As review 1000 approaches, I thought it was time to do some sort of review of the blog to date. How to do this? Well, I’ve considered various iterations – the less said about dividing the first 999 reviews into 27 blocks of 37 books the better – so what I’ve come up with is this.
I’ve split the reviews into three (1 to 333, 334 to 666 and 667 to 999) and in three posts, pick out the most important, in my opinion, of the books that I’ve read. So off we go…
Well, I had to start with review number one, didn’t I? A genre mystery that shows a love of both the classic mystery and classic TV science-fiction. It still bugs me that a lot of readers haven’t read the three Mervyn Stone titles, listened to the truly outstanding The Axeman Cometh or read the excellent Painkiller. One of the inspirations for the blog.
Just to make clear, this isn’t a book that I remotely recommend for the discerning mystery lover. But it was one of my earliest encounters with a book that everyone else seems to love. As has become increasingly clear to me over the past eight years, Goodreads and Amazon reviews really should have the phrase “if you like this sort of thing” after the “4/5” rating.
As ever, I seem to be at odds with others about the best Queen novels. I much prefer the early labyrinthine puzzles as opposed to the later Wrightsville books, but I’ve picked this one as the Ellery book to mention because of what I still think is one of the most beautiful ideas that I’ve ever seen in crime fiction, namely the reason for the choice of odd murder weapon. Worth reading for that bit alone.
What can I say about my obsession with Paul Doherty, kicked off by Sergio’s recommendation when I was looking for an historical mystery series with a genuine mystery plot rather than concentrating on a young monk/novice and their love lives. Again, most readers seem happy to read about that, rather than the warts and all picture of history, but not me. Nightshade kicked off my obsession with Paul’s work, culminating in… well, we’ll come to Dark Serpent in a future post.
A very important one, this, as it was the first time I met an actual real-life author. Formby Books, my ex-local bookshop, hosted a signing of The Jackal Man and I had a nice chat with Kate when she signed my book. I’ve since reviewed almost all of Kate’s work and met her a few more times over the years. It’s always a bit of a surprise when an author recognises you, rather than the other way round, and I’m delighted that Kate’s books have been a constant source of enjoyment for me.
Now, Michael is another author who’s been part of the blog since the early days, and the first author to comment on the blog – not on this review, but on the following one, by his fellow Medieval Murderer Bernard Knight. The thing is, I wasn’t that enamoured by this one, although I enjoyed it enough to consider returning to the series. It was Michael’s measured response to my somewhat grumpy review that pushed me into going back to the start of the series and I am so glad that I did. Michael is certainly a friend-of-the-blog and I finally had the pleasure of meeting him/monopolising a lot of his time at the Alibis In The Archive event this year.
Martin is pretty much a household name in the crime writing world these days, thanks to his roles in the CWA and the Detection Club and, of course, his work with the British Library. And The Golden Age Of Murder (which I still haven’t read…) I first met him at an event at Formby Books promoting this one and a re-release of All The Lonely People, the last and first (respectively) Harry Devlin mysteries. Another friend-of-the-blog – I mentioned with Kate Ellis that it’s always nice when an author recognises you, it’s another thing entirely when they spot you in the audience at an event and wave at you!
Not the first book I was asked to review – that was, I think, The Square Root of Murder by Ada Madison, but one of the first that really stood out for me. The first of a trilogy concerning why anyone would bother solving a crime when an asteroid is heading to end life on Earth. Not a standard mystery by any means but the book that made me a little more flexible in looking beyond the genre.
The “between the wars female sleuth” genre has proved very popular over the past ten or so years and one of the finest exponents of the genre is friend-of-the-blog Frances Brody. I met her at another Formby Books talk – if I recall correctly it was with Martin and a third author whose book I didn’t enjoy so much – and have been reviewing her books ever since. This is a very strong start to the series.
Another requested review (oddly from the US publishers, despite David being from Hull) and a series that showed me that sometimes – sometimes – descriptions of violence can be a crucial part of a narrative. By mirroring darkness with the honesty of Aector McEvoy, this series, while not for everyone, is another book that widened the sort of books that I’d consider. Having said that, I put down a book the other day that has loads of positive reviews due to the author taking it too far for my tastes…
The first in the Lacey Flint series, a modern procedural that I only requested a review copy of as I confused S J (as she was then) Bolton with S J Watson, author of Before I Go To Sleep. Glad I did, as Sharon Bolton’s thrillers always have a strong mystery element threaded through them, in particular the wonderful Like This, For Ever.
Worth reading for the comments section where Christopher takes me to task for my concerns over the integration of the King’s Cross fire into the narrative. He was completely right, by the way. The latest Bryant & May book is always a priority for the blog, in part due to Christopher engaging with me constructively. Although mostly because they are damn fine books – do make sure you put the latest, Hall of Mirrors on your Christmas list…
When, to my shame, I finally got round to reading this classic after years of reading crime fiction. Definitely worth reading if only for the gobsmackingly weird second half of the book. You just can’t trust those pesky Mormons, can you?
This ended up being a bit longer than I expected – lots of “firsts” that needed mentioning, I guess. OK, so be back in three reviews time for the next tranche – reviews 334 to 666…