Review Of The Year – 2022

2022, eh? Not the best year, to be fair, although watching the Conservative Party completely fall apart was quite amusing, if only they weren’t trying to run the country while it was happening. Ooh, bit of politics, sorry about that. Better balance things out… Watching the Republican Party fall apart was quite amusing too. Is that balance? Probably not, but I don’t care.

No, it’s been a busy year for me. A lot of time getting very familiar with the service stations up and down the M5 as my Dad fell seriously ill – he seems to be stabilising now, but it falls to me, by geography, to be the first port of call. Much driving, which means much less reading – both in having the time to read and having the inclination to do so when I get home. So this year, I only read one hundred and ten books… And before you say it, for me, that isn’t a lot – it’s almost fifteen books less than 2021! It certainly doesn’t feel like I’ve read a lot – although to be honest, getting back into Skyrim really didn’t help either…

[Note, I wrote that last paragraph before I realised that my spreadsheet was missing a month’s reading for some reason so the number was actually a lot less than that when I wrote it – but it’s still low for me!]

But it was also a good year for other reasons. I helped an author (a famous one) with the physics of being kicked in the head and I also did a plot-proof-read for another successful author. Naming no names on either of these, but both of these were really fun to do. And a quick plug – if anyone wants their manuscript proofread for the quality of the mystery plot over anything else (my punctuation spotting isn’t bad either) then please do get in touch. Certainly would only be charging a mention in the acknowledgements unless this takes off properly. Oh yes, and five more Brian Flynn titles came back into the world, meaning only eighteen more to go… Well, nineteen if you count Tragedy At Trinket. Or twenty-two if you also could the Charles Wogan books…

Anyway, on to the awards for the year.

Biggest Disappointment

There were a few. Certainly my hunt for my new lost author to champion had a few dead ends. Both Cecil M Wills and Belton Cobb had me excited for a while, but it became clear this year that I must have read the best of those authors early on, and neither of their best works is an out and out classic. Maybe there’s enough for a small set of reprints… Talking of reprints, though, the biggest disappointment for me was the final Brian Flynn book that I read. At the start of the year, I had two left to read, The Doll’s Done Dancing and The Hands Of Justice. That was the order I read them in – thank you Bodleian – and while Doll is really good, a strong entry despite its late position in the canon, The Hands Of Justice, my final read, really isn’t that good, reading somewhat like a thriller that the publisher insisted Bathurst be inserted into. Don’t tell Dean Street Press though, completionists, just in case!

Discovery Of The Year

OK, he’s no Brian Flynn when it comes/came to obscurity, but Glyn Carr is certainly next on my radar as an author to obsess over. A charming sleuth, genuine mystery plots and the occasional Abominable Snowman. What’s not to like? Oh, and based on one book, The Crime Of The Century, maybe include Anthony Abbot too. There’ll be more from him on the blog next year…

Crime On The Screen

A pretty good year. Death In Paradise had another good year – sorry, didn’t have time to review the Christmas special – and Scream (5) was, somewhat surprisingly, really good, especially for fans of the franchise. And despite apparently ruining the Stab franchise with Stab 8, Rian Johnson came back strong with Glass Onion, the Knives Out sequel. A fantastic piece of film-making, I absolutely loved it.  But Britbox took the prize for best crime series, although I’ll be honest, I can’t decide which was better, Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders or Hugh Laurie’s Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? So I won’t… But as I’ve said before, Sarah Phelps, please watch the latter and take notes…

Dullest Book Of The Year

Ah, my book club, what terrible choices we make… Reputation For A Song by Edward Grierson and The Documents In The Case by Dorothy L Sayers and Robert Eustace go neck and neck for most tedious book read this year. I’d make them go head to head to decide who’s duller, but then I might have to look at them again…

Best New Authors

New authors to me, that is. I’ll be frank, not too many new authors impressed me this year, but special mention must go to my blogging buddy Jim Noy for The Red Death Murders, Jackie Elliot for Coffin Cove, Tom Mead for Death And The Conjuror, Simon Toyne for Dark Objects, S A Dunphy for Bring Her Home and Tom Hindle for A Fatal Crossing.

Amorality Of The Year

And again with the book club choices and Jumping Jenny by Anthony Berkeley, a truly horrible book. I understand what he is trying here, but a) it takes it so far away from the tropes he is attempting to spoof as to make it almost a different genre and b) the choices made by Roger Sheringham are just, well, amoral. I can’t explain enough how abhorrent I find this book…

Book That Should Appear In A Book

I know many, many jokes have been made about the sheer size of Martin Edwards’ A Life Of Crime, but do allow me one more by suggesting that it should be used as the murder weapon in a bibliophile murder mystery…

Don’t Read This First

I’m reliably informed by everyone who’s read it that I need to read The Unsuspected by Charlotte Armstrong. I was going to, honest, but then I read The Better To Eat You by the same author which is so awful, it’s going to be a while…

Achievement Of The Year

Pretty sure a number of mystery fans have that theoretical novel inside them. I certainly have, provided several first chapters and a few half-formed plots count as a novel. Anyway, Jim Noy actually got off his arse and wrote the aforementioned The Red Death Murders, an astoundingly creative novel with a number of impossible murders. If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly recommend it.

