Penzler Pick, December 1999
: Other mystery writers, including George Baxt and Stuart Kaminsky, have spoofed the golden era of Hollywood in series mysteries, morphing famous screen figures--Tallulah Bankhead, Humphrey Bogart, etc.--as props for their plots. Like the golden age of the classic detective story, the heyday of back-lot moviemaking, with its larger-than-life, iconic stars, offers rich material for pastiches. To wit: Goulart and Groucho, together again!
Here we have the third adventure for the best-known Marx brother and, like its predecessors (Groucho Marx, Private Eye and Groucho Marx, Master Detective), it's a homicidal hoot. Ron Goulart, a prolific novelist and short-story writer, once before contributed a filmland sleuth to the genre: in the late 1960s and early '70s, he wrote several books featuring John Easy, a Hollywood private eye. Now, however, the detective is wearing oversized spectacles and greasepaint mustache, and the ease with which Goulart re-creates the period, as well as the man, shows he's had practice. The narrator is Frank Denby, writer for Groucho's radio detective show, who makes a more than adequate Watson. As Elementary opens, Denby and his employer/pal have just come upon the corpse of an emigré director on the set of a movie, Conan Doyle's The Valley of Fear. Not only is Felix Denk past his sell-by date, he's been discovered dead in the armchair of 221-B Baker Street, or at least the Mammoth Studios simulation of same. With Groucho on the case things are bound to get funny fairly quickly. Hard-boiled it's not; more like scrambled! So if you're in the mood for Benny Karloff jokes, (he was Boris's cousin), want to catch a glimpse of Captain Spaulding's pith helmet, and think Hollywood historicals are amusing, go for Goulart's Groucho. --Otto Penzler
From Publishers Weekly
Puns abound as Goulart teams garrulous Groucho with the comedian's writing partner, Frank Denby, for another Hollywood caper (Groucho Marx, Private Eye, etc.). When the two go to the set of a Sherlock Holmes movie, they find German director Felix Denker dead in the detective's armchair on the set of 221b Baker Street. Having already solved a number of murders, Groucho and Frank again decide to play detectives, especially since Miles Ravenshaw, portraying Holmes in the Mammoth Studios production, has issued a publicity challenge declaring he can nab the killer before they do. The duo discover that Denker fled his native country in 1934 with his wife, a former professor of history now working in Mammoth's historical research department. She admits that their marriage wasn't ideal: she and her husband had separated because Felix had had a series of affairs, the last of which ended a few days before his death, when his lover accidentally drove off a cliff. When Groucho and Frank visit Denker's trysting spot, they find Nazi tomes, odd keepsakes for a man who was active in the Anti-Nazi League. Then a friend of Denker's lets on that the director had a secret he was about to make publicAbut what was it? In order to best the sham shamus in solving the case, Groucho and Frank must dodge bullets while testing the theory of mind over matter. Chance meetings with celebrities and Groucho's constant wordplay keep the action light and snappy. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.