September has been a good month for making a dent in my TBR pile, having read 16 books. However, more books means more choices for the honour of being Book of the Month and it was hard. Very hard. As this month I have read some really great books, so great that I decided to create two separate categories for this month: Golden Age Detection Fiction and Translated Crime Fiction.
Beginning with the first group: Golden Age Detection Fiction, there was a lot of choice with my top three picks being Annie Haynes’ The Crime at Tattenham Corner (1929), Kel Richards The Corpse in the Cellar (2015) and Death of Anton (1936) by Alan Melville. In Kel Richards’ novel I was drawn to the central amateur detective C. S. Lewis, who is supported by his brother and their friend, Tom Morris, who is the narrator of the book. This trio worked really well in the book, which was often funny, as well frequently referencing Golden Age detective texts and authors. The Corpse in the Cellar was also interesting due to the theological discussions it includes, which are expertly written and engaging to follow. What perhaps weakened this novel was that these discussions were not integrated sufficiently with the detective fiction plot, which in itself needed to be a bit more complex. This was not the case in Annie Haynes’ novel The Crime at Tattenham Corner, where the puzzle element of the plot was sufficiently complex, including an unexpected last minute twist. Moreover, despite the slightly questionable methods used by Inspector Stobbart and his assistant, these two policemen make an enjoyable duo to follow. In addition, unlike the first Haynes novel I reviewed, the sensation fiction elements of the novel were well balanced and interwoven with the detective plot. My only gripes with this novel were the sickly sweet ending (thankfully limited to one page) and that there was a negation of strong, yet likeable female characters. This therefore means that the winner of the Golden Age Detective Fiction category is Alan Melville’s Death of Anton, a hilarious book, which causes you to laugh out loud and includes a range of humour types. Only Melville could create a scene where a vicar is sat next to a sea lion at a party (read my review to find out more). Yet what really put this novel ahead of the others was that despite being a very unserious book, it still becomes more complex and dark as the story progresses, with Detective Minto’s also questionable methods having far reaching consequences. This was an unexpected element for me, but I think it worked really well. I also loved how the tigers (it’s a novel set in a circus) were given a voice, which helps to generate sympathy for them and they have a role in the novel that goes beyond just being an unusual setting.
For my second category: Translated Crime Fiction, despite a fiendish puzzle set by Yukito Ayatsuji in The Decagon House Murders (1986), the clear winner for this group was Hans Olav Lahlum’s The Catalyst Killing (2015), who I was also fortunate enough to interview recently:
Not only are the crimes in the novel gripping and intriguing, including locked room elements and an engaging and potent background of the politics of 1970s Norway and the dark shadow of WW2, but the increasingly tense relationship between the detecting duo Patricia and K2 reaches bursting point, leaving their relationship damaged and the reader emotionally drawn into the text, gasping at the ending.
Links to all the reviews: