Wednesday, May 30, 2018

PANIC IN BOX C - John Dickson Carr

While sailing to America on board the RMS Illyria, Dr Gideon Fell meets some exceptional passengers, among them the celebrated actress, Margery Vane, who sees a ghost and narrowly misses a .45 bullet.

Why is this desirable woman surrounded by fear and hate?  The question remains unanswered until Dr Fell and his shipboard companions are summoned to attend a rehearsal at the Margery Vane Theater in Connecticut.  Once there, ancient weapons, in furious tempo, provide the stratagems of modern murder.

This is a late career book, (published in 1966), by the master of the "locked room" murder and the explanation is a bit of a stretch compared with his earlier works, but he is the best at this type of story and his plots are clever.

What sets Carr apart from others is the detail and the stories are well written.  This is not his best but it'sa solid read.

Sunday, May 27, 2018


Gervase Fen was standing for Parliament when he went to a village with the charming name of Sanford Angelorum.  The election campaign was exciting enough, but Fen found himself in the midst of the Scotland Yard investigation of a poisoning case, with even more mysterious happenings taking place.

This without Crispin's humour would be run of the mill but his asides keep a smile on your face while the murder is being solved.

This series comes highly recommended if you like the genre.  They are a good light read perfect for winter weekends

Thursday, May 24, 2018

COLONEL SUN - Robert Markham

I read this when I was about 14, what possessed me to read it again at 57 is beyond me.  Robert Markham is a pseudonym used by Kingsley Amis -what possessed him to write it is beyond me.

I love the Bond books but this is not remotely like anything Fleming would have written.  After reading it you can see why many thought Amis actually finished 'The Man With the Golden Gun' which is similar rubbish to this.

Anyway this is about a villain who kidnaps 'M' and wants to do bad things.

John Gardner wrote several Bond books after this and they are worth a wet Sunday, this isn't.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

DEATH IN COVERT - Colin Willock

When Sir Peregrine Piers decided to open his stately home to the public, Regency Rakes Ltd was formed to promote it.  Spectacular stunts were planned, a regency rout and hunting supper, and a midnight steeplechase.  Nathaniel Goss, magazine publisher and amateur detective, took a lively interest in regency Rakes, the more so as he had recently joined a shooting syndicate whose terrain bordered on Sir Peregrine's land.  Th syndicate is composed of some oddly assorted characters, among them the odious Dyson and the gruff Blaze, and headed by the immaculate Archie Crumbe-Howard.  Dyson meets a sticky end in a particular nasty shooting accident- or was it by design?  Domestic strife become rife, the keeper's unmarried daughter is alleged to be pregnant, and suspicion piles upon suspicion.

The only complaint regarding this solid mystery is that the author was a mad keen shooter so the reader is subjected to the miniature of several days shooting interspersed with a bit of mystery solving.  Some of the shooting stuff is interesting but in reality 30 pages could have been culled without any loss to the plot.

A diverse bunch of people are suspect and the unveiling of the villain, while not a surprise shows good reasoning as to why.  Solid, originally published in 1961.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

THE LONG DIVORCE - Edmund Crispin

The village of Cotten Abbas was prosperous, but not from rural activities -  it was inhabited by a small well-to-do middle class population and the tradesmen who served them.  But it had an unpleasant problem - many of the people had been receiving anonymous letters, which either revealed that the sender knew their secrets or were merely filled with obscene abuse.  Professor Gervase Fen visited the village in the guise of Mr Datchery to investigate the mystery, and quickly made the acquaintance of a foreign school master and his admiring girlfriend.  Events developed quickly, and what with suicide and murder the doctors, the police and the scandalmongers are all kept busy.

This doesn't have the humour of the other Crispins I've read but then again Fen hardly plays a part in the story with the majority of the novel concentrating on members of the village.  Fen basically turns up at the end and reveals "all".

Despite not being as good as other Fen stories this is worth reading, the reasoning behind the events is very very nasty and shows again what a lovely bunch us humans are.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

THE DEADLY JOKER - Nicholas Blake

Netherplash Cantorum in Dorset was the village John Waterson and his young wife chose to live in after retirement.

This idyllic spot had one severe but unforeseeable drawback: among its inhabitants was a practical joker whose fertile mind ran to the bizarre and grotesque.  The village was no place for a quiet retirement, or for a gentle recuperation from the nervous breakdown that had afflicted Waterson's wife.  In Netherplash Cantorum you couldn't tell what was going to happen next.  Extraordinary events tripped over each other. Maybe it was just good fun - or fairly good fun, except that it became less and less funny, and eventually someone died hideously and painfully of it.

