Monthly Reviews

March 2018 in Review

I cut my television service a few years ago so these days I tend to be a little late in discovering new shows, usually coming to them a few seasons in. This month I stumbled onto How To Get Away With Murder and I have been thoroughly enjoying bingeing on the show these past few weeks.

For those who have never seen it, it stars Viola Davis as a law professor who teaches a criminal law class at a prestigious university. Each year she takes on several students to work for her office, gaining practical experience of trying cases. As we see in flash forwards throughout the series, by the end of the semester those students will find themselves disposing of a body of their own.

Throughout the first season the series combines a case of the week plot in which Annalise and her students defend someone accused (and often guilty) of murder and character and plot development that moves the overall story forwards. Most of those individual cases are really good in that first season and some of the twists and turns in the bigger storyline are excellently handled.

The second season is still very good, although I am a little less fond of the case that becomes the focal point of the season, and so far I am really enjoying the third season (I am about three episodes in).

Book of the Month: March 2018

Let’s get to the books. I found some pretty good reads in March and I am very happy to say that I had some genuine competition for the title of Book of the Month. The eligible titles were:

The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction
The Witch of the Low Tide by John Dickson Carr
The Servant of Death by James Harold Wallis
The Affair at Little Wokeham by Freeman Wills Crofts
A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman
The Viaduct Murder by Ronald Knox
Seven Dead by J. Jefferson Farjeon
The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis
The Case of the Headless Jesuit by George Bellairs
The Phantom Passage by Paul Halter
Death at Breakfast by John Rhode
Diplomat’s Folly by Henry Wade
Death Comes at the End by Agatha Christie

And the winner is…

ServantThe Servant of Death by James Harold Wallis. This novel came as a recommendation from Kate at the excellent blog CrossExaminingCrime as part of her review of Curtis Evans’ book about Todd Downing’s mystery fiction reviews, Clues and Corpses.

It’s another instance of the inverted form mystery but with the rather charming twist that it contains a challenge to the reader in its final pages. Though some of the secondary characters are a little less developed, I thoroughly enjoyed the exploration of the main character.

The Month Ahead

I decided to diverge from quite a few of the promises I made last month. Whoops. Still, one thing you can be sure of is that I will be writing in a generally spoilery fashion about John Rhode’s Invisible Weapons with JJ at his blog, The Invisible Event. I am also pretty confident that I will be reviewing The Man Who Could Not Shudder and J. H. Wallis’ Murder by Formula.

Less reliable promises would include Fire in the ThatchA Necessary Evil and New Graves at Great Norne. At least two of those I have promised (and failed to deliver) before… I should also be tackling another non-series Christie and I have selected Destination Unknown.

Monthly Reviews

February 2018 in Review

Boy, February did not go at all to plan but that’s okay.

Every month I like to spend an hour or so pottering around with my Google Calendar, putting down titles I plan on reviewing and the dates I expect to finish them on. It is really just an outline for what I think I would enjoy and I feel free to deviate from it when I find myself chasing a whim or a recommended book from another blogger but it does give my efforts some structure.

I think the longest I have managed to stick with the schedule has been about seven consecutive posts but this month the only post that came out on schedule was The Man in the Brown Suit and seeing as how that was actually originally intended to come out last month, I think it’s honestly a bit of a stretch to include that.

In my defence, it’s not entirely my fault. I had the good fortune to receive a huge stack of vintage mysteries through the library and altered my plans to incorporate those while a few books just really grabbed me and I couldn’t wait to finish them. All of these are good problems to have but it does amuse me a little that I failed so spectacularly to live up to my plans this month.

Book of the Month: February 2018

In February I was all about the vintage mystery. Only two of the books I read, Too Many Magicians and The Demon of Dartmoor were written after 1960 and none were from the twenty first century.

As much as I liked both of those books, my selection this month was a relatively easy task. Those few of you who follow me on Twitter would have seen that I trailed my review with the comment that it may well be my favorite book I have read for the blog so far. The more I think about the book, the more certain I feel of that statement.

