Sunday, August 12, 2012

eBook Review: Murder in the Gunroom

H. Beam Piper, Murder in the Gunroom

Product Details

  • File Size: 303 KB
  • Print Length: 176 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0084CFHC2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars (9 customer reviews)
  • Price: $0.00

1. Short review:  (Amazon rating: 4 out of 5 stars -- I like it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked:  The writing. Piper wrote well.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? A thoughtful roller coaster.
Free and worth the download.

2.2. What I did not like:
     The formatting. There are no breaks between chapters; that is, chapters do not start on new pages. Chapter headings are sandwiched in with the text, thus:
with monotonous regularity. I've jeeped through a couple, myself, to interrogate the surviving ex-defenders. It's all in having the guns and armor to smash through with."
Humphrey Goode was sixty-ish, short and chunky, with a fringe of white hair around a bald crown. His brow was corrugated with wrinkles, and he peered suspiciously at Rand through a pair of thick-lensed glasses
     The promotion for General Semantics stuffed in the middle. It broke the flow of the story and added nothing.
     The confusion of characters. Piper gave Rand at least a dozen suspects and added a supporting cast. I lost track of who-was-who and who-knew-what and where-he-was-when. I just read through to find out whodunit.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Hard-core mystery fans. H Beam Piper fans.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes. The manner in which the murders were committed -- gunshot and bayonet -- are graphically described but no more so than you see on CSI, and the description is as clinically detached as one in CSI.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book?  Yes, but this was Piper's only mystery; that is, there are no more.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell <<SPOILERS>>:
     Detective Jefferson Davis Rand is retained by Gladys Fleming, the trophy wife of the late Lane Fleming, to inventory and liquidate her dead husband's extensive gun collection. He asks for and she agrees to a fee of $5,000, more than the median annual income at the time. After Fleming leaves his office, Rand confers first with his secretary and assistant and then his lawyer. These conversations exist just to let Rand bring up the known facts about Fleming's death and to show that Rand infers that Gladys Fleming paid him an exorbitant sum ostensibly to dispose of her late husband's gun collection but clandestinely to investigate his murder and catch the killer.
     Allegedly Fleming mishandled an antique pistol and shot himself. Rand, an expert in antique firearms, quickly points out the inconsistencies in the official story.
     To cover himself, Rand talks with 1) Humphrey Goode, Fleming's executor and neighbor, to get his authorization to do what Fleming's widow has hired him to do. After a lengthy discussion which gives more details, Goode authorizes Rand to inventory and sell the collection.
     Rand stops to talk with 2) Stephen Gresham, another gun collector and the lawyer and negotiator for National Milling & Packaging, a corporation that is trying to take over Fleming's company, Premix. More details. 
     Rand moves to Rosemont, the Fleming estate, to inventory Fleming's collection. Along the way, he stops at the shop of 3) Arnold Rivers, an antique arms merchant who offered Gladys Fleming $10,000 for the entire collection. From Rivers's assistant -- Rivers is at lunch -- Rand buys a pistol like the one Fleming had in his hand when he died. Rivers comes in and tries to get the pistol back from Rand, but Rand keeps his purchase. When Rivers finds out that Rand is authorized to liquidate Fleming's gun collection, he raises his offer to $25,000. Rand refuses.
     At Rosemont, Rand meets 4) Walters, Fleming's butler (Q: How are butlers in detective mysteries like Brazilian soccer stars? A: They have only one name.); 5) Geraldine Varcek, Fleming's dipsomanic daughter; and 6) Nelda Dunmore, Fleming's nymphomanic daughter. While perusing the collection in the gunroom, Rand meets 7) Carl Gwinnett, an antique arms dealer. Before dinner, Rand meets 8) Fred Dunmore, Nelda's husband and a Premix company VP. At breakfast, Rand meets 9) Anton Varcek, Geraldine's husband and another Premix VP.
     Numbers 1 - 9 above all have reason(s) for wanting Fleming dead. Well, maybe the girls don't. Walters is a suspect, because the butler is always a suspect.
     Rand goes sleuthing. Rivers gets ventilated by bayonet. Rand receives an incredible amount of cooperation from the police. Rand and the police bust Walters for stealing guns from the collection and selling them. Rand puts an assistant of his, Ritter, in Rosemont as the temporary replacement butler. Ritter's real purpose is to guard Rand's back. Rand sets a trap, and Rand and Ritter gun down Fred Dunmore when he tries to shoot Rand.
     Long, long wrap-up in which all is explained.
 2.7. Other:
     This is a short novel (176 pages). Well, short by my standards.
     Piper was a gun enthusiast. This book is thick with details about collectible firearms. Most of it went over my head, but Piper made the pertinent details stand out.
     Piper wrote his protag, Rand, as a disciple of Korzybski's General Semantics. (I thought I had a copy of Korzybski seminal work Science and Sanity on my Kindle, but a quick check through Calibre did not discover one. Silly me. A quick check of Amazon shows it is available only in DTB.) In the middle of the book, Rand launches into a paean to General Semantics. This paean did not serve the story and did not advance the plot.
     Jefferson Davis Rand. Ayn Rand. Get it? 

     Robert L. Piepenbrink and MamaSylvia wrote good reviews at Amazon. 

2.8. Links: 

2.9. Buy the book:  Murder in the Gunroom

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