#252: Your Favourite Bad Solutions…

Bunny facepalm

In the comments of my post on reality and Golden Age Detective fiction from last Saturday, Harry shared his frustration with the solution to Murder on the Marsh (1930) by John Ferguson — it’s very spoilerific, be warned (though it also sounds terrible, so…) — and I in turn recounted a couple of awful solutions to locked room short stories in sympathy.  Because, let’s face it, we’ve all read some stinkers in our time, haven’t we?

Continue reading

#239: Construction, Clarity, Conformity, and the Contortions of Ellery Queen in The French Powder Mystery (1930)

French Powder Mystery

Contrary to what the books may tell us, the father of Ellery Queen, detective, is not Inspector Richard Queen but instead Philo Vance, the dilettante amateur wise-arse detective created by S.S. van Dine.  I’m not claiming this is an original observation — far from it — but reading the second novel to feature the Queens and the first in which Ellery actually solves the case (he has a very small hand in their debut, The Roman Hat Mystery) it’s interesting to realise just how heavily Dannay and Lee were leaning on van Dine at this point of their careers.

Continue reading

#214: The Notion of Commotion, and the Demotion of The Devotion of Suspect X (2005) by Keigo Higashino [trans. Alexander O. Smith & Elye J. Alexander 2012]

51mlxbogcol-_sy344_bo1204203200_

Every so often, a novel is adopted by more mainstream fiction when it is in fact pure genre.  Typically the result of this is that those of use who read the good stuff in our own genre have to put up with a ripple of brouhaha while we’re lectured by the broadsheet darlings as they fall over themselves to recommend something as inventive or ingenious when in fact we’ve read three books more inventive or ingenious in the last month alone (or, worse, phone someone in to explain incorrectly to others who don’t know any better). In SF, say, we’ve recently been subjected to Hugh Howey’s Wool trilogy which is…well, every single cliché you can name and about as awful as you’d expect, but it especially seems to be happening more and more in crime fiction.

Continue reading

#213: On Audacity and How to Prepare for It, via John Russell Fearn’s Thy Arm Alone (1947)

thy-arm-alone

Sometimes someone is so taken with a book that you can’t help but stop and take notice yourself.  So when TomCat was full of praise for this impossible crime, it hopped up my TBR pile with the effortlessness of a mountain goat on an escalator.  I was promised audacity, and I love a bit of authorly audaciousness where an impossible crime is concerned — indeed, the boldness of such schemes as employed in John Dickson Carr’s The Man Who Could not Shudder (1940) or John Saldek’s Invisible Green (1977) make them firm favourites of mine, and if a book of this ilk has chutzpah enough to make TomCat and John Norris sit up and pay attention, then surely you must be onto a good thing.

Continue reading

#205: Is it Necessary to Like an Author in Order to Enjoy Their Work?

splash-heartI don’t read many living authors — not intentionally, it’s just that the current trend of a lot of fiction doesn’t intersect with my tastes very often — and so I’m saved the concern of how they comport themselves on a daily basis and how this impacts my feelings about them.  But following a comment by Dan at The Reader is Warned about a comment made by John Dickson Carr in She Died a Lady (1943), I got to thinking about the above question.

Continue reading

#186: On Daemons’ Roost (2016) and the Sad Decline of Jonathan Creek

jc1

Aware of my fondness for the programme itself and an impossible crime in general, people keep asking me what I thought of the recent Jonathan Creek Christmas special ‘Daemons’ Roost’.  And I keep having to relive it by telling them.  The only sane response is therefore to write it all down here and direct all future enquiries to this post on my blog (which might at least get me some readers…).  I apologise in advance.  This is not going to be pretty.

Continue reading

#179: An Old-Fashioned Mystery (1983) by Runa Fairleigh

old-fashioned-mysteryWriting a decent novel of detection is difficult enough, as evinced by the fact that the form virtually died out by the 1960s, so taking the classic detective story and turning into a pastiche of itself is even harder again — it has to be both a story of crime and detection and a cunning vehicle for transcending the tropes thereof while simultaneously wallowing in them.  Leo Bruce did this near-perfectly in Case for Three Detectives (1936) and a great many luminaries of the form dipped their toe into such conceits with aspects of their books, plots, or characterisation, but for a full-length novel to take this on successfully is something of a challenge that it would be beyond the abilities of most mortals.

Continue reading

#154: Obelists Fly High (1935) by C. Daly King

obelists-fly-highSometimes it can be difficult to know where to start.  C. Daly King’s third detective novel Obelists Fly High is such a time in my life.  Is it good?  No.  Is it terrible?  Yeah, it probably is.  Now I have to explain that, and give examples from the text to back up my opinions, and it should all just fall into place.  But it’s not simply a case of hurling invective at King and his attempts, because in some regards this is very clever — well, no, there’s one development, at the start of the fourth…section (they’re not really chapters) which borders on the very canny indeed.  At the same time, I really did not enjoy reading this; it is hideously overlong, here’s a competent short novella in here at best, but explaining why is going to be like nailing jam to the ceiling.  Ah, well, here goes…

Continue reading

#148: So, Like, What Is an Impossible Crime or a Locked Room Mystery?

locked-room

Recent experiences of reading Darkness at Pemberley by T.H. White and What a Body! by Alan Green  — oh my days, I’ve only just noticed that they’re both named after colours… — have made me wonder on the above question.  See, both are listed here, on a compendium of the best ever locked room mysteries voted on by an international collection of people who know about this stuff, and both are listed here, on a rundown of the favourite locked room mysteries by resident blogosphere expert TomCat…yet personally, in the face of public opinion from such well-informed and respected sources, I’m reluctant to consider either of them as locked room mysteries.  Even taking my famously contrary nature out of the equation…what the hell?

Continue reading