Book report for October 2012

This post is related to Kerrie’s meme at Mysteries in Paradise.

I read:

  • 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

The Heresy of Dr Dee: A seasonally spooky 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.

George Gently’s new look from Robinson.

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.

The Glass Key: Five stars for my pick of the month.

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.

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
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2 Responses to Book report for October 2012

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Rich – Glad to hear you had a good reading month. I agree completely about The Nine Tailors. It is complex and there’s a lot to keep track of, but what a sense of place! And I do like the mystery, too. I also like how, well, human Wimsey is. I don’t want to give away spoilers but I think his reactions to several events in the book are compassionate, human and believable.


  2. Sarah says:

    Sounds like a good month Rich. I’ve only read ‘The Nine Tailors’ but the others sound good.


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