Pick of the month: March 2013

Last month I judged the reading public ready for my CWA top 100 reading dashboard. I may have been wrong, but I’m sticking with it.

CWA top 100 progress

You’ll notice 3% growth month-on-month, a result of focusing on completing a few more titles on my CWA list.

John Buchan: The Thirty-Nine Steps is a lively adventure story, the earliest in the ‘man on the run’ mould, in which Richard Hannay tackles a German plot to kick-start a world war. Hannay runs to the Scottish highlands to escape the clutches of the nefarious Black Stone organisation and the British police. It’s all good fun and a quick read.

John Buchan: The Runagates Club is a knockabout collection of short stories featuring the heroes of John Buchan’s novels – the central conceit being that they meet together to relax and tell stories from their pasts. The stories range from adventure to horror – good short reads (but not really crime-focused) marred by in places by the author’s Imperialist attitudes.

Erskine Childers’ The Riddle of the Sands is a prototype spy story, with two stiff-upper-lip Englishmen touring the muddy channels of Germany’s coast looking for trouble. It has more characterisation than the Buchan novels, and is more even handed and rational in its treatment of the enemy. For me, though, there is too much on the technicalities of yachting and navigation.

Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock is the story of Pinkie, a sociopathic gangster in 1930s Brighton. Pinkie is 17 and just starting out on his career of mayhem and violence, but he is about to meet his match in the person of Ida Arnold. As Pinkie struggles to disentangle himself from the consequences of one killing, he finds himself forced to extremes – including marriage. The tone is pure noir, but with a layer of Catholic guilt adding some deeper notes.

Christianna Brand’s Green for Danger is a classic mystery set at a military hospital during WWII. It combines humour and detection and introduces Brand’s series character, the memorably acerbic Inspector Cockrill. I also watched the film this month.

Brighton Rock is probably the best book of the lot, but I prefer Green for Danger.

For other people’s picks, please visit Mysteries in Paradise.


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, Golden Age detection, Information Received, Noir, Suspense, Thriller and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Pick of the month: March 2013

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Excellent choice, Rich! I’d have voted that way myself. Oh, and I like your graphic.


  2. TracyK says:

    An admirable task, reading all the CWA Top 100 books. The only one here I have read is Green for Danger, but I hope to read the other ones someday.


  3. All great books, but I’m very fond of The Riddle of the Sands!


  4. Glad to hear you say you prefer Green for Danger, since that’s the one you talked me into. Hopefully it’ll arrive in the next couple of days 🙂


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