April and May 2019 in Review

Well, this is a few days late but then given my record of posting in a timely manner lately that should hardly be a surprise, eh?

Obviously given my extended absence from blogging toward the end of the month I never actually got around to picking my Book of the Month – an omission that frustrated me each time I saw my sidebar. It may have been just as well however as my April reads were a pretty uninspiring bunch of books. Any title that may have won would have been almost by default – hardly ideal.

Well, the good news is that since I resumed blogging last week I have read several more interesting titles meaning that at last there is a bit of competition. So, without further ado, let’s look at the contenders.

The options were:
Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie
The King of Fools by Frédéric Dard
Cast in Order of Disappearance by Simon Brett
The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong
Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie
Many a Slip by Freeman Wills Crofts
The American Gun Mystery by Ellery Queen
Your Republic is Calling You by Young-Ha Kim
Murder Mansion by J. H. Wallis

I also did a couple of TV reviews:
Colonel March of Scotland Yard
Death in Paradise: Season Two

As I suggested above, a common theme in most of these reads was a feeling of disappointment. Murder is Easy has an appealing start but I had expected more from the premise while The Good Son has an interesting premise and a punchy ending but I found the middle section to be pretty uninspiring fare.

And, of course, the less said about Passenger to Frankfurt, the better…

There were a few bright spots – a few story points in Cast in Order of Disappearance have not aged brilliantly but Charles Paris is an interesting, if not always particularly likeable, sleuth and the story does boast a strong reveal. On the short story front, Many a Slip suffers a little from some repetitive story elements but there are several entertaining and clever tales to enjoy.

So, what does that mean for Book of the Month? Might a TV show be walking away with the title?

Well, no. The good news is that there were a couple of books that struck me as being well worth a read. My most recent read, Murder Mansion, is an entertaining mystery in which a group of four cousins decide to stay together while they wait for a court case to be resolved only to find that someone begins picking them off. We get a mix of murder methods and the explanation at the end is quite clever, if a little fantastical.

My winner however is a book that I have seen described as one of its authors’ second-tier works – The King of Fools by Frédéric Dard, This turned out to be more complex and ambitious than I had assumed it would be from its fairly simple initial premise and I enjoyed its presentation of postwar Edinburgh. Not everything quite works but for the most part it is successful and even when an element turns out less than wholly successful, it is at least interesting making for a quick but highly engaging crime story.

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…

February 2019 in Review

February 2019 was a bit of a landmark month for me in that it marked my first experience of putting a piece of my own mystery writing ‘out there’.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have seen me posting a few snapshots but basically I crafted a forensics mystery event for teens at work. The idea was to introduce teens to some basic techniques like fingerprinting, casting footprints and analysing data. This meant that I had to do a fair bit of research into forensic science but I also had to find some way of tying all of these tasks together. And this meant I had to do some writing (as well as a bit of diagram and floor plan creation).

My victim was Olga Olafson, a travel blogger and newly elected town councillor who was found dead in her armchair having been beaten on the back of the head with an oversized novelty ceramic garden gnome. All of the doors and windows to the house were locked with no sign that any had been picked or forced.

Footprint Analysis – after several false steps trying to leave a decent foot impression in soil I ended up having to use sand. The problem then is that the sand can shift when the dental stone is applied so you have to spray it with hair spray first.

Neighbors managed to identify exactly four suspects that the players had to consider, each with a unique motive. Environmentalist Harrison Smithers was angry that Olga ran a vicious election campaign against him, winning his seat. Jewelry designer Ariadne Templeton was upset that she paid for a joint holiday, maxing out her credit cards to do so, but was not reimbursed. Roxie Daytona, a children’s entertainer, was mad that her best friend left multiple anonymous scathing reviews of her business online. And then there was hot air balloon operator Phoenix Bolouri who was due to get married to her three days earlier but was left at the altar and subsequently dumped by text when Olga rekindled a previous relationship with a hovercraft engineer from Ottawa.

Okay, so I’m no Freeman Wills Crofts (though they did get to analyse five pages of phone records and plot distances on a map so I like to think he was with us in spirit) but I had a good time doing it. Even better, so did the teens who managed to piece the evidence together and solve the thing, seeing through a few red herrings to reach the correct conclusion. Still, as much fun as I had writing a mystery I think I’m quite happy to concentrate on writing about other people’s (far superior) efforts here going forward.

