Puzzle For Players (1938) by Patrick Quentin

It wasn’t the best omen for Peter Duluth’s comeback to Broadway. Being moved to the rundown Dagonet theatre, a theatre with something of a reputation, doesn’t bode well for Troubled Waters, but Peter and his cast are determined to push ahead. But with tensions running high amongst the cast, things don’t look good when one actor drops dead from a heart attack, apparently scared to death.

With a phantom apparently lurking in the shadows, it doesn’t take too long before another death occurs, a death that is almost certainly murder – but the show must go on. And if that means hiding the truth from the police…

I really enjoyed Puzzle For Fools, the first Duluth book (or A Puzzle For Fools – opinions seem to vary) and the later Puzzle For Wantons, so it’s no surprise that I’ve come back to the series. There’s an element of order in the developments in Peter’s life – well, Peter and a certain character but as that’s a spoiler for Fools, best not to name them.

This is a very well-plotted and well-written mystery. You have to turn a blind eye to a bit of near-magic psychiatry towards the end of the tale, and a late chapter regarding some… events in Peter’s life is rather odd, but these are minor oddities in an extremely satisfying tale.

There is so much going on here that at times it looks as if it’s never going to cohere into a satisfying plot, but rest assured, dear reader, the writers do a wonderful job at bringing multiple disparate strands together for the conclusion. The various suspects are a wonderful collection, all of which make substantial contributions to the overall plot, something which often can’t be said of mysteries. I think it’s fair to say that no one here falls simply into the “red herring” category.

Overall, this is an exceptionally strong title, one that makes me look forward to the rest of the series and more from the Wheeler-Webb team.

Just The Facts, Ma’am: WHERE – in a theatre


      • Why focus on the negative 😉 I don’t in fact remember that one so well but loved all their various novels and short stories when I read them in the 80s and early 90s (admittedly mostly in Italian …)


      • In the US that book is called THE STARS SPELL DEATH and I also disliked it intensely. It’s really the only dud in the Stagge series, IMO. The best of the lot are MURDER BY PRESCRIPTION (MURDER OR MERCY? in the UK), THE SCARLET CIRCLE (LIGHT FROM THE LANTERN in UK) and DEATH, MY DARLING DAUGHTERS (DEATH AND THE DEAR GIRLS in UK). I think THE SCARLET CIRCLE Is overall the most successful of the books that I’ve read so far. Only have three more left.


  1. This one was a mixed bag for me. It started strong with some great atmosphere. In the long middle it moved a little out of my area of interest. I remember the end being especially poignant – a scene involving a clock, if I recall.


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