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text 2019-06-02 20:40
Detection Club Bingo: Blackout
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books - Martin Edwards
The Golden Age of Murder - Martin Edwards
The Hollow Man - John Dickson Carr
Poison In The Pen - Patricia Wentworth
File on Fenton & Farr - Q. Patrick
Bats in the Belfry - E.C.R. Lorac
Trial and Error (Arcturus Crime Classics) - Anthony Berkeley
Nightmare - Lynn Brock
A Question of Proof - Nicholas Blake
The Division Bell Mystery - Ellen Wilkinson

With Ngaio Marsh's Nursing Home Murder and Ellen Wilkinson's Division Bell Mystery, both of which I finished in the past 10 days, I have blacked out my bingo card.


Many thanks to Moonlight Reader for creating such a wonderful card in response to my completely off-the-wall idea to track our Detection Club / Golden Age mystery reads this way!


While my bingo card may now be completed, my foray into the world of the Detection Club and Golden Age crime fiction is by far not over -- there are many more books and authors I'm planning to explore; some, but by far not all of them, as part of this year's Summer of Sherlock / 221B Baker Street and Beyond reading project.



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: A.A. Milne - The Red House Mystery
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;

Patricia Wentworth - Miss Silver Intervenes, Latter End, The Watersplash, The Traveller Returns, Poison in the Pen, The Clock Strikes Twelve, The Alington Inheritance, The Gazebo, The Benevent Treasure, Anna Where Are You?, The Key, The Ivory Dagger, Out of the Past, The Silent Pool, The Catherine Wheel, and The Fingerprint;

Agatha Christie - Murder at the Vicarage

4. 'Play Up! Play Up! and Play the Game!': Freeman Wills Crofts - The Hog's Back Mystery;

Dennis Wheatley and J.G. Links - Murder off Miami;

Members of the Detection Club - The Floating Admiral

5. Miraculous Murders: Anthony Wynne - Murder of a Lady;

John Dickson Carr - The Hollow Man

6. Serpents in Eden: Agatha Christie - The Moving Finger;

John Bude - The Lake District Murder;

Patricia Wentworth - Poison in the Pen;

Miles Burton - The Secret of High Eldersham

7. Murder at the Manor: Mavis Doriel Hay - The Santa Klaus Murder;

Ethel Lina White - The Spiral Staircase (aka Some Must Watch);

Georgette Heyer - Penhallow

8. Capital Crimes: Mavis Doriel Hay - Murder Underground;

E.C.R. Lorac - Bats in the Belfry

9. Resorting to Murder: Dorothy L. Sayers - Five Red Herrings;

Agatha Christie - Death on the Nile

10. Making Fun of Murder: Edmund Crispin - The Moving Toyshop;

Alan Melville - Quick Curtain

11. Education, Education, Education: Mavis Doriel Hay - Death on the Cherwell
12. Playing Politics:
Ngaio Marsh - The Nursing Home Murder
13. Scientific Enquiries: Christopher St. John Sprigg - Death of an Airman;

Freeman Wills Crofts - Mystery in the Channel

14. The Long Arm of the Law: Henry Wade - Lonely Magdalen
15. The Justice Game: Anthony Berkeley - Trial and Error;

Agatha Christie - Murder on the Orient Express
16. Multiplying Murders:
Anthony Berkeley - The Silk Stocking Murders
17. The Psychology of Crime:
Lynn Brock - Nightmare
18. Inverted Mysteries:
Anne Meredith - Portrait of a Murderer

19. The Ironists: Anthony Rolls - Family Matters;

Anthony Berkeley - The Wychford Poisoning Case

20. Fiction from Fact: Josephine Tey - The Franchise Affair

21. Singletons: Ellen Wilkinson - The Division Bell Mystery
22. Across the Atlantic: Patricia Highsmith - The Talented Mr. Ripley;

Q. Patrick (Richard Wilson Webb and Hugh Wheeler) - File on Fenton and Farr;

Mary Roberts Rinehart - Locked Doors  and The Red Lamp

23. Cosmopolitan Crimes: Georges Simenon - Pietr le Letton (Pietr the Latvian)
24. The Way Ahead: Nicholas Blake - A Question of Proof


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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text 2018-11-26 07:33
24 Festive Tasks: Thanksgiving, Tasks #1-4
The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars - Anthony Boucher
File on Fenton & Farr - Q. Patrick
At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails - Sarah Bakewell

Task 1:  List the 3 books you’ve read this year you’re most “thankful” for (your favs) or the one book you’ve ever read that changed your life for the better.


