It’s not long until the end of the year. Is it just me or did 2022 go really quickly? It has been a hectic month for me outside of the blog, so consequently I only managed 7 reviews in October. Life does have this annoying habit of getting in the way of one’s reading, doesn’t it? Can I have a sabbatical from life for a year, just to get some really good reading in? Guessing not… Anyways, October saw me trying four authors for the first time. Alas I would say only one of these authors, would be one I would want to return to. One blogging highlight of the month though was my announcement of my next book, How to Survive a Classic Crime Novel, which is being published next June by the British Library.
The Black Stage (1945) by Anthony Gilbert
Gilbert is an author I enjoy returning to and I like how just when I think I have her writing style sussed, she throws a curve ball like The Black Stage. This is definitely an atypical Arthur Crook mystery, with a traditional country house mystery setup – not the usual waters for Crook to swim in by any means. Whilst I wouldn’t say this is one for puzzle mystery purists, this was an enjoyable read. The way WW2 shapes and even directs the novel is one of its interesting features.
The Passing of Mr Quinn (1928) by G. Roy McRae
This is a novelisation of a film adaptation made of a short story by Agatha Christie, yet I would say the opening has much more in common with Edgar Wallace. The plot line is far from Christie-esque and falls more into the camp of melodrama. Unsurprisingly this is not one to read if you want to read about Agatha Christie’s Mr Quin, yet the victim is an excellent shorthand on how to be a villain.
Murder and Poor Jenny (1954) by Margot Neville
This is an author I have come back to more than once this year. In this mystery we have a Becky Sharp type of protagonist, and this self-serving personality is deployed well in the mystification of the murder. She is not the heroine in the jeopardy you might be expecting from the title. There is some misdirection, but I felt the ending was rushed.
Death on the Down Beat (1941) by Sebastian Farr
An experimental epistolary novel which I had high hopes for, but which were unfortunately not realised. One of my main issues was that the character writing the majority of the letters was as dull as ditch water. There is a poor dispersion of information about the case and the characterisation is poor.
The Listening House (1938) by Mabel Seeley
This novel has an excellent choice of female lead to follow and I found a lot to enjoy in this grittier, less middle-class variety of HIBK mystery. The plotting belies HIBK mystery stereotypes and is intricately constructed. Puzzle fans will find plenty to ponder in this boarding house murder story and I felt the characters had impact. I did feel though it was a little too long.
Death of Jezebel (1948) by Christianna Brand
This was an enjoyable re-visit for book group. Due to the context in which I was reading the book I found the final third more hard going, as there is quite a lot of theorising which dampens the powerful characterisation of the opening, but it is still a very strong mystery with lots of reasons to enjoy it, as my post outlines.
The Murder of Father Christmas (1934) by Pierre Very
This was my Christmas read for the year, which unfortunately did not pay off. I think the French brand of mystery fiction construction is not quite my cup of tea, given the lack of clues and overt investigative work.
After much deliberation I decided that the mystery which would win the accolade of Book of the Month was The Listening House. I felt this was a very strong debut by Mabel Seeley and I look forward to trying more by her.
As to how much reading I will get done this month, I wouldn’t like to say. Fingers crossed I might have some book shaped presents on the weekend, which might inspire my month’s reading. To date my reading has been slow so far this November. I am currently in the middle of an Edna Sherry novel. One book I definitely plan to read, due to book group is E. C. R. Lorac’s Fell Murder (1944).
What are you hoping to read this month?
Don’t forget in December I will be launching another year’s Reprint of the Year awards, so get thinking who you might like to nominate!