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Search tags: Golden-Age-mystery-reading-binge
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review 2017-09-16 22:58
Death of an Airman
Death of an Airman - Christopher St. John Sprigg

The two detectives looked at each other, and, after thanking Lady Laura, walked over to the hangars. “An intelligent girl,” said Creighton. “I don’t know why one is surprised when a good-looking woman has brains.


What a fun murder mystery! Death of an Airman had everything I like about Golden Age mysteries: eccentric characters, humour, technical detail that makes it fun to follow the puzzle,  red herrings galore, and a solution to the mystery that made it difficult to book down the book before the last page.


My favourite part was when Scotland Yard followed a lead that involved the covert sale of a French newspaper to "special order" customers in Glasgow which ended with the policemen being thrown out of the newsagents... I literally read this, giggled, and hoped that this would be more than a red herring.

A similar turn of plot in Death in the Tunnel had frustrated my reading experience of that book and I was relieved to find out that although there were a lot of similarities between the books, Death of an Airman was taking itself less seriously and, in consequence, was a much more enjoyable read. I laughed on several occasions, but I was also enjoying the hunt for clues and trying to figure out the mystery of how the victim was killed - because that was a real mystery for most of the book.


I wish we had many more works by Sprigg that we could discover, but Sprigg died at the age of 30 after had joined the Spanish Civil War. Had he lived, I wonder whether he would have injected some more of that irreverence and fun that made Death of an Airman such a joy into the rest of the mystery genre. Don't get me wrong, I love the Golden Age mystery reads, but instead of the xenophobia and snobbery that sometimes seems to run through these books, I would have loved to have seen more of Sprigg's tone of voice:   

"Any convictions against the woman in your records?”

“Nothing serious. Dangerous driving, of course, and a narrow escape from a manslaughter conviction, but this type of reckless individual may always get involved in that kind of thing. They think it’s their duty to drive about the streets like maniacs. Oh, there’s a fine for assault when she bashed a fellow over the head with her ice-hockey stick for making some uncomplimentary remark about the sportsmanship of women players. It was perhaps excusable.”

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review 2017-08-08 00:31
Murder in the Museum
Murder in the Museum: A British Library Crime Classic (British Library Crime Classics Book 18) - John Rowland

I am throwing in the towel @ 30% because my TBR is way too big to waste time on books I simply cannot enjoy.


What is even more aggravating than actually having bought this one (rather than borrowed from the library) is that there were elements that should have made this book great: 


1. The setting: The books starts in the Reading Room at the British Museum. It is one of my favourite places. It has lots of atmosphere. The first murder takes place there. In public, but without any one noticing.


This should have made for a great locked room type mystery.


Instead, there is hardly any scene setting, and the little that is there does not describe anything about the museum or the reading room. Why set it in the Museum then? Why not an indistinguishable coffee house? Or a park?


Also, there is no atmosphere. None! Most of the book seems written in pretty flat dialogue. We don't even get to know any of the characters other than by name and occupation.


2. There are lot of tips of the hat to Sherlock Holmes in this book: A character caller Mr. Henry Baker like in ACD's Blue Carbuncle, the British Museum (which is also mentioned in Blue Carbuncle), and later on (I skip read to the end) the action takes us to Dartmoor where a prisoner escaped (Hound of the Baskervilles much?). Could this be more Sherlockian?


Yes. Yes, it could! Why did the author stop at nicking ACD's characters and settings? Why could he not have copied some of ACD's style, too? It would have infinitely improved this book.


I completely gave up on the book when I got to the following:

In a few minutes he was speaking to the inspector in charge of the City police station at Oxford, and he explained his need for information, having first given the secret police sign which indicates that a fellow limb of the law is making the enquiry.

A secret police sign?!?!? WHY??? They're not even under cover!


This makes no sense.


There was more that made no sense - like the first officer on the scene declaring the cause of death to be poisoning by cyanide. Surely, they must have had some protocol even in 1938 when this was written. 


Anyway. Good riddance.

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text 2017-08-07 23:15
Reading progress update: I've read 15%.
Murder in the Museum: A British Library Crime Classic (British Library Crime Classics Book 18) - John Rowland

I love the covers of the books in this series, but I have yet to find a story that keeps me interested.




This one is so slow, dated, and lacking some much-needed atmosphere.

