Friday, September 02, 2016

FFB: Puzzle for Pilgrims -- Patrick Quentin (Hugh Wheeler and Richard Wilson Webb)

I've never sorted out the authors behind the various Patrick Quentin, Q. Patrick, and Jonathan Stagge names, but I think I have the attribution above right.  I've enjoyed several of the novels in the Peter Duluth series, so I thought I'd give this one a try.   I'm sorry I did.  In the other books I've read Duluth and his wife, Iris, have been pleasant company.  In this one they're just two more unpleasant characters in a very unpleasant sextet.  No other Duluth novels followed this one, and it's easy to see why.

Duluth, having returned from WWII with problems, can't get along with his wife, and they agree to a separation.  She goes to Mexico, and he stays in New York, where he gradually returns to his old self.  But it's too late.  Iris has met a married man, Martin, in Mexico and fallen for him.  The novel opens with Duluth at a bullfight in Mexico City, where he meets the man's wife, Sally.  Things don't go well between the two, and they downhill from there. 

The other two characters involved are Jake, a Hemingway-esque private eye (I saw a good many Hemingway echoes in the book), and Marietta, Martin's sister.  It's hard to say who's more messed up, but my vote would go to Marietta.

Before the book ends, two of these people are dead, amidst hints of incest, plenty of homoerotic undertones, and much unpleasantness in vividly described Mexican locations.  The local color is the best thing about the book, and the writing is fine throughout, so no complaints on that score.

The really bad news is that I had the solution pegged almost from the start, at least 100 pages before Duluth.  It might have seemed novel in the late '40s, but it will be no surprise at all to a current mystery reader.  Read any of the other Peter Duluth novels or stories, but skip this one unless you're a completist.  Instead read the excllent new collection of stories entitled The Puzzles of Peter Duluth from Crippen & Landreu, which is highly recommended.

6 comments:

Barry Ergang said...

I'm pretty sure I've read all of the Peter Duluth novels. It's been a long time, though, so I don't remember much about any of them except to say I thought the first, Puzzle for Fools, was the best. I've also read several of the Quentin stand-alones as well as a few titles the team wrote under other pseudonyms. Although some of the novels grabbed me more than others, an engaging prose style and three-dimensional characters were consistent throughout. The Crippen & Landru collection sounds intriguing.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Not true that "no other Duluth novels followed this one" actually. No other "Puzzle" titles, but there were several more Duluths - Run to Death and Black Widow (I'm sure you've seen the movie version, with Van Heflin, Ginger Rogers, and Gene Tierney).

I've only read the first, PUZZLE FOR FOOLS, and the recent collection you mentioned.

Bill Crider said...

Okay, now I'll have to look for those titles. Maybe. I sure didn't like this book.

Mathew Paust said...

Oops, I came here looking for penguins. Sorry...

Bill Crider said...

Somebody needs to write that one.

Graham Powell said...

Martin and Marietta?

http://www.martinmarietta.com/