The Review of 999 Reviews – Part 3: 667 to 999

Well, there’s just the one post to go before Review 1000 and it’s this one – the last third of my review of the first 999 books. As before, I’m just going to pick out books that I felt were important to me and had some sort of story behind them. So off we go.

Review 667 – Death At The Boston Tea Party by Deryn Lake

Well, I thought I’d better include the first one from the final third, but there’s no particular reason to do so. It’s a perfectly fine historical mystery but nothing really sticks in the memory. But I thought I’d better mention it.

Review 670 – The Motor Rally Mystery by John Rhode

So here it is, the real beginning of the obsession. Someone was flogging a huge number of John Rhode titles on eBay and made the mistake of selling them all in one go. Hence a number were available at reasonable prices and I got a fair number of them. I love this one – the mystery is fine but the period detail about the national motor rally is what makes it. Rhode is great for getting a picture of life at the time of writing and this one really stands out.

Review 685 – The Sinking Admiral by The Detection Club

A book that possibly contains my favourite chapter ever. It’s the one written by friend of the blog Len Tyler and it made Mrs Puzzle Doctor give me a very funny look when I laughed out loud when reading it. And when I tried to explain, she just didn’t get it at all – I guess she doesn’t find Ronald Knox a great source of hilarity. Her loss…

Review 702 – Fields Of Glory by Michael Jecks

It’s rare that I review (hell, even read) a non-crime book but it’s happened twice now, and both times, it was due to that pesky Mr Jecks. This one is the first in a trilogy set in the Hundred Years War, and it’s a really great read if you want a bit of history, warts and all.

Review 706 – Holmes On The Range by Steve Hockensmith

Well, it only took seven hundred odd reviews to get round to one of the inspirations for the blog, this beautiful sort-of homage to Holmes. The tale of the illiterate Old Red and his brother Big Red, who when reading Holmes stories to Old Red inspires him to emulate the great detective. A beautiful series of stories, and I’m absolutely thrilled that there’s a new book on the way next month…

Review 715 – Dark Serpent by Paul Doherty

Only my 85th review of Paul’s work. A couple of books earlier, The Herald of Hell, there had been a character who I thought might have been named after me. I’ve corresponded with Paul every now and then and when a drink-sodden, whore-mongering mercenary character had something resembling my name, I asked Paul if it was deliberate. It wasn’t (although Paul admitted it might have been subconscious) but he asked me if he could dedicate a book to me. Obviously I said yes and as such, readers who are desperate to find out a little bit about the real me could do a lot worse than buy this book…

Review 758 – The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye by Brian Flynn

Stop me if I’ve told you this one before… my sister-in-law bought me this at random from a second hand bookshop as it was an obscure mystery title. And hence started another obsession of mine. Luckily I managed to grab a fair few titles before (apparently) my reviews started pushing the prices up too much. I still manage to find the odd title occasionally, but unfortunately about half of his books just don’t seem to exist…

Review 786 – A Minor Operation by J J Connington

Humdrum, my backside. One of the authors dismissed by some as humdrum, but Connington wrote some great mysteries, but I loved this one. A classic mystery, a clever puzzle and some real charm. Definitely worth a read, this one.

Review 835 – The Norwich Victims by Francis Beeding

I’ve had a mixed history with Beeding, with the very impressive Death Walks In Eastrepps and the very dire The Four Armourers, but this one did help open my eyes to the possibility of the inverted mystery. Yes, this is only sort of one, but it’s well worth your time.

Review 875 – Checkmate To Murder by E C R Lorac

E C R Lorac aka Carol Carnac is a writer that I’ve still not completely warmed to. All of her books that I’ve read are good solid mysteries but they never seem to rise above that. This is one of the better ones, with some nonsense concerning the alibi, one of those “can’t believe anyone noticed” but it’s rather fun.

Review 880 – The Sea Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts

In which I am won over by Crofts. I hated The Pit-Prop Syndicate with a vengeance, but this is a clever inverted mystery and a great read. Utterly engrossing, somewhat to my surprise, and I finally see the charm in the third of the “humdrum” writers.

Review 888 – The Case Of The April Fools by Christopher Bush

Another author where I was less enamoured by my first encounter – in this case The Case Of The Tudor Queen – but this one completely won me over. A clever mystery – a bit guessable, yes, but clever nonetheless – and a entertainingly told tale. The Case Of The Dead Shepherd is even better, though…

Review 892 – The Stingaree Murders by W Shepard Pleasants

A classic impossible mystery for all the wrong reasons. I actually bought this as a possible Secret Santa present for someone but decided to keep it for myself. I don’t think I regretted it – yes, it’s massively out-dated in its attitude to the black and Chinese characters and the impossible crimes border on the ridiculous… but it’s an interesting read, in an academic sense at least.

Review 919 – Murder Isn’t Easy by Richard Hull

Forget The Murder Of My Aunt and definitely forget Excellent Intentions – despite those being good reads, this is the Hull book that stands out. I don’t recall a Golden Age novel that plays this many tricks with the narrative while remaining a satisfying mystery. You really need to check this one out…

Review 923 – The Paddington Mystery by John Rhode

… and if you want to see what I mean by my fascination with the work of John Rhode, then you really need to skip this one. It’s Rhode’s first Dr Priestley novel and it really isn’t up to scratch. Things get much better very quickly, so skip this one, and, of the reprints, go for Mystery At Olympia instead.

Review 951 – A Fatal Obsession by Faith Martin

An author that had been bouncing around my Amazon recommendations for a while, which isn’t usually a good thing, but I’d had a little contact with the author under one of her pseudonyms and had enjoyed The Invisible Murder. Regardless, I was genuinely surprised by the quality of this one, a really classic feel to the plotting. Definitely worth 99p or whatever it’s going for at the moment.

Review 987 – The Colour Of Murder by Julian Symons

Have I ever been pleased not to enjoy a book? Only once – and this is it. Arguably Symons did a lot of damage to the classic mystery genre. People seemed to listen to him and his apparent disdain for the well-plotted mystery didn’t help the reputation of a number of great authors. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course. Well, my opinion is I’d rather read those books than anything else from Symons…

Review 990 – Puzzle For Wantons by Patrick Quentin

Definitely the top read from my Countdown to 1000 books – this is a cracker and I’ve already invested in more from Quentin. A few more “Puzzle for” books and a couple of others. There’ll be more from Quentin soon.

Review 999 – The Greene Murder Case by S S Van Dine

And we bring the review of reviews to an end with this classic, an author who has for whatever reason been off my radar for too long, given a good case can be made for Philo Vance being the inspiration for many a detective character. Again, more soon from Van Dine.

So that’s the Countdown to 1000 over, and the review of reviews over with as well. So dear reader, over to you. What do you think I have chosen for my 1000th review?



  1. I am reading Puzzle for Puppets, and early on still, am loving it. By some weird process I hear her dialogue in Myrna Loy’s voice! Which is a very good thing indeed.

    I have so far by keeping my eyes open snagged several Quentin/Stagge/Q. books on Kindle for two bucks each.
    Julian Symons’s opinion — of Quentin — vindicated again! Glad you agree! 😈

    Actually JS was erratic in his judgments, but I think you are wrong that he was disdainful of the golden age. I know that because I used Bloody Murder as a guide when I started reading GAD. Have you read Bloody Murder?


  2. Elegant Choice: Hound of the Baskervilles

    Surprising Choice: Farewell My Lovely

    Prestigious Choice: Crime and Punishment

    Best Choice: Bleak House

    My Guess: a P D James.


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