My final reviews in order read, with most recent last:
Detection Unlimited: Humorous, great characterization, witty detective--almost perfect! I do think Heyer made it a little too clear that there was going to be a murder on the day of the tennis matches because of the detail with which she described the location and everyone's movements. Other than that, I really enjoyed this "English countryside" murder mystery. Besides the cunning plot, I appreciated the allusions to the post-WWII situation: ration cards, sons lost, other sons reporting for military service, and the challenges of maintaining a country estate. Heyer also did an excellent job keeping all the characters/suspects distinct. I never found myself flipping back to figure out who was who again. Plus another reader had carefully written in the names of the residents near their houses on the map of the village on the first page.
Black Orchids and The Silent Speaker: This was my first foray into Nero Wolfe mysteries and I have to say, I enjoyed it! Nero Wolfe is a wealthy, overweight agoraphobic who loves orchids. He spends his days inside his Manhattan apartment, with set appointments to care for his orchids and takes occasional breaks for detecting, which is how he earns his money. The stories are narrated by Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's muscleman/detective/secretary who does most of his legwork for him. One of the introductions to the two (really three) mysteries, mentioned that he enjoyed the mood and humor of the stories and characters and read the novels for that, not so much for the mysteries themselves. I have to agree--both Black Orchids and The Silent Speaker contained well-plotted, intricate mysteries but I enjoyed watching Wolfe manipulate everyone around him and listening to Archie's attitude, as well as his apt summing up of other characters.
The Old Man in the Corner: Not really a novel--a series of very short mysteries told by an old man in a cafe to a young female reporter. The framing device was her listening to him recount the stories of and his deductions about infamous unsolved mysteries while he played with a string. He was supposed to be someone who annoyed her but that wasn't very convincing since neither character was developed well. Basically a series of puzzles, most of which depended on mistaken identity or hoaxes on the part of the criminal. Slightly interesting twist at the end with the old man's character but not that interesting overall and a slow read.
Singing in the Shrouds: I really enjoyed this mystery and agree with the book reviews that she's better than Agatha Christie. The story takes place on board a cruise ship and the detective, Inspector Alleyn is incognito as he hunts for a serial killer who may be on board. Of course, at the time they weren't called serial killers and the psychological profiles for serial killers weren't really developed like you'd see on a crime show today. I think that's part of what made it so interesting. Also, Alleyn writes up his "casebook" in a letter to his wife and indicates pretty early on that he has a good idea who the killer is, though he doesn't let us know until the end. Excellent setting and character development as well.
The Big Clock: Not entirely sure how I feel about this book. Is it really a mystery if you know who the murderer is? I suppose the mysterious part is watching the main character lead a manhunt for himself (the last one to see the murdered girl alive) on behalf of his boss who was the murderer. The characters were mostly unlikeable which bothers me but the twist on the nature of a mystery did make it more interesting. I was curious about why the police seemed to drop their investigation at the end.
Also, for the edition I read, I wish that the introduction hadn't given away the ending!
6. The King is Dead by Ellery Queen (if it ever comes from the library)