The books above aren't necessarily ones I'm thankful for in any obvious way, but they're all 5 star reads and will leave an indelible mark in my memory.  They all brought me joy in one form or another too, so I suppose that's reason enough to be thankful.


The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars - Anthony Boucher:  This book just hit me in all the feels.  It was a serendipitous find for me, as I'd never heard of the title, or really, the author, before.  It's a story about people who love Holmes, it had cryptic codes, and it was a little bit slapstick.  This book represents the hidden easter egg of my reading year.


File on Fenton & Farr - Q. Patrick:  This is a book I first discovered by reading The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards, and I fell in love with the idea of an adult forerunner to Encyclopedia Brown; nothing but the clues and testimony and the reader tries to solve the crime, with the answer in the back of the book.  This book represented my childhood, revisited and all grown up.


At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails - Sarah Bakewell:  This book is the one that keeps on giving.  Its philanthropy began by being a great, engaging read.  I listened on audio and the narrator was fantastic.  It kept on giving by engendering great conversations between myself, BrokenTune and Lillelara, and it keeps on giving because I'm still thinking about it and chewing over the concepts that Bakewell discussed, and will for the foreseeable future.



Task 2:  Describe your perfect meal.  What would you cook for the perfect celebration, or, what would you have your imaginary personal chef cook for you?


I have no idea.  Isn't that terrible?  My knee-jerk reaction is the traditional turkey/ham Christmas dinner, but honestly, none of those foods would actually make my top 10 favorites.   If I ignore the "meal" part of the question and stick to foods that make me roll my eyes heavenward and thank all that's holy, then the task becomes more manageable. These foods include, in no particular order:


Hush puppies:  deep fried balls of cornmeal with onions and green peppers. Because I'm a Southerner.  Also, cornbread.


Stone Crab Claws:  This is a species of crab native to Florida.  Its name comes from the extraordinarily thick shells that require hammers to break.  The meat is sweet and absolutely delicious.  But what I like even better than the taste is the fact that only their claws are harvested; the crab is never killed, and it's released back into the waters, where it regenerates new claws.  


One of the few things Florida has done right environmentally is strictly policing the harvesting of these crabs' claws; you must have a license, only a very limited number of licenses are released, and there are strict rules on the size of the claws that can be taken.  Loads of research was done to determine if one or both claws could be taken (both; as it turns out they use them only for show, not defence or hunting).  Ripping claws off a crab is still distasteful, but it's loads better than wiping out a population through over-harvesting.


Corn in pretty much any guise makes me happy.  On the cob, off the cob, creamed, grilled, buttered, whatever.  It's all corn.


Dessert-wise, if it involves vanilla custard I'm probably swooning.  Creme Brûlée, Portuguese custard tarts, vanilla custard slice, custard filled donuts (MT made a 'cake' for my birthday one year by piling custard filled donuts into a pyramid and sticking a candle on the top), whatever - it's all custard.  Last year I had a bowl of ice cream just so I'd have something to pour my sister-in-law's homemade vanilla custard (still warm) over.  The exception is flan - flan wobbles and it puts me off my custard love.  I do not like my food to jiggle.



Task 3:  Name a book you’ve read this year that you thought was full of “stuffing”.


The Name of the Rose - Umberto EcoI'm cheating here because it's not a book from this year.  

I read The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco  in 2017, and I know I'll not be popular for this choice, but nothing on my shelves - nothing - comes as close to being as full of stuffing as this book was (for me).  The story was great but, oh my god, it never freaking ended.  The theologising just went on and on and on, until sometimes I'd forget what the chapter started out being about.  Again, brilliant story - just ... stuffed.  



Task 4:  Show us your 2018 book “harvest” – the books you newly acquired this year, regardless whether bought, received as gift or in whichever other way.


Really?  It's not that I'm unwilling to fulfil this task, but I'm pretty sure it's not possible in any practical way; not without putting myself in the doghouse with my husband for the foreseeable future for the mess and chaos it would create.


