The Old Spies Club and Other Intrigues of Rand

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9781885941602: The Old Spies Club and Other Intrigues of Rand
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'THE KING OF THE CLASSICAL WHODUNIT'

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine used these words to describe the extraordinary accomplishments of Edward D. Hoch. Whether he is writing about sleuths or crooks or spies, Hoch always includes a strong puzzle element in his stories. Each challenges the reader to unravel the mystery before the hero does.

Two of Hoch's most famous characters are British espionage agent Jeffery Rand and his half-Scottish, half-Egyptian wife Leila Gaad. During the height of the Cold War, Rand outsmarted Soviet agents, and in the more murky world of contemporary diplomacy he continues to face intriguing mysteries. In these 15 tales, Rand must discover why a dying spy wrote the word "labyrinth", how can someone fight a non-existent war -- and pass a lie-detector test about it, what do miraculous cures in Scotland have to do with the CIA, and other strange conundrums.

Even when Rand retires and joins The Old Spies Club, he and Leila continue in a world of double-agents, double-crosses, and constant peril.

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Review:

Penzler Pick, January 2002: One of the mystery world's all-time prodigies (as well as one of its best-loved citizens), Edward D. Hoch is a short-story master with a subspecialty in the "locked room" or "impossible crimes" genre. Thanks to his many ongoing series characters and hundreds of tricky tales, many first seen in the pages of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Hoch's talents have been celebrated repeatedly by his peers, including those at the Mystery Writers of America, who made him a Grand Master in 2001.

Whether he's writing about Nick Velvet, the brilliant thief who steals only items with no apparent value; the wandering gunslinger Ben Snow; occult sleuth Simon Ark; or any of his other instantly recognizable heroes, Ed Hoch is uniquely successful as a mystery writer in the short story form. It is no wonder EQMM has labeled him "the king of the classical whodunit."

As is fairly obvious, to pull off the execution of an "impossible" crime within the confines of just a few pages, and also to resolve that crime in those same few pages, is a serious challenge. It usually took John Dickson Carr, probably the preeminent practitioner of the locked-room form, a whole book to accomplish what Hoch manages within a fraction of the space.

The Jeffrey Rand stories, now collected for the first time as The Old Spies Club, are top contenders for Hoch's most enduring creations. (Those involving Nick Velvet run a close second, probably because I'm at heart a romantic, drawn to gentlemen thieves as well as to well-bred secret agents.)

Rand, director of the Department of Concealed Communications until his recent retirement, is an Englishman with an archaeologist wife and a penchant for finding trouble in exotic places. Among the most satisfying of the Rand intrigues found here are "Waiting for Mrs. Ryder," which offers a clever riff on a classic ploy of misdirection, and "The War That Never Was," a dangerous story of one man's memories and the risks brought about by sharing them. --Otto Penzler

About the Author:

Edward D. Hoch is one of the most honored mystery writers of all time. In addition to winning an Edgar for Best Short Story, he has received the Mystery Writers of America's highest honor, the Grand Master Award, and he has been recognized for Lifetime Achievement by the Private Eye Writers of America and the Bouchercon. Ed Hoch is the only author who specializes in the mystery short story to receive such recognition.

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