#265: The Big ‘Fore!’ – Classic GAD Allusions in Stableford on Golf (2010) by Rob Reef [trans. Alan Gross 2013]

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What the hell?  This blog — preserve of the expired author, occupying as it does a dusty corner of the interwebs free from contemporary scrutiny — has now featured two living authors on consecutive weekends.  Clearly I’m courting popularity.  Next thing you know, there’ll be a guest post by Ed Sheeran [please note: I have no reason to believe a guest post by Ed Sheeran to be forthcoming].  And this one isn’t even an impossible crime.  Where does this road lead?  Rave reviews of Cozy Baking Mysteries?  Who even am I any more?

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#262: The Duke of York’s Steps (1929) by Henry Wade

Duke of York's StepsLast week, I was moved to reflect upon the end of the archetypal Golden Age detective novel, and this week I’m moved to reflect on its beginning.  The essential ludic air at the heart of the best of the genre is not quite there in The Duke of York’s Steps, but one can feel the inalienable ingredients of the form straggling into line to give shape to a story that retains fidelity to a type of plot that, at this stage, was understood if not quite mastered.  If anything, the mystery feels almost over-subtle — like Antidote to Venom, it seems a trifle unlikely that such a set of circumstances as these would come to warrant criminal investigation — and so approximately the first quarter is spent trying to manufacture the necessary traction for the detection to begin in earnest.

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#260: Wilders Walk Away (1948) by Herbert Brean

wilders2bwalk2baway2b1At some point between 1940 and 1960, puzzle-oriented detective fiction began an inexorable shift into what has now become know as crime fiction, wherein plot machinations took a back seat and character, setting, and ambience became more prevalent.  Where detective fiction was mostly interested in the fiendish puzzle, crime fiction was more about the challenge to the status quo, and the effect this has on the people involved.  And Wilders Walk Away, Herbert Brean’s debut novel, might just be the perfect peak between the two, because I do not remember having read a puzzle that was so intricately invested in the status quo.  What emerges is necessarily a little confused about what it wants to be.

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#256: Catastrophic Protagonist Failure in Too Many Ghosts (1959) and The Hand of Mary Constable (1964) by Paul Gallico

Gallico

A little while ago, while secondhand bookshop haunting as is my wont, I stumbled upon a copy of Paul Gallico’s The Hand of Mary Constable (1964) — a book I have recommended here before for the brilliant way it shows up the tricks of the séance through a combination of perspicuous writing and trusting its readers’ intelligence.  My copy was a rat-eared, much-abused paperback and this was a lovely hardcover for a very reasonable price…and yet I vacillated for some time (like, a few weeks) before buying it.

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#255: Abridged Too Far? Comparing Texts of The Unicorn Murders (1935) by Carter Dickson

Unicorn Murders

Among my at-times multiple versions of various John Dickson Carr titles, I  have four Mercury Mystery editions like the one shown on the left above — The Plague Court Murders (1934), The Red Widow Murders (1935), The Unicorn Murders (1935), and The Department of Queer Complaints (1940) — which are of additional interest to me since the novels are all abridgements.  So, having just read the unedited text of The Unicorn Murders, I thought it might be interesting to see what was excised from this abridged version.

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#254: The Unicorn Murders (1935) by Carter Dickson

unicornmurdersWhen a man is found dead, stabbed between the eyes by a unicorn (of indeterminate nationality) — a, yes, fictional animal that can nevertheless apparently turn invisible at will — you don’t expect to find yourself in the GADU.  And when a second victim is then killed in the same way but in full view of witnesses, if one can witness an invisible animal, you better hope you’re in the GADU or else things are about to get silly.  Well, it’s your lucky day, because you are in a classic impossible crime mystery and things are about to get silly — this book is probably the final time John Dickson Carr had all the ingredients for a classic and didn’t actually write it, instead leaving a few edges untouched so that the overriding impression is slightly more “Er…what?” than “Hell, yeah!”.

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#247: The Sister Ursula Stories of Anthony Boucher (1943-45)

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Having worked my way through Anthony Boucher’s short stories featuring the alcoholic yet still razor-sharp ex-cop Nick Noble, I’m now onto the second section of his collected short stories, comprising those featuring crime-solving nun Sister Mary Ursula of the Order of Martha of Bethany from Boucher’s locked room novels Nine Times Nine (1940) and Rocket to the Morgue (1942).

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#245: Death Has Many Doors (1951) by Fredric Brown

Death Has Many Doors 1stYou know the score: a tough-guy PI in a business slump, sitting in his office typing out a letter using one finger (real men don’t type), when in walks a knockout redhead with “everything that should go with red hair”.  She needs his help, he’s her last chance.  Well of course, sweets, what seems to be the problem?  She’s being hunted, y’see, someone wants to kill her.  Calm down, baby doll what’s his name?  Well, that’s the problem; she’s being hunted by…Martians.  It’s a lovely little moment of confounded expectations early on in Brown’s pulpy tale and sets the tone for the number of conventions he refuses to conform to as things progress.  And, since he’s far from smug about it, it works very well indeed.

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#244: A Little Help for My Friends – Finding a Modern Locked Room Mystery for TomCat Attempt #1: Murder in the Oval Office (1989) by Elliott Roosevelt

Murder in the Oval Office

When I first realised that impossible crime fiction was a thing — oh, happy day! — I did an internet search and came up with two priceless resources: this variety of lists on Mystery*File with an excellent introduction by John Pugmire (who went to form Locked Room International) and this list of recommended books from locked room conoisseur TomCat.

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#240: Tour de Force (1955) by Christianna Brand

Tour de ForceI was pretty much goaded into this, you should know.  Ben at The Green Capsule is diversifying his blogging to extend beyond the works of John Dickson Carr, and the first book he chose was Christianna Brand’s Green for Danger.  In the comments, conversation turned to other Brand titles and Brad had the temerity to doubt my fortitude: I don’t think JJ should read Tour de Force either. I couldn’t bear to think what he would make of it!  Well, challenge accepted.  Now, true, Brand and I didn’t get off to the best of starts — Green for Danger made her very much the new stepmother trying too hard to replace Agatha Christie in my affections — but we’ve had some great times since then, and so I came to this with an open mind.

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