Kate from the classic crime fiction site, Cross Examining Crime, sent me one of her vintage boxes in the post a week or so ago. She sells them on her Etsy site either as a one off gift or as part of a subscription.
It was very exciting book post filled with crime fiction goodies and gorgeous coffee. The picture to the left is the box as it arrived. On the right is a shot of the box after I opened the packaging to see what mystery books I’d been sent which I couldn’t wait to read.
Skeleton in the Closet by A B Cunningham is set in a Kentucky valley where a skeleton is unearthed by two young boys. Sheriff Jess Roden investigates the killing, using his knowledge of the land and its flood patterns to calculate that the woman had been in the ground for five years. He quickly establishes the identity of the victim, who wrote a note to her mother to say she was going leaving and wouldn’t be in touch for a long time. The book was published later in Cunningham’s career and is adeptly written. By far its greatest asset is the character of the sheriff whose humanity and tenacity ensure that the killer, who comes as no surprise to the reader, is brought to account.
A more substantial read was the unfortunately titled Slay the Loose Ladies. I can see that the title was changed from Puzzle for Wantons which is no better, which is a shame as it’s a very good read. Admittedly the premise is grim, women who are intending to divorce their husbands gather at the house of rich Lorraine Playgel who invites along their errant husbands and the women begin to die. The book is humorous and dark, and the wealthy Nevada setting works perfectly.
Patrick Quentin was the pen name under which four authors wrote books featuring detective Peter Duluth. Duluth and his wife are wonderful creations and in the best tradition of husband and wife detective teams. Duluth gets more jaded in later books but here, on leave from his navy posting at the end of the Second World War, he’s a delight.
I’d never have picked up a book from either of these authors unprompted which goes to show the benefits of Kate’s excellent gift box. Do check out her Etsy site!
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards has been much anticipated by fans of classic crime fiction. It follows the success of The Golden Age of Murder, Edwards’ impressive story of the famed Detection Club, and the British Library crime classics for which he’s the series consultant. Impeccably packaged with vintage style covers, the success of the series has opened up classic crime to a new generation of readers.
It must have been a near-impossible task to choose 100 books in which to tell the story of classic crime. In his introduction, Edwards emphasises that the novels have been chosen to emphasise the genre’s development and is not merely a list of the best books of the period. The introduction serves as fascinating summary of the Golden Age as do the chapter headings. The breadth of the themes identified: from serial killers to psychological thrillers, the origins of many modern day crime fiction tropes can be traced back to the Golden Age period.
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books is a book to both read from cover to cover and to dip in and out of. I found myself doing both, looking for authors I was familiar with and discovering new ones. Some of the books will require determination to track down if you’re inspired to read them which makes the list all the more interesting. It’s a timely reminder that the period of the classic crime is more complex and wide-ranging that is often attributed to it. This impressive volume is a book to return to time and time again.
I’ve attended a lot of excellent events over the month of June and I’m finally doing a round-up of everything that’s happened. A lot of my time has been spent working on the sequel to In Bitter Chill and also preparing articles in advance of IBC’s publication. I’m keeping Crimepieces as my reviewing website but there are lots of updates to be found about the publication of In Bitter Chill either on the dedicated page which can be found on the tab above plus my events page. I have a backlog of reviews to complete and I have read some excellent books recently. I’ll be spending much of August catching up on my reviews.
Back to the events I’ve attend. In early June Nordicana took place at the Troxy Theatre in London’s Limehouse. Readers of Crimepieces will be aware that I’m a judge on the Petrona Award for translated Scandinavian Crime Fiction. It was in this capacity that I appeared on a panel discussing the origins of Nordic Noir with expert author Barry Forshaw along with Quentin Bates (author of Frozen Out) and Dr Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (UCL Scandinavian Studies). The event also gave me the opportunity to sign my very first copies of In Bitter Chill. A special moment. It was an excellent event and hopefully will take place again in 2016.
The following week-end was an event hosted by PFD Literary Agents to celebrate the work of writer Georges Simenon. We met the author’s son, John Simenon, who spoke movingly about his father. We were also treated to a short interview with Rowan Atkinson who will be playing Maigret in a future TV series. It should be excellent. The Maigret books are being re-released by Penguin Books with fresh translations. I managed to pick up a few copies at the event and am looking forward to reading them.
Last week-end I continued the classic crime theme with a visit to the Bodies from the Library conference. I’m also a big fan of golden age crime fiction and was an avid reader of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers as a teenager. The panels I saw were fascinating and I particularly enjoyed the presentation on locked-room mysteries. It’s a sub-genre that I’ve never really investigated and I’m determined to read more. Thanks to the organisers for an excellent event. Again, I hope to attend this event next year.
Next week, a special occasion will be taking place. My own launch of In Bitter Chill. I’ll post something on the day but thanks to all readers of Crimepieces for their support over the last few weeks. Reviewing will be back to normal by mid-July, I promise.
It’s been a while since I reviewed a classic crime novel. It’s not that I haven’t been reading them. They’re a very enjoyable distraction especially when I want to read a book over an afternoon. However, I often neglect to review them which is a shame as there are some very good books by authors who are now sadly neglected. One such writer is Pamela Branch whose Murder Every Monday I read recently.
Clifford Flush hasn’t murdered anyone for a long time until one day he pushes a friend into the path of an oncoming bus. The man survives but insists Clifford leaves town. He takes an entourage, all of whom have been acquitted of at least one murder, into the countryside to become homicide consultants, helping people who want to commit murder. All goes well until one of the students is killed in the middle of the course. And there are plenty of suspects to choose from.
The edition that I read was a vintage penguin. The biography of Pamela Branch on the back cover reveals a fascinating life although I can see that she later died in her forties. It’s a shame she isn’t more well-known. Murder Every Monday falls into the humorous crime category but it’s so much more than that. Clifford Flush is a Ripley style figure who is part cold calculated murderer but also keeps a reign on the more extreme members of his team. The victim isn’t given much character development until his death. The focus is on first the motley bunch that constitute the criminals and then on the guests who come to learn how to kill people. Both groups are subtly portrayed. There are degrees of ‘badness’ although no-one is completely without stain.
The humour comes from the watching the characters interact with each other. There are romances, fallings out and murders committed in others’ names. It adds up to a rich melee of murderous fun and I’m definitely going to be reading more of Branch.