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

So August is here – only a month before term starts once again. Just kidding, I’ve got loads of work to do before the kids show up again, and that doesn’t include dealing with the anxiety of (possibly) teaching as normal a full classroom of unvaccinated students. I do appreciate the bigger picture of the disruption to the students’ education, so it’s a question of working out how to work safely in that environment. I’ll sort something out, I’m sure, and it’s not as if my students are going to run up to me and cough in my face… probably.

Anyway, we’re not here to talk about August, we’re here to talk about July – how many and which books did I read and which book takes the Puzzly for the best read of the month?

The books in question were:

They Never Came Back by Brian Flynn – why are boxers being lured to their to their deaths? And is a murderous pteranodon involved… (no, it’s not, in case you were worried…)

The Figure Of Eight by Cecil Waye – bit of a backstep after the excellent Murder At Monk’s Barn, with the loss of the female lead and being more of a thriller than a mystery.

Hendon’s First Case by John Rhode – it’s been a bit of a Rhode month on the blog. This is the first tale introducing Jimmy Waghorn. Not his best, but in the upper tier.

Death Takes A Flat by Miles Burton – apart from the villain being a tad guessable, this is a good entry in the Desmond Merrion series, with a simple idea turning the case on its head and some good deduction.

Death From Nowhere by Clayton Rawson – two collected novellas by Rawson that does nothing to convince me that he’s more than a tad overrated.

The Crooked Shore by Martin Edwards – the first modern read of the month, and a damn fine one too. Really must read more by this Edwards chap…

The Alarm by John Rhode – I’m in the money, la, la, la, la-la… The book’s terrible though.

Death In Five Boxes by Carter Dickson – one of the most under-rated Merrivale mysteries due to the obvious solution to the impossible poisoning masking some beautiful misdirection, a well-hidden killer and excellent clueing.

No Alibi by Belton Cobb – Cheviot Burmann’s debut, looking at which of two people poisoned an author (or was there a third party involved?)

Murder At Lilac Cottage by John Rhode – the fifth Rhode review of the month, and a good solid outing, let down a tad by an obvious villain and the overlooking for the most part by an important piece of evidence.

Death Of Jezebel by Christianna Brand – not the out-and-out best mystery ever that some people seem to think it is, but extremely good nonetheless. Shame my version didn’t include the map that some editions apparently have.

The Assassin’s Riddle by Paul Doherty – a re-read and I didn’t have time to re-review it. I’ve linked to the original review, but I have to say, the second time I didn’t have the problems that I did the first time through. The locked room is perfectly good, and while the identity of the assassin isn’t a massive surprise, it’s well done and builds to an effective and emotional climax.

Mother Midnight by Paul Doherty – the latest and darkest outing for Sir Hugh Corbett, a chillingly effective tale, a real page-turner.

So thirteen books, ten of them Golden Age, most of them very hard to get hold of. I’m torn between three titles for the Puzzly. Death Of Jezebel, despite my reservations, is still an excellent book with some very clever ideas, especially a clue hidden in plain sight that reminds me of one of my favourite Reginald Hill tricks, but as it is next to impossible to find for us Brits, it’s not getting the Puzzly. I’m absolutely torn between The Crooked Shore and Mother Midnight, so, simply because Paul Doherty has won the Book of the Month umpteen times before, it’s going to The Crooked Shore by Martin “friend of the blog” Edwards. It may be book eight of the series, but it’s a series that can be read in any order, and this is a very clever mystery with some smart ideas at the heart of it. Definitely worth your time. But buy Mother Midnight as well…

Next month, I’ve a ton of new books to review – Christopher Fowler, Anthony Horowitz, Kate Ellis, Chris McGeorge and a few more too. My cup runneth over, provided I can find the time to read them all. I’m sure I’ll squeeze in a few classics too…

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