The Puzzly – The ISOTCMN Book Of The Month – March 2018

March, and the United Kingdom has, for the most part, survived the ravages of the Beast From The East – I say for the most part, as the pot-holes on the roads near me that resulted from the big freeze still need fixing… More concerning to my reading, of course, was that pesky job of mine. Any teacher can tell you that the run up to Easter is full of report writing and exam preparation, so I’m rather chuffed to have got through nine books.

Slightly oddly for this old blog of mine, there wasn’t a lot of classic crime on display as I had a bundle of new releases to review, some my requests, some requested of me (and tempting me with nice shiny hardback copies of their books – thanks, Michael and Ashley). Even one of the Golden Age titles was a British Library review copy, so only two were genuine free choices on my part, namely Death Out Of Thin Air and Mr Cadbury’s Parrot Dr Goodwood’s Locum.

Anyway, those nine books were:

Pilgrim’s War by Michael Jecks – Just realised that I didn’t mention the position of the apostrophe in the review. After all, there’s more than one pilgrim and it’s the same war for all of them… I digress, a cracker of a historical tale. Not a mystery, but richly detailed and emotionally strong throughout.

Death Out Of Thin Air by Clayton Rawson/Stuart Towne – two novellas of slightly bonkers Golden Age locked room shenanigans. Utter nonsense but a couple of rather fun mysteries with a nice sense of humour.


The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins – this has been getting a lot of love out there on the internet. Some very clever ideas in this one, although I don’t think it clicked for me as much as it seems to have done for most other internet reviewers. Still, a very good read.


Let Me Lie by Claire Mackintosh – my first encounter with the best-selling thriller writer and I loved this one to bits. Some very clever misdirection, letting the reader feel as if they’re playing along only to find out they are playing a different game entirely.


Bryant & May – Wild Chamber by Christopher Fowler – the first of two B & M books this month, as I got a review copy of the latest one and wanted to catch up. A strong entry into the series, but not as strong as…


Bryant & May – Hall of Mirrors by Christopher Fowler – by going back to the early days of Bryant & May, we get a Golden Age pastiche, the origins of the PCU and something rather marvellous. Something rather marvellous indeed…


Splinter In The Blood by Ashley Dyer – a forensic serial killer thriller which will appeal to fans of the genre, with some surprising plot twists and a bonkers (and somewhat inconsistent) murderer.


Fire In The Thatch by E C R Lorac – the second of two Lorac reissues from the British Library. Consistently good, but still nobody has answered my questions if Lorac ever went from consistently good to great with any of her output.


Dr Goodwood’s Locum by John Rhode – a strong outing for Priestley and friends, and available if you can navigate the Internet Archive. It sags a little in the middle but contains one of Rhode’s better surprises.


So, Book Of The Month? Well, until my most recent read, it was going to be Let Me Lie, a demonstration that there are strong reads out there in the “woman-in-peril” thriller subgenre that seems to fill the shelves of bookshops these, but I’m afraid that the last three paragraphs of Chapter 49 of Hall of Mirrors (and the last two paragraphs of Chapter 50) that helped push this one to the top of the pile. While it doesn’t match the ending of Bryant and May and The Burning Man – because I doubt anything will ever match that – those bits stuck a ridiculous grin on my face for a good long while.

So the Puzzly for March 2018 – and the honour of being my background wallpaper for a month – goes to Christopher Fowler for Bryant & May – Hall of Mirrors. Pop back next month for a swing back towards mostly Golden Age material, including my first encounter with Richard Hull, and some posts on some of the greatest detectives of all time. Whatever the heck that means…


  1. Regarding Lorac – I think Curt Evans suggests that “Murder in a Mill-Race” and “Murder of a Martinet” are her strongest novels that outstrip the quality of her general output.


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