So, 2018 fades away. That’s one less year with a fat orange baby being in charge of the free world but one year closer to the UK getting screwed over by fat cat politicians looking to make money as the country falls apart… But on the bright side, I reviewed 128 books, a number that suits the mathematician inside me, as it’s a power of 2, which is nice.
So let’s have a quick look. Authors who made more than one appearance were Agatha Christie (2), Christopher Fowler (2), E C R Lorac (2), Faith Martin (2), Francis Vivian (2), Gladys Mitchell (2), John Dickson Carr aka Carter Dickson (2), Kate Ellis (2), Paul Doherty (2), Peter Tremayne (2), Peter Lovesey (3), Michael Jecks (3), Richard Hull (4), Brian Flynn (9), Christopher Bush (9) and John Rhode aka Miles Burton (12).
I honestly didn’t realise that I’d read that many Bush titles, but the other two high achievers were no surprise. Long-time readers know about my enthusiasm for certain writers, and make no mistake, I’ve very much enjoyed the Christopher Bush titles from those lovely folks at Dean St Press, so expect more in future. In the meantime, I’ve got loads more Rhode to read and not enough Flynn left on my shelves. But I’ve got a plan for that… not one that involves republishing, I’m afraid, but it’s a plan, nonetheless.
So, the minor awards first:
The “Yes, You Were Right” Award
Elephants Can Remember. For a while, relying on my memories, I’d defended this as not being as bad as all that. But it’s not very good, is it…
The “Disappointing Title Change” Award
Tricks Of The Trade by Euan B Pollock, which when I read it was called The Invention Of Suicide. And was a lot more sweary – you can thank me for getting it toned down…
The “Perfect Title” Award
The Case Of The April Fools by Christopher Bush. Not saying why…
The “Luckiest Murderer” Award
The villain of John Rhode’s Invisible Weapons – let’s face it, there’s really no chance that first murder would have worked…
The “Never Going To Reprint This” Award
The Stingaree Murders by W Shephard Pleasants, not for its fairly bonkers impossible crimes but from the blatantly racist characterisations.
The “Perfectly Good But Not A Classic” Award
Anything by E C R Lorac. Seriously, is that a true great Inspector Macdonald book?
The “Book Of Two Halves” Award
Murder In The Museum by John Rowland – half mystery, half Buchanesque thriller.
The “Inauspicious Debut” Award
The Paddington Mystery by John Rhode. He went on very quickly to write great detective stories, but why exactly was this re-issued again?
The “Barzun Was Right About This One” Award
Conspiracy At Angel by Brian Flynn. Barzun was wrong to dismiss an author’s output on the basis of a single title, but this book is indeed poor.
The “Why This One?” Award
Excellent Intentions by Richard Hull. Not a bad book by any means, but also not Hull’s finest work by some distance. So why did the British Library pick this one?
The “Silly But It’s Fun” Award
Thirteen by Steve Kavanagh, a book – concerning a serial killer who frames people and then infiltrates the jury for the trial – that is as ridiculous as it is entertaining. It seems to be nominated for several “Best…” awards but it’s still nonsense.
The “Reverend Knox Would Not Approve” Award
Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin. Plenty of good reviews knocking around for this one, but classic mystery fans may need jaw replacement surgery after drops to the floor when the villain is revealed…
The “Did I Really Read That Book” Award
Well, I probably shouldn’t say, but I read it in October and can’t tell you a single thing about it. Try and guess which one…
The “I Told You So” Award
The Maltese Falcon. Told you I’d hate it.
And so we come to the Grand Puzzly.
The Puzzlies this year went to:
- The Case Of The April Fools by Christopher Bush
- Look For Me by Lisa Gardner
- Bryant & May – Hall of Mirrors by Christopher Fowler
- The Case Of The Dead Shepherd by Christopher Bush
- The Case Of The Chinese Gong by Christopher Bush
- A Rising Man by Abir Mukajhee
- A Fatal Obsession by Faith Martin
- Gallows Court by Martin Edwards
- And So To Murder by Carter Dickson
- Puzzle For Wantons by Patrick Quentin
- The Sentence Is Death by Anthony Horowitz
- The Godless by Paul Doherty
Well, all my “Best Of…” categories are there:
Best Classic Mystery – The Case Of The Dead Shepherd by Christopher Bush. A clever whodunit with a dark atmosphere that sets it apart from the pack.
Best Modern Mystery – The Sentence Is Death by Anthony Horowitz. A properly clued and hugely entertaining modern day mystery.
The Grand Puzzly – Bryant & May – Hall of Mirrors by Christopher Fowler – because it’s a damn good read, in its own right but also as part of the finest modern day detective stories.
OK, so that’s 2018 out of the way. Fingers crossed for 2019…