Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Originally published 2021

If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father? This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings.

The Delaneys are fixtures in their community. The parents, Stan and Joy, are the envy of all of their friends. They’re killers on the tennis court, and off it their chemistry is palpable. But after fifty years of marriage, they’ve finally sold their famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are Stan and Joy so miserable?

The four Delaney children―Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke―were tennis stars in their own right, yet as their father will tell you, none of them had what it took to go all the way. But that’s okay, now that they’re all successful grown-ups and there is the wonderful possibility of grandchildren on the horizon.

One night a stranger named Savannah knocks on Stan and Joy’s door, bleeding after a fight with her boyfriend. The Delaneys are more than happy to give her the small kindness she sorely needs. If only that was all she wanted.

Later, when Joy goes missing, and Savannah is nowhere to be found, the police question the one person who remains: Stan. But for someone who claims to be innocent, he, like many spouses, seems to have a lot to hide. Two of the Delaney children think their father is innocent, two are not so sure―but as the two sides square off against each other in perhaps their biggest match ever, all of the Delaneys will start to reexamine their shared family history in a very new light.


From time to time I have to begin a post about a book with a reminder that Mysteries Ahoy! is a blog that exists primarily to consider novels and short story collections through the lens of the mystery and suspense genres. This is never intended to be a negative note but rather to acknowledge at the outset that I will ultimately be assessing a book in the context of a genre and the expectations that come with it and sometimes that may be, unfairly, to a work’s detriment. I think that certainly applies in the case of Liane Moriarty’s Apples Never Fall.

The divide between genre fiction and literary fiction can sometimes feel a little artificial and often comes down to perceptions of artistic value. It will surprise no one to read that I do not regard genre fiction as inferior or less artistically valid than literary fiction – rather I think that it simply conveys some expectations that the reader can have with a book about the experience that they are likely to have reading it.

Apples Never Fall is a work that contains some significant mystery elements. It is the story of a woman’s inexplicable disappearance from her family home, the exploration of the past in search of the truth, and an examination of family relationships to try to find a motive for murder. We have formal investigators working the case, interrogations, speculations about guilt, and ultimately an airing of secrets. Yet structurally it also diverges from the form in a crucial way that means that those coming to this hoping to play armchair detective and solve a mysterious situation are likely to feel a bit short-changed.

Discussion of why those readers approaching this purely from a genre perspective are likely to be disappointed is tricky as the reasons are buried in final few chapters of the story. To discuss them even vaguely or try to identify analogous titles, risks spoiling the book’s conclusion which, naturally, I don’t want to do. I think the book’s conclusion works when considered in the context of the book’s themes and structure and do not want to suggest that it is a weakness in any respect other than as an example of the mystery genre itself.

Okay, enough foreword (seriously, it’s threatening to become about half of this post) – let’s discuss Apples Never Fall.

The book concerns the disappearance of Joy Delaney from her family home. For years Joy and Stan Delaney, both skilled tennis players, had run a successful academy together. Joy would take care of the bookkeeping while Stan coached the players, including their four children who were also each great players though none ended up competing at the highest levels for reasons we discover in the course of the novel. Now the pair have sold that business and are struggling to adjust to retired life together.

The sudden disappearance of Joy from the home is accompanied by an oddly worded text to her four adult children and when a piece of evidence is discovered in the home by their cleaner a week later, the police become involved. The investigation ends up dividing the siblings, each reacting to it differently. Some however question whether it may have been linked to a previous incident in their parents’ lives from months earlier in which they let a mysterious young woman into their home who seemed to quickly embed herself into their lives.

Let’s tackle the two mysterious elements chronologically starting with the stranger, Savannah. Of the two storylines I found this to be the more intriguing, even if it is not ultimately the focal point of the novel. That is partly because several of the Delaney children suspect that there may be a link between the two incidents which confers upon it a greater degree of mystery than if we were simply reading this sequentially. I think the other reason is that there are several different possible interpretations to where this part of the story might be headed that I think Moriarty does a good job of balancing.

Questions raised by this story thread include is Savannah really who she claims to be? Is she being truthful in her story about the events that led her to knock on the Delaney’s door? Are her actions helping out in the Delaney home really just repaying them for their kindness or is this a way of making them dependent on her? Is this a prelude to some act of exploitation? And, most importantly, how and why is she not still present in the Delaney home at the time of the disappearance?

It also helps that this part of the novel also contains one of the strongest sequences in the novel: the really uncomfortable Father’s Day brunch. This occurs a short while after Savannah has arrived and the children are struggling with the idea of this stranger in their parents’ home. During the meal they try to figure out her deal but end up revealing quite a bit about their own lives too. The centerpiece of this part of the story though is a really powerful and perhaps unsettling exchange in which Stan slowly dissects the characters of each of his children through a detailed examination of their tennis careers. This is not only a really dramatic moment in the story, it also reveals a huge amount about both them and him in a way that feels really true to each of their characters.

Moriarty’s character work is the great strength of this novel and I really appreciated the complexity given to the characters of each of the children. The four clearly share some similar, familial traits yet each is distinctive and are living quite different lives as adults. I was particularly taken with the way Moriarty uses their relationship with the sport to illustrate aspects of who they were, who they are now and the values they hold while the conflicts they each face in their lives are similarly distinctive and credible.

Similarly the relationship between Joy and Stan is really layered and complex. As we explore the events of the past six months, we learn more about the stresses and strains that have built up within that relationship. I found it interesting to see those tensions build, and see how the conflicts would play out whether expressed directly or, more often, indirectly. Once again the crucial description here is that the character work feels very credible and I appreciated that Moriarty avoids giving us an easy, direct read on them and where their stories are headed until shortly before the end.

The only weak link here for me in terms of the credibility of the characterization was that of Savannah. There were aspects of her story that certainly surprised me in ways that I found quite satisfying, yet there are also some parts of her story that I found less convincing, at least in relation to an important aspect of her past that is linked to her character’s motivation. On the other hand, some of her actions are really interesting and while I may have found the destination a little underwhelming, I found the journey to reach it to be an interesting one.

The mystery about what happened to Joy is, in contrast, does not provide quite the same degree of variety in terms of its ideas and story beats. It would, of course, be unrealistic for the police to focus on anyone other than Stan in the circumstances that Moriarty establishes and while I think there are some surprises in the final explanation, I do not find the ending particularly satisfying as a resolution to this mystery plot. On a thematic and character level however, when you disregard any expectations of this as a mystery novel, that ending feels far more satisfying.

