Monday, July 13, 2015

The Phantom Automobiles - Scott Dennis Parker

Newpaper reporter Gordon Gardner was a supporting character in Scott Dennis Parker's first novel, WADING INTO WAR, but in Parker's latest novel THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES, he takes center stage in another fine period mystery set in 1940s Houston.

Private detective Benjamin Wade makes a cameo appearance in this one, but Gardner takes the lead in investigating the mysterious death of a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman who was killed in a car accident after claiming to have seen automobiles disappear into thin air. At the same time, Gardner is teamed with a beautiful news photographer, Lucy Barnes, who turns out to be a great character. They become convinced that what appears to be a simple accident is much more sinister than that, but their investigation runs into resistance not only from their editor but from the police as well. Throw in a nightclub owner, a sinister doctor, a gun-toting farmer, an artist who also turns up dead, and a rival reporter, and you've got a story that gallops along with plenty of action and mystery.

Parker does a really fine job of weaving his plot together, turning what seems to be a simple story into something much more complex. Gardner and Lucy are really likable protagonists, too. Parker also captures the time period well without overdoing it on the historical references, a trap that it's easy for writers to fall into when doing period fiction. All in all, THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES is thoroughly entertaining and very reminiscent of the sort of classic mystery novels that were published during the Forties.

As a bonus, Parker includes a short story, "The Crimson Sleep", supposedly written by Gordon Gardner, who supplements his income as a reporter by writing mystery stories for the detective pulps, a nice touch that you know a pulp fan like me really appreciates.

1 comment:

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I think I'd enjoy both these mystery novels.