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Search tags: British-Mysteries-and-Crime-Fiction
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text 2018-03-06 10:59
Reading progress update: I've read 180 out of 336 pages.
The Hog's Back Mystery - Freeman Wills Crofts

Hmmm.  I'm beginning to understand why Tigus was wondering whether Crofts's insistence on playing fair with the reader is going to the disadvantage of Inspector French, in not making him draw conclusions and open up lines of investigation that would occur to a reader at this point.


Reading this for the Detection Club Bingo, and will also be posting a guess on its basis in the KYD green round (not saying yet for which card, though).

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review 2018-02-28 18:59
J.K. Rowling Does "Mystery"
The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith


... and really, is there anything she can't write?


This may not be the most ingenious of plots (supermodel with "issues" falls to her death from the balcony of her high rise apartment; after the police have declared her death a probable suicide and closed the case, her brother shows up at the office of a down-and-out P.I. with a somewhat checkered past and pleads with him to reinvestigate; P.I. has a new temp secretary who gradually and reluctantly becomes his sidekick), but as always, it's all in the execution, and here, Rowling delivers on all fronts; from tone of voice to attitudes to every other aspect that's indispensable to creating well-rounded characters ... and what a cast of characters she's come up with, too.  She has an impeccable ear for dialogue, for the snazzy, street-wise language that few mysteries can do without, especially those published today -- all the more those set, like this one, in the demi-monde of fashion, film, rock (music, meth / cocaine, and whisky-on-the), modeling, moguls, and money both old and new -- and for endowing her characters with entirely credible human emotions.  All of her characters, that is, regardless how important they are to the story.  Even today, there are few mystery writers who manage that sort of feat.


And honestly, can you possibly think of a greater name for a protagonist, a run-down P.I. at that, than Cormoran Strike?


Count me in for book 2 of the series soon -- I wonder what took me so long to get to it in the first place.


Oh, and never mind that she published this under a male pen name (nice try, Joanne) ... the cat was out of the bag within weeks, if not days IIRC, and I am SO counting this book towards the "R" square of the Women Writers Bingo / Challenge.

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text 2018-02-28 17:55
Detection Club Bingo: My Progress So Far
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books - Martin Edwards
The Golden Age of Murder - Martin Edwards
Murder of a Lady (British Library Crime Classics) - Anthony Wynne
The Tales of Max Carrados - Ernest Bramah,Stephen Fry
Pietr Le Letton - Georges Simenon
Lonely Magdalen: A Murder Story - Henry Wade
Margery Allingham Omnibus: Includes Sweet Danger, The Case of the Late Pig, The Tiger in the Smoke - Margery Allingham
The Franchise Affair - Josephine Tey
Family Matters (British Library Crime Classics) - Anthony Rolls
Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay


First bingo (bottom row).  Not that it greatly matters, but still. :D  Progress!


The Squares / Chapters:

1. A New Era Dawns: Ernest Bramah - The Tales of Max Carrados;

Emmuska Orczy - The Old Man in the Corner

2. The Birth of the Golden Age
3. The Great Detectives:
Margery Allingham - The Crime at Black Dudley, Mystery Mile, Look to the Lady, Police at the Funeral, Sweet Danger, Death of a Ghost, Flowers for the Judge, The Case of the Late Pig, Dancers in Mourning, The Fashion in Shrouds, Traitor's Purse, and The Tiger in the Smoke;

Anthony Berkeley - The Poisoned Chocolates Case

4. 'Play Up! Play Up! and Play the Game!'
5. Miraculous Murders:
Anthony Wynne - Murder of a Lady
6. Serpents in Eden
7. Murder at the Manor:
Ethel Lina White - The Spiral Staircase (aka Some Must Watch)
8. Capital Crimes
9. Resorting to Murder
10. Making Fun of Murder
11. Education, Education, Education:
Mavis Doriel Hay - Death on the Cherwell
12. Playing Politics
13. Scientific Enquiries
14. The Long Arm of the Law:
Henry Wade - Lonely Magdalen
15. The Justice Game
16. Multiplying Murders
17. The Psychology of Crime
18. Inverted Mysteries
19. The Ironists:
Anthony Rolls - Family Matters
20. Fiction from Fact: Josephine Tey - The Franchise Affair

21. Singletons
22. Across the Atlantic
23. Cosmopolitan Crimes: Georges Simenon - Pietr le Letton (Pietr the Latvian)
24. The Way Ahead


Free Square / Eric the Skull: Martin Edwards - The Golden Age of Murder


The book that started it all:

Martin Edwards - The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books


The Detection Club Reading Lists:
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: The "100 Books" Presented
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 1-5

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 6 & 7
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 8-10
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 11-15
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 16-20
The story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 21-24

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-02-28 17:28
Enid Blyton in Oxford
Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay
Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay

Meh.  I think if the protagonists of this mystery had been some 3 or 5 years younger, and if I'd read this in my teens or preteens, I'd have loved it -- this is exactly the sort of book I used to swallow way back when (Enid Blyton's O'Sullivan Twins / St. Clare's and Famous Five series, The Three Investigators, the odd Nancy Drew); except that this book is set among Oxford college undergraduates.  And therein, to a large extent, lies the problem:  What would have been precocious in a high school student and a teenager comes across as simply silly and unreasonable in a college student, however much the author may preface her book with the warning that "[u]ndergraduates, especially those in their first year, are not, of course, quite sane or quite adult".  And I, in turn, am no longer the heroines' own age (and aspiring to their daring and their spirit of adventure), but several decades older, and able to look back on my own university years secure and jaded in the knowledge that even as a first year I'd likely have scorned the behavior of these girls -- and the mere attempt to solve a crime that is quite obviously in a very capable police inspector's hands anyway -- as supremely unreasonable; indeed, as risible. 


