The Puzzly – The ISOTCMN Book Of The Month – February 2021

Well, that’s another month over and done with. Anything worth talking about in it? No, not really. Another month of lockdown, another month of getting grumpy with people wearing masks on their chins and not knowing how much two metres are in supermarkets… but at least everyone in the Puzzle Doctor family is healthy, so we count our blessings.

This has been an odd month for reading, with a bit of a blitz at the start of the month, tailing off significantly at the end. The “other stuff” going on that I’ve alluded to in the past is still distracting me, so I was genuinely surprised to see that I’ve read ten books. Well, ten and a half, but definitely won’t get my current read done and dusted by the end of the day, so I thought I’d do my monthly round-up now.

What I am rather pleased with is the fact that I seem to be gaining more readers – welcome, one and all, with my site stats hitting a bit of a high, average over 1000 views per day this year – that’s a significant increase on last year’s average, so that’s nice to see. So once again, welcome, I do hope you stick around. And I will get back to the Poirot Countup next month, I promise…

Anyway, this month’s books were:

The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith – one of the better of the “female interwar detective” stories that I’ve read, although it’s more of an adventure than a mystery.

Murder At Monk’s Barn by Cecil Waye – the most welcome reprint in ages (well, apart from Brian Flynn… oh, who am I kidding) this long lost book by John Rhode/Street/Miles Burton/Cecil Waye is a great demonstration of the writer’s strengths.

Funeral In The Fog by Edward D Hoch – a new collection of Simon Ark mysteries, apparently supernatural occurrences with real-world solutions. Not his best series, but more Hoch is always welcome.

Fifty Fifty by Steve Cavanagh – a highly enjoyable thriller with a simple premise and while the identity of the killer wasn’t a surprise to me, it was a really fun read.

The Darker The Night by Herbert Brean – I didn’t particularly like this one, but JJ at The Invisible Event did. Anyone want to give the casting vote?

The Cambodian Curse by Gigi Pandian – a collection of impossible crimes, with no particularly new solutions, but charming told nonetheless, and a couple of novel set-ups.

Trial By Fury by Craig Rice – no, didn’t really get this one. Plenty of people do, but not me, I’m afraid.

The Condamine Case by Moray Dalton – entertaining set up, but a disappointing resolution.

Inspector Burmann’s Busiest Day by Belton Cobb – Inspector Burmann does his best Jack Bauer impression to solve a murder in a single day (despite not having any reason for the deadline…)

Stableford On Golf by Rob Reef – another book that JJ liked more than I did. I think it depends on whether you find the meta-fiction elements clever or not…

Looking over this, there’s only really one choice…there were a number of entertaining reads but the book of the month has to be Murder At Monk’s Barn. Out of print, and even out of awareness for many, many years, the fact that it has been reprinted is almost beyond belief. And even better, it’s a really good classic mystery novel, showing all of Rhode/Burton/Waye/Street’s strengths. Looking forward to reading the other three.

Next month, a fair few new releases, starting with Victoria Dowd’s follow up to The Smart Woman’s Guide To Murder. Enjoy!


  1. I’m about one quarter of the way through Murder At Monk’s Barn so I’m happy to hear your endorsement. Nothing special yet but everything is being done intelligently. As a big Rhodes/Burton fan I have been looking forward to these reprints quite eagerly.


  2. I’ve enjoyed the Brean novels that I’ve read–with Wilder’s Walk Away the favorite so far. I thought this one was fun, but do agree with you and JJ (from your review post itself) that it’s not a typical whodunnit/puzzle piece. [But it’s definitely a Yes vote–so does that mean I’m the tie-breaker?]


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