We’ve all done it — in the excitement of finally stumbling across a novel by an author we’ve heard a lot about (or maybe heard nothing about, if you’re feeling adventurous) you snap up a book, take it home…and it lingers and lingers on your TBR, staring at you every time you go near your bookshelves to pick something out. The guilt of its unread-ness builds inside of you, but the inclination to actually open it and read it never quite matches the initial rush of blood to the head that saw you buy it in the first place.
So, in the spirit of assuaging guilt that has now built to titanic levels, here alphabetically by author are five novels of Golden Age detection on my TBR that — in my heart of hearts — I honestly don’t think I’ll ever read.
The Widow’s Cruise (1959) by Nicholas Blake
I can’t even remember who recommended this as a Blake novel I would likely enjoy, but I’ve had it for a while now. And every time I see someone write about what a wonderful book The Case of the Abominable Snowman (1941) is I remember the stultifying awfulness of that dread prose, those dry characters, the non-existent plot, the meagre scrapings of incident and interest, and the agita that takes hold of me at the slightest risk of being exposed to anything that cloth-eared and ham-fisted ever again. If that’s quality in Blake’s output, I’ll happily go without his version of quality.
The Secret of High Eldersham (1931) by Miles Burton
I’m not even sure why I’m so unmoved by this one. I’ve read two strong and one terrible Burtons and he’s an author I have some interest in — the forthcoming Death at Breakfast (1936) and Invisible Weapons (1939) reissues, for instance — but it turns out to have its limits. This is something to do with a small village and people staying at a pub and it’ll probably turn out to be drug smuggling because it’s set in 1931 when we used to believe that marijuana would turn you into a crazed killer. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s amazing and has the most original Macguffin ever, but I doubt it. Maybe time will tell, but I doubt it.
The Long Divorce (1951) by Edmund Crispin
I recently discovered, much to my surprise, that I haven’t actually read this. I’d conflated elements of the books that buffer this one — Frequent Hearses (1950) and The Glimpses of the Moon (1977) — and made up a plot all of my own. Still, those two are terrible, and I’d prefer to remember Crispin for the wholesale barminess of The Moving Toyshop (1946) or the archness that went wildly awry following Love Lies Bleeding (1948). Apparently this one has a cat that talks to Martians or something. Zoinks, Scoob, what will those crazy folks think up next?! A female alphabet? Soup you can warm up in your slippers? Yeah, no, I’m good. Delusion is fine and dandy when it comes to your literary heroes.
Death on the Aisle (1942) by Frances and Richard Lockridge
This is a Mr. & Mrs. North book I picked up before I read the first in the series, The Norths Meet Murder (1940) and experienced Pam North’s character trait of hilariously going off on tangents and so never saying what she means directly. It’s so hilarious. Like when she’s asked about a murder and starts talking about spam or soap or a vicar she knew when she was seven. Hilarious. It’s not at all a lazy approximation of the traits exhibited with far greater sharpness in characters like Jane Marple where genuine talent for insight is required. Nope, this is it’s own hilariously hilarious thing. And it’s too hilarious to risk reading another book with it in. I might re-aggravate my hernia, and all the laughing would doubtless infuriate my neighbours.
The Chinese Chop (1949) by Juanita Sheridan
I actually feel a little bit bad admitting this one, as on paper there’s a lot that should intrigue me: a female sleuth of non-typical origin (I believe she’s Hawaiian), a family score to settle, the whole cross-cultural relationship that provides an eye on some aspects of racial difficulties and tensions at a time when confronting such things — especially in so frivolous an undertaking as a mere crime novel — was probably a taboo of sorts. Yup, I should lap this up. But I get the impression that it’ll spend ages setting up the central relationship and then throw in a lazy killer (or something) at the end of a not very interesting plot. It strikes me, correctly or otherwise, as a book I can miss out without missing out.
Well, there they sit, and now you know. And I know I’m not the only one. C’mon, out with it…