The Verdict: If you approach Apples Never Fall purely as a work of mystery fiction you may find its resolution underwhelming. That would be unfortunate as Moriarty’s characterization and development of theme here is superb and makes this a really rich and interesting examination of a family in crisis.

Death on Bastille Day by Pierre Siniac, translated by John Pugmire

Originally published in 1981 as Un assassin, ça va, ça vient
English translation first published in 2022

It is the night of July 14th—Bastille Day—and in a house in Esbly, sixty kilometres from Paris, owned by Camille Feuillard, his ex-mistress is heard screaming his name as three bullets are fired into her skull at midnight, her body is seen being hoisted onto a hook in the ceiling, and her photograph flung to the ground and smashed.

Meanwhile, in Place de la Bastille in Paris, Camille is seen by reliable witnesses dancing with a redhead non-stop for an hour and a half, starting well before midnight.

Under intense questioning, Feuillard proclaims his innocence and cites his cast iron alibi. However, when drunk or injected with a truth serum, he describes murdering his ex-mistress, down to the last detail.

What is the truth? Is he schizophrenic? How can he have been in two places at once? Was he framed? If so, how and by whom?


I read Pierre Siniac’s Death on Bastille Day a couple of weeks ago, neglecting to make any notes as I read with the intention that I would post my thoughts pretty soon thereafter. Inevitably the demands of real life got in the way of those plans, keeping me from getting around to it until now, several books later and with the memory already fading a little (this is not a reflection of the quality of the book but rather how busy I have been). In normal circumstances I’d probably skip doing a write-up at all but as there do not seem to be any English language reviews of this title to date, I felt I ought to post something to get the conversation started and at least make readers aware that this book is out there.

The novella, a translation of Pierre Siniac’s Un assassin, ça va, ça vient, introduces us to Camille Feuillard who runs the Paris Porno theater where he stages elaborate erotic tableaux. These, it should be stressed, are referenced but not described and so his profession is used to illustrate his character rather than for the titillation of the reader.

Feuillard is something of an aging playboy, having had a string of mistresses over the years. He has recently become smitten with a seventeen year old and has ended things on rather bad terms with his previous mistress, Lise. The latter is convinced that Feuillard intends to kill her to ensure a completely clean break and talks with a friend about her desire to take action before he does to prevent it.

As it happens Lise is fated to die, being found brutally murdered in one of Camille’s houses in the French countryside some sixty miles outside of Paris. Camille would be the obvious suspect having been identified both by a witness and also by the deceased woman in her dying cries yet he happens to have an unbreakable alibi: at the time of the murder he was seen by multiple witnesses dancing in the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris. Both witnesses were close enough to see him clearly and knew him well enough to be certain of their identification.

Complicating matters, it seems that when Camille is drunk and later, when submitted to a truth serum, he will describe the murder in vivid and accurate detail. Under these influence he will admit to committing the crime but cannot explain how he could have managed to appear to be in two places at once and then, when sober, he reiterates his clear alibi.

At this point I will say that had this novella simply relied on the initial problem I am not sure that I would have found the case that intriguing. After all, it is quite easy to think that such a case could well boil down to the simple explanation that someone lied or was mistaken, though Siniac does at least provide multiple witnesses to make that less likely. It is the additional complication of the admissions of guilt that adds interest to the case, making it a little more complex while really driving home that there is something more to the problem than a bit of dodgy testimony.

The other thing that I think helps sell this problem is that later in the novella Siniac allows us to follow the two witnesses as they make serious and apparently sincere efforts to prove their claims. If we accept that they are acting in good faith and that there will be some complex explanation for the affair, the situation becomes significantly more interesting. For the most part I think Siniac delivers on that promise here.

I think Siniac also does a solid job of creating a cast of pretty credible characters for his story. Camille is certainly a vibrant character with a striking (if not particularly pleasant) personality and I really liked the pair of young witnesses and enjoyed how they come together to try to prove his innocence. A few of the other important characters do not stand out quite so much but I think the author does a good job of efficiently conveying their backgrounds, personalities and relationships to the other characters.

I was less enamored however of the more characters who are tasked with investigating the crime. That is not a reflection of their personalities which are similarly colorful, particularly the former private investigator who is desperate to get his license back, but that I feel that they are used in an overly functional way. On a few occasions, I felt that their choices were not grounded in their personalities but rather the needs of the story, particularly in the passages that give us that additional complication of the confession.

The other issue I have with in connection with that behavior is that I find the truth serum element of the plot a little hard to take with the seriousness I believe Siniac means us to. Leaving aside the question of whether such an action would be ethical (for the record: it’s not), my problem here is that I don’t believe such methods actually work to create the sort of credible, indisputable testimony needed to sell the impossibility. Clearly from the context of this story, Siniac believes that we should treat it as such but to me it feels a little ridiculous and pulpy and any time characters reference it I find myself taking them that little bit less seriously.

Thankfully such moments are infrequent and I was able to concentrate on the more general ideas being presented which struck me as being pretty clever. The explanation the author concocts for the business is certainly quite neat and is clued well, doing a good job of fitting the facts we have been given. Only one element of the solution felt a little underhand at first reading but even there, when I reread some key passages I found Siniac had set things up carefully, playing fair. I ultimately came away from this feeling that I could and should have reasoned through what had happened before the truth is revealed, making the moment of realization a pretty satisfying one for me. Those who are primarily focused on the idea of the puzzle should find plenty to like here.

The Verdict: An intriguing puzzle mystery with a rather clever solution.

Venice Noir, edited by Maxim Jakubowski

Originally published in 2012

From the introduction by Maxim Jakubowski:

It’s one of the most famous cities in the world. Immortalized by writers throughout the years, frozen in amber by film and photography, the picturesque survivor of a wild history whose centuries encompass splendor, decay, pestilence, beauty, and never-ending wonders. A city built on water, whose geographical position once saw it rule the world and form a vital crossing point between West and East. A city of merchants, artists, glamour, abject poverty, philosophers, corrupt nobles, refugees, courtesans, and unforgettable lovers, buffeted by the tides of wars, a unique place whose architecture is a subtle palette reflecting the successive waves of settlers, invaders, religions, and short-term rulers . . .

