Book of the Month: March 2021

March has been a good month for reading, 18 reads and 13 book reviews, as well as an extra review of the film, The Ghost Train (1941). I also took part in one of the Top Ten Tuesdays, looking at funny titles for mystery novels. This month the theme of the Death Paints a Picture post was modes of transport and April’s theme is musical instruments. In the poll, the musical instruments option was a clear winner. However, even telephones in second place, had at least triple the number of votes compared to the options in 3rd, 4th and last place. The poll to vote for May’s theme will be going up shortly so keep your eyes peeled! On the subject of polls, last week I started another poll on my blog to find out the 36 most read mysteries of 1936. The poll is still open until the 8th April so if you haven’t already voted, click here. Over 2000 votes have been logged so far, which is great.

Before looking at the read which won the accolade of book of the month, it is time to hop into our time machines and see which titles have won this prize in previous March book of the month posts…

In April 2016 two books held first place, one modern and one classic. The modern title was Ian Sansom’s Westmorland Alone (2016), which is his best book in my opinion. The blending of comedy and darkness is brilliant. Alice Tilton’s The Iron Clew (1947) was the classic crime winner and was my first encounter with the Leondias Witherall series. I loved it so much that I went on to review all the other titles in the series.

Meanwhile in April 2017 Tyline Perry’s The Owner Lies Dead (1932) claimed first prize with its unusual mining setting. The initial set up of the crime especially appealed to me.

Then in April 2018 there was a further sharing of first place between two books: Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s Why Did You Lie? (2016), a rare example of a Scandinavian crime novel I actually like, and Anthony Berkeley’s Murder in the Basement (1932). The incomplete manuscript included in this mystery was one of the many features of Berkeley’s book that I enjoyed.   

In April 2019 Celia Fremlin’s The Long Shadow (1975) was the victor, just pipping Dead March for Penelope (1951) by George Bellairs, to the post. Fremlin’s dark humour in this book is excellent and her depiction of emotional nuances is superb.

Finally, last March I gave two strong recommendations for Enough to Kill a Horse (1955) by Elizabeth Ferrars and Virginia Rath’s Death at Dayton’s Folly (1935). Ferrars’ book is full of misdirection and red herrings, whilst Rath’s is an engaging snow bound country house mystery.

Coming back to the present day, my favourite re-read of the month was Murder Begins at Home (1949) by Delano Ames. But my first read of the month has ended up being the standout book of March, with no other books toppling it from its pedestal and that is Nap Lombard’s Murder’s a Swine (1943). There is lots to love in this book, strong characterisation, a dynamic and loveable amateur sleuthing duo, lashings of subtle humour and a bizarrely memorable ending. I really hope the British Library, or another publisher reprint their other book, Tidy Death (1940).

Hopefully April will be full of books as good as this one!

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