Unlike last month, February didn’t give me as much time for reading and nor did it give me as many good reads, in fact quite a few of them were ‘meh’ reads (very technical term I know). Though to look at it more positively I have tried out a few new authors and given a few others another try and perhaps come to the conclusion that they might just not be for me. Carrying on from last month I am still participating in Bev’s Follow the Clues Mystery Challenge (click here for further details), which she runs at her brilliant blog My Reader’s Block and this month’s reads have added 10 more titles to my chain, giving me a total of 29.
At the start of the month I began with James Hilton’s Was it Murder? (1931), a less well-known school based mystery where a death which looks accidental was actually a murder. This linked to my last January read, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra (2015), as they are both first novels by their respective authors. Hilton’s novel surprisingly led me to John Stephen Strange’s Look Your Last (1943), which looks at cover up crimes from a big oil company who was transacting business with Germany. One of these crimes, like in Hilton’s novel, is a murder made to look like an accident. This book wasn’t the best of reads, but it did lead me to reading Leo Bruce’s Cold Blood (1952) as in both books there is a policeman investigating the case, who is aided by an amateur sleuth who works in journalism. Cold Blood was a brilliant read, making it a strong contender for the Book of the Month title.
My next read was M. M. Kaye’s Death in Berlin (1955), which connects to my previous read by the fact they were both published in the 1950s. Despite a brilliant initial setup and choice of setting, post-war Berlin, the actual mystery itself was rather disappointing. One of the victims is stabbed in this novel, which lead me to reading Victor Whitechurch’s Crime at Diana’s Pool (1926), where someone else gets stabbed to death. Again despite a promising start the mystery became quite dull and relied too much on a backstory the reader had no access to and the writing style was fairly dry. A country murder seems quite disparate from the legal battles of Perry Mason, but Gardner’s The Case of the Perjured Parrot (1939) was my next read, as both authors gave one of their sleuths a career within the same sector they themselves worked in. Gardner’s novel was another meh read of the month, as I just don’t think the American legal milieu works for me particularly well.
Following on from this book I read Anthony Rolls’ Scarweather (1934), another book published in the 1930s. Although Rolls is a good writer the simplicity of the mystery did let the story down, despite the unusual archaeological milieu. However, favourable reports on Family Matters (1933), another Rolls’ mystery, has meant he is an author I will try again soon. Like this novel my next read, Juanita Sheridan’s The Waikiki Widow (1953) had a Watson type narrator. Though other than that they are very different reads. The Waikiki Widow was a brilliant finish to Sheridan’s Lily Wu series, making me wish she had written a few more of these stories. From 1950s Hawaii to early 19th century Surrey, my next read was Carrie Bebris’ The Suspicion at Sanditon (2015), which was the final novel in Bebris’ Mr and Mrs Darcy mystery series. Like Sheridan’s novel, Bebris’ book has a very shifty and suspicious looking widow who is at the heart of the mystery. Bebris’ series is a great continuation of Austen’s work as she deftly recreates the settings and characters of Austen’s novels and the mystery in The Suspicions at Sanditon was well paced and intriguing.
This led to my final read of the month, Elizabeth Daly’s Evidence of Things Seen (1943), as both books have a Jane Austen link, with the former book including some of Austen’s characters, whilst in review, Daly’s writing style and handling of characters has been likened to Jane Austen’s. Not sure I can quite see it myself as this was another meh read, though I think this was less to do with the writing style and more the way the investigation was structured.
So my three contenders for Book of the Month were Cold Blood, The Waikiki Widow and The Suspicion at Sanditon. It was quite tricky trying to decide which one to pick but I eventually chose Sheridan’s novel as I loved the post-war Hawaiian setting of The Waikiki Widow and Lily Wu and Janice Cameron are brilliant and engaging amateur sleuths to follow.