Change in this most curious of cities is something almost imperceptible and invisible to the naked eye. Walking just a few minutes away from the Rialto Bridge, for instance, and losing yourself in backstreets, where the canals and small connecting bridges leave just enough space to pass along the buildings without falling into the water, it’s as if you are stepping into a past century altogether, with no indication whatsoever of modernity. You wade through a labyrinth of stone, water, and wrought-iron bridges, and after dark feel part of another world where electricity isn’t yet invented, a most unsettle feeling nothing can prepare you for . . .”

I have written about a few of the Akashic Noir series on this blog before but Venice Noir marks the first time I have read a volume about a city that I have actually visited myself. While that was a number of years ago (in the mid-nineties), I have some pretty clear memories of that trip and of spending time in the city. Thankfully my experiences were far more positive than those encountered by those visiting the city in most of these stories.

This volume, edited by Maxim Jakubowski, makes the possibly controversial choice to include a number of writers who hail from outside Italy. This was a conscious choice on the part of the editor who suggests in his introduction that it reflects his feeling that ‘Venice belongs to the world’ and it is certainly an interesting one, allowing the collection to see the city both through the eyes of its yearlong inhabitants and those visiting. The contrast between those perspectives and the way the city is seen is one of the most interesting aspects of the collection and, to my surprise, is presented in a largely consistent manner between the various stories.

As I have noted with some of the other collections, the Akashic range adopts a rather broad interpretation of noir allowing for gritty crime stories but also stories that focus on it as an attitude or stylistic choice. This collection is no exception, offering up a range of approaches and styles. There are, for instance, two rather quirky stories told from the perspectives of the city’s biggest population – its rats. While there are some common elements, it is striking how different those two stories are from one another in some of their other features.

Some of the offerings are more serious such as the opening tale, Cloudy Water, which explores a rather unusual criminal enterprise that seems quite specific to its setting. Many of the other stories in the collection similarly emerge from aspects of their setting, making for a rather distinctive collection.

The general standard of writing in the collection is very high though there are several stories that had more limited appeal for me personally either based on characterization or their development of their themes. An example of the latter would be Francesco Ferracin’s The Comedy is Over which is certainly effective in its examination of how a woman’s traumatic experience leads her to seek revenge or Desdemona Undicesima by Isabella Santacroce which has an almost hypnotic quality as the narrator repeatedly revisits moments and ideas in a loop.

More stories hit than miss though and when it gets it right, the results can be really compelling. Perhaps my favorite of the stories is Commissario Clelia Vinci by Barbara Baraldi. This story, which is one of two told from the perspective of a law enforcement officer, is one of the longer efforts and benefits from the time that can be given to exploring the character’s backstory while she works on a difficult murder case. I was particularly struck by the idea that the story explores that the actions of law enforcement can have unintended consequences and I felt that the journey she goes on here was quite powerful.

The other one I really liked was Signor Gauke’s Tongue, which is one of the stories that most strongly features the city as a location. While some aspects of that story could arguably occur anywhere, Mike Hodges peppers their story with references to buildings and their history as well as some of the more notable figures associated with the city. I enjoyed discovering the secrets that story’s protagonist was holding and learning the significance of its title.

The balance of styles, between the humorous and the more serious, is very good. While the stories are grouped together along common themes I never felt that it was repeating itself as I have occasionally with some of the other entries in this series. I appreciate that intention to offer variety and while not every story is a winner, all are readable and interesting.

The Verdict: A very solid and varied collection of stories, most of which utilize its distinctive setting well.

click for individual story reviews

Reprint of the Year 2022: Cat’s Paw by Roger Scarlett

Last week I shared some thoughts about one of the most recent reprints of a Freeman Wills Crofts novel, The End of Andrew Harrison. In that post I noted that I really appreciate the idea that the entirety of his output will at some point be available again and that each new set of titles moves us closer to that. It is worth pointing out though that I doubt I would have encountered Crofts at all had it not been for a crime fiction imprint that takes a different, ‘curated’ approach to its releases.

Ranges like the British Library Crime Classics and American Mystery Classics are wonderful tools for discovery. Readers may well pick up a copy of The Mad Hatter Mystery or It Walks By Night based on already knowing and loving the author but by giving the impression of careful selection and the implication that the title is one of the highlights of that author’s work, it also provides an easy jumping on point. It is, in essence, a literary tasting menu.

Earlier this year I treated myself to a subscription to Penzler Publishing’s American Mystery Classics range through The Mysterious Bookshop. I would get a copy of whatever titles they put out with the knowledge that I’d be getting some authors I’d already know of and others that would be completely new to me. Roger Scarlett, the author of this novel, fell neatly into that second category.

I might not have picked up this book had it just been one of a half dozen titles by the author on a shelf. Indeed I would likely never have looked closely at it at all (one of the few knocks I’d make on this publication is that the image of the cat on the cover gives the book a much cozier appearance than its reality). As part of an ongoing range which has had far more hits than misses for me however I find myself more willing to give a book the benefit of the doubt and at least give it a chance to impress me.

Which Cat’s Paw did.

The story concerns the murder of a septuagenarian who is visited at his Boston mansion by members of his extended family, all hoping that they will be remembered in his will. When he shares some information at his birthday party however they are appalled and before the night is out he has been murdered.

Scarlett gives us family tensions, unspoken secrets and a cast of characters all seemingly having been pushed to desperation. It’s a very solid base for a mystery. What I appreciated here though is that while there are some familiar elements here, it feels like Scarlett is trying to give the suspects a range of backstories. Learning what those are is as exciting as discovering the solution to the mystery overall.

With much of the novel devoted to getting to know the victim and the suspects, I think that they feel particularly dimensional and well developed. It is this focus on character that makes this book such a pleasure to read and helped me really invest in discovering the truth. That solution, when it comes, is well constructed and clued, helping the book deliver a nice, punchy conclusion with an excellent final page reveal.

It was a great read and I am grateful to the American Mystery Classics range for selecting this and helping me to encounter it. I came away from the book excited to read more Roger Scarlett in the future. Now I just have to wait for someone to go ahead and reprint them…

Holmes on Film: Murder by Decree (1979)

Recently I started a new series of posts in which I look at film and television works that use the character of Sherlock Holmes, either directly or indirectly. I kicked the series off with a look at two very early shorts – Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900) and A Canine Sherlock (1912), each of which I would describe as Holmes-adjacent works, using the idea of Holmes but little else about the character.

The subject of today’s post, while also not an adaptation of a canonical Holmes story, sees the character – and Dr. Watson – fully represented. I watched it for the first time in preparation for this post and found it interesting enough that I decided to give it a second viewing later that day. Indeed, I think it may well feature my favorite rendering of one of Doyle’s characters.

