One of the reasons the blog has been a bit quieter this year is because I am getting married in August and with 6 months planning time, there was a lot to get done! I knew Jonny was the man for me when he created an Agatha Christie quiz for me, for our first Zoom date! Our wedding has some art deco elements given our mutual love of Golden Age Detective mysteries, as you can see from this snippet of our wedding invites…
However, I haven’t gone for a Harriet Vane gold lamé dress. Not sure this is a style I could pull off!
A while back I thought it might be nice to make a nod to the event on my blog with a rather niche reading project.
Over the next few months, I hope to share with you some reviews for vintage crime novels which significantly feature a wedding or honeymoon. I have already reviewed some on the blog, such as Conyth Little’s The Black Honeymoon (1944), Dorothy L. Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon (1937) and Richard Shattuck’s The Wedding Guest Sat on a Stone (1940).
Currently, I have gathered 5 titles for the project, as I didn’t want to overwhelm myself and didn’t want the project to drag on too long. However, if you have any suggestions do let me know, as whilst there are many Golden Age Detective novels which end with marriage, there are not as many which centre their plot on one.
When it came to organising my reads, I thought it would be fun to categorise them around the traditional wedding rhyme included in the title of this blog post. So without further ado here is my initial line up for my project reads:
Have Wonderful Crime (1943) by Craig Rice
‘When Helene and Jake Justus befriend a disconsolate drunk who is trying to steal the lilies from the hotel flower display, they really step into something. John J. Malone gets involved, too, when he arrives in response to an SOS from Helene. He finds (1) a decapitated bride, who turns out not to be the bride at all – or is she? Anyways she keeps sending letters from Niagara Falls saying how deliriously happy she is; (2) a disappearing bridegroom, with a yen for the Staten Island ferry; (3) an embezzling lawyer who hires him to clear the bride of her own murder; (4) a Greenwich Village poetess who spouts original “free” verse at the slightest provocation; (5) an escort bureau that indulges in extracurricular blackmail. And as if things weren’t complicated enough, Jake, Helene, and Malone each goes about trying to solve the mystery secretly and on his own, three stalwart cops, O’Brien, Birnbaum, and Schultz assisting.’
Reason for this Category: I am a big fan of Rice’s work so was pleased she had one which fitted my project. All the mysteries are old ones, as this is a vintage crime focused project, however, unlike the other books listed below, my edition of Having a Wonderful Crime, is an old Pocket Book one, which came all the way from Canada.
The Honjin Murders (1946) by Seishi Yokomizo (Translated by Louise Heal Kawai in 2019)
‘In the winter of 1937, the village of Okamura is abuzz with excitement over the forthcoming wedding of a son of the grand Ichiyanagi family. But amid the gossip over the approaching festivities, there is also a worrying rumour – it seems a sinister masked man has been asking questions around the village. Then, on the night of the wedding, the Ichiyanagi household are woken by a terrible scream, followed by the sound of eerie music. Death has come to Okamura, leaving no trace but a bloody samurai sword, thrust into the pristine snow outside the house. Soon, amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi is on the scene to investigate what will become a legendary murder case, but can this scruffy sleuth solve a seemingly impossible crime?’
Reason for this Category: Since all the books were originally published many decades ago, none of them count as “new”, but I felt Yokomizo’s book would fit as the English translation was released in 2019.
Death on the Nile (1937) by Agatha Christie
‘The tranquillity of a luxury cruise along the Nile was shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway had been shot through the head. She was young, stylish, and beautiful. A girl who had everything . . . until she lost her life. Hercule Poirot recalled an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: “I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.” Yet under the searing heat of the Egyptian sun, nothing is ever quite what it seems.’
Reason for this Category: This was the hardest category as it required being able to find someone with a relevant mystery that I could borrow. My fiancé, (who fortunately likes the right Poirot!), was able to save the day though with this title, although initially I had not thought of this book at all. The fact it is set on someone’s honeymoon very much escaped my attention until someone in the GAD Facebook group mentioned it. (And yes, I am ignoring the fact that I have a copy of this book of my own!)
The Case of the Hanging Rope (1937) by Christopher Bush
‘Who has murdered the beautiful Sonia Vorge in her bridal bed? Why is the sinisterly looped rope hanging from the oak-beam? And what has the ghost of Montage Hall to do with it all? These are the problems confronting Ludovic Travers, and he rapidly finds that there is much more in this than meets the eye—and that there are things even Superintendent Wharton must not be told. Belgian hares, missing masterpieces, the mysterious man from Odessa—Travers, with methods as unorthodox as they are brilliant, finally sees their significance and solves the case.’
Reason for this Category: I think the cover says it all really!
I have one remaining title in my pile of GAD Wedding/Honeymoon project, which is J. J. Connington’s Tom Tiddler’s Island (1933). I am undecided yet which category to put it in. The cover is more turquoise than blue, and it is not a borrowed copy. It is a reprint edition of the text, so the Something New category might suit best.
‘A young couple, the Trents, arrive on the lonely islet of Ruffa – where a large house has been lent to them for part of their honeymoon – and stumble upon mystery. Gold is being exported from Ruffa in quantity. Where does it come from? From the Armada wreck in the bay? Or from some old Norseman’s hoard like the Traprain Law treasure. Or has the other tenant discovered the secret of making gold? The Trents are set on a surprising course to find out …’
Naturally with my wedding not too many weeks away I was wondering what handy tips these books might provide. However, based solely on the blurbs, I would say my main priority is not getting murdered! The figures do not look good. Out of the 5 books, the bride is killed 4 times, compared to the single occasion for the bridegroom. Not worrying at all… There is only one book, Tom Tiddler’s Island, where neither of the bridal party get bumped off!
I also thought it would be fun at the end of each review to give an additional rating, deciding whether it was either for better or for worse that I read that particular book. I hope I have more of the former than the latter!