Book of the Month: November 2018

Not one of my most productive months on the blog, just 12 reviews from myself, (though I did have one guest post on Ellery Queen’s Halfway House). However I did have a number of very good reads, which is probably better than reading lots more books but finding many of them to be duds.

Before arriving at the title which won the title of Book of the Month, here are a few worthy runners up (which I would still recommend reading)…

First up is The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories (2018), which contains 11 festive themed stories, selected and introduced by Martin Edwards. Although all Christmas themed there is a great deal of variety in the crimes set, as well as the styles the stories are written in. I had a lot of favourites in this, old and new, so I can recommend it as a delightful book to read, preferably by an open fire with a hot chocolate (or another hot beverage of your choice).

Next up is the more obscure title of 80 Dollars to Stamford (1975) by Lucille Fletcher, in which we have the initial baffling incident of a woman insisting on the same cab driver taking her on an $80 taxi ride to a remote seemingly empty house. Of course the answer ends in murder, yet this is only the beginning of the mystery… This story might be short, but it packs a lot of punch and action. Its’ style is quite cinematic and like many of Xavier’s recommendations quite hard to define by subgenre or category. For those who are confident in their clue spotting skills I think this book would be a good one to test your wits against, as it seems me and the others I know who have read it all managed to miss one giant clue, which is repeated several times. Can you spot it?

My final runner up was a re-read of mine: Nicholas Blake’s The Beast Must Die (1938) and for me this is a must read for all vintage mystery fans, as this book is the peak of Blake’s mystery writing career. It is a dark read, cleverly playing around with the inverted mystery subgenre. It equally uses the inclusion of a suspect’s diary incredibly well. So what read pipped this book to the post?

It was actually my first read of the month – John Franklin Bardin’s The Deadly Percheron (1947). If you are looking for something different, for something outside of the box and the complete opposite of run of the mill then this is the book to read. What other mystery novel can you name which has a suspect requested to deliver a large horse to an actress by a leprechaun? (Now that’s a sentence you can’t imagine ever having the need to write). Yet even once you think you’ve got to grips with the opening chapters of this book, death pulls the narrative in a very different direction involving a psychologist suffering from amnesia. You might feel like you have fallen down the rabbit hole with this story, but it is nonetheless a highly enjoyable experience. Much of the book is unexpected, yet the plot never falls apart and it has you on the edge of your seat a lot of the time. Since I bought an omnibus of three of Bardin’s novels I am looking forward to reading the other two soon. Hopefully I might squeeze one of them into this month’s reading.

On one final note if you’re still looking for the perfect gift for a vintage mystery fan (which can be yourself), then take a look at Coffee and Crime – sale of which is still ongoing. Some of the goodies I have in stock at the moment include Agatha Christie graphic novels and even Cluedo Scratch cards (who knew such things existed!).


  1. Because I am just that kind of guy I want to mention who was Bardin’s biggest booster, and who brought him back into print when he had the power to do so: Julian Symons. (I don’t think you are one of the Symons haters Kate, but some of your regulars are …)


      • I meant more those with a grudge, because he named the Crofts-Connington railway schedule school the Humdrums.
        Yeah, as a writer he is uneven, but mostly because he kept trying new things. But I think you liked Three Pipe that I didn’t, but disliked one of the ones I did!


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