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review 2017-07-31 22:19
After the Funeral
After the Funeral - Agatha Christie

Should murder make sense? Mr Entwhistle wondered. Academically the answer was yes. But many pointless crimes were on record. It depended, Mr Entwhistle reflected, on the mentality of the murderer.

This was my first time reading After the Funeral, but, of course, it is the story that is loosely used as the story in Murder at the Gallop, that classic Marple film starring the incomparable Margaret Rutherford. 



This is all wrong, of course. After the Funeral is a Poirot mystery, not a Marple. 


But other than this, the main plot is the same: a family gathering, a vague accusation, a brutal murder.


Poirot joins the plot relatively late, and then potters about as Poirot does.


Which brings me to following: Poirot is the worst person to ever try and disguise himself. This is not the first time he does it, and every time I've seen him do it, it is just ridiculous.

Surely, Christie wrote this "disguise" malarkey as a bit of fun with the oh so famous and infallible Belgian.

And his name isn’t Pontarlier – it’s Hercules something.’ ‘Hercule Poirot – at your service.’ Poirot bowed. There were no gasps of astonishment or of apprehension. His name seemed to mean nothing at all to them. They were less alarmed by it than they had been by the single word ‘detective’.

After the Funeral is a fairly standard Poirot story, not the best, not the worst. There are a couple of things that do not work, like Poirot's attempt at making people confess to him. That was just plain silly.


However, I liked disliking most of the characters. It's a bit of dark satire, more than a murder mystery, but it isn't as good as other Poirot stories.











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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-07-09 12:26
Taken at the Flood
Taken at the Flood - Agatha Christie

Poirot sighed. ‘One should never struggle against the inevitable,’ he said. ‘If a middle-aged lady wearing sham Egyptian beads has made up her mind to see the famous Hercule Poirot, and has come up from the country to do so, nothing will deflect her. She will sit there in the hall till she gets her way. Show her in, George.’

This will contain spoilers.


Taken at the Flood had an interesting start to the story. We start the story in a gentlemen's club in London during an air raid. What is interesting is that Christie starts off with a show blatant xenophobia by one of the club's members who is deemed to be a bore, but also deemed to be a character of integrity (as shown later in the story). 


From there on we get a story about dependencies in various forms. It was curious to watch Christie developing characters in this story, but I could not buy into the psychology of her characters: not that all of them would resign themselves to doom, not that none of them would question David Hunter constantly hanging around his sister. Was he there during her marriage, too? If the family was so closely dependent on Gordon Cloade, would they not have met his new wife or heard about her brother?


And what about the other members of the Cloade family, too? Could they really have been so inept and helpless? Could they really have been so ignorant of each others affairs and weaknesses?


I'm not sure the psychology really works in this book.


This is not helped by Poirot swanning around in the second half of the book and uttering nonsensical metaphors. I would expect this from Miss Marple, but not from Poirot. Come on!


Poirot is pretty annoying in this book whenever he appears. He is arrogant and a bit snobbish, and witholds information from the reader. I could have made peace with that, but then he turns into a complete idiot when he stands by to witness an attempted murder and does absolutely nothing to stop it. Well, not nothing. He politely coughs.




It's like a bad comedy sketch.


What was most annoying, tho, was the ending: As I said, the story is based on a lot of dependencies, some between the characters. Some sweet, but some are really dark and abusive. To have to book end with one of the characters, who had hitherto been described as a confident, self-reliant young woman, a former wren, agree to marry a guy she tried to leave for most of the book

and who had only a few pages before been trying to strangle her

(spoiler show)

, just defies all reason, and to not comment on this being a bad idea just seems like carelessness on Christies' part.


Oh, and the solution to the actual mystery is as equally far-fetched.


The only reason that redeemed the book somewhat is that I enjoyed one particular scene in all of this mess, and that was when Lionel confesses his financial ruin to his wife. That was a well written and touching moment:

She was looking at him with complete astonishment.

‘Really, Jeremy! What on earth do you think I married you for?’

He smiled slightly. ‘You have always been a most loyal and devoted wife, my dear. But I can hardly flatter myself that you would have accepted me in— er— different circumstances.’

She stared at him and suddenly burst out laughing. ‘You funny old stick! What a wonderful novelettish mind you must have behind that legal façade! Do you really think that I married you as the price of saving Father from the wolves— or the Stewards of the Jockey Club, et cetera?’

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