The Puzzly – The ISOTCMN Book of the Month July 2020

And there goes July. We’re now closer to end of 2020 that we are to the start, which is something, I suppose. Not that we know that 2021 is going to be any better of course, but we can hope. Not much else we can do, but we can hope…

And so to my July reading – much less than most years, because most years a) I go away for a week or so in July with a massive bag of books, b) I don’t find myself checking into what I can do to prepare for next year’s teaching this early in the holidays, c) I’ve been playing a bit too much Assassin’s Creed – and surely that apostrophe is in the wrong place, as there are more than one of the sneaky little buggers… and d) I’ve been writing those introductions for books 11 to 20 from the mighty Flynn which will be out in two months’ time – the fifth of October, put it in your diaries now!

I’m really chuffed at the reaction to the first ten books, and I’m looking forward to how the next ten are received. As I think I’ve said, I think these are even stronger that the first ten, with so many highlights that I can’t list them here. I’m particularly looking forward to how people react to The Fortescue Candle – not saying why…

Anyway, this month – eleven books in total, let’s see what they were:

Bryant & May – The Lonely Hour by Christopher Fowler – not eligible for the Puzzly, as I read it at the end of last month and it blew me away, and despite not being reviewed in June, took the Puzzly for last month.

Family Affairs by John Rhode – the first of two Rhode’s this month, for no particular reason. I can see what Rhode was going for here, but I don’t think he pulls it off.

The Book of Extraordinary Impossible Crimes and Puzzling Deaths, ed Maxim Jakubowski – misleading blurb and introduction and some authors who don’t seem to understand what an impossible crime is, although those that do produce a few wonderful tales.

After The Funeral by Agatha Christie – the last great Poirot novel, with a fantastic final chapter

The New Adventures of Ellery Queen by Ellery Queen – overall, a disappointing set of short stories.

The Death Box by B G Quin – my hunt for the next Flynn begins and, while this has its moments, I’m still looking…

Bryant & May – Oranges and Lemons by Christopher Fowler – the thematic sequel to The Lonely Hour and if anything, an even better book.

The Smart Woman’s Guide To Murder by Victoria Dowd – the surprise of the month, a book that snuck up on me.

The Third Bullet and other stories by John Dickson Carr – the third of four short story collections, containing at least two masterpieces and only one real dud.

The Ellerby Case by John Rhode – poisoned hedgehog, poisoned hedgehog, poisoned hedgehog…

Bodies From The Library 3 edited by Tony Medawar – another collection of lost treasures hunted down by Tony.

The Puzzly? Well, it’s down to two books that were head and shoulders above the rest, and simply because Christopher Fowler won it last month, it’s going to Victoria Dowd’s crime fiction debut, The Smart Woman’s Guide To Murder which fans of well-plotted, fairly clued crime fiction really should make time for. A book that really needs to be better known, written by someone with a clear love for the genre, with some really clever uses of the traditional tropes while still written for the modern crime fiction readers as well. A great book and a deserved winner.

Next month? Well, the 20th of August is coming. What’s so special about the 20th of August I hear you cry? Well, I have review copies of five – possibly six – books that are all coming out on that day. Still haven’t worked out how to schedule those reviews, as I do like to post on publication day if I can. And these are no minor releases – two of them are much touted Golden Age homages, one is a thriller from one of my favourite authors and one is a thriller from one of my favourite radio presenters… Not sure why they’re all coming out on the same day, but expect periods of quiet from the blog as the big day approaches…


  1. There are quite a few major releases in August and September, so I’m looking forward to the reviews… 🧐✨

    I’ve finished reading “Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder”, and I’m glad it’s receiving attention on your blog. Yes, I found the narratorial voice and the pacing of the story to be uneven – but I was pleased that the puzzle operated in the tradition of the Golden Age mystery. 🤩

    It’s encouraging to see that the classic mystery is still alive today!


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