Speaking of which, it’s time to do that thing where I reflect on my month of reading. This past month I read:

Usually when I come to write these posts I have a pretty solid idea which book will win before I even sit down to review the contenders. This month however the field was much more even with no major disappointments (though Poirot Investigates is a little uneven, as is In The Fog) but also no runaway favorite.

Inevitably the books I am most drawn to on the list are the four inverted crime stories on the list. The Beast Must Die is a wonderfully structured and cleverly plotted story. Nothing More Than Murder features some really striking characterizations and there are some solid surprises along the way. And as for Devil in Dungarees, the book not only boasts a title that never fails to make me smile but it is a really engaging heist story that builds to a thrilling conclusion.

The fourth title however is the one that I think will stay with me longest. Julian Symons’ The Man Who Killed Himself is a very intelligently constructed play on one of the most lauded inverted mysteries written. Rather than just reusing ideas from Malice Aforethought, Symons presents his own spin on them, building a story that feels distinctive and often quite amusing.

The characters are splendid and I think the plotting is particularly strong, especially in the first two sections of the book. Along the way Symons presents the reader with several small surprises so I would suggest avoiding reading any detailed summaries before approaching it yourself (though my own review tries to be spoiler-free) and just tucking into it for yourself. It’s a great, fast read and well worth your time.

Finally, for those who keep track of such things I actually managed to stick to three of my four promised reviews from last month’s roundup post. I am pretty shocked to be honest. Anyway, in March expect to see reviews of books by Abir Mukherjee, Keigo Higashino and C. J. Tudor amongst others.

See you in March!

January 2019 in Review

monthly review_ january 2019

This past few weeks has been so busy for me both professionally and at home that it slipped my notice that today is the end of the month. Whoops. That means is that this monthly roundup is going to be a bit more brief than usual. Hopefully I’ll get back to normal soon!

The absolute highlight of this month for me was the reception my Five to Try: Inverted Mysteries post received. It is not just that people read it but the comments here, by email and on Twitter have been really wonderful. Thanks to everyone who engaged with it, shared it and retweeted it. Reading those responses brightened my day and helped me feel a little better after getting sick towards the end of last week so thanks to everyone.

Let’s get to the contenders for Book of the Month:

Crime on the Coast & No Flowers by Request by Members of the Detection Club
The Niece of Abraham Pein by J. H. Wallis
A Meditation on Murder by Robert Thorogood
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
Death in High Provence by George Bellairs
Murder Underground by Mavis Doriel Hay
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Book of the Crime by Elizabeth Daly
The New Sonia Wayward by Michael Innes
Ellery Queen’s Japanese Golden Dozen edited by Frederic Dannay
The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh
Sydney Noir edited by John Dale
Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

Some decent selections on offer here although there were a few disappointments too. The Detection Club collaborations were both pretty underwhelming reads while I was a little disappointed to find that I agreed with many of the more negative comments I had read about Murder Underground and A Man Lay Dead.

There were some really bright spots too though. James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity was definitely worth reading and lived up to its reputation while Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, The Serial Killer met my high expectations based on all the hype.

My selection for Book of the Month though goes to a book by an author I thought I would never read again, let alone find myself enjoying their work. I have written quite a lot about this book lately – it featured on that Five to Try list – so I won’t repeat myself too much here…

soniawaywardYes, The New Sonia Wayward by Michael Innes is my pick for Book of the Month.

It is very funny, cleverly plotted and builds to a really entertaining and memorable finish. The characters are fun and the premise is handled well.

I was delighted and surprised by my experiences with this book and while I don’t expect I will be listing Innes as a favorite author any time soon, I am very happy to say that this is one of the good ones.

As for the month ahead, expect to see reviews of books by Nicholas Blake, Freeman Wills Crofts, Julian Symons and Friedrich Dürrenmatt among others. See you in February!

December 2018 in Review

Monthly Review_ December 2018

There are fireworks lighting up the sky all around us so I guess December and 2018 are coming to an end and it is time for my monthly roundup post.

It has been a busy month and though I didn’t manage to read as many holiday crime stories as I had hoped in the run up to Christmas, I feel the ones I did read made a good impression. More importantly I am happy to be able to say that I managed to complete my Vintage Mysteries Challenge this year, getting my last read in just before the deadline.