Now, on with the movie…

Murder by Decree Blu Ray cover

Murder by Decree

Murder by Decree was not the Great Detective’s first run-in with Jack the Ripper. A little more than a decade earlier James Hill had made A Study in Terror which had starred John Neville as Sherlock Holmes which I have seen but am yet to review on this blog. Interestingly two actors from that production also appear in this – Anthony Quayle and Frank Finlay, the latter reprising the same role as Inspector Lestrade.

The first thing to note about Murder by Decree is the intensity of violence represented on screen. Each of the murders that we see feel vicious, with that sense being enhanced by the repeated use of steady-cam sequences in which we seem to be seeing those scenes as the killer. This is where watching the film for a second time however gave me a little extra clarity – that choice helps to imply violence that we do not directly see, adding to the sense of horror while also allowing the director to hold back a little.

On the topic of the violence, let’s also take a moment to reflect on how this (and other works that use the Whitechapel Murders) treats the fact that it is using some real historical figures. There is a school of thought, actually voiced here by Watson in one scene, that the victims can just be turned into props and their worth as individuals can be lost.

The popular conception of the Ripper is examined and explored. We are reminded that class insulated some from the panic that was a part of people’s daily lives for a while. For example, one character comments on how the wealthy seem to revel in exploring the back alleys of the East End where the murders have taken place.

I also appreciate that the film tries to emphasize that the five women murdered were people rather than just victims. The poverty in the East End is represented very effectively, helping to demonstrate the difficulty of the lives of many in the area, and there is an effort to explore their individual circumstances and give at least a couple of them more proactive roles in the story. Yet it’s hard to escape that this is still ultimately fictionalizing real people and that our focus is still ultimately on the question of who the Ripper was. I think it is more tastefully handled than some other fictional explorations of the murders but I can understand those who have trouble with the idea.

Let’s turn then to the characters tasked with solving this mystery – Holmes and Watson. Christopher Plummer had appeared as Sherlock Holmes a short while earlier in a production of Silver Blaze but this is not a continuation of that portrayal which the actor had been less than satisfied with.

I really like a lot about Plummer’s performance here. His Holmes has moments where he appears detached or reluctant to engage, most notably in a scene near the start where he engages with a group of men seeking to hire him. Once the case begins in earnest however it is striking how emotional he becomes, working himself in a fury at several points in the story. Since watching the film I have read a fair bit of criticism of this aspect of his portrayal and I can certainly understand that what we see here isn’t often reflected in the Holmes canon. I think though it is not in itself inconsistent – Holmes’ reluctance to ally himself with the rich and powerful is an undercurrent in several stories and so, by extension, is the idea that he might be appalled by the injustices that he witnesses in this adventure. Those moments and, at points, tears feel earned by the extremity of the situation that he has become involved in and later, by his feeling of culpability in at least a couple of the women’s fates.

There is perhaps a little more truth to the suggestion that his Holmes intuits more than he detects. Like many of the Holmes stories, this is structured more as an adventure than a detective story – at least as far as Holmes is concerned. Many of his actions here are directly following up on ideas of leads suggested to him and the few scenes in which we see our heroes thinking through the case, the ideas being discussed belong to Watson. Holmes it turns out is thinking things through internally rather than voicing them to the viewer. Still, for the viewer however there is an opportunity to play detective as they are provided clues as to the motives behind everything in good time before Holmes reveals the solution (and some unseen legwork he has done to prove the things the viewer could only suspect).

I also really enjoyed the lighter moments Plummer gets, whether demonstrating that he is not completely defenseless when rejecting a revolver from Watson or sharing a carriage ride with him. While the tone of this story does not allow for many overtly humorous scenes, when we do get one it helps provide a bit of tonal balance and reminds us that Holmes is invigorated by the act of investigation. What I like most about the performance though is the sense of affection for Watson that is present throughout the picture.

James Mason’s take on the character of Watson is of an inherently noble, if somewhat stuffy, figure. That stuffiness is not necessarily intended to be ridiculous however, rather perhaps a little naïve. Several of the situations and conclusions reached in this story, for instance, defy his imagination and appall him. At one point in the story he puts himself in trouble, in part because he does not perceive the danger someone might pose to him. Yet while he may err at points or suggest a painfully straightforward solution to a complex problem, he is no buffoon. Instead he is a moral champion, urging Holmes to get involved in the case in the first place, and a good friend – throwing himself into danger to save him.

It is a splendid rendering of the character that I think may well be my favorite take on the part I have come across so far (which is all the more impressive given some of the others to have played the role). I found myself wishing that there had been further films with Plummer and Mason given how well the pair worked together.

As for the rest of the cast, quality abounds. This is a strikingly starry picture with familiar faces throughout. From the stars like Anthony Quayle, David Hemmings, and Genevieve Bujold to even the smaller parts such as June Brown’s appearance as Annie Chapman. While some performances attract the attention more than others (Bujold is superb and while the material doesn’t do much to test John Gielgud, he is dazzling in his brief appearance), I felt there was no weak link or obviously miscast character.

Where I do have complaints is with some aspects of the direction and editing. To be clear, there are some wonderful moments that I think show skill and imagination in how they are constructed. I already referenced the effectiveness of the steady-cam photography and there are similarly effective shots in the lengthy carriage ride Holmes and Watson take and in the dockland scenes (particularly one in which Holmes talks with an unseen informant). There are also some really effective attempts to recreate some locations, most notably the location of the final murder.

Yet there are some moments that feel very awkward. Sudden cuts in the sound as one scene feeds into another such as the lead into the first murder we witness or the choice to shoot some scenes in such a way that we get a very good look at a shadowy individual’s very distinctive features. This coupled with some curiously relaxed pacing, particularly in its talky denouement, soft and smeary cinematography, and the gallery of stars post-credits sequence (admittedly a very unimportant feature of the film), often makes it feel more TV than movie in its style and scope.

While I think the pace of the piece could have been a bit sharper at points, when the film is working it goes marvelously. The performances from the two leads are terrific, their chemistry among the best of any Holmes and Watson, and the solution can be reasoned out – even if it takes some unseen evidence gathered by Holmes to prove his case. It certainly ranks among the better Holmes films I have seen and I am glad that taking on this project prompted me to go ahead and finally watch my copy.

