This is my first Book of the Month of the year and due to a lot of reading, (16 crime fiction novels, 1 short story collection and 2 books about crime fiction), there was a lot of choice for this month’s award. Let’s take a look at the contenders:
The Rasp (1924) by Philip MacDonald
This was my first experience of MacDonald’s work and I found it an easy and entertaining read, with a strong puzzle and solution, However, I felt the ending needed a lot of shortening, as it did drag on slightly. The gender dynamics were also interesting, though unsurprisingly left some of the female characters in more weaker and inferior positions.
Murder Included (1950) by Joanna Cannan
Another new author for me and I think Cannan did well at interweaving the issue of class into her story and the effects it can have on a police investigation. Moreover, the class issue adds a sense of unpredictability to the story as don’t know if justice will prevail.
The Polo Ground Mystery (1932) by Robin Forsythe
Continuing the new author theme, Forsythe was brought to my attention through the Dean Street Press who have been reprinting his novels this month. Although the writing style needed some improvement in that there needed to be less theorising on the amateur sleuth’s part, I enjoyed the characterisation, the ironic solution and the allusions to Oscar Wilde.
Death on the Riviera by John Bude (1952)
Reading this book was a return to an author I had read before and I felt this was a much better reading experience as the characterisation and character development was stronger and the narrative style lost a lot of its dryness, even interjecting some humour into the tale. The methods of the crimes are unusual and provide interesting twists, though perhaps the mechanics of one of the crimes was a bit flawed.
A Right To Die (1964) by Rex Stout
I read this as part of my contribution to the Tuesday Night Bloggers who every Tuesday this month have been looking at Rex Stout. I found this a quick read, with a good plot and engaging narrative voice. However due to the sparseness of the text, emotional engagement was difficult and I still feel that the solution although good did make the middle of the book a bit of wild goose chase.
Wings Above Diamantina (1936) by Arthur Upfield
One of the main things l liked about this book was its setting in the Australian outback and how the setting ties into the plot and crimes effectively. Such a setting felt like a real change from the other European set novels I had been reading during the rest of the month. There are a couple of improbabilities in this novel but they are only minor ones and the mystery at the centre of the book is a strong and engaging one and the characters are well created, meaning you are interested in what happens to them.
And after a tough decision the winner of this month’s Book of the Month prize is…
Wings Above Diamantina as I found it an enjoyable change from the other novels I had been reading this month in regards to setting and Upfield is successful at getting you hooked into the story.
A special mention goes to Kathryn Harkup’s A is for Arsenic (2015), which is a great book looking at the poisons used in Christie’s works.
Another positive is that as part of Bev Hankin’s Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt hosted at her site My Reader’s Block I have completed 13 categories towards this challenge this month.