March has been a hectic month for us teachers. For those of you not in the profession in the UK, the almighty government has decided that we teachers are to assess our students’ grades this year, so we have been working hard to put in systems that are fair to students across the country and across time, both forward and back, so that a student doesn’t get an unfair grade boost from what they would have had just because of COVID. Just when we had plans in place using exam-board-provided questions, it was announced that to make everything fair, those questions, along with mark schemes, will be provided to all students weeks before their assessments. So Mathematics, my own little area, would become a memory test rather than a test of problem solving. As such, as it’s my job in the school as Head of Maths, I’ve been trying to find a system that is fair to everyone and still assesses mathematical ability. I have, by the way…
… well, I wrote that as an apology for how few books I’ve read in March, and then counted and found that I’d read twelve books! How the hell did I manage that, given that my brain is all a-swirl at the moment? Well, clearly I did, so I’d better pick one of them for the Puzzly, my Book of the Month, hadn’t I?
The books in question were:
- Body On The Island by Victoria Dowd – the second Smart Women title, and a confident, well-written and plotted mystery in the classic style.
- The Castaways by Lucy Clarke – a thriller more than a mystery, a perfectly fine read, but lacking any real surprises.
- The Case Of The Empty Beehive by Cecil M Wills – a massive disappointment, rather dull.
- The Night Of The Twelfth by Michael Gilbert – child murder and a public school combine for a smart, effective thriller.
- The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie – I presume you’ve heard of this one…
- Win by Harlan Coben – an incredibly readable, highly entertaining mystery/thriller with some genuine surprises.
- Death In A Bookstore by Augusto de Angelis – translation of a classic Italian Golden Age mystery.
- Two-Way Murder by E C R Lorac – a lost, final novel by Lorac, finally in print, and well worth the wait.
- The Invitation by A M Castle – a well-written mystery, but with a disappointingly ordinary ending.
- Death Walks In Eastrepps by Francis Beeding – a classic, twisty-turny serial killer mystery.
- The Laughing Dog by Francis Vivian – a classic long-lost mystery reissued by Dean Street Press
- Death Defies The Doctor by Belton Cobb – a classic long-lost mystery… that is still mostly lost. Sorry.
So, Book of the Month. Let’s see, I enjoyed the Vivian and Cobb titles, but they both had guessable killers, mainly because of such a small cast of suspects. Death Walks In Eastrepps is fantastic, but I’ve read it before, so that disqualifies it. Ditto Roger Ackroyd. Two-Way Murder is good, but I think this month comes down to two books – Body on the Island and Win… Both of them caught me out with the clever choice of murderers… OK, it’s almost a dead heat, but I’m giving Harlan Coben his first Puzzly. Win had me gripped from page one, has a mesmerising lead and a genuinely surprising plot. I’ve been a little disappointed when I’ve read his work recently, mainly because he has set himself such a high bar, but this one of his best.
Next month… well, it might be a bit of a go-slow with regards blog posts as I’ve got some Brian Flynn to read. Or I might just blog about them again, who knows?