Reprint of the Year 2022: The End of Andrew Harrison by Freeman Wills Crofts

As we approach the end of this year it is a pleasure to once again be asked to put forward a few nominations for what I consider to be my reprints of the year. Happily the first of my picks was particularly easy this year as among the titles this year was a book that I reviewed several years ago and have been eager to see others be able to get their hands on: Freeman Wills Crofts’ The End of Andrew Harrison.

There’s a lot I really love about this story but I think my interest in it started with learning it was one of just a couple of attempts from Crofts at writing an impossible crime. What particularly interests me about Crofts’ approach is that rather than trying to sustain an impossibility across an entire novel it is instead set up and broken down all in the course of about forty pages.

The problem here is a sealed and bolted cabin on board a boat. The only other entrance to the cabin is a porthole, helpfully pictured on the front of this reprint edition. When the body of Andrew Harrison, a prominent and wealthy man who had only just reappeared after inexplicably vanishing for a few days, is discovered inside that cabin it appears completely impossible that anyone could have gained entry.

Crofts’ series detective, Inspector French, is tasked with working out exactly what had happened and he does so in his typical, methodical fashion. It is this, rather than the situation itself, that makes this part of the book so compelling. Rather than dealing with an impossibility on a more conceptual level, French will break it apart through attention to detail and repeated, rigorous testing of his ideas.

It proves fascinating to read and is, for me, one of the highest points of Crofts’ writing. Those forty pages tell you everything you need to know about the character, the way he thinks and approaches solving a crime. I couldn’t work this one out myself, making the moment where he pieces it together all the more satisfying.

As excellent as that chapter is, it is just one piece – albeit a highlight – of a wider case. The question of whodunit is every bit as important as that of how the matter was done. It is a pleasure following French’s investigation as he pieces together the story of Harrison’s sudden disappearance and the timeline of the murder itself. The pacing of the case is superb with Crofts regularly introducing new discoveries that keep the reader from getting too far ahead of the meticulous detective. It is, in short, one of the most tightly plotted of all of the Crofts stories I have read.

I nominate The End of Andrew Harrison in part because of its quality as a book but also because I want to emphasize how much I have appreciated this run of reprints. While some Crofts titles have been easy to come across as cheap vintage reprints, others proved much trickier. This was one of those, in part perhaps because of that status as one of his few impossible crimes. From memory I paid somewhere around the $50 price for a battered copy of this and when I read it, I was frustrated that the higher price tag and lack of easy availability would keep others from picking it up themselves.

I am delighted therefore to see this return to print and finally be available for others to read and enjoy. I hope that even if you don’t vote for this (which, to be clear, you should), that you give this one a try. If you do, let me know what you make of it. I’m eager to read what others think of it!

Bird in a Cage by Frédéric Dard, translated by David Bellos

Originally published in 1961 as Le Monte-Change
English translation first published in 2016

Trouble is the last thing Albert needs. Traveling back to his childhood home on Christmas Eve to mourn his mother’s death, he finds the loneliness and nostalgia of his Parisian quartier unbearable. Until, that evening, he encounters a beautiful, seemingly innocent woman at a brasserie, and his spirits are lifted.

Still, something about the woman disturbs him. Where is the father of her child? And what are those two red stains on her sleeve? When she invites him back to her apartment, Albert thinks he’s in luck. But a monstrous scene awaits them, and he finds himself lured into the darkness against his better judgment.

Unravelling like a paranoid nightmare, Bird in a Cage melds existentialist drama with thrilling noir to tell the story of a man trapped in a prison of his own making.


Long-term followers of this blog will know that I have become something of a Dard fan over the years. Though incredibly prolific, only a small handful of his works have been translated into English so far and so, with no sign of any new translations in the offing, I have been carefully rationing the remaining titles. That meant that I came to this just as the next Dard on my bookshelf without bothering to read the book’s blurb. In a happy accident I had picked out a book set almost entirely on Christmas Eve and the early hours of Christmas morning without even realizing it. A piece of fortunate timing!

That setting is anything but background as the fact that this takes place during the festive period is important to both the plot and the themes of the novel. Dard’s protagonist, Albert, has returned to the home he shared with his mother. He is mourning her death which occurred while he was away and struggles with the emptiness of the house, deciding instead to walk the streets of Paris where he picks up the titular Christmas tree ornament and then tries to distract himself with dinner at a restaurant.

During his meal he is struck by the appearance of a woman sat at a nearby table with her young daughter. She looks just like his lost love, though he knows it cannot be her as she is dead. Instinctively he starts to follow her before contriving a meeting at a movie theater, getting involved in her own Christmas plans.

I will choose to stop my recap at this early point in the story to protect you from spoilers. It’s hard to go into any detail about the setup, in particular its criminous elements, without heavily spoiling the experience. While Dard is more about mood and tone than plot (for reasons I’ll hopefully be able to explain in a moment), I think this is one of those books best experienced with as little foreknowledge as possible. You will almost certainly be ahead of Albert as he lives through that one crazy night, particularly if you read carefully, but there are a few surprises that are worth preserving.

Instead let’s focus on the character of Albert. He is one of those tricky characters who is often sympathetic without being particularly likeable. I suspect many readers would be able to relate to his feeling of loneliness and isolation at a first holiday spent without a parent and Dard’s description of the discomfort of a familiar setting is very effective. Similarly I think the idea that a lost love could haunt you, particularly when you are already in a melancholy mood, is understandable. Yet while we may empathize with his state of mind at the start of this story, readers may soon find his behavior to be generally unsettling and intense.

Dard tells the story through Albert’s voice as so when he follows the woman and her daughter through the streets of Paris and contrives that meeting, the reader may well feel complicit in an act of stalking. This is very effective, particularly as we witness his observations first-hand, but it also made me rather uncomfortable, particularly as I worried where this story was headed (and where the act of criminality might be found).

The character of the woman is seen primarily through Albert’s eyes and experiences, casting her primarily as an object of fascination and desire. While I think we get to know Albert well over the course of the book, she remains somewhat harder to know. I think that this fits the style of story that Dard is telling here which is based in part on the idea that she is a stranger to Albert but it may frustrate some readers who will no doubt want to understand her, and her choices, better as the story unfolds.

The book’s blurb describes what follows as a ‘paranoid nightmare’ which fits the book well. Once these characters meet and begin to converse the story accelerates, building a genuinely mysterious and interesting situation for Albert to try to work through. My expectation coming to the book was that it would be a thriller and there certainly are some of those elements, albeit rendered with a decidedly noir style, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that there is a proper puzzle lying below the surface. The question is an interesting one, even if the protagonist never quite asks it directly themselves and the nature of that question isn’t clear until close to the end. Happily though the solution is quite ingenious and clued pretty well.

