It has been a while since I have taken part in this meme, but hopefully over the coming months I will participating in a few. Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme currently being run by the blog That Artsy Reader Girl. Put simply each Tuesday has a theme assigned to it and participating blogs have to come up with a top ten list around it. The theme this week is New-to-Me Authors that I read in 2020.
Surprisingly my long list did not overshoot the limit too much this time, which is a rarity. In the end the criteria for getting on to the list was quality and quirkiness. Some books meet both objectives, whilst others only one. At the end of the list I also decided to include an additional three whose work I wasn’t sure I would like but then surprised myself by doing so.
- Jean Harambat’s The Detection Club Parts 1 and 2 (2020)
This is a comic book by Europe Comics, which revolves around the real-life Detection Club, which was established in the 1920s. As such many of the characters are crime writers from that era, such as Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr, G. K. Chesterton and Dorothy L. Sayers. In the comic they are invited to an island owned by an eccentric millionaire. Naturally murder and detection ensue! This title is a lot of fun and I felt the pastiche and parody was successful on the whole.
2. The Wedding Guest Sat on a Stone (1940) by Richard Shattuck
This was one of the books on the list, which is more quirky than quality, but it is wonderfully bizarre I felt I had to include it. That and someone on Twitter said they would have nightmares about how the corpse is discovered. So I thought to myself, well let’s see how many more people can be freaked out…
At the start of the book Ty and Sue are married and are at their wedding party at a hotel. Much drink is consumed, and Sue is a little worse for wear. She makes her way back to what she thinks is her hotel room and climbs into bed. Problem is, this isn’t her bedroom and it isn’t her bed. It is at this point that she realises there is someone else in the bed and they’re dead…
3. No More Murders (1951) by Maria Lang
This book is by a Swedish author. This along with two other titles have been translated into English. This story sees Puck, her husband and her father going on holiday, yet it doesn’t take long until a body is found in the garden. There are some wonderful moments of humour and I enjoyed Puck’s role in the investigation. This book also shows that Lang can be sneaky with her red herrings.
4. The Man Who Didn’t Fly (1955) by Margot Bennett
This book is probably one of the more well-known titles as it was reprinted by the British Library last year in their Crime Classics series. I really enjoyed this book and loved its unusual premise. A plane has crashed in the Irish sea and four passengers were booked for the flight, but only three got on the plane. No one knows which man did not attend. As the man does not come forward the police begin to wonder what reason they might have for concealing themselves. This is a surprisingly fair play mystery and has an interesting unorthodox narrative structure.
5. Post Mortem (1953) by Guy Cullingford
This book is both quirky and quality, yet as I mention in my review, I can’t actually reveal why it is so good and unusual, as it might be classed as a spoiler for some. But if you like amusing and out of the ordinary mystery fiction I would suggest grabbing a copy!
6. Under the Influence (1953) by Geoffrey Kerr
Kerr’s book features a man who, when drunk, can read other people’s thoughts. You will not be surprised to learn that the man overhears someone’s thoughts in a café, which suggest they are about to commit murder. But when he goes to tell the police to then and prevent it, chaos follows. This book starts off well, but I think the plot ran out of steam a bit.
7. Too Many Bones (1943) by Ruth Sawtell Wallis
This was one of my favourite books of last year and is set at an out of the way museum in America and sees a newly qualified female anthropologist going to work there. Of course, arguments and disagreements occur, and death swiftly follows their heels. I felt this was a gripping and tense read, with a nuanced and unusual romance subplot. It has also a wonderfully chilling scene set at the museum at night.
8. The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder (2020) by Victoria Dowd
This book was also one of 2020’s reading highlights and I am looking forward to reading Victoria’s second book this year. The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder is set a country house, which a book club have rented for the weekend. The snow falls, escape is cut off, and the bodies begin to drop. The mystery is well clued and constructed and I love how Victoria updates the country house murder mystery.
9. The Undetective (1962) by Bruce Graeme
A writer creates a penname which no one knows is his, except his wife, and creates a string of successful mystery novels. Then one day he discovers that his penname is the prime suspect in a local murder case. What will they do to get out of the mess their secrecy has landed them in? I am not sure Graeme fully pulled off the ending to this one, but I enjoyed the concept in the main and the comedy. The Moonstone Press will be reprinting more of his books next month.
10. Sudden Fear (1948) by Edna Sherry
A female playwright bites off more than she can chew when she not only marries a much younger man, but then invites a young gold-digging woman she rescued from drowning into her home. She thinks she is getting the opportunity to study her for her next play, but she is horrified to discover that her husband and this woman are planning on murdering her for her money. What is going to do to outwit them? This is a wonderful book. It is brilliantly plotted cat and mouse mystery, which has a killer ending and has you sitting on the edge of your seat for most of it. If you can find a copy, I strongly recommending getting it.
And here are my additional three:
- Elisabeth Sanxay Holding – The Obstinate Murderer (1938), Net of Cobwebs (1945), The Death Wish (1934)
Last January I read The Obstinate Murderer and I have to admit I was far from impressed with the book. So much so that I had no intentions of trying any more of her work. Yet Greg who runs the Stark House Press persuaded me to give her another try and I am very glad I did. Both Net of Cobwebs and The Death Wish are great reads. Full of mystery, tension, humour and character. I felt this experience reminded me that sometimes a writer needs to be tried more than once before you can decide whether they are for you or not.
2. Patrick Laing – Stone Dead (1947)
Many people reading this post won’t know who Patrick Laing was. Laing was in fact a penname for Amelia Reynolds Long and in the classic crime community she does not have a brilliant reputation. She does have one champion, namely Xavier, who writes at the blog At The Villa Rose and he asked me to give her work under this penname a try. I was unsure how much I was going to enjoy the book, yet I found this academic set mystery to be quite enjoyable.
- Cornell Woolrich – The Bride Wore Black (1940)
I had known of Woolrich for quite some time but had only read some of his work last December. I was worried it might be too gritty or too bleak, and for the first 20-30 pages I did find this a difficult read. However, having made it past that point I found I got into the book and found it very intriguing. Why is this mysterious woman bumping off various men? What, if anything, connects them? This book ends with a great sting in its tail.
Which authors did you discover last year? Which ones would you recommend?