Welcome back to part two of three of my trawl through the first 999 reviews on the blog. So far, I’ve looked at what I consider to be the most important reviews from 1 to 333. Now it’s time for 334 to 666…
Review 334 – Tragedy At Law by Cyril Hare
One of a number of classic mysteries – like the title that follows it, The Moving Toyshop – that most people seem to rave about but while being perfectly enjoyable, I’ve never considered them as classics. It’s around this time on the blog that I started looking more seriously at unread Golden Age authors, but it was still a while before it became a significant driving force.
Review 349 – Badger’s Moon by Peter Tremayne
I skipped mentioning the Sister Fidelma titles in the first post as it was getting quite long, but this is one of the finest of a very fine series. I alluded to that bloody monk’s adventures last time, but please do not consider Sister Fidelma and Brother Cadfael as interchangeable. Plenty of history and plenty of classic mystery come together to form some very clever mysteries. Like this one…
Review 359 – Doctor Who: Omega by Nev Fountain
A full-blown mystery in the Big Finish audio Doctor Who range with a perfectly clued mystery with one of the most stunning twists at the end of episode three that makes what had gone before make perfect sense. It’s a near-perfect mystery – the listener doesn’t even know what they are trying to solve until one thing happens which makes it so obvious… It’s only £2.99 from the Big Finish website on download, by the way. And while I’m here, I forgot to mention Review 309 – The Axeman Cometh, the Mervyn Stone audio play that is basically the cleverest use of the format ever.
Review 372 – A Case Of Spirits by Peter Lovesey
Another author I’ve had the privilege of chatting to, and, as with all crime writers that I’ve met, an absolutely lovely person. And he was nice enough to sign the first edition of The False Inspector Dew that I brought along with me…This is one of the Cribb mysteries which, while they do vary in the quality of the mystery plot, are always worth a look.
Review 393 – They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie
Don’t get me wrong, I love Dame Agatha, but consider this. Suppose you only read one of her books and it was this one. Or Elephants Can Remember. Or Nemesis. Would you have the same reaction that some classic crime critics did when dismissing many authors out of hand? Because this one is a) obvious and b) rather dull. Probably the finest case of the memory cheating that I’ve found on the blog…
Review 433 – Some Lie And Some Die by Ruth Rendell
Another author whose work I’ve never got on with. Probably as plotting a “normal” mystery wasn’t her strong point, preferring to focus on the personalities and motivations behind the crimes. This one was read prior to a possible meeting with her, which her ill-health caused her to cancel, unfortunately, but as it’s not very good, it might have been an awkward conversation. An author who deserves her reputation but doesn’t really click for me.
Review 453 – The Murder At The Murder At The Mimosa Inn by Joan Hess
Well, I just love the title of this one – a murder is committed during a murder game. Yes, it’s that old chestnut, but Joan Hess, who came to my attention when I was asked to review the preceding title, Strangled Prose. A really nice line in acerbic wit, this series is a step above the usual US cosy title. It’s been an age since I went back to it – must make sure I do so soon.
Review 460 – The Crooked Hinge
I’ve done a few joint reviews, two of which were from John Dickson Carr. JJ and I took a spoiler-filled look at The Ten Teacups but this one was still kept fairly spoiler-free. For the record, I still think it is massively over-rated novel. Carr did many books that are better than this one and I still haven’t got a feel for why some people love this one so much.
Review 469 – Sherlock Holmes: The Tangled Skein by David Stuart Davies
Big Finish have produced some outstanding Sherlock Holmes tales, most notably those by Jonathan Barnes, but this one sticks in the memory as it features Holmes meeting Dracula. That sounds a terrible idea on paper, but this presents it as an alternative re-telling of Stoker’s tale with Holmes involved and it works wonderfully well. Definitely worth a listen.
Review 473 – A Meditation On Murder by Robert Thorogood
Never mind the fact that the first Death In Paradise novel, featuring “missing” investigations of DI Richard Poole was a cracker, but Rob Thorogood, who I’d had a bit of twitter contact with concerning the TV series, tweeted that he “half had me in mind when I wrote the whole thing”. Wow. Possibly my favourite tweet ever!