However as good as that puzzle is, it should be stressed that Dard doesn’t place the focus on it but rather on the experiences of the person caught up in the situation. This is what I was meaning earlier when I said that Dard’s work isn’t primarily about the plot, even when his stories are as cleverly constructed as this one (and, it should be said, many of them aren’t).

Like much noir fiction, Dard makes use of a considerable amount of foreshadowing, often dropping pretty sizeable hints as to the secrets that his characters might have. That is not accidental or poor writing on the part of the author but rather a deliberate choice to build tension and anticipation about where the story might be headed. Tonally we may suspect that Albert is doomed from the start of the story, the question is how will we get there.

Those who read crime fiction for mood, tone, and the development of themes will likely find Dard’s writing here effective. Not only is there a really strong sense of place and time, but the book is told in a sort of unworldly, early morning haze as characters get caught up in the moment and find themselves in trouble. For those who long to be surprised by a book however it can be a little deflating as the reader is likely to be ahead of the characters throughout most of the book (with the possible exception of the bigger explanation here). After all, if you can’t anticipate at least one of the two or three big secrets here then you likely weren’t reading very carefully.

In terms of the Dard works I have read to date, I think that this was ultimately one of the most satisfying although I will caveat that by noting that I found other stories easier to engage with initially because of my discomfort with Albert as a protagonist. I might not suggest this as a first Dard – I think Crush is a more accessible starting point – but I do think it’s a superbly crafted book.

The Verdict: A really satisfying read though I think there are better books to pick if you are starting out with the author because of the rather unsettling behavior of the protagonist.


Interested in purchasing this book to read it yourself? The English translation was published a few years ago so if you are looking for a physical copy, you will likely have to order a copy through your local bookstore. If you do, the ISBN number is 9781782271994.

Holmes on Film: Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900) & A Canine Sherlock – Movie (1912)

In early January 2021 I started work on preparing a series of posts in which I would explore some Holmes-related and Holmes-adjacent films. Over the course of about five days I binge-watched close to a dozen movies, making some loose notes. Before I actually got around to doing the hard part (the writing of blog posts) the political events of that moment had grabbed my attention. By the time I could turn my attention back to the project my vacation time was over and the movies had all merged together in my memory. I would have to begin from scratch.

Whoops.

Rather than picking a full-length feature to start with, I decided to pick on some of the very short works I haven’t seen before. Both of the short films I will be writing about today can be found in the US on the Flicker Alley Blu Ray release of the 1916 William Gillette movie (of which more at a later date).

So, with that preamble out of the way – let’s talk movies!


Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900)

Why didn’t this film get its own post? Well, it’s less than a minute long and it is clearly intended to be just a novelty that has some fun with some trick photography.

Still, while it may not be a substantial work it is nevertheless an important film because it represents the earliest known appearance of a character called Sherlock Holmes on screen. I do use that wording deliberately – the name is used to convey intelligence so the viewer will be even more astonished at the visual trickery but that is the extent of the characterization.

The story, such as it is, is that Holmes is in his flat when a burglar appears to take his silver. This figure is able to suddenly appear and then vanish with the aid of some stop tricks, then a very recent development in film, producing the titular bafflement in the Great Detective.

It’s cute enough, if obviously very slight, but what interested me was that it uses Holmes in the first place. This was an American production, made a year before Doyle returned to the character with The Hound of the Baskervilles, and I think that the use of the name illustrates how widely known the character was. Of course that popularity, and the character’s association with film, would only increase in the years to come…

A Canine Sherlock (1912)

The first thing to note is that A Canine Sherlock is not really a Sherlock Holmes film as the name is really being used as a synonym for a master detective. It is about fifteen minutes long and offers something of a plot as the detective will have to find and capture a gang of villains who have robbed a bank. As the title suggests, the gag in this lightly comic adventure is that it is the dog rather than his master, the detective Hawkshaw, who will ultimately solve the case and save the day.

In an opening scene we learn that their plan hinges on the use of a poisoned coin that will render the person who touches it unconscious. It’s not a bad trick and it suits the generally silly tone of the piece, though it doesn’t really stand up to much scrutiny. The poisoning, while dramatic, does absolutely nothing to advance their scheme which hinges on them producing guns and threatening to blow up the bank if anyone tries to stop them.

After getting away Hawkshaw arrives with his canine helper in tow who sets about investigating while his master mostly just stands there. Getting the scent, he then sets off to track down the villains at their lair, finds evidence, and then brings his master to pull off the arrest. It’s all pretty silly but it can be very entertaining, particularly as the dog pulls a trick to get admission to the house and then riffles through some papers. I suggest that you don’t think about it too hard or look for credibility and instead just enjoy the cuteness.

It is, as noted, still a slight work and there’s no detection really worth speaking of but it’s cute nonetheless. Are there any actual Holmesian touches? Not really, beyond the trickery used to gain admission to the house in the first place and the detective’s expertise at fighting. The latter is actually the most ludicrous part of the film as we see the detective holding a hardened criminal in place by crossing his ankles, but in the build-up we do see him anticipate the villain’s moves, dodging attacks even when his back is turned.

Still, I was entertained and pleasantly surprised at how quickly the fifteen minutes passed. What’s more, it looks pretty amazing as presented on the Blu Ray release with a very sharp image. Of course that’s not always to the film’s benefit – the set paintings in the bank look pretty dodgy when seen in high definition – but while its staginess is evident, the rather cartoonish approach to the fireplace in the villain’s lair looks pretty striking and added a little interest for me.

As Holmes-adjacent works go, this is pretty cute and while I wouldn’t buy the Gillette movie Blu Ray for it alone, I was very pleased that it was available as an extra.


The plan for this occasional series is to for it to be an occasional effort, like my Detection Club project, rather than a weekly endeavor (there will be more Columbo soon, honest!). There will be more whenever I have the time and inclination but be prepared for me to jump around rather than to try to watch things in any sort of structure or order!

One by One by Ruth Ware

Originally published in 2021

Getting snowed in at a luxurious, rustic ski chalet high in the French Alps doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world. Especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a full-service chef and housekeeper, a cozy fire to keep you warm, and others to keep you company. Unless that company happens to be eight coworkers…each with something to gain, something to lose, and something to hide.

