Review Of The Year – 2018

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 ApproveAward

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:

Well, all my “Best Of…” categories are there:

Best Classic MysteryThe Case Of The Dead Shepherd by Christopher Bush. A clever whodunit with a dark atmosphere that sets it apart from the pack.

Best Modern MysteryThe Sentence Is Death by Anthony Horowitz. A properly clued and hugely entertaining modern day mystery.

The Grand PuzzlyBryant & 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…

6 comments

  1. I’ve been trying to think of an answer to your question about Lorac’s Macdonald novels, and it’s quite hard to think of one which really can be described as “great” (on the other hand, I can only think of one that I’ve read which I thought was weak – to wit, Murder on a Monument). There’s just something about them that means I know that I can re-read almost any of them with pleasure. I hope that the current series of reprints continues, and particularly that we might see some of the books written under the Carol Carnac name re-issued before long.

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  2. I’ve not read either your Best Classic Mystery, or Best Modern Mystery, or Grand Puzzly – so I think I’m in for a treat.

    As for Lorac, I agree with you, but I still have ‘Policemen in Precinct’, ‘Death of a Martinet’ and ‘Shroud of Death’ awaiting me on my TBR shelf. So I’m seriously hoping at least one of them turn out to be a great, and not just middlingly good, mystery novel. I suspect I liked ‘Murder at the Mill-Race’ slightly more than you did, but its chief merits lay with the storytelling rather than the mystery per se.

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