April began with Lovejoy, the ‘loveable’ rogue created by Jonathan Gash. I’ve reviewed his first title The Judas Pair previously. Lovejoy is a much rougher diamond than appeared on TV in the 80s and the books have a genuinely dark edge, despite sounding eminently cosy when you summarise them.
In The Grail Tree, tracing a fake antique sword leads Lovejoy to a most unlikely forger and puts him on the trail of that most sought-after antique, the Holy Grail. Whether or not it’s real, somebody is prepared to kill for it. See? Sounds cosy. It even ends in a museum.
Spend Game opens with the killing of Lovejoy’s old army pal Leckie. I’m not going to say what the antique is in this one, because it sounds even cosier than the Holy Grail.
Julian Symons’ Bloody Murder – From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel: A History is a non-fiction book which does just what it says on the tin. A recommended read for anybody interested in this genre, not least for the dozens of books it puts onto your classic crime radar.
John Buchan’s Greenmantle is the sequel to The Thirty-Nine Steps and finds the heroic Richard Hannay leading a team of agents on a mission through Germany and Turkey to uncover a WWI plot to destabilise Britain’s influence in the Middle East. It is a longer, more detailed, and marginally more realistic book than its predecessor, and all the better for it.
Coming bang up to date, Henry Sutton’s My Criminal World is a crime novel within a crime novel in which a writer grapples with launching a new series character, hampered by his belief that his wife is grappling with one of her students. Entertaining.
Staying with recent books, Paul Collicut’s The Murder Mile is a graphic novel published by SelfMadeHero. An athlete-turned-GI-turned-PI investigates the death of a potential four-minute-miler in a beautifully watercoloured 1950s America. Sport leads to gambling leads to the mob leads to corrupt police. The book looks great and the setting was new to me.
Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male is a high-concept novel which takes the man-on-the-run idea to one of its possible conclusions: man-gone-to-ground. In its favour it’s a straight-forward read, but to be honest I couldn’t take to the central character.
William Stephens Hayward was up next with Revelations of a Lady Detective, an 1864 title beautifully reissued by the British Library to complement the rest of their early crime publishing. Mrs Paschal is a brilliant creation and her adventures are a proper Victorian mix of melodrama and penny-dreadful action.
Finally, Claire McGowan’s The Fall is another recent book. I won a copy last year and regret leaving it so long before picking it up. Charlotte and Keisha are two very different women brought together in the aftermath of a savage murder. They’re realistic and nuanced characters written with a healthy mix of drama and humour. I can also recommend following Claire on Twitter (@inkstainclaire) as she’s one of my funnier tweeters.
My pick of the month? Torn between McGowan and Hayward, I’m plumping for the alive one.
For other people’s picks, please visit Mysteries in Paradise.