This is my second month of my monthly ‘best of the blogs’ devoted to classic crime, and my task has been complicated by two factors:
1. I forgot to make notes as I went along.
2. The crime ‘zine Crime Fiction Lover devoted the entire month to classic crime, effectively flooding the market.
Sergio at Tipping My Fedora kicked off the month with an entry in the Friday’s Forgotten Book meme: One for the Road by Fredric Brown.
One for the Road has its amusing moments and the slender plot is perfectly serviceable but can’t disguise what is clearly a minor work by a quirky writer of great accomplishment.
Sergio also wrote up 1952’s Queen in Danger, the first in the Hugo Bishop series of chess-themed mysteries by Adam Hall alias Simon Rattray:
Bishop is quite young, swans around in a 1920 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, larks around playing marbles with his Siamese cat and cultivates an air of frivolity and facetiousness more in the style of Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion. He loves chess and tends to plot his investigation like tactics on a board – in fact the book is not subdivided into chapters but into “moves”.
Next, Sergio also reviewed the 1953 film of Queen in Danger, Mantrap.
The prolific Margot Kinberg contributed a post on one of her favourites – Agatha Christie’s famous Belgian Hercule Poirot – as her entry for ‘P’ in the Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme.
One of the interesting things about Poirot is that he knows he’s conceited. He doesn’t understand why he shouldn’t embrace the fact that he’s brilliant when it comes to solving crimes. To him, calling himself a truly great detective is simply stating a fact, much like stating that he is Belgian.
For a short period in the early to mid 1930s there were, in the eyes of a number of mystery critics and readers of the time, two reigning monarchs of American classical detective fiction, Ellery Queen and Rufus King. If Ellery Queen’s reputation has faded (most unjustly) among the mystery masses, Rufus King’s has vanished into air.
Next, Curtis reviewed a fourth book by King, the truly odd Murder Room No. 13:
And then there’s Earl’s little hobby, which no one in the town but [new wife] Lily seems to find really rather disconcertingly odd. It seems Earl Rumney “collects” rooms where murders have taken place. He’s just installed room number thirteen, but he won’t allow anyone, including Lily, to see it.
Returning to the sea, B. V. Lawson at In Reference to Murder highlighted Murder Sails at Midnight by Marian Babson.
Four wealthy women sail from New York to Genoa aboard the luxury liner Beatrice Cenci in first-class. We learn early on that another passenger, “Mr. Butler,” has been hired to make sure one of the women doesn’t finish the voyage. The book thus becomes not a “who dunnit,” but a “who will get it,” because we don’t know the identity of the intended victim, although each woman has secrets and also individuals in their lives who would benefit from their deaths.
The same site highlighted my fellow Wulfrunian* Roger Ormerod and his book Face Value, ‘a solid procedural with a pinch of psychological and suspense genres thrown in.’
A new blogger to me, Peggy Ann reviewed the 1920 Carolyn Wells mystery Raspberry Jam, but didn’t find it to her taste:
‘Fleming Stone didn’t come into the story until over half way through. Then the amazing Stone didn’t even come up with the solution, his ‘boy’ assistant, Fibsy, did all the leg work and figuring out. He was the real star of the story.’
Sarah at Crime Pieces makes the link between Swedish classics of Sjöwall and Wahlöö and those of Ed McBain in her review of Axe.
What has got me reading McBain again is thinking about the format of a police procedural after reading Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck books which I’m still working my way through. I’ve discovered that there are many similarities between the two series and have started to enjoy the world of the 87th Precinct in the fictional city of Isola.
And what of the Crime Fiction Lover ‘Classic in September’ series? They’re all indexed on their site, but here are a few picks:
- A profile of Derek Raymond, the British noir author who created the Factory series.
- A review of Sweet Danger, the essentially slightly silly book which got me into Margery Allingham and so into classic crime.
- Scandi-crime fan Spriteby revisits Roseanna, the first Sjöwall and Wahlöö
So, a busy month, and one which introduced or reminded me of the many authors I have yet to read – which is what book blogging is all about.
* A word designed to hide the fact you’re from Wolverhampton.