This is the second time I've read this which is unusual for a mystery but this is worth it. 

The book is full of wonderfully snobby characters with our our hero qualifying to stick his nose in as the solver of all that ails the village due to the fact that he is been awarded a fellowship to his Oxford College.  This is understandable as Nicholas Blake is the pseudonym of Cecil Day-Lewis, Poet Laureate and father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis.

A good mystery full of all the little weakness's that make us human.

Saturday, May 12, 2018


Famous solo violinist Lucy Carless is making a guest appearance with the provincial Markshire Orchestra, only to be found strangled with a silk stocking partway through the concert.  Everyone in the orchestra has access to the scene of the crime. and the police officer in charge, Inspector Trimble, has no idea where to start.  Luckily , retired barrister and amateur detective Francis Pettigrew has been acting as honorary treasurer to the Markshire Orchestral Society, and soon finds himself involved in the investigation.

Cyril Hare was the pseudonym for lawyer and judge Alfred Clark and had this great wee yarn published in 1949.

Numerous red herrings throughout as there is a cast of dozens but the motive is a good one and kept this interesting until the end.

Worth tracking this series down.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


On a train travelling across Europe a young English woman talks to an old lady in the restaurant car.  Later when the girl goes in search of her companion, everyone in the compartment denies that the old lady existed.  Was their meeting a figment of the young girl's imagination or was there  some more sinister explanation?

This is a genuinely exciting little thriller with circumstances making our hero doubt her sanity as she struggles to find out what has happened.

This was originally titled "The Wheel Spins" but every edition since Hitchcock made the book into a movie in 1938 it has carried this title.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

COP TO CORPSE - Peter Lovesey

P.C. Harry Trasker is the third policeman in the Bath area to be shot dead in less than twelve weeks.  The assassinations are the work of a sniper who seems to be everywhere and nowhere at once, always a step ahead.  The younger detectives do their best with what little evidence he leaves, but they're no match for this murderer and his agenda.

When Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond is assigned to the case , he consults the dead officers' widows and begins to find curious connections.

This is very run of the mill mystery written in what I assume is meant to be an urban gritty real life style.  What we get is a story with mind boggling incompetent police and one of the more rubbish endings I've come across in this genre.  Don't bother.

Lastly this is a "Soho Crime" edition from Soho Press.  This company appears to specialize in spectacularly  ordinary sleeve work.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

FLOWERS FOR THE JUDGE - Margery Allingham

The ancient publishing firm of Barnabas was a well established and inherently conservative firm, and not even the disappearance of one of the directors in the early years of the century had upset the settled order of things. Yet, it was certainly disconcerting when some twenty years later the same thing happened again.  At first nobody thought it fit to enquire what happened.  Paul was such a violent and impulsive person, he had been known to do odd things before.  Gina, Paul's pretty American wife, was too used to her husbands behaviour, whilst Mike, the youngest partner and in love with Gina, tried hard not to think about it at all.  A few mornings after Paul's disappearance he was found dead in the firm's strong room.  Not even the presence of Albert Campion, friend of the family, could overcome the unpleasantness that ensued and the fearful persistence of the police who established that Paul had been murdered.

This started out very ordinarily and it looked like it was  going to be a run of the mill 'locked room' murder mystery with a very limited cast of characters but its a slow burn and at the halfway stage it kicks into life and become genuinely clever.

Allingham as always has Campion's man , Lugg, along to add some levity to proceedings.

A good read out of 1936.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

BEAST IN VIEW - Margaret Miller

At thirty, Helen Clarvoe is alone, her only visitors are the staff at the hotel where she lives, and her only phone calls come from a stranger.  A stranger whose quiet, compelling voice lures the aloof and financially secure Miss Clarvoe into a world of extortion, pornography, vengeance, madness and murder.

This is a wonderful thriller and reading it I understand why its including in  'top 100' type lists.  This is so dark it makes Patricia Highsmith's writing look like P G Wodehouse.

When I say there's not a nice character in the book it's not quite true, just 99.9% are wonderfully flawed humans.

This is great. Margaret Miller was a Canadian who was the wife of Kenneth Miller, who wrote under the name Ross MacDonald and he was very very useful but for going dark places Miller wins with daylight second.