Thursday, January 18, 2018

A STRANGER IN MY GRAVE - Margaret Millar

'We were walking along the beach below the cemetery , Prince and I, and suddenly Prince disappeared up the cliff.  I could hear him howling.  I whistled for him but he didn't come.  I went up the path after  him.  He was sitting beside a tombstone.  It had my name on it:
Daisy Fielding Harker.  Born November 13, 1930.  Killed December 2 , 1955...'

This is an exceptional story of broken people living in a seaside Californian town.  Daisy Harker sets out to find the story behind her grave stone because if shes not in it who is?

Its a mystery story and its a chiller.

I'm now of the opinion that Millar writes a better chiller than her husband did and he was superb.  If you see her books in second hand store grab them.

Monday, January 15, 2018


Sir Chrichton Davey is dead.  Under the sleeve of his smoking jacket among thje marks of the cocaine needles, is a red mark like the imprint of painted lips - the deadly Zayat Kiss.  The power of Fu Manchu is far reaching and only his arch enemy, Nayland Smith, and his trusted companion Dr Petrie, can combat this evil genius of the Orient.

Published in 1913 this is the first of thirteen Fu Manchu novels published which ran until the late 1950's.

Here we are introduced to the Holmes and Watson like team ( nowhere near as clever )who go from ingenious murder scene to the next trying to apprehend the 'yellow peril'- Fu Manchu - the Chinese criminal genius.

The story is full of what is soundly racist language in this day and age and would be roundly condemned but it is of its time and once you get over this is a great little adventure tale.

Our daring duo escape time and again in the most spectacular and frankly impossible ways but as  the Irish Time states:  " Good reading and high class escapism".

I've manged to pick up four Omnibus's editions containing twelve of the thirteen novels and I'm looking forward to reading them over the next year.

From the fly leaf : Sax Rohmer was the pen name of Arthur Sarsfield Ward, who was born in Birmingham in 1866 of Irish parents.  For many years he lived in New York.  He worked as a journalist on Fleet Street before he made his name as the creator of the Dr Fu Manchu series.  He died in 1959. (ironically of  ' the Asian 'flu'.)

Friday, January 12, 2018

GAMBIT- Rex Stout

Nero Wolfe is grumpily engaged in burning page by page a reference book of which he disapproves when a young woman comes to offer him $22,000 for his services: the job - to prove the innocence of her father, held by the police for a murder which took place in a chess club, a crime he is all too obviously guilty of committing.

This is a locked room type mystery for Wolfe and side kick Archie Goodwin.  Its not one of the  brilliant ones but its a Stout so you know there will be excellent banter between Wolfe and Goodwin which is always enjoyable.

Even an average Stout is better than most so if you see them pick them up you will never be disappointed.

Stout is an interesting person apart from the 70 odd books he wrote.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

DEATH IN THE STOCKS - Georgette Heyer

Beneath a sky the colour of sapphires and the sinister moonlight, a gentleman in evening dress is discovered slumped in the stocks on the village green- he is dead.  Superintendent Hannasyde's consummate powers of detection and solicitor Giles Carrington's amateur sleuthing are tested to their limits as they grapple with the Vereker family - a group of outrageously eccentric and corrupt suspects.

The above blurb from the back of this book first published in 1935 held out some promise as a decent mystery, sadly not.  We get a very run of the mill murder mystery, pedestrian, and again the only thing that stopped this getting the bin treatment early on is Heyer writes good conversation and can be witty.

But if I want witty I listen to Billy Connolly so Heyer is going to get one more chance and if that's a fail I'm afraid she'll get by-passed on the shelves in future.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

UNNATURAL DEATH - Dorothy L. Sayers

'No sign of foul play' says Dr Carr after the post-mortem on Agatha Dawson.  Thbecase is closed.  But Lord Peter Wimsey is not satisfied..

With no clues to work on, he begins his own investigation.  No clues, that is until the sudden senseless murder of Agatha's maid.

Who the killer is is apparent very early in this novel.  The author doesn't hide the fact because the story is more a 'howdunnit' and a 'whydunnit' rather than the usual 'whodunnit'.

From the Introduction by Minnette Walters:

Two themes predominate.  Casual racism and female homosexuality.  While neither is referred two in those terms, there's no doubting what Sayers was was writing about.  She leaves us with little sense that she any sympathy for the prevailing prejudice against blacks, even though she uses words and phrases that will have modern readers cringing, but her views on lesbians is less clear.  She refers to one partnership in and open, uncritical way while, about another, she uses Miss Climpson to voice what may have been her personal view.  ' I cannot help feeling that it's more natural- more proper, in a sense- for a man and a woman to be all in all to one another than for two persons of the same sex.'

This is a good read, Wimsey isn't too 'silly' and the crimes are multiple and nasty.

Friday, January 5, 2018

A GUN FOR SALE - Graham Greene

By assassinating a foreign Minister of War Raven improves the market for armaments.  He is paid in stolen notes.  Bent on revenge, he traces the parties involved to a Midland city, with the police on his heels.  In this tortuous double hunt the outlaw becomes the weapon of a kind of social justice.

Graham Greene is very rarely read for laughs and here he makes you feel very uncomfortable.  The 'killer' is a product of his environment something that is now being realized in society,this is particularly insightful seeing as this was written in 1936.

As always with Greene there is a sort of redemption for some characters at the end but as a blurb on this edition says: ".... a book which you may put down, but which you will not easily put out of your mind".

Reading Greene is never a waste of time.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

THE MOONSTONE- Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone, a yellow diamond looted from an Indian Temple and believed to bring bad luck to its owner, is bequeathed to Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday.  That very night the priceless stone is stolen again, and when Sergeant Cuff is brought into investigate the crime, he soon realizes that no one in Rachel's household is above suspicion.  Hailed by T.S Elliot as 'the first, the longest, and best of the modern English detective novels', The Moonstone is a marvelously taut and intricate tale of mystery, in which facts and memory can prove treacherous and not everyone is as they first appear.

First published in serial form in 1868 this is outstanding.  Like "The Woman in White", I could not put it down as you want to have the mystery solved.

The story is told in journal form by several of the characters in the book so you get different opinions on events.  The author is honest and the reader is supplied with only the information that the investigators have throughout in solving the mystery.

In Sergeant Cuff we have an eccentric, know all investigator who would have to have been the predecessor of Sherlock Holmes and all in all marvelous writing.

The writing itself is remarkable in that at the time of writing Collins had a excellent opium habit.

This is a 9/10.