(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Harry Carmichael’s thirty-odd novels featuring John Piper and his friend Quinn have been consistently underrated, although several authorities have pointed to the excellence of the series. Most impressive is the atmosphere of the books, seedy and grim though not depressing or despairing. Piper mourns his late wife, Ann, but he remarries in the course of the series; his essential aloneness and that of his generally hungover friend Quinn, who never marries, function as the psychological reality in which sordid criminal greed occurs. The plots are all puzzle mysteries, although the crimes are not of the impossible variety and the clues are all given fairly. In these and other respects, the series maintains its quality from beginning to end.