Book of the Month: March 2020

Given all the upheaval we’ve all had this month, 13 crime fiction reads didn’t seem too bad a total. Most of my reads were from familiar names, though this was not a guarantee of quality. Boris Akunin’s final Erast Fandorin tale, Not Saying Goodbye (2019), was probably the biggest disappointment and was by far the most depressing. However, I also tried a few authors who were new to me. Both Henrietta Clandon and Virginia Rath made good first impressions and I would be interested in trying more by them.

My most unusual read has to be Christopher St John Sprigg’s Death of a Queen (1935), with its unusual setting and locked room mystery, as well as the text’s tendency to destabilise genre tropes, placing the central ‘crime within a turbulent land where it is not guaranteed that justice will be served and truth will out.’

One issue I came up against in a few of my reads were stories where the solution was good if viewed in isolation to the rest of the story. The difficulties came when I looked at the solution in light of the narrative which preceded it. Invariably there seemed to be too much of a jump between the two sections and not enough clues to mesh them together effectively. Exit Laughing (1954) by Stuart Palmer and Doris Miles Disney’s Room for Murder (1955) both fell a foul of this particular problem.

I don’t think any one book stood out for me, so in the end I am going to give two strong commendations to:

Enough to Kill a Horse (1955) by Elizabeth Ferrars

Ferrars provides the reader with an interesting suspect-led plot, which has an initial death that is far from clear cut. Is it an accident or murder? If so the latter did the killer get the right person? This book is also strong when it comes to laying trails of misdirection and false solutions.

Death at Dayton’s Folly (1935) by Virginia Rath

This is a successful family drama country house murder mystery, with a good dollop of snow thrown in for good measure. The reader gets an engaging set of characters to get their teeth into and I felt Rath used a minor character in a very effective and surprising manner. The rural California setting also added to the charm of this read.

Looking ahead into April I am a part of two blog tours, including one for Martin Edwards’ latest book, Mortmain Hall. I don’t have any fixed ideas on what other books I will be reading. I’m just going to see what takes my fancy. Although I should be reaching my 1100th post this month, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Oh and don’t forget to test your little grey cells against the Tuesday Night Bloggers’ Macabre Quiz!

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