It’s difficult to know where to begin with A Taste for Honey (1941), the first of three ‘Mr. Mycroft’ novels by H.F. Heard. The core conceit is delightfully barmy — I shall avoid naming it in this review to preserve it for the curious — and played with an impressively straight face, but beyond that there’s really only a short story’s worth of content here, spread thinly over 189 generously-margined pages. With only one plot-line, only really three characters, and nothing to widen the universe or engage the mind in any meaningful way past the halfway point (when the ending will already be painfully obvious to anyone), this really is just a latter-day Holmes pastiche with verbal diarrhoea.
This post serves a double purpose: firstly to reassure you that the promised spoiler-heavy discussion about The Box Office Murders, a.k.a. The Purple Sickle Murders (1929) by Freeman Wills Crofts is on the way, and secondly to let you know about the next spoiler-heavy review coming in April.
After years of occasional titles like The Tattoo Murder Case (1948) by Akimitsu Takagi trickling through the East-West translation gap, it seems English-speaking audiences might be getting more classic Eastern honkaku. The shinhonkaku translations brought to us by Locked Room International have highlighted the ingenuity in works coming out of Japan, China, and surrounds during the 1980s and 1990s, an era when the Western crime novel was rather more focussed on character and procedure, and so the puzzle-rich seam of GAD-era honkaku titles might finally get more attention. And the first non-LRI novel to come across is one that was greeted with much excitement.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the most unpleasant character in any murder mystery typically ends up dead. The cozier the mystery, the truer this adage becomes. And the more hobby-based the mystery is, the cozier it tends to be…so welcome to Murder Brewed at Home (2015).
When Xavier brought to my attention that Lee Child is sharing the writing of his best-selling Jack Reacher series to his brother before handing it over in due course, I saw it as the universe nudging me towards a filial co-authoring job residing in my own TBR, The Snark Was a Boojum (1957/2015) by Gerald and Chris Verner.
Three books into the seven-strong output of Herbert Brean, I’m going to suggest that he’s one of the most unjustly-neglected writers of the latter-GAD era — that “latter” prefix being key. Brean’s plots are dense enough for the puzzle fiends of the 1930s, and his social milieu more than matches the requirements of the post-GAD 1950s hankering after domestic suspense, but each school will be disappointed by how much of its rival is present. Thus, puzzle fans lazily insisting he’s in the same bracket as John Dickson Carr and realism fans keen to play up his HIBK credentials each sell him as writing sorts of books he never wrote, and everyone ends up disappointed.