#862: “All roads lead to death. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.” – The 5 False Suicides (2021) by James Scott Byrnside

I haven’t pursued any Adventures in Self-Publishing, in which I read and review self-published works featuring impossible crimes, since October 2020. Well, the good news is that James Scott Byrnside, star pupil of the AiSP Academy, released his fourth book in December 2021, and so now we can saddle up the horse again and get adventurin’.

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#861: The Man Who Died Twice (2021) by Richard Osman

Man Who Died Twice

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Anyone who didn’t buy Richard Osman’s second novel The Man Who Died Twice (2021) when it came out last year probably got it for Christmas, and you’ve doubtless read it by now. I actually read it just before Christmas, but it’s taken me a long time to order my thoughts regarding this second visit to the septuagenarian denizens of Cooper’s Chase retirement village. On one hand, I can see how millions of people around the world will be completely charmed by Osman’s whimsy; on the other, the plot here only really occupies the last 70 pages, with the rest of the book filled out by padding of the most egregious hue and stripe.

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#859: “You’re a wicked man to be thinking such things…” – Shooting Script and Other Mysteries [ss] (2021) by William Link and Richard Levinson [ed. Joseph Goodrich]

William Link and Richard Levinson are undoubtedly best known today for their work done in creating TV crime-fighters Lieutenant Columbo, Jessica Fletcher, Joe Mannix, and Alexander and Leonard Blacke, as well as for a host of guest writing spots on other classic crime shows from the 1950s onwards. Shooting Script and Other Mysteries (2021) collects 17 stories by the pair that were published over a period of twelve years, mostly in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.

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#858: The Bride Wore Black, a.k.a. Beware the Lady (1940) by Cornell Woolrich

Bride Wore Black

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Past Jim has a lot to answer for — this haircut, for one, or that fact that I cannot forget the embarrassment of 11:48am on 4th June 1997 — but my current frustration with him is how easily and summarily he dismissed the writing of Cornell Woolrich after reading the Nightwebs (1971) collection as part of the Orion Crime Masterworks series. Had Past Jim possessed a little more discernment (or, dare I say it, maturity), I could have been loving Woolrich’s work for the last two decades instead of coming to it so late. Yes, I got here eventually, via some short stories, some novellas, and a couple of American Mystery Classics reissues, but what is life without something to lament?

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#857: Minor Felonies – The Secret Detectives (2021) by Ella Risbridger

While far from his best work, The Blind Barber (1934) by John Dickson Carr does contain the brilliant problem of a corpse appearing on a passenger liner mid-voyage with no passenger or crew member apparently having died to provide it. Ella Risbridger’s juvenile mystery debut The Secret Detectives (2021) works from the same principle, with 11 year-old Isobel Petty seeing someone thrown overboard one stormy night…and yet the next morning no-one is missing.

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#855: The Wintringham Mystery, a.k.a. Cicely Disappears (1927) by Anthony Berkeley [a.p.a. by A. Monmouth Platts]

Wintringham Mystery

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Even though — or perhaps, because — I’m a fan of Anthony Berkeley Cox’s work, I approach him with some trepidation. At his best you get the innovative brilliance of The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929), while among his failures is the repetitious turgidity of The Second Shot (1930) or Not to be Taken (1938).  Thankfully, The Wintringham Mystery (1927), originally serialised in the Daily Mirror in 1926 before being reworked as a novel, falls squarely in the former camp: a witty, playful, brisk Country House puzzler bafflingly out of print for nearly a century that’s so good it would justify a full reprint of the man’s work on its own.

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#853: “He is an old friend, you know, and he is very much interested…” – John Thorndyke’s Cases, a.k.a. Dr. Thorndyke’s Cases [ss] (1909) by R. Austin Freeman

After a tough few months in which I have been very grateful for the support of good friends and the presence of good books, let’s discuss the latter, eh? Kicking off 2022 is John Thorndyke’s Cases (1909), the first collection of short stories to feature Richard Austin Freeman’s medical jurist.

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