Blood on the Mink by Robert Silverberg

 Blood on the Mink cover

Blood on the Mink by Robert Silverberg was first published in 1962 and at 156 pages it’s a really quick read. I’ve been having trouble settling down to read and had tried and failed with a few books before this one unexpectedly hit the spot.

The setting is 1950s America, starting in Chicago before moving on quickly to Philadelphia – apparently the City of Brotherly Love. Someone is printing loads of counterfeit US money in Philadelphia and it’s almost indistinguishable from the real thing. The government sends Nick an undercover agent there to infiltrate the gang responsible and to find out where the currency is being printed.

It all gets very complicated and more than a wee bit dangerous, but Nick is a good guy always aiming to wing not kill, which is more than can be said for the gangsters. This is well written but very much of its time so there’s quite a lot of 1950s style sexism, if that bothers you then this might not be for you. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, I just find it quite amusing and quaint nowadays. There’s quite a lot of humour. It all helps to set the scene. Philadelhia is portrayed as being a very strait-laced and boring place, you can’t get a drink after midnight and nothing at all is open on a Sunday – very similar to Scotland until fairly recently, but apparently unusual in 1950s America.

Robert Silverberg is better known as a very successful writer of science fiction, but he wrote all sorts of things when he was starting out in his career. He wrote a very interesting afterword to this one which had initially been rejected, it was a difficult time for writers and publishers (when is it not?) and magazines were going to the wall. A magazine publisher decided he might have more luck publishing a novel and Silverberg offered him this old one of his. He was paid $800 for it which apparently had buying power of about $8,000 then. How lucky was that?!

This book also contains a couple of short stories – Dangerous Doll and One Night of Violence.

The Great Mistake by Mary Roberts Rinehart

The Great Mistake

This book was first published in 1940 and Mary Roberts Rinehart was an American author of murder mystery/suspense novels. I really enjoyed it but I think I would have enjoyed it even more if it hadn’t taken me so long to read it. Although it only has 288 pages it must have taken about a week for me to get through it, just because of the time of year I suppose. I don’t read quickly but I do prefer to be able to sit down and read 80 – 100 pages at a time, especially with murder mysteries.

Pat Abbott is a young woman who has landed a good job as a secretary at a large local mansion called the Cloisters. Her employer, Maud Wainwright, is a wealthy widow with one adult son, Tony.

Life hasn’t been a barrel of laughs for Pat as she is left on her own at a young age, with the deaths of both her parents, Maud becomes almost a friend to her, but what had at first seemed to be a wonderful job quickly turned into a worrying and terrifying position.

There’s plenty of murder and mystery in this book and it kept me guessing to the end, I can’t stop myself from thinking ahead but I hate it if I work it all out before I get there.

This is the second book by Rinehart which I’ve read, her books aren’t easy to find in the UK but I did read The Circular Staircase last year, I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg, from here. It did occur to me that in each of her books which I’ve read, part of the storyline was about someone gaining access to a house overnight, by nefarious means, I wonder if that is a feature of a lot of her stories, or just those two.

Quite a few of her books seem to be available free from Manybooks, have a look here, if you’re interested. Sadly they don’t seem to have this one available free. Thanks again to Peggy Ann for being a ‘right daftie’ and sending me a copy of the book!

By coincidence I was browsing in a second-hand bookshop just off the Lothian Road in Edinburgh on Saturday and I had a look to see if they had any by Rinehart, never expecting to find one, but they had a copy of The Circular Staircase. It was wrapped in plastic, which generally means that it’s going to cost a lot and sure enough it had a £10 price sticker on it. Quite a lot of money for a book which has the original price of 50 cents on the front cover! It makes my Kindle seem cheap at the price.