When the cofounder of Snoop, a trendy London-based tech start-up, organizes a weeklong trip for the team in the French Alps, it starts out as a corporate retreat like any other: presentations and strategy sessions broken up by mandatory bonding on the slopes. But as soon as one shareholder upends the agenda by pushing a lucrative but contentious buyout offer, tensions simmer and loyalties are tested. The storm brewing inside the chalet is no match for the one outside, however, and a devastating avalanche leaves the group cut off from all access to the outside world. Even worse, one Snooper hadn’t made it back from the slopes when the avalanche hit.

As each hour passes without any sign of rescue, panic mounts, the chalet grows colder, and the group dwindles further…one by one.


Like many I have recently found myself looking for a new social media outlet in anticipation that one of the ones I use already may soon not be around any more (or so frustrating to me that I may not want to use it). So far I have tried several different options from some that stick pretty closely to the sort of experience I get from Twitter to others that offer more unique experiences. Still, as open as I am to trying new things it is hard to imagine that I would ever be interested in something like Snoop, the trendy social app from Ruth Ware’s One by One which allows its users to spy on and share the music currently being played by their friends, family and celebrities they follow. Fortunately I was able to put those reservations to one side to focus on the mystery itself here.

Ware’s novel takes place in a luxurious ski lodge high in the French alps. The senior management behind the Snoop app have arrived to ski, plan and bond together but it soon turns out that several of those attending have another purpose in mind: they want to push the shareholders to accept a lucrative buyout offer that would make them all rich.

A bad-tempered meeting is followed by some time on the slopes but the weather is turning treacherous forcing the group to return to the chalet. Shortly after they get back an avalanche leaves the party snowed in and without power or cell reception. More worryingly, one of them never made it back at all. As the group waits to be rescued they find their numbers diminishing and before long they are wondering if there is a killer among them…

It is quite likely that at some point I will put together a ranked list of And Then There Were None pastiches. If and when that happens, there is a very good chance that this book will place quite highly on that list. Ware’s novel is quite purposeful in using the basic elements that make Christie’s story such a success but it avoids the trap of simply retelling that story with a different setting or characters. Instead it makes use of some of those conceptual elements while ultimately doing something a little bit different with them.

Exactly how Ware handles those elements differently here is hard to discuss without immediately clueing in anyone with a decent background in vintage crime fiction. In fact I caught onto where this was headed very early but while I guessed where this was heading, I was still able to really enjoy the journey to that ending.

After a very short excerpt from a news report describing the aftermath of the story, we jump back in time to the moment where the party first arrived. We then follow the events over those five days from the perspectives of two characters – Erin, one of the two staff members working at the chalet, and Liz, whose background and role in the story is initially a little mysterious.

I found both narrators interesting and felt that Ware used them in clever ways, playing on the idea that each character is on the outside of the party. Erin, as a staff member, is always present, observing what is happening yet at least up until the point that a body is found, she is barely acknowledged by the guests. Also, as she is far from trendy when it comes to her cellphone use, Ware uses her well to explore what exactly this app is, how it works and why it might have appeal for some users.

Liz on the other hand is more purposefully excluded. The reasons for her evident discomfort at being there are intriguing and while Ware hints pretty strongly at their nature early on, I found the exploration of her mentality and her status within the group to be quite compelling and felt that it made the character an interesting one to explore.

The other members of the skiing party are in contrast a little more colorfully drawn. With titles like Friends Czar, Head of Beans, and Head of Cool, the novel enjoys poking fun at trendy but shallow corporate cultures and effortful attempts to appear effortless. While these characters are not particularly sympathetic and often appear to be larger-than-life, I did appreciate that there are moments where we do at least understand them a little better and where the author uses these broad character types to explore themes of entitlement, class, and gender in the workplace.

While those themes are interesting, this is one of those stories that is really all about its atmosphere and plotting. Ware’s use of an avalanche to isolate her group of characters and create a closed circle is an effective one. It not only provides an effective boundary for keeping those characters together, it also adds some extra menace as the characters have to confront their increasingly inhospitable environs. Even a deluxe ski chalet becomes inhospitable without power or heat and Ware does a good job of reminding us of just how dire their plight may be throughout the book, particularly as we near the conclusion.

The discomfort caused by that isolation is amplified by these characters already being in a heightened state of tension with one another at the start of the novel. The matter of the buyout causes tensions to rise and characters to already be suspicious of the others in the party and so the reader must consider whether this is directly linked to the deaths or simply contributing to the quarrels among those stranded, adding to the interest of the premise.

Without a formal detective character, the investigation is a cooperative effort, at least in theory. In practice however the two chalet staff take the lead and show the most initiative in the search for the truth. This works pretty well, not only because Erin is learning everything about these characters for the first time but also because they have a clearer motive in trying to resolve the matter, even when it isn’t clear that anyone has been murdered at all. Given the considerable damage to the chalet neither would want the scandal of a guest (or two) dying to be still circulating while they are searching for a new position.

The least compelling part of that investigation is really in the immediate aftermath of the first disappearance. The choice to not have the characters immediately recognize the danger has strengths and weaknesses – on the positive side it means that most of the characters have their guard down for a while but it also gives those chapters a rather leisurely pacing. Thankfully the book speeds up once we have a verified corpse on our hands!

As for the solution, I think it works pretty well. I noted earlier that I worked out where this was going very, very early and so I wasn’t surprised but what I like about the ending is that it isn’t dependent purely on the shock factor. Rather what is interesting about the ending is how it ties into some of the broader themes addressed in the novel overall and some of the character notes struck in the reveal. Add in a rather thrilling action sequence and it makes for an entertaining conclusion.

Given that I had come to this bracing myself for disappointment, I was rather pleased that I found things to interest me here. While it clearly draws some pretty significant inspiration from Christie, I see that as a strength of the book and I appreciate that Ware doesn’t simply emulate the source material but does things to make it her own, both in terms of the structure and the themes addressed. It certainly increases my interest in trying some of the author’s other work, so don’t be too shocked if you see more Ware appear on this blog in the future!

The Verdict: I have read a lot of works inspired by And Then There Were None over the years – this is one of the most successful and entertaining. Worth a look.


Interested in purchasing this book to read it yourself? This book was only published in 2021 so there’s a pretty good chance that your local bookstore will have it in stock. If they don’t however they should be easily able to order you a copy. The ISBN number for the US paperback is 9781501188824.

