Miss Pym Disposes (1946) – Josephine Tey

The unexpected success of her pop-psychology book has made former French teacher Lucy Pym London's latest literary celebrity. When she receives a lecture invitation from her old friend Henrietta - now headmistress of Leys Physical Training College - Miss Pym eagerly accepts. She expects to stay for just a single night - but after the students win her over, she extends her stay - for just a few days… then a few weeks.At first, life in the college seems idyllic (especially for Lucy Pym,…

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Christie For Christmas! The Thirteen Problems

It's Christmas! Well, it was Christmas. Reviews are like Christmas cards - better late than never. I hope that all of you have a great New Year.I thought it was high time to cover an Agatha Christie on this blog - and given I love short stories, this was the first thing I turned to. I should mention that, between Poirot and Miss Marple, my favourite is the spinster sleuth of St. Mary Mead. These thirteen stories mark the debut of Miss Marple, before…

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Death on the Riviera – John Bude (1952)

Detective-Inspector Meredith and Sergeant Strang are heading to the French Riviera to assist in breaking up a currency counterfeiting ring, and bring at least one of its members back to England with them. Along with their French colleagues Blampignon and Gibaud, they quickly pick up a trail that leads to the Villa Paloma, where rich widow Nesta Hedderwick lives with her niece Dilys, her companion Miss Pillgrew, the gigolo-esque Tony, his friend Kitty, and the artist Paul Latour. They're soon joined by Bill Dillon,…

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Fear For Miss Betony – Dorothy Bowers (1941)

Former governess Emma Betony is interrupted in her attempt to join a retirement community for gentlewomen by a letter from one of her former charges, Grace Aram. Miss Betony used to regale Grace with exotic tales of her aunt, Mary Shagreen, which provided a bright spot in her childhood. Grace now runs a small school which has been evacuated to a former nursing home in the countryside - though two of the patients still live on the site. Grace begs Miss Betony for help;…

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Mr. Splitfoot – Helen McCloy (1968)

Fifteen year old Lucinda's parents Francis and Folly are hosting a dinner party at their mansion high in the Catskill Mountains; the invited guests are Francis' literary agent David Crowe and his wife Serena, and the head of the publishing house Bradford Alcott and his wife Ginevra. Resentful of the adults - particularly her stepmother Folly - Lucinda plots with her friend Vanya to scare them with a supernatural manifestation of "Mr Splitfoot". But things don't quite go to plan. First, Dr. Basil Willing…

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The Honjin Murders – Seishi Yokomizo (1947 trans. 2019 Louise Heal Kawai)

The wedding between Kenzo, the eldest son of the proud Ichiyanagi family, and Katsuko, the daughter of a fruit farmer made good, goes ahead despite the objections of Kenzo's family. But the silence of a snow-filled night is broken by screams, and the wild strumming of a koto. When the relatives investigate the annex where the newlyweds are staying, they find it locked. Outside, in the snow, lies a katana but no footprints. Inside lie the bodies of the couple, "soaked in the crimson…

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John Dickson Carr: A Critical Study (1990) – S. T. Joshi

Books are wonderful - so what could be better than a book? A book about books, of course!After I saw John Dickson Carr: A Critical Study book mentioned both in Douglas Greene's biography of Carr and on Tangled Yarns, I felt I had to check it out.Douglas Greene described it as "filled with insights about Carr's writing and attitudes", and I have to say, it met my expectations! There are some great insights here, and it's extremely quotable. Only on one occasion did I…

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Castle Skull (1931) – John Dickson Carr

Castle Skull was once owned by the monstrous magician Maleger, and then, on Maleger's mysterious death, by the famed actor Myron Alison. A peaceful night at Myron's home across the river is disturbed by the sound of screams. The house-guests look up to see a burning body dancing on the battlements of the castle - as Myron spends his final moments in agony. Summoned by financier Jérôme D'Aunay to investigate, Henri Bencolin and Jeff Marle soon find themselves in collaboration - or perhaps in…

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The Postscript Murders (2020) – Elly Griffiths

As a Golden Age of Detection fanatic, me reviewing a modern crime novel is a bit like a velociraptor reviewing an iPhone. But Elly Griffiths' The Postscript Murders has a stronger than usual connection to the Golden Age.The story starts with the death of Peggy Smith, ninety-year-old resident of the Seaview Apartments in Shoreham on Sea. Her carer, Natalka, thinks she was murdered, and through force of personality manages to convince DS Harbinder Kaur, Peggy's neighbour Edwin, and the owner of a local cafe,…

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Untimely Death (1958) – Cyril Hare

In last week's The Turquoise Shop, the first body had been found shortly before the book begins. In Untimely Death (first published as He Should Have Died Hereafter), you could say the first corpse turned up decades before. The first half of the book takes place entirely in the Exmoor area, where the Francis and Eleanor Pettigrew have decided to stay for their holiday. For Francis, the location holds many vivid memories of time spent there in childhood. We are allowed time to get…

