#212: The Conjure-Man Dies (1932) by Rudolph Fisher

conjure-man-diesI was quite excited when I discovered that this sole mystery novel from Rudolph Fisher was to be republished under the revived Detective Club imprint.  To my understanding it had impossible crime overtones with a vanishing body, and GAD fiction doesn’t exactly offer up a swathe of BAME authors, so this account of 1930s Harlem promised to fulfil all sorts of fascinating niches — not least how a black author would represent the experience of being a black man in America when times were not as enlightened as we hope them to be now.  But, first things first, yes we do get an impossibly-vanishing body, provided by a Red Widow Murders-esque “How could he be talking if he was dead?” impossible murder for which there was no time in which it could have been committed; so do we have a classic on our hands?

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#204: “I’m afraid, you know, one does enjoy a bit of malice now and then…” – Yearning for the Golden Age in Agatha Christie’s By the Pricking of My Thumbs (1968)

And so I enter the final decalogue of Agatha Christie’s works — from here to Miss Marple’s Final Cases (1979) — with a return visit to Thomas ‘Tommy’ Beresford and his wife Prudence, known (for reasons I genuinely cannot recall; someone will doubtless enlighten me in the comments) as Tuppence.  The Beresfords are unique in Christie canon in that they are the only repeating characters who seem to age in real time, and in doing so they provide an overview of Dame Agatha’s writing career in just a handful of books.

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#193: Sailor, Take Warning! (1944) by Kelley Roos

sailor-take-warningSometimes you just have to bite a bullet: following the exceptionally sad loss of the Rue Morgue Press, this is the final Jeff and Haila Troy novel currently available, but, well, let’s enjoy it, eh?  Audrey and William Roos did such a great job with so many aspects of the writing in these first four books — the dialogue is genuinely funny, the plots mostly move at a great pace, the mysteries are intriguing, and third book The Frightened Stiff is a genuine genre classic for all time — that we shouldn’t get too weighed down with lamenting their unavailability.  Common sense will prevail, they’re too good to let go out of print for any length of time, and this won’t be the last we see of the Troys.  Right?

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#190: A Smell of Smoke (1959) by Miles Burton

smell-of-smokeOver the summer, I read certain sections of Masters of the Humdrum Mystery by the blogosphere’s very own Passing Tramp, Curtis EvansCertain sections because, to be perfectly honest, Curtis has done an amazing job in analysing so much of the work of J.J. Connington, Freeman Wills Crofts, and John Rhode/Miles Burton that it’s clear I need to do a lot more reading to get the most out of what he has written.  Upon (in fact, while) reading A Smell of Smoke I went back to see what insight Curtis could offer to explore Street’s motivations or intentions, but there is no mention of it at all; no fault of his, as Street published over 130 novels under his two most famous pseudonyms, but I suspect I know why it doesn’t get a mention: it isn’t very good at all.

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#161: Hawk & Fisher (1990) by Simon R. Green

hawk-fisherAs a parody of the detective novel, the maverick cop genre, and the low Fantasy genre, Simon R. Green’s Hawk & Fisher takes quite some beating — it is an honestly hilarious take on the tropes of three.  I don’t think I’ve laughed so much since reading…well, possibly anything; almost every page contains some wonderful joke or savage undercutting of the false sincerity of the situations encountered, not unlike William Goldman’s timeless The Princess Bride.  For instance, Hawk is supposedly an expert in hand-to-hand combat with an axe, but he has only one functioning eye and therefore must lack any depth perception; it’s an absolutely genius piece of subversion, and such examples are rife.  The only problem is that I have a sneaking suspicion — only a sneaking one, mind — that this book is in fact supposed to be taken seriously.  Very Seriously Indeed.

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#122: Broken Bottles and Bloodspots: A guest post by Matt Ingwalson

Owl and Raccon #1 and #2

Author photo: Chris Sessions

The Owl and Raccoon novellas of Matt Ingwalson update the impossible crime to a modern setting and, as I have said previously, are hugely recommended reading for anyone with an interest in a good story convincingly told.  Ahead of the publication of the third story, Not With a Bang, I asked Matt if he would be willing to oblige us with an insight into his writing and he very kindly offered the following.

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#117: The Tuesday Night Bloggers – The Underwhelming Origins of Ellery Queen in The Roman Hat Mystery (1929)

TNBs Poison

General summer unavailability is resulting in the Tuesday Night Bloggers having August off (that’s what they’ve told me, anyway…) and so this final week of ‘Poison’ posts is an opportunity to right a wrong and launch on a new undertaking in my reading life.  In short, to restart the Ellery Queen canon — all 40 (by my count) novels that had input from Dannay and/or Lee — from the very beginning, starting here with their first novel, the poisoning tale The Roman Hat Mystery.

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