Those based in the US who prefer to shop online can follow the link above to find a copy of the book at Bookshop.org where your purchases can help support your local, independent bookstore. Full disclosure: this is an affiliate link – if you purchase a copy from them, I may receive a small commission.

Death from the Clouds by Shizuko Natsuki, translated by Gavin Frew

Originally published in 1988 as 雲から贈る死
English translation first published in 1991

“I will send them all death from on top of the clouds.”

In a dream, Toko hears her Uncle Okito utter this deadly threat. Now the dream appears to be coming true. The first is Uncle Ryuta, president of the family electronics corporation – dead in an inexplicable plane crash. Next is Yaeko, Uncle Ryuta’s mistress – poisoned. Who is next? Uncle Koji, in line for company president? Or Toko’s own beloved father?

The police suspect the author of these brilliant crimes to be Uncle Okito, the genius brother who had made the family fortunes. But Okito is dead, an apparent suicide more than a month before.

Toko has her own idea of where the key to the mystery lies – and sets about finding it. Meanwhile, the chain of tragedy continues its inexorable, perhaps endless course…


To the best of my knowledge there were six English language translations of mysteries by ‘Japan’s Bestselling Mystery Writer’ Shizuko Natsuki published in the late 80s and early 90s. A few months ago I happened upon a set of them and snapped them up, curious to see how they would compare with Murder at Mt. Fuji – my first encounter with her work. A couple of months ago I shared my thoughts on The Third Lady, a trading murders story which caught my attention with its obvious parallels to Strangers on a Train.

Of the novels that remained the one that appealed most to me was Death From The Clouds. I think what intrigued me was its structure in which a group of executives from one of the world’s leading electronics corporations are killed one by one. Where the blurb for The Third Lady put me in mind of Highsmith, this made me think of Christie. Not so much the apparently random killings of The ABC Murders but the more purposeful, structured approach of And Then There Were None in which there is clearly meant to be an order and a purpose, even if it seems impossible to imagine at the start of the novel.

The novel begins a few months after the death of Okito, a brilliant engineer who had revolutionized the microcomputer over a decade earlier, kickstarting the growth of the Ruco corporation in the early seventies to make it one of the leaders in its industry, with several family members becoming senior executives. The precise circumstances of Okito’s death are a little shadowy – his older brother Ryuta describes them as ‘miserable’ – and the family is only just emerging from a period of mourning.

Ryuta is keen to get back to his hobby of piloting his private plane and decides to take a flight. He calls his niece Toko who tries to dissuade him from flying, sharing that she had a dream in which she imagined Okito on top of stormy clouds. Ryuta decides to fly anyway but the plane’s engines stutter and fail, causing a fatal crash. It’s a tragic death but it turns out to be the first of several with other members of the family, all connected with the company, each dying in turn.

There are several aspects of this setup that appealed to me. The first was the element of premonition. Toko’s vision of her dead uncle vowing vengeance on his family is a striking one, particularly as described. It certainly helps to create a sense of dread and an atmosphere that hangs over those early chapters as we wonder just what he may have intended and also why Toko dreamed of him at all. Is that vision her imagination at work or is it based on something she subconsciously observed? It’s a great question that unfortunately falls out of focus in the later chapters of the book but which initially helped to hook me into the story.

Another is the way Natsuki slowly releases information to the reader, hinting to us about resentments and characters’ relationships long before we know the details of them. We know, for instance, that there was some resentment between Okito and his family but it takes some chapters before we know exactly what that was. I enjoyed learning about these characters’ histories and that of the company they built and I appreciated that our field of potential killers is kept quite wide until close to the end.

The most obvious killer would be Okito himself. He not only had by far the strongest motive to kill, he was also one of the few people with the requisite skills and knowledge to carry out those plans. The problem with that theory however is that he also has the strongest alibi. He is dead.

The other thing I really appreciate about the setup here is that there is some ambiguity about whether deaths are natural accidents or the result of foul play. The first few murders are able to be committed without anyone knowing that a serial killer is at work meaning that the reader is never forced to accept characters behaving in an unrealistic way, staying in a situation where they are obviously in danger. This, of course, ends up helping with the subsequent murders as no one is ever really on their guard until it is too late to do anything about it.

Where I think the problems with this book lie is in understanding the relationships between what is a pretty large cast of characters. This is one of those novels that I think could have really done with a family tree and chart showing their roles within the corporation as I found myself losing track of how those characters were connected to one another. Similarly a few of the characters feel barely sketched, making several of the victims feel more like names on a death roll than fully-dimensional, memorable characters.

That extends a little to the police as well when they are introduced later in the novel. These characters do not make much of an impression here with the author relying on the reader remembering them from Murder at Mt. Fuji. If it wasn’t for some direct references to their involvement in that case I don’t think I would have noticed that they were recurring and although it is just over a year since I read that novel, I have to say I have no memory of them at all (perhaps not a surprise as I characterized that investigation as ‘rushed and anticlimactic’ in my post). They gave me little reason to remember them from this one either.

Fortunately I think that the events of this novel are more interesting than that one, helping to make up for some deficiencies in the characterization and the investigation. For example, several of the deaths occur in quite striking ways. This includes an example of a poison used that I don’t think I can recall seeing used in a mystery novel before (even if it is curiously translated with a name that isn’t its standard English language spelling). I also really appreciated the thoughtful use of misdirection at a few points which I think make the case a little more complex and interesting.

In spite of that however, when it comes time for the actual solution to be revealed I found it a little underwhelming. As is often the case with talking about a novel’s ending, it’s tricky to lay out precisely why it didn’t entirely satisfy without getting into the realm of spoilers either directly or by implication. I think my frustrations lay in the idea that while each aspect of the solution is explained, I felt disappointed by the way that some elements are not as tightly incorporated into that solution as I had hoped.

Still, in spite of that I have to say I enjoyed my experience with this novel overall and would say it was the most intriguing of the three Natsuki novels I’ve read to this point. It’s a little uneven at points, sure, but there are some interesting ideas here, even if they don’t come together quite as neatly as I would have liked.

The Verdict: This novel offers some striking and unusual murder methods and I enjoyed the corporate politics elements of the story, even if it didn’t entirely come together for me with its solution.


Interested in purchasing this book to read it yourself? This title is not in print at the time of writing so you will probably need to scour secondhand bookshops or your public library to track down a copy. The copy shown is a scan of the cover of my 1991 Ballantine Books edition.