THE SINISTER STRANGERS FILE [The Federal Agent Mysteries] by Clarence Budington Kelland

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, Deerstalker Editions reprinted this classic mystery set at Yosemite—and which was originally written to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the park system!

“Clarence Budington Kelland is master of the slick, swift, entertaining yarn.” —The New York Times

“First Kelland book I ever read. Got me hooked.” —Goodreads

The Sinister Strangers starts in midcentury Yosemite National Park when probationary ranger Linc Sawtell becomes suspicious of Joan Vanderlee, maid/secretary to Letitia Potwin, an outrageous Boston Blueblood on a hunt for a real-life treasure lost in the region centuries before. Joan seems unusually independent and outspoken for a servant in her position. Linc’s suspicions deepen with the arrival of a highly cultured businessman from China who seems to know Letitia Potwin very well. And they continue to deepen with the arrival of several other larger-than-life visitors.

There is Zaharados, a visitor from the Levantine, whose retainer makes a point of demonstrating his expertise with a blade by embedding it in a wall uncomfortably close to Linc. There is Johannes van der Poot, a Dutch millionaire with an international reputation (not all good); his gorgeous daughter Katrina, with a taste for the dangerous life and a passion for Park Rangers— particularly Linc. Then the equally gorgeous television wrestler “Nature Boy” Nussler, with his long golden locks and breathtaking physique, seemingly intent on sweeping Joan Vanderlee off her feet.

Adding to the mix is Haroun, Sheik el Samari, a young Arab prince fresh out of Oxford, who acts and talks just like the cliché Britisher, assisted by his rather large entourage. Capping everything off is Whitey, a Chicago gunman, and his cohorts—who rent a cabin just outside the park, where they seem to do nothing but play cards and wait.

Every time Linc sees Joan with Nature Boy Nussler his blood boils. And every time Joan sees Linc with Katrina she becomes more tense and snippy. Clearly everyone is there for a reason—the same reason—but is it the treasure hunt, or something more sinister? Then Linc learns of an assassination plot, and the billions of dollars in oil motivating it, which if successful would create an international incident devastating to the United States—and perhaps the world!

Another slightly off-kilter Kelland mystery, filled with unforgettable characters and pungently clever dialogue—an adroit mixture of the deadly dangerous and the dangerously funny.

The Sinister Strangers one of the Federal Agent Mysteries. Kelland was asked to write a series giving people a behind-the-scenes look at what different types of federal law enforcement agents—the FBI, Postal Service, Park rangers, Secret Service, etc.—did to earn their keep. During the writing, he was allowed unprecedented access to offices, procedures, agents and files—and so the stories in this series are not only fascinating and compelling, but richly detailed, filled with “fine documentary stuff” (The Criminal Record).

“Action steady, suspense above average.” —The Saturday Review

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About the Author

Clarence Budington Kelland was author of nearly 100 novels of mystery and romantic suspense, had enough careers for several men: attorney, reporter, manufacturer of clothespins, director of a major newspaper group, and more. Kelland became best known as a fiction writer, penning some 100 novels, and selling them as serials to the biggest and highest paying magazines of the time—like The Saturday Evening Post, The American Magazine, Colliers, and Cosmopolitan. Many were immortalized on film, of which the romantic suspense comedy and Oscar-winner, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, is undoubtedly the most famous. Kelland appeared alongside Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Erle Stanley Gardner in the same magazines, but was the most popular of the four. The New York Times described Kelland’s novels as “lively stories, designed to prick the jaded palate, that keep readers pleasantly entertained” and noted that “Kelland demonstrates the emotions of his lovers with a psychological penetration.” Kirkus Reviews called his novels “Bright and breezy, with plus appeal for murder-mystery addicts.” His magazine publishers kept besieging him for more novels because every time they serialized one of them (typically in 6-8 installments), circulation shot upward. Kelland obliged, and produced far more each year than his publisher (Harper and Row) could keep up with, leaving more than three dozen unpublished in book form when he died. His inimitable characters, trademark dialogue and deftly plotted stories, according to Harper, “made him an American tradition and won him more loyal, devoted readers than almost any other living author.” Kelland, as ever self-depreciating, simply described himself as “the best second-rate writer in the world.” His legions of fans, old and new, would likely disagree. There was nothing second-rate about his work.