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Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: The Case of the One-Penny Orange by EV Cunningham (pseu. of Howard Fast)

Charming detective story. Howard Fast was a prolific writer across many genres. I had not realized that he also wrote a series of detective novels under the EV Cunningham pen name that have been recently re-issued under his real name by Open Road Media (bless them.) They feature a tenacious Nisei detective, Masao Matsui. For those who don’t know, Nisei was a term invented to describe those of Japanese heritage born in the United States. (Don’t get me started on the inherent xenophobia of these kinds of designations.)

As you might have guessed, the case involves a stamp and the murder of a stamp dealer. The murders escalate and the provenance of the stamp and its effect on a twelve-year-old become important, not to mention Buchenwald. Matsui, head of the Beverly Hills homicide squad, is a treat to watch as he interacts with his colleagues and boss employing the “kill ‘em with kindness” technique. Little action, well, except for the three chain-wielding motorcyclists, just good dialogue and intriguing plot.

For those who care about such things (I find them endlessly fascinating, including Lawrence Block’s creation Keller’s passion for stamps) the one-penny orange was first issued in 1847 in Mauritius and is one of the rarest of all stamps. The history is quite interesting. You can find more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauritius_%22Post_Office%22_stamps.
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