December in Review

As 2017 draws to a close it seems a natural time to reflect on the year that has been and look ahead to the one to come. I only started this blog back in October but I am proud that I already have close to fifty reviews under my belt. If all goes to plan I should hit that fiftieth review mark very early next month and I am giving thought to which book I should select to mark the occasion.

Turning to the year ahead, I am keen to take part in at least one reading challenge. Every year I set myself the goal to read a hundred books on Goodreads but I’d like to add one more specific mystery challenge. As the vast majority of my reviews here are of vintage mysteries, I have decided to do the Vintage Mysteries challenge from My Reader’s Block.

I am undertaking to complete Golden Age reads at the Chief Constable level meaning I aim to find one book for each category. I have created a page on my navigation bar where you can track my progress and I will do my best to remember to update the links there on a regular basis. If you are interested in participating yourself it is easy to take part and you can sign up at any point up through November 2018.

Finally, I wanted to say how much I appreciate the various comments, tweets and suggestions people have shared with me over the past few months. I have found some fantastic books already through these and I am very grateful for this guidance, particularly as I get more deeply into my main obsession at the moment – the inverted mystery. I am keeping a big list of all of your suggestions and I have already tracked down a number of them with the hopes of reading them early next year. Thanks again!

Books Read in December

This month I read nineteen books, each by different authors. That industry was partly fuelled by my desire to do a week of reviews based on crime stories set during the Yuletide period though it helped that I was at home for a couple of days in the run up to the holidays. I suspect that I will slow down a little in the New Year.

The titles I read were as follows (all titles are hyperlinked):

Wobble to Death by Peter Lovesey
The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey
The French Powder Mystery by Ellery Queen
Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon
Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie
Hard Cheese by Ulf  Durling
Quick Curtain by Alan Melville
Sitting Murder by A. J. Wright
Murder on the Way! by Theodore Roscoe
The Ginza Ghost by Keikichi Osaka
Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith
Crimson Snow, ed. by Martin Edwards
There Came Both Mist and Snow by Michael Innes
The Crime at the Noah’s Ark by Molly Thynne
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle
Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon
The Strangled Witness by Leslie Ford
Case for Sergeant Beef by Leo Bruce
The Case of the Demented Spiv by George Bellairs

The Ginza Ghost was my most-read review of the month which I found a little surprising. Sadly I didn’t love the book as much as I had hoped making my review a bit of an outlier though there were a few stories I liked in the collection.

Of the other books I read, I have particularly soft spots for Case for Sergeant Beef and Hard Cheese, both of which are quirky, entertaining reads and I would also encourage people to check out Murder on the Way! which is one of the most inventive books I read this month.

PortraitMy selection for Book of the Month this time is one published as part of the British Library Crime Classics range. Sadly it won’t be published in print Stateside until mid-2018 though the audiobook is available already through Soundings. I would commend it both as a fantastic, dark example of the inverted mystery form and for its wonderful, rich characterization and clever structuring. That book is Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith.

The Month Ahead

Next month I plan on getting to grips with Inspector French and the Sea Mystery which was recommended to me by JJ, continuing to read non-series Christie with The Man in the Brown Suit and I will take Nick Fuller’s advice in an attempt to finally find a short story collection I like by giving some of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown short stories a try.

And, of course, I will be reading The Problem of the Wire Cage by John Dickson Carr so I can follow along with JJ and Ben’s spoiler-filled conversations about it. See you all in 2018!

November in Review

This November has been crazy busy between work and a family visit for Thanksgiving but I am happy to report I managed to fit a lot of reading in!

The chief change for the blog this month was that I realized I had inadvertently given my blog the name of an already well-established website. I can only put that down to my working to name this late at night and just being relieved to finally find something that wasn’t already taken on WordPress.

The new name, Mysteries Ahoy! pays homage to my favorite and least Christie-inspired of the four Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple movies. For those of you who barely remember these from Saturday morning repeats, it was the one with the extended sequence at the start where she dresses up in a sort of naval-inspired uniform and then walks down the high street to some swinging Sixties music.

