Are we really halfway through 2018 already? It seems hard to believe but here we are. The good news from my perspective is that I have already marked 35 of the 48 categories off my Vintage Mysteries Challenge scorecard but I am finding that it is getting harder to just stumble onto titles that will qualify. No doubt I am going to have to do a little more planning if I am to check off some of these.
June turned out to be another solid month in terms of my reading. I had worried that the World Cup might get in the way of my finding the time to sit down with a book and I will admit that my reviews became a little more erratically timed but somehow it all worked out.
The books I read in June were:
A Quiet Place by Seicho Matsumoto
Once Off Guard by J. H. Wallis
From Doon With Death by Ruth Rendell
The Lake House by John Rhode
Santa Fe Mourning by Amanda Allen
Moscow Noir edited by Natalia Smirnova and Julia Goumen
Calamity at Harwood by George Bellairs
The Gravedigger’s Bread by Frédéric Dard
The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill
Death in the House of Rain by Szu-Yen Lin
Weekend at Thrackley by Alan Melville
To Wake the Dead by John Dickson Carr
Athenian Blues by Pol Koutsakis
One of the first things I notice looking at that list is that I read more hard-boiled and noir material this month than usual. With the exception of the short story collection, Moscow Noir, I was pleasantly surprised just how much I enjoyed these works and while I had some discomfort with the presentation of domestic abuse in The Gravedigger’s Bread, I did fine plenty to admire in the construction of that story. Meanwhile I was very impressed with Pol Koutsakis’ nods to classic noir style in Athenian Blues which also features some great character work and discussion of modern Greece.
Death in the House of Rain is a very impressive work from Locked Room International that showcases the author’s inventive plotting while I was very pleased to find that I enjoyed To Wake the Dead more than I had expected based on the reviews I had read. And then there was the really interesting novel A Quiet Place which lacks a great puzzle but makes up for it in fascinating social and cultural observation and with its striking ending.
All of those would be strong picks but the one that grabbed me most and immediately sent me off scurrying away to acquire a copy of a sequel was The Coroner’s Lunch, a novel set in Laos after its revolution in the seventies. The mystery contains some unorthodox elements, not least the detective’s ability to see the dead, but does it in a way that feels appropriate to the culture while avoiding those visions revealing anything the coroner couldn’t have logically worked out with the information he has.
The characters are rich and splendid while the setting stands out for being so completely different from anything else I have read so far. So it will be my choice this month for Book of the Month and I hope to get tucked into the second volume very soon to find out what will happen to our hero next.
Incidentally, American Amazon Prime and Audible members may be interested to know that an audiobook recording of The Coroner’s Lunch is available to stream for free through Audible Channels at the moment.
Acquisitions: The Woman Who Married a Bear by John Straley, Death-Watch by John Dickson Carr, Most Secret by John Dickson Carr and The Double Alibi by Noel Vindry.