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The Turquoise Shop (1941) – Frances Crane

Frances Crane is a new author to me. She lived for a time in Taos, New Mexico, an artist colony managed by Mabel Dodge Luhan, which hosted many eminent artists and writers. The setting for this book - and perhaps some of its characters - are based on her time in Taos. After writing this, Crane went on to write 25 more books in the series, featuring the narrator and detective from this book. By anyone's estimation, that's a successful detective fiction career -…

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The Short Career of Montague Egg (1933-1939) – Dorothy L. Sayers

In addition to Lord Peter Wimsey, Dorothy L. Sayers also had a much less well-known regular detective. Unlike Lord Peter, Montague Egg is a working man; a "commercial traveller" for Messrs. Plummet and Rose, Wine Merchants. Though still mingling with the well-off due to his job, Egg exists in a very different mileu to Wimsey. Less butlers, spying, and dressing up as a wizard, and more suspicious travellers, awful pub dinners, and money-saving train dodges. The down-to-earth nature of the stories leads to them…

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The Beginning of Bencolin – John Dickson Carr’s short stories in The Haverfordian

After finishing The Lost Gallows I wanted to go back to the short stories that featured Henri Bencolin and Sir John Landervorne. I've also been pretty busy, so I thought a review of the four stories would be a nice quick way to get back into posting. Things did not work out that way… These stories were among Carr's first detective stories, and they were published in Carr's college magazine The Haverfordian between 1926 and 1928, when Carr was in his early twenties. By…

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The Lost Gallows (1931) – John Dickson Carr

A limousine joyrides through the fogbound streets of London with a corpse at the wheel. The shadow of a gallows is seen on an unknown street. Nezam al Moulk receives threatening packages delivered directly to his room even though no one could have entered.Ten years ago a duel was fought in Paris - and now the mysterious hangman Jack Ketch wants revenge. Will he drag his victims to Ruination Street, or can Henri Bencolin stop him before it's too late? Henri Bencolin and Jeff…

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Death at the Bar (1940) – Ngaio Marsh

Ngaio Marsh has long been considered one of the "Queens of Crime", a leading author in the fair-play detective tradition of the inter-war years. You just have to look at the laudatory comments covering my reprint edition to see her reputation - "She writes better than Christie", "Among the Queens of Crime she stands out as an Empress", and so on. Reactions I've seen on classic crime fiction blogs have been… less positive. However, this is my first time reading a Marsh book, so…

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The Red Locked Room – Tetsuya Ayukawa (2020, trans. Ho-Ling Wong)

Tesuya Ayukawa was, as the introduction to this collection says, the foremost proponent in his time of the honkaku, or "orthodox" mystery story. These puzzle-centric mysteries were the inspiration for the later stories by Yukito Ayastuji and Taku Ashibe (who wrote the introduction). In fact Ayukawa lived to see the shin honkaku ("new orthodox") movement begin, and also helped many younger writers make their start. This selection of short stories - his best ones, apparently - features two very different detectives. First is the…

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It Walks By Night (1930) – John Dickson Carr

John Dickson Carr is a pretty special author to me. He was the first Classic Crime author I really got into after the obvious Agatha Christie, and discovering the joys of a good Carr or Carter Dickson is what made me want to explore more to see what else was out there. I've already read a lot of his books, but I want to share my enjoyment of them by re-reading them and writing reviews. I've decided to start at the beginning for now,…

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The Thin Man (1934 movie)

Shortly after the release of Dashiell Hammet's 1934 novel The Thin Man, a movie was produced based on the novel. It was directed by W. S. Van Dyke and the screenplay was written by married couple Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, who were instructed to focus on the witty exchanges between Nick and Nora Charles. The film is just barely from the pre- Hays Code era. I don't know if that code had any instruction about drinking, because the movie characters do a great…

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Lord Peter Views the Body (1928) – Dorothy L. Sayers

This first collection of Dorothy L. Sayers' short stories was published in 1928, after a few Lord Peter Wimsey novels had already been published. The stories range from tales of detection, through tales of puzzle-solving, and into tales of adventure. Aside from all sharing the trait of ridiculously long titles, quite a few of them are what I'll call "hobby-themed"; they turn on a particular interest. Generally this is a high-culture or high-class interest. Lord Peter resolves the plot through his specialist knowledge of…

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The Thin Man (1934) – Dashiell Hammett

Ex- private detective Nick Charles returns to New York with his wife Nora (and dog Asta) for what he thinks will be a brief Christmas holiday, and a chance to catch up with old friends. When he bumps into Dorothy Wynant, daughter of Nick's old client Clyde Wynant, she asks him to track down her father, the titular Thin Man. Nick does his best to avoid getting pulled back into detecting. But the murder of Clyde Wynant's secretary Julia Wolf drags Nick further and…

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