The Moving Toyshop (1946) – Edmund Crispin

Poet Richard Cadogan is having a bit of a mid-life crisis, and decides that the best remedy is a trip to Oxford, where he studied at University. He gets the adventure he seeks and more after finding a dead body in an abandoned toyshop and being knocked out. On waking up to find the body missing, he then manages to lose the toyshop as well. Luckily, he knows who to turn to in a bizzare criminal situation: Gervase Fen, the eccentric Oxford don whose…

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Murder’s a Swine (1943) – Nap Lombard

One night early in the Second World War, Agnes Kinghof finds a body outside her block of flats, and her neighbour is disturbed by the appearance of a pig's head at her top-floor window. A mysterious person calling themself the "Pig-sticker" claims credit for both, and what's worse, the killer appears to be living within the block of flats. Agnes and her husband Andrew decide it would be a lot of fun to investigate, and they have to face down a prank war, cursed…

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Suddenly at His Residence (1946) – Christianna Brand

Sir Richard March "invites" his grandchildren back to his mansion Swanswater, where he lives with his second wife, Bella. At this time every year the family must gather to perform a memorial ritual on the anniversary of his first wife Serafita's death. But this year, with bombs falling in London and Kent, and an affair in the offing between cousins, Sir Richard retreats to the lodge house for the night threatening to cut his grandchildren out of the will. The next morning, he is…

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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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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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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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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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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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