Unusual suspects: Classic crime in the blogosphere for January and February 2013

Midway through January, James Paul M published a nice collection of photos illustrating Dorothy L Sayers' Cambridgeshire connections.

Midway through January, James Paul M published a lovely collection of photos illustrating Dorothy L Sayers’ Cambridgeshire connections.

OK, OK, I missed last month’s classic crime update. (What do you mean, you didn’t notice?) Anyway, I’m going to make up for it by covering two months with one post.

This time, I decided to venture off the beaten track a little and look for reviews of classic crime novels written by those benighted individuals who don’t usually review classic crime. It takes all sorts.

Anyhow, I started with 2606 Books, who in ‘a mild bout of mid-life angst, I found out that, based on life expectancy of a British male and my average reading speed, I have only 2,606 more books to read before I expire. So I’m going to count them down and write about them.’

His opinions on A Study in Scarlet pretty much reflect my own:

I can’t help but see a similarity between A Study in Scarlet and “origin” stories in superhero films and comics or introductory episodes in TV series.  Although I have no idea of whether Conan Doyle intended at the time that Holmes would be a recurring hero, the book’s main purpose seems (at least in retrospect) to establish Holmes and Watson and to create the tropes of Holmes’s persona.  As well as the first glimpses of his extraordinary powers of observation and deduction (including the legendary first meeting of the pair), there is a lengthy internal discussion by Watson of Holmes’s character traits and areas of knowledge.  As a detective novel, however, even allowing for the infancy of the genre and accepting that A Study in Scarlet is more influence on the genre than influenced by it, it is, frankly, not great.

Gifted by Juxtabook talks about what to read with very bright 9-14 year olds. In January he reviewed Margery Allingham’s The White Cottage Mystery (1928).

Violence: death by shooting for the victim. Brief description of a body ‘almost blown to pieces’ and how the body has bled (which angle was it shot from, has it been turned etc) though there is much less of this than in most such novels. There are also some fights described in the fairly genteel manner of the era.

Death: just the murder.

Romantic relationships: from the first Jerry and Norah have a bit of chemistry but it largely consists of cheerful glances before working its way up to a bit of hand holding. The one potential stumbling block for our age group is that the paternity of a child is a possible motive for the murder. Some awareness of the facts of life are therefore required to understand this aspect of the plot. It is a red herring and not dwelt on, but it is there.

Sticking with my own favourite queen of crime, Bloomsbury Reader made Margery Allingham their featured author for January (and incidentally visited the British Library Murder in the Library exhibition).

Dr Tony Shaw blogs about ‘Mainly the Obscure, and/or mainly “Outsider” Literature’ and looked at Ngaio Marsh’s Black Beech and Honeydew: An Autobiography (1965)

Written in a fastidious and urbane style, this is in some ways a part-autobiography not in that it misses years out – indeed it takes us from Marsh’s early childhood (not quite, but almost, in a conventional linear manner) virtually to the present day at the time – but in that it almost misses Marsh’s very public profession out. Overwhelmingly, the author concentrates on her less known work in the beginning as an actor and then as a theatre director; and a little like her (rather snobbish, it must be said) friends who didn’t demean themselves by quizzing her about her popular crime novels (which amount to 32), Marsh is almost silent on this issue.

John Buchan doesn’t get much of an airing in crime circles, but two reviews cropped up on my non-crime trawl. Exploring the Victorian World read Greenmantle.

I’m ashamed to say, so Greenmantle was my first acquaintance with Buchan’s hero Richard Hannay. I called him a prat on Twitter after about 1/4 of the book and he is, sometimes.

T.B.M. reviewed The Thirty-Nine Steps at his 50-year Project and found it an enjoyable ‘shocker’:

If you are in the mood for some adventure, grab this book, a cup of tea and cookies, and enjoy. Don’t overthink. Don’t analyze. Just go with it.

Finally, proving once again that the book blogosphere isn’t particularly sensitive to current events, I expected a flood of reviews of Josephine Tey’s turgid classic Richard III novel, The Daughter of Time. There wasn’t – in fact I only picked up on one. No stranger to the book review, but far from restricted to crime, Simon of Savidge Reads had this to say:

What Tey delivers with this novel is a cleverly twisted take on both the historical novel and the crime novel and I loved how different it was…

Whilst I can’t say I was completely hooked throughout the whole of ‘The Daughter of Time’ […] I did enjoy it as a different take on historical and mystery fiction. It is very much a book about books and the importance of them both fictional and non, and also a book that reminds you to question everything you are told as fact, some of it might not be true.

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

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
This entry was posted in Classic mystery book review, Espionage, Golden Age detection, Information Received and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Unusual suspects: Classic crime in the blogosphere for January and February 2013

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Thanks as ever, Rich, for this roundup. I’m going to archive this and enjoy going back to it.


  2. bloomsreader says:

    Reblogged this on bloomsburyreader and commented:
    Great blog on classic crime – reviews and news!


  3. The Daughter of Time is one of my all time faves for the very reasons you mention. Have not read the Marsh autobiog. but all of her crime novels. Thanks for the roundup; I read every post don’t always have time to comment but enjoy them all!


  4. Juxtabook says:

    Juxtabook is a she 🙂 . Thanks for the mention and link but I wish you had quoted from the review part of the review, rather than just the parental guidance notes I gave! It makes me sound very strange!

    I very much like your blog however, especially as you got into Classic Crime from secondhand book buying, and have added you to the blogroll on my main blog ( http://juxtabook.typepad.com/books )


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