It certainly also doesn't help that Dorothy L. Sayers, in my absolute favorite among her Lord Peter Wimsey / Harriet Vane mysteries -- Gaudy Night, which coincidentally was published the same year as this book -- set the standard, once and for all, for how you "do" a mystery in a university setting; moreover, a mystery set, like this book, in an all-female college.  And yes, Sayers's book does include undergraduates, both male (from other Oxford colleges) and female.  And male and female alike, they do exhibit their share of silly behavior.  But they're nevertheless decidedly more rounded, multi-dimensional and capable of rational behavior and foresight than Hay's undergraduates are here.


So, I am definitely not the right audience for this book.  More than that, though, unlike Hay's Santa Klaus Murder, which I rather liked, this novel simply lacks depth; its plot is as shallow as its characters, half the clues don't seem to go anywhere in particular (even in the final reveal), and clichés abound -- including a number of jarringly racist clichés.  This is a pity particularly in light of the fact that Hay does tackle a serious issue which was of tremendous relevance to women in her day, and would remain to be so for decades to come -- not only, but even more so, in a professional environment,

namely, single / illegitimate motherhood,

(spoiler show)

and which would have deserved to be put front and center and explored in depth.  Still, I'm giving a fair amount of kudos to her for the fact that she is addressing this topic at all, which, together with the odd moment of more competent writing or (dar I say it?) even amusement, accounts for the fact that I'm rating this book, overall, as average instead of sub-par.


Stephen Booth, in his introduction to the British Library Crime Classics edition of this novel (yes -- for once it's not introduced by series consultant Martin Edwards) deplores that Hay only published three mysteries before turning to other things, of which this and The Santa Klaus Murder are two and Murder on the Underground is the third.  Judging by The Santa Klaus Murder and by some bits and pieces of talent shining through here, that may well be true.  I am glad, however, that she didn't try to make a career out of treading the same paths so successfully trodden by Enid Blyton, Robert Arthur and their ilk.  Or at least, I am glad that she didn't try to make a career writing mysteries that have undergraduate college students for protagonists ...


I read this for the "Education, Education, Education" square / chapter of the Detection Club bingo (it's not one of the mysteries accorded a special essay-length portrayal in Martin Edwards's Story of Classic Crime in 100 books, but it is definitely more than merely name-checked in the corresponding chapter; and indeed, the image for the relevant square of the Detection Club bingo card is taken from this book's cover), as well as -- as an additional book -- for the "H" square of the Women Writers Bingo / Challenge.


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review 2018-02-11 22:28
All in the Family
Family Matters (British Library Crime Classics) - Anthony Rolls
Family Matters - Anthony Rolls,Gordon Griffin

Ooooh, I'm so glad this book was rescued from oblivion by the editors of the British Library Crime Classics series.  And I'm all the more glad for the fact that, reading its description, I didn't expect half the delights it would turn out to have in store.


Family Matters is, on its face, a take on the age-old theme of marital discord leading to murder -- one of the most prevalent topics in crime fiction practically ever since the inception of the genre, and done practically to death in its own right as a result of having been tackled by everybody from Arthur Conan Doyle to the Golden Age Queens of Crime and pretty much every other modern suspense and thriller writer.  So, a rave review by Dorothy L. Sayers notwithstanding, I approached this with quite pinch of caution.


I needn't have worried, and I now fully understand why the ever-skeptical Sayers even went so far as to proclaim that she was "quite ready to accept anything that is told me by so convincing an author" as to the chemistry involved in bringing about the murder (or was it?) and in confounding, in turn, the police, the medical experts, the coroner, and (almost) the jury.  (Though I would love to get a chemist's perspective on the accuracy of it all at some point.)


The real stand-out feature of this novel is Rolls's ability to sketch a character and an atmosphere, and his deliciously malicious sense of humor, which extends to pretty much everybody and everything involved in this sordid tale, beginning with the community in which it takes place, all the way to the fighting couple's neighbors and friends, the inmates and atmosphere of their horrid household, and the murdered man himself: if ever a character asked to be murdered, surely it is this story's Robert Arthur Kewdingham who, however, for all of Roll's scathing satire of the archetypal mysogynistic bully, still manages to be ... well, let's say at least two-and-a-half-dimensional.


Of course, towards the end of the story the judicial process is administered its due share of jibes as well, and in light of the Flat Book Society's recent read of Val McDermid's Forensics, I particularly enjoyed Roll's pick on the era's preeminent medical expert witnesses of the ilk of a Dr. Bernard Spilsbury:

"Pulverbatch was a thin, pale man, with an expression like that of a highly intellectual saint.  He appeared to be in ceaseless communion with a fount of inner knowledge.  When he spoke, he had a way of drawing back his thin lips, showing two rows of very small natural teeth, and occasionally giving a short whispering whistle.  In the seclusion of his fine Bayswater home he attempted, with no great success, to play jigs upon the violin for the entertainment of Mrs. Pulverbatch.


'Hyaline deterioration?' said the Professor to his eminent colleague. 'Yes, my dear chap -- I quite agree with you. But look here ... [...] I never saw anything like it.  I wish we had Chesterton here.  But I think we shall ultimately come to the conclusion which I ventured to put forward as a working hypothesis at the start.'"

Though I do own, and have read, the paperback edition of this book, I also highly recommend the audio version narrated by Gordon Griffin, who has fast become one of my favorite go-to narrators of books by British authors (or set in Britain).


I read this book for the "Ironists" chapter / square of the Detection Club bingo, the image for which is actually taken from the cover of this particular book.


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