlist page (just scroll down to Stuart Palmer's name). Among my own favorites:
- Murder on Wheels. The second Miss Withers novel, it features an impossible murder - right on Fifth Avenue, in the middle of a rush hour snowstorm;
- Murder on the Blackboard. Another early outing, with a murder in the classroom across the hall from Hildy's room. Naturally, she has to get involved in the investigation. By the way, Palmer includes this wonderful description of Miss Withers in this book: "For those of my readers who are meeting Hildegarde Withers for the first time, let me inform them that she is in the neighborhood of forty – the close neighborhood – and that her face has something of the contour, and most of the characteristics, of a well-bred horse";
- The Puzzle of the Blue Banderilla, set in Mexico, moves Miss Withers and Inspector Piper to Mexico to deal with a spectacular and apparently impossible murder at a bullfight;
- The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan, which is the one I review this week, is among Palmer's best, combining a seemingly impossible murder - more than one, in fact - with some funny and smart scenes set in the movie business in Hollywood of the 1940s.
The links above, by the way, will take you to my blog entries about these specific titles. Now that The Mysterious Press and Open Road Integrated Media have released 16 of Palmer's novels as e-books, I strongly urge you, if you haven't already done so, to meet Miss Withers and Inspector Piper. They're really worth knowing.