This post is related to Kerrie’s meme at Mysteries in Paradise.
- Dorothy L. Sayers: The Nine Tailors
- Dashiell Hammett: The Glass Key
- Phil Rickman: The Heresy of Dr Dee
- Alan Hunter: Gently with the Ladies
- Nicholas Blake: The Beast Must Die
The Nine Tailors is often cited as one of the best of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels (despite what Edmund Wilson thought). It is a multi-layered book with a strong sense of place in the fen country of East Anglia, a convincing but apparently flawed expertise in campanology, a supporting cast of amusing rustics, and a central mystery which keeps you guessing until long after the actual crime has been resolved. Four stars
Phil Rickman is the creator of the spooky Merrily Watkins novels and has now turned his hand to the even spookier Elizabethan world of Dr John Dee. The Heresy of Dr Dee is the second in this new series and is highly recommended. Dee and his former pupil Dudley travel to Wales to retrieve a ‘shewstone’ but are soon embroiled in the trial of a creepy Welsh bandit with seemingly supernatural powers. Rickman writes with a real sense of place and his stories are dense, complex and rooted in geography and character. Four stars.
Alan Hunter wrote 42 George Gently novels between 1955 and 1998. Gently with the Ladies is number thirteen, now available in a new edition from Robinson. Beyond the 60s setting, I didn’t see many similarities with the Martin Shaw TV series (in particular, it is set in London rather than the north-east). It is mainly notable for dealing with what I think the author probably regarded as ‘the Lesbian question’, which I assume was a bit edgy at the time. It’s a straightforward mystery tale, streamlined and unencumbered with sub-plots, but with slightly overblown and cartoonish characterisation. Three stars.
Nicholas Blake made the CWA top 100 with his Nigel Strangeways novel The Beast Must Die. The novel begins with crime writer Frank Cairnes hunting down the killer of his infant son, with deadly revenge on his mind. Cairnes is a sympathetic character despite his murderous intent and you end up hoping he succeeds. There’s a largish twist in the middle and a big one at the end. Only the improbability of Cairnes’ success in finding his victim keeps it from getting five stars. Four stars.
Dashiell Hammett’s final novel, The Glass Key, follows Ned Beaumont, a political fixer working for city boss Paul Madvig, as he tries to balance tracking down a murderer with salvaging Madvig’s failing reputation. It’s a beautifully written book and well deserves its classic status. Five stars.