#784: The Widening Stain (1942) by W. Bolingbroke Johnson [a.p.a. by Morris Bishop]

Widening Stain

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To Miss Gilda Gorham, Chief Cataloguer of an unnamed American university’s library — a building oft-expanded, and now an “architectural emetic” — the death of one colleague amongst the stacks may be regarded as a misfortune; the death of two, however, added to the disappearance of a staggeringly rare and expensive mansucript, has the air of carelessness about it. Who among the amicable staff of the university could have perpetrated such acts? And why? So, for ill-defined reasons, she puts any discomfiture aside and launches an investigation of her own. Naturally, it is not too long before all manner of clandestine activites begin to creep out…

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#782: Below Suspicion (1949) by John Dickson Carr

Below Suspicion

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After a year — a year, people — of mind-numbing repetition and drudgery against a background of tragedy, Below Suspicion (1949), John Dickson Carr’s forty-sixth book in twenty years and the 18th to feature Dr. Gideon Fell, was exactly what I needed…for the simple reason that it is so very, very different. Ten years from now I could reread this and be appalled that I ever thought it so great, but right now it is manna from heaven: eerie, baffling, infuriating in many ways, and fascinating given the direction we know Carr’s career took from this point in how it blends the classic detection he had excelled in with the historical mysteries he was about to launch himself into.

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#780: Come, Tell Me How You Live – Repudiation in Narration via Murder Isn’t Easy (1936) by Richard Hull

The first time I ever emailed an author, it was to enquire of Harlan Coben why he’d opted in Tell No One (2001) to switch between first- and third-person narrative in the telling of a story that, to my callow, untutored eye, could have told throughout in third person. I phrased it more politely than that, but you get the gist.

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#779: The Undetective (1962) by Bruce Graeme

Undetective

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When crime writer Iain Carter decides to utilise the knowledge of his policeman brother-in-law to inform a new novel, little does he appreciate the difficulties it will cause. Establishing the necessaries to keep his identity secret, Carter cooks up the nom de plume John Ky. Lowell and begins turning out books about the atrocious Superintendentdent W.B. Smith which are an instant hit. With Carter in no rush to expose Edward Meredith to scrutiny for his unwitting role in the creation of this dense ‘undetective’, the future looks rosy until Meredith is called to investigate the murder of a bookmaker…and names John Ky. Lowell as his chief suspect.

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#778: Minor Felonies – A Study in Charlotte (2016) by Brittany Cavallaro

Sometimes I plan ahead — c.f. a review of a novel by R. Austin Freeman in the same week as a podcast episode about R. Austin Freeman — and sometimes I really should. Rest assured, it will haunt me for years that I didn’t review this updating of the Holmes/Watson dynamic in the same week as Anthony Boucher’s The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars (1940).

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#777: Circumstantial Evidence – The Baffle Book (1930) by Lassiter Wren and Randle McKay [ed. F. Tennyson Jesse] Problems 22 to 28

I struggle to think of the last thing I read that disappointed me as much as F. Tennyson Jesse’s 1930 edit of Lassiter Wren and Randle McKay’s Baffle Book puzzles. From stories where subtle changes in detail make finding the solution impossible (‘The Warfield-Cobham Jewel Robbery’) to those whose insistence of physical evidence is so ignorant as to defy explanation (‘The Wayside Mystery’) it’s been a…not good time.

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#776: The Bigger They Come, a.k.a. Lam to the Slaughter (1939) by A.A. Fair

Bigger They Come

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A little while ago, on this very blog, it took me just under three years to work my way through the nine novels Erle Stanley Gardner wrote about D.A. Doug Selby.  At that rate, I shall be reading the 30 Bertha Cool and Donald Lam books published by Gardner under his A.A. Fair nom de plume for the next decade (and then the 88 Perry Mason books will see me well into retirement). Famously written by Gardner to prove that he could get a book published on merit alone, The Bigger They Come, a.k.a. Lam to the Slaughter (1939) finds a pair of great characters still unformed, and makes a good time out of a fun premise while not yet reaching the heights this series would.

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