Still Not Getting It

The “Still Not Quite Getting It” award goes to Honkaku and Shin Honkaku mystery fiction in general. It’s something I admire when never really enjoying it – take Death On Gokumon Island, where the detective has to do (or in this case not do) some really odd things in order for the plot to work. And the bit with the bell? WTF?

Bad Timing Of The Year

A Murder At The Castle by Chris McGeorge, released this month, featuring the monarch being murdered at Balmoral… It’s not dear old Queenie, but even so, astoundingly bad fortune at the timing, especially given what a good book it is. Do try and look past the twee cover…

Whatever Happened To…

The Poirot countup, which stalled at Peril At End House. Well, basically I couldn’t be arsed to read Murder On The Orient Express as I’d read it reasonably recently. Time has passed now, so there’s a good chance this will be resurrected next year, especially as the Book Club is looking at Three Act Tragedy/Murder In Three Acts early-ish next year…

Can’t Find A Specific Reason To Mention Him But…

Just a few twitter exchanges and some excellent books – a new novel, a novella, some short stories and a re-read. I love M W Craven’s work, one of my go-to reads when I need cheering up. Thanks, Mike!

The Mystery Of History

Not many attempts at find new historical mystery writers this year, but glad to see old favourites Paul Doherty, Michael Jecks and L C Tyler still flying the flag. S G Maclean’s The Bookseller Of Inverness was also a strong start to a series.

Don’t Read These In The Same Year

John Dickson Carr’s The Witch Of The Low Tide and The White Priory Murders. If you’ve read them, you might know why. If not, I’m not saying anything…

The Grand Puzzly, the In Search Of The Classic Mystery Novel Book Of The Year.

The monthly winners of the Puzzly were:

Oh, this is so difficult. So many favourite authors, a few of whom are kind enough to say nice things to me, at least on Twitter. But I’m going to pick a book that I doubt anyone else will put on their books of the year. It’s an impeccably well-crafted homage to the Golden Age and no, it’s not Death And The Conjuror (although that comes close). To quote my review:

“This is one hell of a way to start my year’s reading – if I’d managed to get the review up before the end of last year, it would easily have made it into my “Best Of” post, and without exaggeration, it would have been vying for Book Of The Year. Because it is that good.”

Yes, my Book Of The Year is the very first book I read in 2022 – The Chapel In The Woods by Dolores Gordon-Smith, an author who really needs to be more widely read. This was (and indeed still is) a fantastic piece of writing and I’d strongly suggest a trip to the library to get your teeth into it – or, you know, just buying it…

What’s next for the blog? Same old, same old, with perhaps a little more structure as I’m going to try and get back to authors that I love but haven’t put the time in with recently – Dolores, for example, and poor old John Rhode of who I only read one solitary book this year. More Glyn Carr, more Anthony Abbot, and as I said, let’s get the Poirot Count-up up and running again…

And finally, thanks to all you readers, whether you agree or disagree with me, thank you for all the kind words, likes and retweets. And don’t forget – feel free to make requests of authors for me to take a look at. The worst I can do is say no… I am only three reads away from review 1500, so any suggestions as to an unreviewed classic would be gratefully received.

8 comments

  1. In terms of suggestions for authors to read, might I point you in the direction of Emma Lathen? You could start with any of the early books (although the later ones are still pretty good) – eg Banking on Death or Accounting for Murder.

    And here’s wishing better health for you and your father in the new year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Steve, thank you so much!   This means such a lot.  

    Happy new year – I’m certainly going to have one with this start!

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  3. Really appreciate the kind words about The Red Death Murders, Steve — it was a lot of fun to write, so I’m delighted to see people enjoying reading it, too 🙂

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  4. I thought Armstrong might get away with not being mentioned in a negative section in this post having avoided the dullest and worst categories. I can’t disagree though that The Better to Eat You is not the place to start with her work. We’ll just have to get you invited to give a talk on her then you will have to read more by her lol Looking forward to seeing what you review for your 1500th post. I will have to do my best to narrow the gap between our total post numbers in 2023.

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    • “I can’t disagree though that … is not the place to start”. Wow, a triple negative! I had to read that sentence three times to try understand its meaning, and that’s without any January 1 hangover 😊.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry to hear you’re struggling with the (shin) honkaku mysteries and your comments on Jumping Jenny makes me want to reread it, because I remember it as one of Berkeley’s best. I liked your last Book of the Year (Anthrax Island). So I’ll keep The Chapel in the Woods in mind for next year.

    Happy new year and best wishes!

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  6. I’ve got Jim’s book coming (bought with Christmas money), so hopefully I’ll be able to get to it soon in the New Year. If all the other books on the TBR mountain range don’t bury it in a landslide. I always look forward to your Puzzly posts, they bulk up my To Be Found list so nicely.

    Hope you have a very Happy New Year! All my best to you and your dad.

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