Pick of the month: November 2012

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

This month I read my first e-book, courtesy of Bello Books: The Department of Dead Ends. These stories by Roy Vickers represent a milestone in the development of the ‘inverted mystery’. The Department preserves unaccountable pieces of evidence – a child’s rubber trumpet in the first story – and through indexing, memory or simple instinct manages to use them to unravel unsolved crimes. They read like ‘true crime’ stories with an occasional flash of whimsy. Four stars.

I also managed to read a non-crime novel the first time this year, Stephen King’s 11/22/63. I’ve rarely read a King without enjoying it, and this was no exception. A time traveller moves to the 1950s and settles down to wait five years for the day Lee Harvey Oswald will assassinate President Kennedy. Along the way he has to make some hard choices, and of course finds stopping Oswald more complicated than he first thought. ‘The past is obdurate’ and fights back when you try to change it. Five stars.

In The Guns of Navarone, we follow Captain Keith Mallory, ‘skilled saboteur and the greatest rock climber New Zealand has ever produced,’ as he leads a crack team in a guerilla raid on the Nazi stronghold of Navarone. The lives of 1,200 troops hang in the balance as Mallory’s gang struggle against the elements, the Nazis, and their own limitations to reach the fabled guns. Three stars.

After Navarone, I raced through the racy A Taste for Death, the fourth in the series of Modesty Blaise novels currently being reissued by Souvenir Press. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read – a 60s spy romp given an extra bit of emotional depth by the strong ties of affection between the central characters. Five stars.

Finally, a complete change of pace: Josephine Tey’s The Franchise Affair is a classic English crime novel in which a complacent provincial solicitor finds unexpected reserves of will-power and undergoes something of an emotional awakening in his efforts to defend a local woman who has been accused of abducting a schoolgirl. Four stars.

My pick of the month: A Taste for Death. A series I’m going to get to know better.

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 Pick of the month: November 2012

  1. Sarah says:

    Congrats on the e-book. Did you like the e-reading experience. I have mixed views on it but it is a very convenient way to read.


    • westwoodrich says:

      Mixed. Like most people, I suspect, a lot of my affection for reading is bound up with the physical book. And that’s putting aside my book-collecting tendencies. I also found it physically more inconvenient, but that’s more attributable to the device I was using (Blackberry Playbook) than to the e-book format itself. But yes it’s convenient and it’s opening up a world of low-price classics.


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