No discussion of children’s literature is complete without at least a passing reference to the 14,762 books Enid Blyton wrote in her career. Somehow I’d heard of this one and its implied impossible disappearance, and it seemed perfect for my Tuesday posts in November on precisely this type of book. Generally you know what to expect from Blyton — a poorly-dated whiff of imperialism, comfortable middle-class adventures, ginger beer — but prepare for a bit of a shock: the rigour of the detection in this is something to behold.
You may (but then you you may not) be aware that I’ve started a thing here on The Invisible Event where every three months I pick a work of classic detective fiction and discuss it with another GAD blogger, being entirely unmindful of spoilers so as to really get into the details involved. Well, another is on the way — which book do you think it could possibly be?
100π posts was always going to be a special one for me, and it’s the perfect opportunity to dive into the latest from Anthony Horowitz, a man who in recent years has — thanks to The House of Silk (2011), Moriarty (2014), and Magpie Murders (2016) — become something of a favourite among fans of detective fiction. He spoke at a signing I attended recently about the joy of being able to discover his own voice as a writer (he also wrote an official James Bond novel, with another one imminent), and it’s unsurprising to find him — now that he can have things completely his own way — involved once again in the exploration of structure shown not just in Magpie Murders but also his oft-neglected The Killing Joke (2004).
Tuesdays, themed posts, November = mysteries for younger readers, and Ellen Raskin was a name that appeared in the comments a little while ago promising riddles and word games and puzzles and all sorts of other joys…so what to make of this, her debut novel?
Part of the fun of blogging over the last couple of years is the way it has encouraged me to take on books I may ordinarily not have, a facet of that being my (it must be said, occasional) attempts to find something from the modern era that will satisfy the bloodlust of my fellow impossible crime expert — very much the Holmes to my Lestrade — TomCat. So with one disappointing boat-centric impossibility under my (life)belt this week already, how does this hold up?
I have never quite understood the preoccupation with the Oxford v. Cambridge: Dawn of Justice boat race; it reeks of a class consciousness that belongs in an older, less enlightened time and should, therefore, be a perfect match for my beloved GAD. And so here we are, with Swartwout coxing the 1930 Cambridge crew to victory and so having an insider’s eye that should provide plenty of contemporary interest. And a locked bathroom with a dead body in it, too, the key found on the floor inside once the door is broken in…and this after a discussion about detective fiction and how to go about committing a baffling murder that name-checks Freeman Wills Crofts. Sounds good, right? Well, it isn’t, for quite a lot of reasons. Let’s attempt to explain them.
Each month I’m picking a topic or a theme for my Tuesday posts, and for November — inspired by my recent discovery of The Three Investigators, Robin Stevens, and the excellent Mystery & Mayhemcollection — it’s going to be detective novels for younger readers. I have what I hope will be four very different books lined up, starting with this impossible disappearance.
You are no doubt aware that in recent years the month of November has been cop-opted into a fundraising event known as Movember, in which men grow facial hair to raise money for a variety of causes, including mental health charities. For reasons that will be made plain if you click to read more, this is something I’d like to discuss today; if that doesn’t sound like your kind of thing, feel free to pass this post over and I’ll see you on Tuesday for more of the usual.
After the disappointment of last week, I should dive straight back in to another dense impossibility and to hell with any lingering doubts. But, well, my meretricious moods find me yearning for a little comfort reading, and so it’s back to Doug Selby and the gang. Here we find newly-elected D.A. Selby and Sheriff Rex Brandon contending with obstreperous reporters, influential businessmen, political opportunism, and a host of tangled stories and motives when trying to unpick the riddle of a dead body found bearing a note that states the intention of the possessor to have killed someone else…but no second body to back up the claim. And hold onto your hats, because that’s not the only thing that doesn’t add up.