I’ve had another full month of reading, racking up a total of 19 books. My enjoyment of these did vary a lot but thankfully the majority were enjoyable. This month there were three clear contenders for the rank of Book of the Month and I liked how varied they were.
The first is a classic Golden Age Detective novel called The Judas Window (1938) by Carter Dickson and I think this is a first rate court room based mystery where the reader is not conclusively sure of Answell’s guilt or innocence until the denouement of the novel when Sir Henry Merrivale reveals the solution to the case. Dickson is also adept at showing how easily a piece of evidence can be manipulated by both the prosecution and the defence. The effect witnesses can have on a case, either positively or negatively is also well depicted in this story. I also liked how this is one of the rare occasions where Merrivale is not entirely sure of himself. In addition, the final solution is up to Dickson’s usually high standards and is very ingenuous, but this does not mean Dickson overlooks characterisation and his narrative style is strong, maintaining reader interest and interjecting suspense at just the right times.
My second contender was The Hotel of the Three Roses (1936) by Augusto De Angelis, an Italian detective novel from the 1930s. This was a good introduction to De Angelis’ work and I look forward to trying more. There is a solid central mystery and the rising body count and the short time frame ensure tension builds throughout the novel. The investigator De Vincenzi is an intriguing character and overall De Angelis’ characterisation was strong, though for a modern reader the hunchback Bardi will come across as stereotyped.
My final choice, Jane and the Wandering Eye was published the latest in 1998, but is actually set the earliest out of the three, as Stephanie Barron locates her mystery series within Regency England and has Jane Austen as her central sleuth. This is the third in the series and it does not disappoint. Barron successfully pulled me into Austen’s world (which she reflects accurately) and her investigative role is not forced. Moreover, she is definitely a character you become attached to and I liked how Barron blended fact and fiction into the novel, including real life events and people from the time period. Although you get much more than a mystery in this novel, the mystery itself is a tantalising one, which makes you suspect many of the characters.
It was a really tough choice for me to decide on the winner but in the end I finally went for Stephanie Barron’s Jane and the Wandering Eye because it was the story which hooked me the most in terms of narrative style, characters and emotions. This is a series I would strongly recommend, though I think it would be best to start from the beginning.
Over To You
Which books have you enjoyed reading this month?