Book of the Month: November 2019

It’s been quite a busy month on and off the blog. I clocked in 13 reads, three of which were, unusually for me, short story collections. Most of my reads were from authors familiar to me. Sometimes this worked out well with titles such as Brian Flynn’s The Murders Near Mapleton (1929), whilst others were more “dud” reads. Yes I’m looking at you Patricia McGerr! This month also saw my 1000th post and I finally got around to posting my current rankings of the Anthony Berkeley titles that I have read. Typical me I haven’t just gone with one category for this Book of the Month post, but instead have three.

First up is Best Short Story Collection and it was a no-brainer in picking The Measure of Malice (2019), a collection which has been released by the British Library, featuring stories with a scientific flavour.

My second category is: Best Modern Read, which goes to new-to-the-blog, author Abir Mukherjee and his novel, A Rising Man (2016). This tale is set in 1919 Calcutta and is a great historical mystery. I’m looking forward to trying the second in the series later this month.

Lastly my third and and final category is: Best Vintage Read, (surprise, surprise) and in the end I chose Patrick Quentin’s Puzzle for Fiends (1946). I’ve not tried much by this author yet, but this second encounter has strongly encouraged me to seek out more of his work.

So what has everyone else been enjoying reading-wise this month?


  1. My month has been very Carr-centric. Panic in Box C, The House at Satan’s Elbow, Hag’s Nook, Death Watch, and The Man who Could Not Shudder. I also read Halter’s The Crimson Fog, Sladek’s Black Aura, and some short stories. I’d say Black Aura and Death Watch were the clear winners.

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    • Only read one of those title: Death Watch and I have to admit it was not a Carr novel I really warmed to. I do have He Wouldn’t Kill Patience on my TBR pile. Is that one you’ve read? Recommend?


      • I wasn’t crazy about it. The presentation is really good but there were too many detriments. It starts off on a bad note with an incongruous bit of slapstick. The solution is another problem–not all that satisfying. On the other hand, it’s a nice portrait of England during WW2. Other people seem to like it a lot more than I do.

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        • I do admit to being lured in by the animal/zoo element, as well as the WW2 setting. I’ll not go in with too high expectations, but hopefully it won’t be a Patrick Butler for the Defence or In Spite of Thunder.


  2. The best GAD I read this month was my first Francis Vivian book, THE SINGING MASONS. The best modern book was THE NIGHT FIRE by Michael Connelly.

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  3. My favourite read of the month was Juanita Sheridan’s The Mamo Murders (1952) for its vivid characterization and evocative picture of Hawaii in the 1950s. A close second was M.V. Heberden’s The Sleeping Witness (1951). I also finally read Israel Zangwill’s The Big Bow Mystery (1892) which deserves its reputation. Biggest disappointment: Kelley Roos’s The Frightened Stiff (1942), which was a little too fluffy for my taste. I’ve ordered A Rising Man on your recommendation. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So pleased you enjoyed the Sheridan novel. Lily Wu is a favourite of mine. The Frightened Stiff is the best Roos novel I have read, so I can’t imagine what you might think of the others lol I hope you enjoy A Rising Man. I’m intending to read the second one in the series this month.


  4. Interestingly enough, I’m currently reading “He Wouldn’t Kill Patience” – and I think I should warn you about one or two moments of gender politics. Merrivale, in full gusto and indiscretion, promotes some Neanderthal-ish attitudes towards women. 😅

    I was glad that you bestowed an award to Abir Mukherjee’s “Rising Man”. I just finished the third entry in the series, “Smoke and Ashes” – and it seems to me that the series is moving closer to the thriller and procedural genres as the stories evolve. The first two novels still has stand-out moments of fair-play puzzling – but I’m struggling to recall explicit moments of twists based on clues for “Smoke and Ashes”.

    Having said that, the Wyndham and Surrender-Not series is just about one of the few modern crime series above 300 pages per novel that I enjoy. I do like the Cormoran Strike and the Daniel Hawthorne series – but those, despite their lengthy page-count, operate quite explicitly within the golden-age puzzle tradition. I usually frown when history and politics dominate the word count, and when the word count exceeds 300 pages… But I confess I do like Wyndham and Surrender-Not very much – and I’m excited to see where Mukherjee takes them in the newly released fourth instalment. 🤩

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well HWKP may get pushed to the bottom of the TBR pile… Oh Merrivale!
      It’s a shame to hear that Am’s books move to a thriller focus, though I have noticed it a lot in modern day crime series. Ian Sansom’s County Guide series and LCT’s Elsie and Ethelred are two that I can think of. I wonder why it happens. However, I trust you will give us a report on the 4th AM novel.


      • I’ve finished Patience last night – it was quite good, rather than great. I’m surprised some readers and bloggers find it under-rated; I wouldn’t have thought it would make anyone’s top ten list of Carr novels. 🤔

        If it gives you any comfort, Merrivale spends the first chapter running away from a monitor lizard of sorts. 😅

        I won’t be reading the fourth Wyndham and Surrender-Not novel anytime soon, to make sure I don’t outrun the series anytime soon. On second thought, perhaps I shortchange the puzzle aspect of “Smoke and Ashes” – there were clues, but they functioned more like hints. It is a testimony to the literary qualities of “a Smoke and Ashes” that I like it best of the three novels I’ve read – despite departing furthest from the golden-age puzzle. The characterisation of, and the interaction between, the two sleuths, against the evocative backdrop of Gandhi’s movement, proved compelling. 🤩

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, maybe Patience doesn’t need to be right at the top of the TBR pile. It’s still light, easy and good fun – just not quite compelling fun. Certainly not in the same tier as Merrivale’s best: which I think are “Nine – and Death Makes Ten” and “She Died a Lady”. And perhaps not at the front of the mid-tier titles like “Unicorn Murders” and “Judas Window”.


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