- By Stuart Palmer
- First published: US: Doubleday, 1941; UK: Collins, 1941
Miss Withers is in Hollywood, advising on a film about Lizzy Borden. Like most of Stuart Palmer’s books, it reads well – there’s plenty of action, including the apparent death of Miss Withers herself – but the solution lacks cleverness.
In this outstanding episode of her whole amazing career Hildegarde Withers plunges into the unplumbed depths of Hollywood, and finds that even in that land of make-believe murder is a very real thing.
Hildegarde, called to Hollywood as a technical adviser on a murder picture, finds herself giving advice about the actual murder of Mammoth Studio’s star writer. Despite inexplicable opposition from the studio she decides to make it her business to find out just how one goes about breaking a man’s neck without leaving a mark.
Before she finds the answer to that question Hildegarde encounters the puzzle of the white apple core, the problem of the lateral pocket lamp, and the mystery of the folding bed – and has a preview of her own murder.
To quote Hollywood: Hildegarde Withers’ performance in the star role of The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan is “colossal,” “stupendous,” “terrific!”
Even in Hollywood murder is sometimes real, and Miss Hildegarde Withers, immortalised on the screen by Edna May Oliver, once again appears in her star role of detective and gives a brilliant performance in tracking down the murderer of the Mammoth Studio’s ace scenario writer. Despite inexplicable opposition from the studio she decides to make it her business to find out just how one goes about breaking a man’s neck without leaving a mark.
Books (Will Cuppy, 6th April 1941, 200w):
Miss Withers is such a charmer, in her Edna May Oliver way, that you really won’t mind the Hollywood people who mill around… This is a good-natured tale, rather carelessly tossed off, we venture.
NY Times (Isaac Anderson, 13th April 1941, 200w):
There are those who say that humour is out of place in a detective story, just as there are those who say that nobody has ever written a good detective story since Edgar Allan Poe, but who cares? In our humble opinion, The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan is a book that will keep you guessing and laughing from the first page to the last. All the Hildegarde Withers stories have been good, and this is the best of the lot.
Boston Transcript (19th April 1941, 60w):
Absorbing and very funny.
Sat R of Lit (19th April 1941, 40w):
Gossipy gush about studios and stars may amuse some, but slows up thrilling yarn with clever and original pay-off.
Booklist (1st May 1941)
Time (5th May 1941, 40w)
New Repub (Mort. Post, 12th May 1941, 40w)
Spectator (John Fairfield, 5th December 1941, 100w):
A good thriller and a mine of information.