March 2019 in Review

Back at the start of March I was anticipating a strong month of reading and blogging. I had big plans to push on with several of my ongoing projects and I took full advantage of my birthday to acquire a stack of books I was looking forward to reading. I was even thinking that I might manage to get back to the old days of four or five books read a week.

Clearly that didn’t happen. In fact this was my least productive month of blogging since I started in October 2017. In thirty-one days I managed seven book reviews and in case you didn’t notice, two of those seven books are only just over a hundred pages. And of course two of those reviews (plus my recent post about Series One of Death in Paradise) were written before the start of March…

The reason was that my schedule has undergone the most significant changes since my daughter was born back in 2014 and I haven’t quite figured them out yet. My morning commute is longer, beginning earlier and yet that has left me less time to listen to audiobooks as few murder mysteries are really suitable for a four year old. At the same time, an earlier start means that I have less time to read in the evenings, let alone write posts, though I do admit that a growing interest in K-dramas (such as the superb fantasy mystery show W which I am currently watching) is also a little to blame.

I will figure it out of course in time but so far I haven’t found a reading rhythm that really works for me. In the meantime thanks to everyone who continues to visit, read my thoughts and respond with their own thoughts.

Given my lack of productivity I feel a little strange picking a Book of the Month for March. It is fair to say that I didn’t really have many titles to pick from. In spite of that however I will do so partly out of a sense of tradition but mostly because I read four excellent books that are worthy of a bit of extra attention and consideration.

The contenders are:

Of this grouping there is only one that I think is a flop – that would be Golden Ashes. The other Crofts novel I read, The Cheyne Mystery, is also flawed but it is at least a pretty entertaining and colorful read.

I was also not too enthused about Margaret Frazer’s The Murderer’s Tale though I did appreciate its unusual status as a historical inverted mystery. I liked some of its ideas and I thought it conjured up a good sense of place and time but I felt that the mystery itself was underwhelming.

My other four reads however were all quite excellent in different ways. Two were inverted tales – Malice by Keigo Higashino is a really clever cat-and-mouse tale about the murder of a writer. There are some really interesting ideas that I think speak to questions about the creative process while still being accessible for non-creative types like myself.

An Elderly Lady Is Up To No Good is a collection of five short stories each of which feature an octogenarian killer. There are some novel and rather grotesque murder methods employed though a few of the later stories feel a little similar in elements.

Speak of the Devil is a fantastic short work by one of my favorite writers, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding. The setting and atmosphere are really quite striking and I think the story does build towards a really exciting conclusion.

In the end though I have to select the only locked room I read last month – Paul Halter’s The Tiger’s Head. I often grumble that his works are overstuffed jumbles of ideas. This book is not much different in terms of the number of ideas at play – there are, after all, three mysteries to solve in under two hundred pages – but the difference is how well those three plotlines sit alongside and complement each other. Each of the three plots enriches the other two and none could be removed without making the whole weaker as a result.

While the field may have been much narrower than usual this month, I feel confident in saying that this is a book that would have been in very strong contention in any other month since the blog began. It’s not quite my favorite Halter (The Seventh Hypothesis still claims that honor) but it is certainly one of the best I have read so far.

As for the month ahead, I will once again try to learn from my mistakes and resist posting any promises. The only thing I can say with some certainty because I’m already half-done with my review is that you will see thoughts on a late (and much maligned) non-series Christie early next month…

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