Review Of The Year – 2013

Time to put on my virtual black tie (that’s a tuxedo for my US readers) as it’s the end of 2013 and hence time for the In Search Of The Classic Mystery Novel awards for 2013. Goodness knows how long this blog is going to run for but I’m going to keep the format of last year – miscellaneous bits and bobs, followed by Best New Novel, Best Historical Mystery, Biggest Disappointment, Best Classic Mystery, Grand Puzzly and Best Mystery of 2013. And if it inspires you to go out and read any of them, then my work is done.

So on with the show with a few minor mentions first of all…

Best Correcting Of An Idiot Reviewer – Christopher Fowler in the comments for Bryant & May Off The Rails

Happiest AccidentNow You See Me by S J Bolton, as I thought it was by S J Thomas when I got it. I wonder if that’s why she’s now writing as Sharon Bolton

Cheesiest titleThe Long Quiche Goodnight by Avery Aames

Stupidest Murder Victim – Frank Dorrance in The Problem Of The Wire Cage by John Dickson Carr

The “Was I Reading A Different Book?” AwardCocaine Blues aka Miss Fisher Investigates by Kerry Greenwood

Biggest Misunderstanding Of An Entire ReligionA Study In Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

OK, on to the main awards.

Best New Novel

Not counting re-issues – there were some promising re-issues this year, for example Stuart Palmer’s back catalogue from Open Road Media, along with some Edward D Hoch short story collections and others, but I’m looking at new books published this year or last year.


untitledAll great reads – especially good to see the return of Charles Paris in A Decent Interval – and quite different genres. Two dark thrillers, two theatrical whodunits and one pre-apocalyptic noir… Very tempted to go for Dream of the Dead, but I’m well aware that it’s freshest in my memory – I think the Best New Novel of 2013 is Original Skin by David Mark. The next in the series, Sorrow Bound, is due in April, and I’m already looking forward to it.

Best Historical Mystery

Not that it matters in the slightest, but I’m going to try and explain what I count as an historical mystery. Anything set in the past (duh) unless a) it was written at the time it was set, so no Dame Agatha, or b) it is a pastiche of a genre that was written at that time, so no Carola Dunn and no Paul Halter – in this category at least. I think as well that I need to discount Thirteenth Night by Alan Gordon as well, seeing as it’s set in a blatantly fictional setting – but more on that one later…

So the shortlist is:

Dove Amongst The HawksAgain, very difficult to choose… I know regular readers will expect me to go for the Doherty book here – and I think I will, because it blends historical fact with historical fiction extremely well, marrying a true bit of history – the death of Henry VI – along with an original murder mystery. These books are all fantastic and I’m looking forward to more from all of these authors next year.

Biggest Disappointment

Nothing really, apart from no sign of a new book from last year’s Best Mystery winner Eric Keith. But it was interesting to reading a number of classic Golden Age mysteries and to come away realising why Christie and Carr are the two names that are synonymous with the era. Some of the rest were good… but not that good. Plotting and readability are two skills that, it seems, some of the Golden Agers didn’t possess both of.

Best Classic Mystery

He Who WhispersWell this one’s a piece of cake to decide because I read He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr this year and nothing else came close for me. Honourable mention for Ten Little You-Know-Whats from Dame Agatha, but He Who Whispers easily carries off this award. If you haven’t read it, and you like mysteries, then you really need to get hold of a copy. It’s pricy as an ebook, but try the second hand websites – there’s usually a copy or two knocking around.

The Grand Puzzly of 2013

Basically, to qualify, you need to have already achieved the Book of the Month award. So the shortish-list is:

Thirteenth NightI’ll not consider one, as it’ll be along in the next paragraph, but one book stands out for me as the most entertainingly odd read this year, with a great mystery tied up in it as well. So the Grand Puzzly for 2013 goes to Alan Gordon for Thirteenth Night. Highly recommended, even more so if you like a bit of Shakespeare or a little fantasy with your mystery. It’s quite cheap as an ebook but is unfortunately the only one in the series available in that format. More, please!

Best Mystery Of 2013

Very simple to choose this –  The Axeman Cometh, the Mervyn Stone audio play from Nev Fountain, ably performed by John Banks and Nicola Bryant, and produced by Big Finish Productions. Only £7 to download the finest mystery you will hear for a very long time. So clever, it needs to be given a degree or something.


So congratulations to all the winners, commiserations to the near-winners and for those who didn’t get a mention, I probably liked your book too. I’m easily pleased.

Be back here in a day or so for my plans for 2014.

One comment

  1. A great list. Lots for me to ponder here. Glad you liked the 2nd David Mark novel. I read a good bit of historical fiction but not much in the time periods you read. I have to get to the books I have read or downloaded on your suggestion this year.


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