Review of Eight Faces at Three by Craig Rice

A fun introduction to the John J Malone series…

I had read a few of the John J Malone books by Craig Rice, a long time ago, in tattered paperbacks from the used bookstore, and liked them.  So I was pleased to have a chance to review an advance proof of a new version of the first in the series, Eight Faces at Three.  Oddly enough, in spite of the fact that it’s the first in the series, I hadn’t read this title before – I guess none of the used bookstores I used to haunt ever had a copy!   And I found I really enjoyed seeing the series characters in the “early days” – especially watching as Jake Justus meets Helene, and also seeing the early Malone.  

As Eight Faces opens, Holly Inglehart awakens from a troubled sleep to find everyone gone from her Aunt Alex’s house, except herself and Aunt Alex – but Aunt Alex is dead.   Oh, and all of the clocks in the house are stopped at 3 o’clock.  Unfortunately, Holly herself has the best motive to kill her aunt, but her fiancé, bandleader Dick Dayton, and his agent, Jake Justus, don’t think she did it.   Luckily for Holly, Justus is friends with John J Malone, and brings him in on Holly’s side.   What follows is a wild ride through arrests, escapes, hide-outs, clues, red herrings, assaulted DAs, and mysterious little men, before Malone finally figures out what happened.  But figure it out he does.   And, of course, as mentioned above, this is the book where Helene Brand, who is probably my favorite character in this series, makes her entrance.   

Rice’s books have always felt to me like British Golden Age mysteries, amped up with some American jazz-age flavor, a big dose of humor, and a lot of alcohol.    (Which latter I now understand better, having read the excellent introduction to Eight Faces written by Lisa Lutz.)   Like all of Rice’s books – the ones I’ve read, at least – you have to suspend disbelief a little bit to enjoy the ride and the humor, but I’ve always thought that was worth the trade, and the same is true for Eight Faces as well.   If you try to take it too seriously, you’ll sort of miss the point, but if you’re looking for a quick, fun, light-hearted mystery, Eight Faces at Three will fill the bill.   And finally, my thanks to American Mystery Classics/Penzler Publishers for the advance review copy. 

NOTE: It appears that American Mystery Classics only has the paper rights for this book, not the electronic rights, so the links below lead to paper versions…
Buy (paper): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Canada

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