Instead,  I took the number of books added to my BL shelves in 2018 and subtracted the books on my To-Buy list, since theoretically I own all the rest. There are some audiobooks I checked out of the library that I didn't subtract because I didn't feel like trolling through my shelves to find them, and there won't be enough of them to make a difference.  Ditto a couple of borrowed books that I read for real life book club.


So, roughly speaking, my haul for 2018 was 357 books.  


Gracious, I outdid myself this year.  50+ of those were the bargain box of Agatha Christies, but that whole lunatic book buying spree through Florida accounts for most of it.  So, that's the pic I'll post, though you've all seen it now at least once.


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review 2018-06-01 17:54
Do-It-Yourself Crime Solving from the Golden Age of Mysteries
File on Fenton & Farr - Q. Patrick
Murder Off Miami - Dennis Wheatley
Who Killed Robert Prentice? - Dennis Wheatley
The Malinsay Massacre - Dennis Wheatley
Herewith the Clues - Dennis Wheatley

You'd think that I get to read more than enough files (though not typically crime files) in my day job -- but gluttons for punishment that some of us mystery lovers are, there's nothing we like better than tracking down the murderer ourselves, instead of just reading about some super sleuth doing it for us ... or so the makers of the 1930s' Crime Dossiers / Crime Files series figured, and of course they were dead on target.


The idea was first conceived by English authors Dennis Wheatley and J.G. Links, whose Murder off Miami (aka File on Bolitho Blane) was such a raging success on both sides of the Atlantic that it inspired follow-ups in both the U.S. and in the UK: in the latter case, three more "Crime Dossiers" by Messrs. Wheatley and Links; in the U.S., Helen Reilly's File on Rufus Ray (Crime File No. 2), as well as File on Fenton and Far, and File on Claudia Cragge by Q. Patrick (aka Richard Wilson Webb and Hugh Wheeler) (Crime Files Nos. 3 and 4).


While the American "Crime Files" Nos. 2 and 4 (Rufus Ray and Claudia Cragge) are true collectors' items that continue to elude me for the moment, I've now read all four "Crime Dossiers" created by Dennis Wheatley and J.G. Links, as well as Q. Patrick's File on Fenton and Farr, and I'm in awe at the amount of ingenuity that has gone into creating these books.  They really are extremely close to the real thing -- you get correspondence (including cablegrams) and file entries by the investigators as well as witness statements, handwritten documents, crime scene and witness photographs, entire newspapers containing reports on the crime (not merely individual reports but actually entire broadsheets!), and even honest-to-God tactile evidence such as blood-stained pieces of cloth, strands of hair, tubes of lipstick, and other items found at the crime scene or in a witness's possession.  One can only guess at the amount of time and effort that must have gone into the creation of each and everyone of these books -- and they must have been tremendously expensive to produce, too; so no wonder that many of them (and all the originals from the 1930s) are rare collectors' items these days.  Crimes scenes range from a yacht off the Florida coast to an English village not far from London, a castle on a remote Scottish island, small-town New Jersey, and a London night club; and the cast of characters -- in each book as well as in all of them taken together -- is as diverse as any that you might expect to find in the best of crime fiction.


This all being said, obviously you can't like all books equally well, however lovingly they are put together; and so far my favorites are Wheatley / J.G. Links's sophomore effort, Who Killed Robert Prentice? (which has downright fiendish elements; it is, however, solvable on the basis of the evidence provided) and Q. Patrick's File on Fenton and Farr ... the latter, if only for the fact that the authors even managed to work a funny-sweet romance between one of the detectives and the police chief's precocious secretary into the file.  (Obviously it also helped that I managed to solve both of these cases substantially (Robert Prentice) / partly (Fenton & Farr) correctly, even if I reserve the right to quibble with some of the evidence in Fenton & Farr.


