BookHound
Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

FROM CRIME TO CRIME: MIND-BOGGLING TALES OF MYSTERY AND MURDER by Dennis Palumbo

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Dennis Palumbo absolutely fascinated me with his new book From Crime to Crime: Mind-Boggling Tales of Mystery and Murder. In nine tales about his Smart Guys Marching Society, he delivers traditional locked room puzzles, red herrings, and clues aplenty for armchair detectives everywhere. But the world he represents in his writing is our present and our world, thoroughly seeded with pop culture references you just don’t find in the Golden Age of Mystery tales by Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes.
More than that, Palumbo – at least for a time – gave me back one of my childhood heroes: Isaac Asimov. I read all of Asimov’s science fiction stories when I was a kid, haunted the library and the used book stores for his books. I loved the robot stories (I, Robot, The Rest of the Robots, and the R. Daneel Olivaw/Lije Baley novels).

In my late teens, while reading my other favorite genre, mystery, I discovered Asimov’s “Black Widowers” stories in the pages of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. I enjoyed the brain teasers, the puzzles, the characters, and the dialogue presented in the tales. Most of all, I enjoyed Henry, the waiter that eventually unraveled every mystery brought before the group.

Palumbo’s Smart Guys Marching Society consists of an ex-military intelligence operative turned reporter, an actor, a lawyer, and a psychologist. All four are middle-aged, married men that get together once a month for serious talks, food, and the chance to get away. Inevitably, though, the subject always turns to murder.

There is a fifth member of the group. He’s an older man with lambchop sideburns, an affinity for the Golden Age of science fiction, and who seems to know something about everything in the world. He’s a keen observer, quick with a bit of humor or a turn of phrase, and someone I felt like I knew from the instant he stepped onto the page. This is Palumbo’s homage to Isaac Asimov, of course, and to the beloved Black Widowers’ tales.

When I sat down to read the collection of nine stories about the Smart Guys, I was instantly at home. The resonance with Asimov’s series was just too deliberate to miss for anyone that’s read those stories. However, Palumbo has updated the characters, the situations, and the language accordingly. There is adult language and adult situations are discussed in a frank manner.

Palumbo also plays fairly with his audience, which is another thing that Asimov did. Most of the time I figured out the mystery, but not till the end of the story. But that’s how it’s supposed to be. A good mystery reader/armchair detective should be rewarded for his/her attention and eye for detail.

Sadly, I got so caught up in the mixture of the new and the familiar that and ended up reading the whole book. Including the three one-off mystery stories at the end. I found a treasure and inadvertently inhaled it all in one sitting. It was literally gone before I knew it.

The author’s writing and mysteries are engaging and compelling enough. In these nine stories, Palumbo started to forage out from the beginning conceit and started to elaborate more on his world, bringing in more characters and building a history of everything that had gone on before. I’m sure there are many more tales to tell.

I truly hope these nine stories won’t be the only ones about the Smart Guys. I’d love to see them again, and once more battle wits to see if I can figure out the mystery before Isaac explains it all.

 

 

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