I really enjoyed playing along with the challenge this past year so I am planning on doing it once again. I will be signing up to do the Golden Age challenge and will aim to complete all 60 categories. Expect to see a page charting my progress on the navigation bar in the next couple of days. I will do my best to keep updating the page and links as I go. If you are interested in participating yourself it is easy to take part and you can sign up at any point up through November 2019.

Now let’s get on with the Book of the Month award. The contenders are:

Mad Hatter’s Holiday by Peter Lovesey
A Baker Street Wedding by Michael Robertson
The File on Lester by Andrew Garve
Cirque de Slay by Ceecee James
Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
Madame Bluebeard by Bruce Sanders
Released for Death by Henry Wade
The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories edited by Martin Edwards
The Dead Shall Be Raised by George Bellairs
Murder at the Old Vicarage by Jill McGown
The Case of the Howling Dog by Erle Stanley Gardner
St. Peter’s Finger by Gladys Mitchell

I enjoyed most of these books on at least some level but some titles stood out a little from the group.

Strangers on a Train was the best-known title on that list and one of the few novels I have revisited for a review having read it several times over. This read did not disappoint me and I still really appreciate Highsmith’s striking characterization and ability to make the reader feel how the situation affects Guy’s state of mind.

The File on Lester is my favorite book I have read so far from Paul Winterton, this time writing as Andrew Garve. The mystery is an example of dossier fiction (a term I hadn’t encountered before) and it credibly details the evolution of a political scandal. There are some interesting ideas and there is even a very short locked room puzzle of sorts built into one section of the novel. I enjoyed it enormously and given used copies are quite affordable I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is interested in giving this author a go.

DeadShallThe book that stands out most to me though from my month’s reading is from an author who, I admit, I have sometimes struggled to understand why I have persisted with. I am glad I did though because George Bellairs’ The Dead Shall Be Raised is a fantastic cold case mystery in which the body of a man who disappeared several decades earlier is dug up on the moors and Inspector Littlejohn has to piece together what happened when many of the witnesses have died and memories faded.

It is a really interesting book and I think Bellairs creates some interesting challenges and complications for Littlejohn to overcome. The solution is genuinely clever and properly clued and, for those who like such things, the opening chapter in which he has to travel by car in a blackout is both striking and effective. I found it thoroughly enjoyable and would certainly recommend it as a starting point for readers who have never tried a Littlejohn mystery before.

Finally I once again want to say how much I have enjoyed the comments, tweets and reading suggestions you have all shared with me over the past year. These interactions help brighten my days and I have found so many fantastic books thanks to you all. Thank you and I hope you have a wonderful 2019.

November 2018 in Review


It is hard to believe that we are already several days into December. I am afraid I have fallen behind the schedule I set for myself this past week, missing out on the final review I promised (it should be up tomorrow, all being well) and being several days late on making my Book of the Month selection.

Hopefully I will make up for it this month which, if I stick to my plans, ought to be pretty packed. There are several newly published mysteries that I am hoping to get to this month as well as a big stack of festive mysteries I hope to read this year. And then I will also be writing a couple of posts nominating titles for Reprint of the Year awards being organized by Kate at CrossExaminingCrime. I am excited to share my thoughts with you all about that.

Anyway, enough looking forward – it’s time to look back at November. The titles I reviewed last month were:

A Moment in Crime by Amanda Allen
Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L Sayers
The Case of Sir Adam Braid by Molly Thynne
A Javelin for Jonah by Gladys Mitchell
The Inverted Crime by Leonard Gribble
The So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes
A Decline in Prophets by Sulari Gentill
The Religious Body by Catherine Aird
A Demon in My View by Ruth Rendell
Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson
The Bungalow Mystery by Annie Haynes

Looking at that list I feel pretty satisfied with my month’s reading in terms of quality, if not quantity. Several authors in that group who were completely new to me – Gladys Mitchell, Dorothy B. Hughes, Catherine Aird, Jim Thompson and Annie Haynes – and several more were writers I hadn’t read recently. Given one of my goals for this year is to read a little more widely I think I am already off to a solid start.

The other reason that the list above pleases me is that I really enjoyed reading a lot of those titles. Take the pair of charming historical mysteries, Sulari Gentill’s A Decline in Prophets and Amanda Allen’s A Moment in Crime. Each of those titles deliver interesting settings and memorable murders and I would happily recommend both.