The weakest of the lot is, IMHO, The Malinsay Massacre; not so much because it consists very largely of correspondence but because the solution just plain doesn't make sense to me and some of the conclusions allegedly "forcing" themselves on the reader from individual pieces of evidence are implausible beyond belief.  (OK, sour grapes, I admit.  Still ...) -- Herewith the Clues, the final Wheatley / Links outing, is generally decried as weak as well; however, I actually prefer it to Malinsay -- it does present a genuine puzzle, and even if some of the clues / proposed deductions are maybe a bit far-fetched, a fair amount of them actually do serve a logical purpose in eliminating innocent suspects on the one hand and nailing down the murderer on the other hand.  (Besides, the sheer number of fellow writers and society celebrities of their era that the authors managed to rope in for purposes of posing for "suspect" photos for Herewith the Clues is mind-boggling in and of itself -- in fact, this is the only volume where the true identities of the persons portrayed in the photographs are unveiled -- not least as this is a story dealing with IRA terrorism and some of the suspect biographies also point to Nazi Germany ... surely, in 1937, not exactly connections that many well-known Brits would have welcomed to see associated with their names; however much in a fictional context and with a disclaimer reading "the particulars regarding [name of fictional suspect] which are given in the script have, of course, no reference whatever to [real name of person portrayed], who very kindly posed for this photograph.")


Now, if only I could get my hands on at least halfway affordable copies of the File on Rufus Ray and the File on Claudia Cragge ...


In the interim, File on Fenton and Farr gets me another square in the Detection Club bingo -- "Across the Atlantic" (chapter 22), which at the same time completes bingo no. 4 ( all 4 corners + center square).


Individual ratings:

File on Fenton & Farr - 4 stars

Murder off Miami - 4 stars

Who Killed Robert Prentice? - 4.5 stars

The Malinsay Massacre - 3 stars

Herewith the Clues - 3,5 stars



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text 2018-02-28 07:55
February Reading Wrap-Up
File on Fenton & Farr - Q. Patrick
Swearing Is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language - Emma Byrne
This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection - Carol Burnett

Clearing my slate before the new Kill Your Darlings game and the Flat Book Society's March read begins.


I've read 19 books this month.  Real life in February was a cranky bastard and I just didn't have the luxury of time I usually do.  Still, 19 is a much higher number than I expected and I'm very satisfied, all things considered.


A few stats:

3 Five star reads

4 Four star reads

1 1.5 star read; my lowest rating of the month.


13 books by women

6 books by men

4 audiobooks

7 non-fiction

12 fiction


In an effort to curb my TBR piles this year, I'm only allowing myself to buy half as many books as I read in the previous month.  If I buy less than the month's budget, I can carry over the balance.

February cumulative balance:  19

Books bought in February: 13

Carry over:  6

March budget: 9

Total book budget for March:  15


In truth, I thought I'd have blown this by now; it helps that I accidentally missed the library sale last month.  Something tells me I won't do so well when the next one comes around.




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review 2018-02-13 05:38
File on Fenton & Farr
File on Fenton & Farr - Q. Patrick

As a young kid, my absolute favorite reads were Encyclopedia Brown books.  I devoured them.  For those unacquainted with Encyclopedia Brown, he was a middle-school aged boy genius who went around solving mysteries in his neighbourhood, a la Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys, but he did it using pure Sherlock Holmes-style deductions.  Each book was a collection of individual mysteries, but the twist was that each was written in a solve-it-yourself style.  Each story contained everything the reader needed to solve the mystery, and the stories would end before E. Brown revealed the solution.  The reader had a chance to solve the crimes, then look at the back of the book to see if they were correct.


The File on Fenton & Farr is a like a great big, grown up, Encyclopedia Brown story!  Everything the reader needs, as they follow the police investigation of a double homicide set up to look like a suicide pact.  Police reports, memos, telegrams, ticket stubs, notes, even a tiny sample tube of lipstick!



The story is very neatly done and not at all easy; every suspect had a motive and an alibi and none of the clues were anything out of the ordinary.  Patrick did a brilliant job writing out all of this material without being dry or overstepping the bounds of realism.  Each member of the police force exhibits enough personality to keep the reader turning the pages.


It was amazing.  And I'm not just saying that because I WAS RIGHT!  Woot!  Somebody get me a badge!  ::grin::


I was extraordinarily lucky to get this book; it was a monstrous splurge on my part when I bought it, far and away more money than I ever spend on a book, but I'd read about these publications and was dying to see if all these years reading mysteries had done me any good.  I am so, so glad I splurged.  This book is special and I can only imagine the amount of grief it caused its publishers back in 1937 to put it together.  


Now, it's MT's turn to see if he can solve the mystery; I've put my solution in a sealed envelope and we'll compare notes afterwards.  I'm not betting against him...

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