If it wasn’t Mysteries Ahoy! it would have been Ratiosensational Reads. I think you will agree the better title won out…

Books Read in November

The Collini Case by Ferdinand von Schirach – A legal thriller from Germany. The mystery elements do not quite pan out but the issues it raises would make for good book club discussion.

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver – A very entertaining mystery that plays on the grand hotel mysteries of the Golden Age. Striking main characters and a sense of style make this a winner.

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley (with movie review) – I had read the book before but got far more out of it the second time, listening on audio. In my review I compare the book with the movie adaptation.

Antidote to Venom by Freeman Wills Crofts – This inverted mystery set in a zoo features some wonderful surprises and an interesting main character. It loses a little steam and interest when Inspector French appears towards the end but it is very entertaining.

Say Nothing by Brad Parks – A thriller that preys on parental fears. The premise is interesting and I was happily surprised to find it played fair with the mystery of who is responsible.

Lament for a Maker by Michael Innes – While I thought it was atmospheric, the story structure and excessive use of dialect in the first third of the book made this hard going. The solution to the mystery is clever but not so special as to make reading it worthwhile.

Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs – After complaining about Innes’ heavy use of dialect, Bellairs turned out to be a second dose of the same. While the mystery was weak, I did enjoy the story and the characters.

The Master Key by Masako Togawa – One of the best books I have read all year and so easily my pick for my book of the month. Unsettling, mysterious with an ending that packs a punch.

The Bookseller’s Tale by Ann Swinfen – The solution is perhaps a little too well clued but I really liked the characters and the storytelling style.

Death on Tap by Ellie Alexander – In spite of not being much of a beer connoisseur, I found this a likable read with plenty of small town charm. The mystery is more lager than stout and I do not think the reader could solve it though the solution is easily guessable.

Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie – An interesting exploration of theme. I felt that the structure wasn’t entirely successful and had a few issues with character development.

The Roman Hat Mystery by Ellery Queen – While I enjoyed aspects of this novel, I found it to be frustrating and glacially paced for much of the investigation.

The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa – There are some aspects of this story that really appealed to me but overall I felt it was underwhelming.

The 12.30 From Croydon by Freeman Wills Crofts – An enjoyable inverted mystery that is perhaps less ingenious than Antidote to Venom but which features far less of Inspector French.

The King’s Hounds by Martin Jensen – I loved the setting of this story, even if I felt cold towards the character of the narrator.

The Perfect Murder by Stewart Giles – Contained an interesting mix of murders but the motivations of the murderer did not convince, nor did the Cornish setting.

Death Invites You by Paul Halter – I found the crime to be as interesting as it was macabre. There are some developments later in the story that feel convoluted at the time though I felt Halter does explain (almost) everything at the end.

Death Wears A Mask by Ashley Weaver – The second Amory and Milo mystery isn’t quite as clever as the first but I still love the two leads and the novel is written with wit and charm.

The Month Ahead

December is likely going to be a busy month but I am hoping to find time to read Alan Melville’s Quick Curtain, Szu-Yen Lin’s Death in the House of Rain and Ann Swinfen’s The Novice’s Tale among others. And while I said it would be a while before I returned to Ellery Queen, I am currently listening to The French Powder Mystery…

October in Review

Having started my blog part-way through a month, the end seems like a good day to pause and take a moment to introduce myself properly before posting a summary of what I have reviewed over the past few weeks and what I have in store for November.

My name is Aidan and I am originally from the UK though I now reside in Georgia in the US. These days it is much easier to acquire works from overseas so it shouldn’t make much of a difference in what I review but I mention it because it helps account for the occasional inconsistency in spelling as I’m at that stage where both sets of spellings and grammar rules look right to me and it can be anyone’s guess which I’ll use on any given day.