I can only select one title as the recipient of November’s Book of the Month award. While there was some stiff competition from several titles, it ended up coming down to the two inverted crime stories I read back-to-back toward the end of the month. Each of those books featured memorable criminals and moments of dark humor. To be honest, both are excellent reads and I would gladly recommend either.

RendellRuth Rendell’s A Demon in My View is based on the simple but interesting premise that a neurotic serial killer finds that a man with a very similar name to his own moves into his block of flats. The novel explores his psychology and the ways it is affected by being unsettled by this coincidence. It is an often quite dark and unsettling read, featuring some excellent characterization. What really sticks with me is how well constructed this novel is with the ending feeling like a powerful and logical culmination of everything that has come before.

It is a splendid read and my first really satisfying encounter with Rendell. Given I have a big stack of them now in my TBR pile, I will look forward to getting back to her soon.


In addition to the Ruth Rendell titles, I also picked up a number festive mystery novels and vintage reprints. The book I am most excited to read though is Ellery Queen’s Japanese Golden Dozen – a vintage collection of short stories from Japanese crime writers including a blog favorite Masako Togawa. I am not sure I will be able to fit it in this month but if not expect to see thoughts on the collection early in the New Year.

October 2018 In Review

October was a busy month and it was one of the first times since starting the blog I have really struggled to find time to read. I had excuses of course – multiple birthday parties to throw and attend, not to mention household repairs and work obligations. In fact I am rather surprised when I look at the list at just how many reviews I managed to write given everything.

The big news from my perspective was that the month marked the first Blogiversary of Mysteries Ahoy! and I have to say it was lovely to read all the nice comments that appeared here, on Twitter and elsewhere. It made the day feel quite special and has put a bit of a spring in my step ever since.

The titles I reviewed in October were:

The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen Wilkinson
I Married A Dead Man by Cornell Woolrich
The Case of the Lucky Legs by Erle Stanley Gardner
Murder at the Manor edited by Martin Edwards
The Vengeful Virgin by Gil Brewer
The Pocket Detective compiled by Kate Jackson
A New Lease of Death by Ruth Rendell
Found Floating by Freeman Wills Crofts
Except for One Thing by John Russell Fearn
Marrakech Noir edited by Yassin Adnan
Blueprint for Murder by Roger Bax
The Invisible Circle by Paul Halter
Ill Met By Moonlight by Leslie Ford

While there were a couple of books that I enjoyed a lot, I was underwhelmed by a lot of what I read. Crofts’ Found Floating for instance is the first of his books that I found to be rather dull while The Division Bell Mystery was more interesting in terms of the details of life as a Member of Parliament than it was as a locked room mystery. And then there was Ruth Rendell’s A New Lease of Death, a Wexford mystery that disappointed me by basically not featuring Inspector Wexford.

There were some bright spots though such as the exciting, melodramatic inverted story I Married A Dead Man and John Russell Fearn’s Except for One Thing, also an inverted story with a lovely payoff at the end. Both are entertaining reads but the title that gave me the most pleasure was one by an author who I gave a Book of the Month award to just a couple of months back.

CirclePaul Halter’s The Invisible Circle grabbed my attention with its entertaining references to Arthurian legends, a thoroughly set up locked room puzzle and brisk plotting. Each chapter seems to end with a new revelation that drives you to keep reading and while I would say the killer’s plan is risky, I think Halter makes sure it all makes a sort of sense and I do think it builds to an exciting conclusion.


This month was a bit of a quiet one because of all of the other stuff going on in my life but there were a few acquisitions I was pleased with. Of course I bought my father’s third Slonsky novel, Death On Duty, and picked up a copy of E. C. R. Lorac’s Muder by Matchlight by mistake. Basically I blame it on my chubby fingers and careless swiping motion.

I did pick up a copy of I. J. Parker’s Rashomon Gate which I remember loving when I first read it and Carr’s The Devil in Velvet. I also picked up a copy of The Final Days of Robert Montrose. I am looking forward to trying out some of these books while also wading through my existing TBR pile.

September 2018 in Review

I had most of the last week off so I was looking forward to getting in some solid reading hours. Instead of blitzing through my to read pile though I found myself getting caught up in everything but reading. Whenever I did find time to read I struggled to get engaged with the material I was trying not necessarily because it was bad but just it didn’t fit my mood. This is very frustrating!