Before I reveal the winner, let me refresh you on who the eligible contenders were:

Mystery on Southampton Water by Freeman Wills Crofts
The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
Death in the Dentist’s Chair by Molly Thynne
Too Many Magicians by Randall Garrett
The Demon of Dartmoor by Paul Halter
Corpse at the Carnival by George Bellairs
Diabolic Candelabra by E R Punshon
Crime on my Hands by George Sanders
A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin
Murder in the Maze by J. J. Connington
The Chinese Puzzle by Miles Burton
The Greek Coffin Mystery by Ellery Queen

KissThe winner is… A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin!

Now, I am hardly alone in praising this book and I do try to avoid picking an obvious choice but I liked this novel so much that it would be hard for me to select anything else. I have said over and over again how much I like inverted form stories and I think this novel puts you in the head of the killer in its first section with incredible effect, delivers a great twist in its second section before building to a really memorable end. In short, it’s a classic and one of the very best books I’ve read.

The Month Ahead

So, in a couple of days time I turn 34 and I had planned that I would celebrate by reviewing a number of books written in 1934. It was a cute idea but the last few weeks have been so crazy-busy that I already know I am too far behind on my reading books I need to send back to make that work.

What you can expect to see in the next few weeks is a review of The Affair at Little Wokeham by Freeman Wills Crofts, The Witch of the Low Tide by John Dickson Carr and of The Phantom Passage by Paul Halter. I plan on also making a tentative first step into the works of Ronald Knox with The Viaduct Murder and I am really looking forward to reading A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee.

Monthly Reviews

January 2018 in Review

I am glad it’ll be February tomorrow. January just seems to have stretched on and on and I’m ready for a new month.

Some of you may have noticed that after several months of a review every weekday, this month that streak broke. I blame Ellery Queen’s The Dutch Shoe Mystery though the acquisition of Assassin’s Creed Origins for my Xbox didn’t help much either. The past couple of days have done a lot to lift my reading spirits – I read great books by Henry Wade and John Bude and I had someone tell me that Family Matters, a book that I am always recommending at work, was a phenomenal read and has made them interested in checking out other GAD titles.

Mission achieved.

Books of the Month: January 2018

I’m going to be honest with you – I found it a lot harder this month to pick a standout book than in the four previous months. There were certainly some titles that I felt were worthy of high praise and one that I feel a close personal bond to (The Priest’s Hat – I am pretty sure I wrote the first detailed English language review of that one) but there was no book that clearly pulled away from the pack in terms of quality. Or was there?

The eligible contenders were:

Oathbreaker by Martin Jensen
Murder Has A Motive by Francis Duncan
The Madman’s Room by Paul Halter
Too Soon to Die by Henry Wade
The Medbury Fort Murder by George Limnelius
The Priest’s Hat by Emilio de Marchi
Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles by A L Herbert
The Dutch Shoe Mystery by Ellery Queen
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
The Problem of the Wire Cage by John Dickson Carr
Tricks of the Trade by Euan B. Pollock
Death Makes A Prophet by John Bude
The Patricide by Kim Ekemar
Blown Away by Clover Tate
The Murdered Banker by Augusto de Angelis
Heir Presumptive by Henry Wade
Dark River Rising by Roger Johns

HeirPresumptiveAnd the winner is… Heir Presumptive which just sneaked into consideration when I read it right at the end of the month.

There is a lot to admire here but what I think impressed me most was the really effective structure. Wade’s story initially seems to be a familiar inverted format and yet by the end it has become something much more clever and unexpected.

It all builds to a wonderful conclusion that, while it didn’t surprise me, felt particularly satisfying because of how well it is executed. When it comes time to write my top ten inverted mysteries list, expect this to be in contention!

The Month Ahead

It turns out that I am really pretty terrible at predicting what I will actually read and talk about more than a week or two down the line so take all of this with a huge pinch of salt. I can say that I am currently reading The Dutch Coffin Mystery (ours is clearly one of those on again, off again relationships) and I have Crofts’ Mystery on Southampton Water by Freeman Wills Crofts on its way.

I aspire to tackle Bats in the Belfry and The Demon of Dartmoor and I fully intend to get around to my next non-series Christie. Beyond that though it’s anyone’s guess…