Review 507 – Chef Maurice And A Spot Of Truffle by J A Lang
The first of three mysteries featuring Chef Maurice, three absolutely wonderfully crafted puzzles and genuinely funny to boot. No idea what has happened to the series, but I owe J A Lang a debt of thanks as by asking me to deliver some review copies of the book to the panellists at the first Bodies From The Library conference, I got to meet yet more of my favourite authors…
Review 529 – The Herring-Seller’s Apprentice by L C Tyler
…and Len Tyler was one of those authors. Admittedly when I first met him, I’d only read this and Ten Little Herrings, the first two Ethelred and Elsie mysteries, but they were more than enough to get me hooked. His John Grey historical series is a great read too.
Review 540 – In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward
Sarah, if you don’t know, is a fellow blogger, but she is also a stunning writer of crime fiction, with this being her first book. Incredibly jealous – my wife is utterly fed up with me banging on about my great unwritten novel, but I know that even if it were to be written, it would never be on a par with something like this.
Review 554 – The Claverton Affair by John Rhode
Ah, John Rhode. This was one of two titles that got a paperback reprint once upon a time – the other being Death In Harley Street – and I managed to pick this one up cheap. It wasn’t until the Miles Burton British Library titles that my obsession with Rhode kicked off, but this one should have done the trick.
Review 579 – The Starlings & Other Stories edited by Ann Cleeves
Another tale of meeting authors, this time a whole bunch old and new, all of whom contributed to this collection of short stories inspired by a beautiful collection of black and white photographs. I had the pleasure of attending the book launch in Wrexham, meeting, amongst others, Ann Cleeves, Cath Staincliffe and that chap Edwards again…
Review 599 – Knock, Murderer, Knock by Harriet Rutland
An early title from Dean St Press, who have been republishing classic crime – and, most importantly, obscure unjustly ignored classic crime – and this one is a real belter. Rutland only wrote three titles, of which at least two are cast iron classics, and it’s thanks to Dean St Press that they are readily available again.
Review 603 – Death Of An Airman by Christopher St John Sprigg
I can’t possibly list all of the great books reissued by the British Library, but this is one of the best. Sprigg only wrote a handful of titles before being killed in the Spanish Civil War. I’ve only read three, all of which are great, but this is the best of the three. I’ll definitely be looking at more in the future.
Review 614 – Hangman’s Curfew by Gladys Mitchell
Mitchell is a divisive writer from the Golden Age – some admire her… eccentricity and I’ve enjoyed a couple of her books. Having said that, this one is rather dreadful. It was one of the hardest to find for a long, long time – imagine if there was a long lost Agatha Christie novel and when it was found, it turned out to be crap. Well, that’s what effectively happened here…
Review 666 – Death In The Tunnel by Miles Burton
Another British Library title and while not my first Miles Burton title – that was the rather dreadful Early Morning Murder – it was the one that impressed me enough to look past that bloody “Humdrum” label and take a proper look at John Rhode’s work. But more on that next time…
I cannot parse your comments on the Lovesey.
You might want to stop reading at this point PD 😉
The genius of the Humdrum label is that it applies to all of the mundane quotidian methods of the detectives, the quality of the writing, and the resultant thrills of the reading. I gotta say, it fit Tunnel pretty well. Wouldn’t you agree that after the admittedly clever mechanical trick is explained, it is chewed over, and chewed over, with a thoroughness few cuds ever experience?
Quick now, name a secondary character from the book! Nor can I, and I read it 6 weeks ago.
I won’t give up on Rhode quite yet, I have Murder on the Board, but so far my admiration is more for Symons’s pithiness than anything else here.
My thanks on the Lovesey comment – a chunk got deleted by mistake, I’ve corrected it. As for Burton, we differ on that one. This isn’t the best Burton, and I think it was a mistake for the British Library to pick it as opposed to Three Corpse Trick, Murder MD, etc, but I like it.
In general I agree about Rendell. Her best books are thrillers not mysteries,and Wexford isn’t in them. But Wexford strikes me as closer to the Humdrums in spirit than to Poirot.
I do recommend the earlier books,such as A Judgment in Stone, and the first few Vines quite highly, but as psychological thrillers more than puzzles.
As for Crooked Hinge … What I like about it is the audacity. This is an audacious, in your face solution. I was completely surprised, and the clues were there, including the nudge nudge wink wink “Christie clues”. It’s so outré. (MOVIE SPOILER) Have you seen The Sixth Sense. Watching it I found it dull but smooth. But it fooled me completely. Even after I noticed the big clue and thought, well that’s silly. I admire that k8nd of panache.