On a more positive note I do think I have turned a corner with my reading and I have a few novels I am excited to write about. One of those, Ellen Wilkinson’s The Division Bell Mystery, I had expected to share my thoughts about today but I’m pushing the review back a day to make room for this monthly recap. Expect a review of Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Case of the Lucky Legs later this week too.

One other thing this month has in store is my first blogiversary. I plan on recapping the whole year and picking out some favorite titles. While last month may not have been as productive as I had hoped, I am pretty blown away when I look at the list of all of the titles I have read in the last twelve months and I look forward to giving some thought as to which ones to pick as the best of that first year.

Before I get to that though I have to look back at the titles I read in September and pick my Book of the Month. The contenders are:

Detective Fiction: From Victorian Sleuths to the Present (Modern Scholar)
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? by Horace McCoy
Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination by Edogawa Rampo
Murder for Lunch by Haughton Murphy
Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston
The Man Who Loved Clouds by Paul Halter
Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer
Lady Killer by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Bertie and the Seven Bodies by Peter Lovesey
Excellent Intentions by Richard Hull
Windy City by Hugh Holton
The Department of Dead Ends by Roy Vickers

I suppose the good news is that with a couple of exceptions the books I read in September were of a very high standard. When it comes time to put together that Best of Year One list I wouldn’t be surprised if several of the titles from this month end up in contention.

Several titles were in contention this month but it really came down to a decision between two novellas. Elisabeth Sanxay Holding’s Lady Killer is a really striking work that combines elements of social criticism with an excellent mystery story. The story’s heroine is certain that she knows that another passenger plans to kill his wife and yet no one aboard will listen to her including her husband.

What sticks with me most about that story is its powerful ending which provides resolution and yet it isn’t really a return to order or even necessarily justice. Most impressively it convinced me to go out and acquire several other books by the author and I look forward to discovering more of her work in the future.

The other title that grabbed me was also punchy and provocative, though it pushes the envelope even further on presenting us with an unsympathetic protagonist who we know has killed a woman and a very bitter, hard-boiled ending.

Horace McCoy’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? was a book that frequently made for uncomfortable reading. It is made all the more powerful by its unusual presentation with sections of the judge’s summation placed between the chapters in a huge typeface and its short, punchy chapters. Even though you see the ending coming it is brutally direct and while there is little mystery here, I think the reader is engaged in a challenge to interpret these characters and understand their relationship and actions.

Lady KillerBoth of these works really shook me up and engaged me in their stories and I don’t think you can go wrong with either. In fact, if you loved one I think you are pretty likely to love the other. But I have to pick one and so I settled on Holding’s novel which has the benefit of being able to strike an unexpected note in its conclusion. It was a truly satisfying read and I can’t wait to tackle The Girl Who Had to Die later this month!

Acquisitions: I may not have got around to reviewing as many titles as I had hoped but I did at least manage to pick up a few books that I am bursting with excitement to read. The Niece of Abraham Pein is another mystery by J. H. Wallis. I had devoured several of his novels earlier this year and then hit a brick wall with those available through interlibrary loan so when this cropped up at a relatively affordable price I couldn’t help but snap up a copy.

I also acquired a copy of Leonard Gribble’s The Inverted Crime – a novel that will doubtlessly not be an inverted mystery at all but even if I am disappointed on that front I am excited to try it. I look forward to reviewing these, and many more titles, this coming month.

August 2018 In Review

How can it be September already? It feels like only yesterday I was writing up my thoughts on my July reading and here we are with another month gone.

While I didn’t feel hugely productive in terms of my reading this month, the list of titles I reviewed seems to tell a different story. I think it probably felt that way because toward the end of the month I got stuck on a couple of novels that seemed a little harder to get myself enthused to finish and I had a run of books I started but just couldn’t get anywhere with. I figure that was a matter of my mood and hopefully if I return to them later I’ll fare a little better.

The books I read in August were:

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Ripper of Storyville and Other Stories by Ed Hoch
The Double Alibi by Noël Vindry
The Arsenal Stadium Mystery by Leonard Gribble
Nice Day for a Murder by C. A. Broadribb
The Betel Nut Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu
Resorting to Murder, edited by Martin Edwards
Death Knocks Three Times by Anthony Gilbert
The End of Andrew Harrison by Freeman Wills Crofts
Death Going Down by María Angélica Bosco
A Graveyard to Let by Carter Dickson
Disposing of Henry by Roger Bax
New Graves at Great Norne by Henry Wade
The Bloody Black Flag by Steve Goble
The Colour of Murder by Julian Symons
The Murder of Harriet Krohn by Karin Fossum
Death Spins the Wheel by George Bellairs
Net of Cobwebs by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Shadows in Bronze by Lindsey Davis

There were a number of books here that are in contention for the coveted Book of the Month award. Let’s tackle some of the contenders by genre.

