Love and bullets – Classic crime in the blogosphere: February 2014

75 years ago, Raymond Chandler published The Big Sleep. To mark this, Killer Covers presented a collection of designs including this one from  Philippa “Pip” Watkins.

75 years ago this month, Raymond Chandler published The Big Sleep. To mark the occasion, Killer Covers presented a collection of designs including my favourite, this 2013 effort from Philippa “Pip” Watkins.

February -a short month, and relatively short on classic crime book reviews – finds itself distinguished by St Valentine’s Day about halfway through. So (it’s like shooting fish in a barrel) I’ve gone with the theme of love and marriage for this month’s round-up.

Sergio at Tipping My Fedora gave me the idea with a review of that charming old romantic James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice:

The narrator is Frank Chambers, a man in his early 20s drifting across depression-era America without plans or ambition who finds a dark kind of purpose when he meets Cora, the wife of Nick “The Greek” Papadakis, owner of a roadside cafe and filling station. Taken on to help run the joint, he and Cora quickly start a passionate affair, one that is described with detail that, for its day, was considered pretty racy (and even just a little bit Gothic/vampiric).

Moving on to Clothes in Books and one of Agatha Christie’s unlikely pairings: the elderly Aristide Leonides and his much younger ex-waitress wife Brenda in Crooked House (what first attracted you to the millionaire Aristide Leonides?):

Poor old Brenda – everyone looks down on her, because she is common and wears too much make-up and her hair is too elaborate. Christie has a go at making her human and real, but even her champion – narrator Charles – gives up on her in the end. She is repeatedly compared to Edith Thompson,* a real person who was executed in 1923 for the murder of her husband, but who was probably innocent. Brenda in the book is the young wife of aging patriarch Aristide Leonides, and when he is murdered she is the obvious suspect.

 'The Mrs Danvers is sweet really cover': Annabel's House of Books collected together a diverse bunch of covers for Rebecca this month

‘The Mrs Danvers is sweet really cover’: Annabel’s House of Books collected together a diverse bunch of covers for du Maurier’s Rebecca this month.

My Reader’s Block covered Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo’s Where There’s Love, There’s Hate (1946), a Golden Age mystery lent interest by its Argentine origins.

Dr. Humberto Huberman, physician, writer, and inveterate busybody, has gone to the Hotel Central at seaside Bosque de Mar for a literary vacation. He is in search of a quiet place to work on his adaptation of Petronius. But instead of peace and quiet, he finds himself in the middle of murder. A pretty, young translator named Mary is found dead on the very first night of his stay–apparently poisoned. There had been ripples of jealousy between Mary and her sister Emilia over Emilia’s fiance. There is also the matter of Mary’s missing jewels.

Nancy at The Crime Segments looked at one of Chandler’s lesser-read novels, The Little Sister, and that weary romantic Marlowe encountering one of the stranger names I’ve ever encountered:

Marlowe is back in #615 Cahuenga “stalking the bluebottle fly” that’s been buzzing around him for a while, when in walks Orfamay Quest, of whom Marlowe notes “nobody ever looked less like Lady Macbeth.” She’s not Marlowe’s usual fare — no make up, and rimless glasses that “gave her that librarian’s look.”

Finally, Margot at Confessions was on hand with one of her excellent thematic overviews: A box of chocolates and a dozen flowers:

It’s traditional to give a box of candy on Valentine’s Day. Now, far be it from me to discourage you from supporting the chocolate industry. Really. I mean it. But chocolate can be very dangerous stuff. Just ask Margaret de Rushbridger, who plays a role in Agatha Christie’s Three Act Tragedy (AKA Murder in Three Acts). She is a patient at a Yorkshire sanitarium run by eminent specialist Dr. Bartholomew Strange. One night, Strange suddenly dies of what turns out to be nicotine poisoning while he’s hosting a dinner party. Not long afterwards, Margaret de Rushbridger suddenly dies too, this time from chocolates poisoned by nicotine. As you might suspect, there is a connection, but not the one you may think. Hercule Poirot is already investigating Strange’s death and an earlier one that may be related. And in the end he links those deaths to that of Margaret de Rushbridger. See? If she’d just left the chocolates alone, she might have been fine.


See also… (and as always, do give me a shout if I’ve missed something)

Annabel’s House of Books

Battered, Tattered, Yellowed and Creased

Beneath the Stains of Time

Bitter Tea and Mystery

Clothes in Books

Col’s Criminal Library

The Consulting Detective

Crime Fiction Lover

The Crime Segments

Daffy DillDavy Crockett’s Almanack of Mystery, Adventure and the Wild West

The Dusty Bookcase

The Game’s Afoot

How Mysterious

Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings

Killer Covers

My Reader’s Block

Mysteries in Paradise

Mystery*File

Only Detect

The Passing Tramp

  • Margery Allingham, Anthony Berkeley, Freeman Wills Crofts, Ronald Knox, Dorothy L. Sayers and Russell Thorndike’s Six Against the Yard (1936)

A Penguin a Week

Pretty Sinister Books

Reading Ellery Queen

At the Scene of the Crime

In Search of the Classic Mystery

Tipping my Fedora

Valerie Holmes, Author

Vanished into Thin Air

Venture Galleries

Vintage Pop Fictions

What are you Reading For?

Wormwoodiana

Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog


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Past Offences by Rich Westwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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10 Responses to Love and bullets – Classic crime in the blogosphere: February 2014

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    Nice round-up (and thanks for the mentions!) I notice that Clothes in Books mentioned Edith Thompson, and one of the best books based on the Thompson/Bywaters case in my view is F. Tennyson Jesse’s “A Pin to see The Peepshow” – highly recommended! And author Beverley Nichols, in his autobiography “Twenty-Five”, has a very poignant chapter on the case.

    • Hi – that’s me, and I read A Pin to See the Peepshow at an impressionable age and became fascinated by the case, and have been ever since. I very much agree – a really excellent book. I wasn’t aware of the Nichols connection: I must look out that book and read it – it was one of the first 10 Penugin books, wasn’t it?

      • kaggsysbookishramblings says:

        It was! I’m a bit of a Nichols freak so somewhat biased, but Twenty Five is a wonderful read – he’s superficially light but with hidden depths, I feel!

  2. Thank you very much for the kind mention, Rich, and you’ve got a great summing-up here!

  3. Thanks for the shoutout Rich, and also thanks as ever for a great roundup, full of books and blogs to follow up on.

  4. John says:

    Thanks for including me and my batch of ridiculously scarce, forgotten books that no one will ever read. Well, the Carter Dickson is a bit easier to find than the others and probably the only one worth reading. And thanks as always for doing this round-up, Rich. Once again a few blogs I’ve never heard have turned up and I ought to check them out.

  5. Thanks for the marvellous roundup Rich – some great stuff out therem, and now it’s much easier to find!

  6. TracyK says:

    I love pursuing all these links. Thanks especially for pointing out the reviews of Raymond Chandler books at The Crime Segments which I would have missed otherwise. And thanks for linking to my post.

  7. Tony Renner says:

    Great roundup. I’ve got a lot of reading to do!

    I wouldn’t mind a mention of my blog, The Locked Room. Five of the six books I covered in February were from the ’30s.

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