Book of SlaughterMy love of mystery fiction is an inheritance from both of my parents who are both crime fiction enthusiasts. My father, Graham, is a crime fiction writer published by Endeavour Press but you won’t see his work reviewed on this blog for the obvious reason that, however impartial I may feel I am being, I am probably not distant enough from the work to be completely free of bias. For what it’s worth though, I think The Outrageous Behaviour of Left-Handed Dwarves is a really entertaining thriller that builds to a powerful conclusion. For those with relatively long memories, that book was the runner up in the 2011 Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger award. The second title in that series, The Book of Slaughter and Forgetting, comes out this November.

My mother seemed to always have a Morse or Dalziel and Pascoe book in the glove compartment of her car while Saturday and Sunday evenings were inevitably spent watching television adaptations of crime novels or original series such as Jonathan Creek as a family.

Independently of my parents, I was reading The Three Investigators, The Secret Seven and the Hardy Boys in my formative years. Sadly when I became a teen I found that the then-fledgling young adult market did not really offer much for mystery readers and found myself drawn more to fantasy and science fiction. I wouldn’t really read much in the mystery fiction line until I was nearing my late-20s and I discovered the works of I. J. Parker and her medieval Japanese mystery novels which really reengaged my interest in the genre.

These days I continue to enjoy historical crime fiction as well as reprints of Golden Age puzzle fiction or books that mimic that style. While this blog will mostly be focused on reviewing materials I have not read before, I will find the time every now and then to write a little about the specific writers who inspired me to love the genre.

My scope for this blog will be pretty wide as I interpret the mystery genre fairly broadly to include thrillers and adventure stories. I expect I will occasionally mix in a television, movie or radio adaptation or talk about original mystery series in other formats.

Books Read In October

The Detective Wore Silk Drawers by Peter Lovesey – a case of second album blues. Lovesey has a really great grip on the Victorian sporting world but while pedestrianism seemed strange and fascinating, the world of bare-knuckle boxing is far less engaging and the crime is quite drab.

The Cheltenham Square Murder by John Bude – an entertaining read with the victim dispatched in a memorable fashion! The unusual nature of the crime forces the writer to drop in information early in the novel to play fair with the reader that does rather give things away though.

The Birdwatcher by William Shaw – a standalone crime novel and one of my favorite books of the year. The way the chapters are split between action in the past and the present works wonderfully and Shaw creates some wonderful characters. This is my Book of the Month.

The Problem of the Green Capsule by John Dickson Carr – a wonderfully plotted story that I read after being inspired by a post by The Puzzle Doctor (he uses its other title, The Black Spectacles) I read after listening to a few Dr. Fell audio dramas. I plan on digging more into Carr’s work in the months ahead.

Murder Gets A Degree by Theodora Wender – I’ll totally admit that I bought this for the tag line and the hope it would set the mood for a Halloween celebration. After a promising start it missed on the latter and it never quite decides what type of mystery it wants to be. It’s not a mystery why there wasn’t another one of these but I felt I got value for my $0.75.

Death of Anton by Alan Melville – Another book from the British Library Crime Classics range and it’s one of the best I’ve read. Witty, clever with a very memorable setting. The lighthearted tone may not be to everyone’s taste but I loved it.

A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill – The hardest review I wrote this month because while I really enjoyed the book, I felt it missed the mark as a mystery novel which is, after all, the focus of this blog. Go check out what I wrote about it though because it is a really entertaining read. I am also very pleased that I managed to get through 800 words about an Australian crime novel with a wealthy playboy not wanting to live up to societal obligations set in the early 20th century without referencing Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Fisher.

The Month Ahead

What can you expect from me in the next month? I tend to make plans and change them on a whim, especially when I get inspired to try a book by another blogger, but near the top of my To Read pile at the moment is Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs, The Master Key by Masako Togawa and I am currently reading Say Nothing by Brad Parks. You can also expect I will be among the first in line to see the new Murder on the Orient Express when it comes out.

See you in November and thanks for checking out my blog!