Sound the trumpets, it’s time for the first book of the month for 2019! As I stare out the window wishing for the snow to arrive to give me a day off school – apologies for those genuinely suffering due to the deluge in their part of the country/world – it’s time to take a look at January.
First off though, a brief digression that may become a regular end-of-month-post feature.
Film Of The Month – Mary Poppins Returns. Well, I went to see two films this month, with plans to increase that over the year, but I’m still humming the tunes (and apologies to those near me) sometimes singing them. The other film was Oscar-favourite The Favourite, which while exceptionally well-acted, lost points for a) constant use of a fish-eye lens to fit the scenery in that kept making me think that I’d left my reading glasses on, b) a random horse ride that only serves to move the plot forward and c) an ending that just made me think of the Father Ted episode, “The Plague”.
Television Of The Month – Death In Paradise, obviously. Ardal O’Hanlon has really grown into the role now and the new addition to the cast, Ruby, is loads of fun. But sorry to say, Mr Thorogood, sir, but it’s 4-0 to me.
Musical Of The Month – OK, this definitely won’t be a regular feature, but I went to see Wicked the other day in the West End – best school trip ever!
Right, back to what you came for – the Book Of The Month!
Eleven books this month. Which were:
- The Murders In Praed Street by John Rhode – an atypical but fun early outing for Dr Priestley as he takes on a serial killer.
- The Bleak Midwinter by L C Tyler – John Grey faces an actual witch-hunt as he investigates a murder in the seventeenth century English countryside.
- The Price To Pay by Euan B Pollock – a second novel featuring Zen guru Dakar, a sort-of impossible crime.
- The Elusive Bowman by Francis Vivian – death by arrow in the cellar of a public house, with the writer doing a good job with only three suspects.
- The Mother’s Day Mystery by Peter Bartram – Colin Crampton of the Chronicle investigates a hit and run and uncovers a schoolboy blackmailer. In a light-hearted way…
- The Saints Are Sinister by Brian Flynn – entertaining crime caper, but the reader needs some very specialist knowledge (and probably psychic powers) to work out what exactly is going on.
- The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley – an isolated holiday with friends turns deadly. Perfectly fine modern thriller, but too many characters are side-lined to make an effective mystery out of it.
- Murder In The Caribbean by Robert Thorogood – Richard Poole rises from the grave once again on Saint-Marie. Don’t be put off by the prosaic title, this is excellent stuff.
- The Ghost It Was by Richard Hull – in which Hull does his impression of John Dickson Carr. It’s not a very good impression…
- The Eight Of Swords by John Dickson Carr – the origin of the not very flattering word “ginch”. In case you wanted to know. And an underappreciated Gideon Fell mystery.
- Who Killed Dick Whittington? By E and M A Radford – where I managed to write the whole review without making a massively inappropriate p@ssy joke. Good for me. Oh, and it’s a really fun read.
OK, which one gets the Puzzly? I think it comes down to three very different, hugely entertaining reads. First off, in the historical category, The Bleak Midwinter – alternating between amusing and chilling, and clearly inspired by modern events, this is a truly impressive historical read that swept me away. Second, in the classic genre, Who Killed Dick Whittington?, a fun traditional mystery, with some real and understandable scientific detection, and a genuine surprise at the end. But finally, I’m afraid someone has outdone Frankie Goes To Hollywood. They had number ones with their first three singles. Well, this gentleman has won the Puzzly with his first four books.
- January 2015, A Mediation On Murder.
- November 2015, The Killing Of Polly Carter.
- July 2017, Death Knocks Twice.
- January 2019, Murder In The Caribbean.
Did I mention how much I like Death In Paradise? Well it’s not just that – these are entertaining, well-plotted, funny and warm-hearted mystery novels that would do well without the series to back them up. Murder In The Caribbean does a really good job of using the novel form to go beyond the format of the series and present a different sort of mystery. So congratulations to Robert Thorogood – four wins out of four.
Right, February beckons. I’ve a blog tour or two to take part in, and the latest reissue from Richard Hull under my belt already – I actually read thirteen books this month, but I don’t want to spoil you. Some other new titles, some other old titles… who knows.
And just in case you need some inspiration to get back to reading – take it away, Mary Poppins!