Book of the Month: October 2021

It was a poor month for reading in terms of quantity, yet it did lead to some surprising symmetry, having managed to read/review two nonfiction books about crime fiction, two modern crime novels and two classic crime mysteries. I did also read Maureen Johnson’s Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village (2021) but didn’t really have enough thoughts to justify a separate review. In a nutshell some of the jokes are hilarious, other parts a bit too stereotypical and quiz questions which I found quite frustrating. Artwork excellent.

So returning to the six titles I did review. To be honest I don’t feel like I can warmly recommend either of my two classic crime titles. However, in contrast I enjoyed both my non-fiction reads which looked at the work of Agatha Christie in different ways. Firstly, there was Murder Isn’t Easy: The Forensics of Agatha Christie (2021) by Carla Valentine, which I reviewed for The Cheltenham Literary Festival. It contains lots of interesting nuggets of information on the development of forensics and how these changes were charted in Christie’s books. The other non-fiction read was Agatha Christie’s Golden Age Volume II: Miss Marple and the Other Golden Age Puzzles (2021) by John Goddard. Do you want to know which novel of Christie’s that she thought had her best opening? Intrigued to figure out how old Tommy and Tuppence Beresford are? Goddard reveals the answers to these questions and lots more in his latest book.

So that leaves us with the modern crime novels and for me there was one clear winner. I am afraid I just didn’t get on with Tom Hindle’s A Fatal Crossing (2022), although I have seen reviews from others who thought it was the best thing since sliced bread, so each to their own. That means that my Book of the Month for Fiction goes to Victoria Dowd’s The Supper Club Murders (2021). This mystery has a well-thought out and sinister murder plot at its core and is told with a great deal of humour. I also particularly enjoyed the way the narrative makes various nods to the works of Agatha Christie.

As in my other Book of the Month posts this year, I have taken a look at what titles won Book of the Month in October in the past. Beginning with 2015, October seems to have been a strong month as four titles were singled out: Murder in the Telephone Exchange (1948), Death of a Fellow Traveller (1950), The Mamo Murders (1952) by Juanita Sheridan and Penelope Passes or Why Did She Die? (1946) by Joan Coggins.

All four writers have continued to be some of my favourites, so it was a good month when I had a read from all of them. Jumping ahead to 2016 and Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders (2016) stole the show in October with its enjoyable metafictional humour and pastiche of golden age detective fiction. Other titles which I also commended were: The Wrong Murder (1940) by Craig Rice, The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929) by Anthony Berkeley and Five Little Pigs (1942) by Agatha Christie.

October in 2017 also seems to have had some good fiction reads too, with Anthony Gilbert’s The Spinster’s Secret (1946) and Portrait of a Murderer (1933) by Anne Meredith sharing first place jointly. I also managed to read 15 books that month. *sighs* Those were the days…

Moving on to 2018 I had a triumvirate of strong mystery reads which I can still heartily recommend. The first is another Horowitz title: The Sentence is Death (2018), which shared joint second with The Final Days of Abbot Montrose (1917) by Sven Elvestad. But the title which pipped these excellent reads to the post was Ethel Lina White’s The First Time He Died (1938), which is one of her best books and it is a shame that it is not so widely read or known in comparison to her two more famous mysteries: The Wheel Spins (1936) and Some Must Watch (1933).

October in 2019 contained more of a mixed bag in terms of reading quality, but I still had two great books to recommend: The Chinese Chop (1949) by Juanita Sheridan and The Body in the Dumb River (1961) by George Bellairs.

Finally, we have 2020’s October Book of the Month, which again was shared by two titles and pleasingly we have another familiar face as not only has Victoria won 2021’s October Book of the Month, but she also shared this accolade with Too Many Bones (1943) by Ruth Sawtell Wallis last October with her debut mystery The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder (2020). Well done Victoria!

There are lots of books I am itching to start reading in November. I am just hoping I have the time and health to do so. But for now at least I am caught up on my blog posts. I dare not ask what everyone else is hoping to read this month, as I fear how many more books will join my TBR pile!

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