I am immensely chuffed to be able to bring to you today the results of the spoiler-heavy discussion between myself and the erudite and phenomenally knowledgeable Noah Stewart of Noah’s Archives on the topic of Rex Stout’s thirteenth Nero Wolfe novel, And Be a Villain (1948). Hefty spoilers follow, so read on only if you are a) prepared or b) a daredevil badass who takes no truck with your “rules”, man.
Never let it be said that I’m a stubborn man. Well, okay, no, not that so much, but only a short while ago I was owning up to the shame that I’d probably never read this book and yet here I am — following reassurances from no less authorities than Nick Fuller and TomCat — reviewing, and so presumably having read, it. Here’s the heart-in-my-hands moment: Crispin wrote 4½ great books, then a terrible one, then this one, then another terrible one, and this was the only one I’d not read. But it’s bracketed by two books so awful that I’d wipe them out of existence, so my fears were, I feel, well-founded. And you want to know what I thought, right? Were my reservations borne out? Who was right? Ohmygod the tension…well, let’s get into it.
The world tour that is Locked Room International’s newest impossible crime story collection continues, with me picking out stories by their approximate geographical groupings to explore the themes they raise. Previously we’ve had:
A man prone to bouts of lunacy escapes in unusual circumstances from the private sanatorium where he is a resident, and shortly thereafter a series of murders are committed, the left shoe removed from each victim…well, you join the dots. And yet, can it really be that simple? Ordinary GAD rules say no, but this is Rupert Penny, puzzle-maker par excellence, and thus such easy prehension could be both a feint and the actual intended explanation. So Scotland Yard’s Chief-Inspector Edward Beale is dispatched and brings amateur hanger-on Tony Purdon and Sergeant ‘Horsey’ Matthews with him, a crime-solving triumvirate likely to have even Inspector Joseph French quailing jealously at their ability to unpick complex schemes.
And so we return to the multi-national short story impossibility-fest that is The Realm of the Impossible from Locked Room International. Once again, I’m taking a different selection of stories each week by approximate geographical grouping and comparing and contrasting the themes and approaches.
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.
It is understandable that we, as readers, hope for everything we read to be good. However, it is also unlikely that this will be the case, and so sometimes we have to make do with what a book actually offers us. It may not be good, so is it interesting? Does it tell us something new about the era in which it is set or was written? Failing that, is it at least enjoyable? Murder in the Museum (1938), the first of two John Rowland books published as part of the British Library Crime Classics series, is not especially good, but it is a lot of fun. And I’ll take fun. Fun is underrated. I could broadside this for its many flaws and failings, but the truth is I ripped through it, didn’t take it too seriously, and had a great time.
As discussed previously, Tuesdays here on The Invisible Event will now pursue a particular theme each month, and throughout October I shall be looking at the new, multi-national short story collection The Realm of the Impossible (2017) from Locked Room International.
Having recently read The Arabian Nights Murder (1936) by John Dickson Carr, the time seems ripe to rank the first ten of Carr’s novels featuring the gargantuan Dr. Gideon Fell. Why the first 10? Well, we’re a decimal-obsessed society, and I’ve not read the eleventh, so this seems a natural jumping-off point. It’s not technically a top ten, right? It’s a little more interesting than that…right?
In the orchestra of John Dickson Carr’s detective fiction, his early years from It Walks by Night (1930) up to arguably The Arabian Nights Murder (1936) are very much the accordion section. Events occur in concentrated bursts, with clues and characters squeezed together to make the notes of the plot emerge, only to then be drawn apart before inexorably squeezing together again for another dense exposit you must pore over in order to follow the necessary developments. From The Punch and Judy Murders (1936) until the 1940s he wrote in the fine, clean, overlapping lines of the harp, and then the violins took over… but enough of this analogy, back to this book and the wheeze of a bellows working overtime.