Starting with the historical mysteries, I really enjoyed Steve Goble’s The Bloody Black Flag, a pirate mystery, and I am looking forward to the release of the second volume this month. Similarly I had a good time with The Betel Nut Tree Mystery set in interwar Singapore.

It was not a great month for inverted stories and I would not recommend either Disposing of Henry or The Murder of Harriet Krohn though of the two the former is the more interesting book.

On the locked room and impossible mysteries front I thoroughly enjoyed Freeman Wills Crofts’ The End of Andrew Harrison and were it not for a bit of help that the detective gets at the end I could well have selected that. A Graveyard to Let was great fun too and I enjoyed getting to know Merrivale for the first time.

In terms of anthologies and short story collections, I revisited The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and enjoyed my taste of Hoch’s Ben Snow. The British Library Crime Classics collection Resorting to Murder was a hit with me and I would certainly recommend it as one of the stronger releases.

ColourofMurderMy pick for book of the month though is not any of those titles but one that somehow defies easy classification. It certainly has some aspects in common with the inverted form, though it is not exactly that sort of story. The legal drama aspects of the novel are very successful too and I think the ending is striking.

Yes, my selection for Book of the Month is the exquisite The Colour of Murder by Julian Symons, recently reissued by the British Library.


I tried to be good this month and focus on working through my formidable TBR pile but I couldn’t help making a few acquisitions along the way. I picked up Peter Lovesey’s The Last Detective and cheap copies of Sayers’ Have His Carcase and The Five Red Herrings. I also picked up Horace McCoy’s They Shoot Horses Don’t They, a review of which will be posted next Monday, and Charles Kingston’s inverted tale Murder in Piccadilly.

July 2018 in Review

It has been an utterly exhausting Summer so it has been a particular pleasure to be able to find the time to retreat into books, relax and lose myself for a few hours each evening.

The books I read in July were:

The Skull of the Waltzing Clown by Harry Stephen Keeler
The Paddington Mystery by John Rhode
The Case of the Sulky Girl by Erle Stanley Gardner
All but Impossible: The Impossible Files of Dr. Sam Hawthorne by Ed Hoch
The Seventh Hypothesis by Paul Halter
The Lady Killer by Masako Togawa
Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
The Sea Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts
Trial and Error by Anthony Berkeley
The Face on the Cutting Room Floor by Cameron McCabe
It Might Lead Anywhere by E. R. Punshon
The Pint of No Return by Ellie Alexander
The Egyptian Cross Mystery by Ellery Queen

There are an interesting mix of titles in contention for this month’s Book of the Month title and, for a fleeting moment, I seriously considered an Ellery Queen novel for this accolade. I ended up deciding that it may have benefited from good timing being read right before I made my selection and from my incredibly low expectations and so, while I liked it a lot, it does not walk off with the prize.

Several titles were on the more experimental side of crime fiction but while I found things to appreciate with Trial and Error, The Face on the Cutting Room Floor and The Skull of the Waltzing Clown, each of those books also possessed significant flaws.

I did enjoy the collection of Dr. Sam Hawthorne short stories I read, finding most to be quite imaginative and varied. I plan on returning to Ed Hoch soon as I received some great suggestions in the comments and in a whole post in response from Christian.

SeventhHypoThe title I ended up going with was an easy selection that became more apparent the more I thought about it. The Seventh Hypothesis is a wonderful story that I think boasts a highly imaginative concept, an audacious solution and some of Halter’s best storytelling. It is a joy to read and an easy pick for this month’s Book of the Month.

Acquisitions: The Invisible Circle by Paul Halter, Dead Man’s Shoes by Leo Bruce, The Robthorne Mystery by John Rhode, The Dead Shall be Raised and Murder of a Quack by George Bellairs and A Graveyard to Let by Dickson Carter.

Expect reviews of at least some of these to appear next month. I’ll kick August off however by discussing a collection of short stories that I have read many times over and that was one of the first steps I took in my exploration of mystery and detective fiction…