#153: The Tuesday Night Bloggers – Five to Try…But What’s the Theme?


In what might actually be the first time I’ve contributed to a full month of TNB posts — woo! Mr. Commitment! — I thought I’d finish off with my first Five to Try in a little while on the subject of Crime in Costume.  But, this being a blog about detective fiction, I thought I’d leave it up to you to deduce the theme inside of this framing which links all these books together.

The first person to correctly work it out gets…a prize of some sort.  Tell you what, they’ll win a pre-publication copy of Ye Olde Book of Locked Room Conundrums, personally emailed to them by me.  So as, y’know, to save them waiting an extra three or four days and having to click on a link to download it themselves.  I know, I know, I’m too kind.  Tell you what — to make it nice and unique, I’ll even add a bit to the introduction about how this was won in a competition on the blog.  That makes it a bit more special, eh?

So, alphabetically by author surname we have…

Case Closed (1994 – present) by Gosho Aoyama

case-closed-1I’ve only just read Volume 1 of this ongoing Manga — revolving around a late-teen-aged genius detective who is shrunk down to the size and appearance of a six year-old — having been convinced to try it on the back of TomCat’s repeatedly glowing reviews of the later volumes.  And, y’know something?   I can really see it — it’s beautifully classical in its crimes (including those of the impossible variety) and well-clewed solutions even at this early stage, and Gosho Aoyama is clearly a massive fanboy of the type of GA fiction which has seen a resurgence in Japan over the last few decades in the form of shin honkaku.  It takes the written form and updates it beautifully with accessible art and clear plotlines, so, yeah, I feel perfectly justified in buying 13 of the first 15 volumes.  That’s not an impulse purchase I’m planning to regret anytime soon.

Case with Ropes and Rings (1940) by Leo Bruce

case-with-ropes-ringsThere’s always much to enjoy in the Sergeant Beef books of Leo Bruce, such is the rich seam of comedy mined from the interplay between Beef and…well, pretty much anyone, if we’re being honest.  Case for Three Detectives (1936) and Case for Sergeant Beef (1947) are probably the best two of those I’ve read, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to go out swinging on behalf of this, the fifth in the series, which sees Beef investigating a murder at a school and is equally as much fun but lacks the championing of those others probably purely on account of simply being so much harder to find.  As ever, there’s Lionel Townsend on hand, ready to usurp the conventions of detective fiction and still managing to undercut Beef’s every move in spite of the man’s obvious intelligence…somehow these two just never get old.

Murder is Easy (1939) by Agatha Christie

Murder is EasyThis is probably the recipient of the unwieldy title of My Favourite Non-Series Christie Which Isn’t Set on an Island (Yes, I Know There’s a Series Character in It, But It’s Not Like He Really Does Anything of Note).  The setup of a man politely listening to some stranger he meets on a train who keeps rambling on about murders and how she needs to report the murderer…only for him to find out a few days later that she herself was then murdered is about as sharp a hook as Christie ever fashioned, and the revelation of the killer is only marred by a slight structural issue towards the very, very end (which is such a shame, because the construction to that point is perfect).  It’s a beautiful piece of work, and I’m sure it’s already been bastardised filmed as a Marple/P******* i* C****/Ariadne Oliver crossover episode where the killer turns out to be the sous chef of the local hot air balloon-themed restaurant, because frankly the Christie estate seems to have no idea how good what they’re sitting on is.

‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ (1891) by Arthur Conan Doyle

scandal-in-bohemiaI mean, I’ve got an ongoing Manga up there, so why not a short story, too?  Also, I need a couple of well-known ones to give you a shot at spotting the theme.  Now, as much as I’m not a fan of everyone shoe-horning Irene Adler into every single Holmes adaptation like she was in any more than one story (and like she actually outwitted him here, rather than Holmes being hasty) this is a surprisingly fun read, and I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it when I reread it recently.  It’s also nice to read an early story before all the continuity issues started creeping in, and highlights just how fine a writer Conan Doyle was when his heart and mind were in it both, with Holmes and Watson both eager and excited to be there, rather than maundering around before finding out the solution is a jellyfish.

The Picture from the Past (1995) by Paul Halter

Picture from the PastIt’s nearly a year since I read this, and after a lot of reflection I’ve decided that it’s something of a masterpiece.  I know that one of the impossibilities is a touch mundane, but as a piece of colubrine plotting it’s really quite something to behold.  Just when you think you’ve got it, Halter hoicks you away sharply to run down another avenue of his wonderful multi-stranded tale of acid bath murderers, suspicious husbands, concerned wives, and dual narratives twisting and twining ever-closer and more inextricably and inexplicably linked, seemingly parallel and unrelated both, and topped off with the sort of final reveal that compels Halter to me above anyone else trying to write this kind of thing in this era.  Not everyone will enjoy it (a trait it shares with every other book ever published), but, oh, it makes me so happy.  One for repeated rereadings, methinks.


So…you have the stories, but can you find the link between them?  First correct answer in the comments wins, happy deducing!

Additionally, I submit the cover of Case wth Ropes and Rings above for the Golden Age Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt at My Reader’s Block under the category Dead Body.  That was previously submitted from the cover of The Border Line by Walter S. Masterman, so I change the submission there to Painting/Photograph.

14 thoughts on “#153: The Tuesday Night Bloggers – Five to Try…But What’s the Theme?

  1. Great idea for a post. Not sure I have come up with the correct link as there isn’t really a detailed summary of Halter’s book online. But my guess is that in all of these stories the detective takes on a form of disguise or impersonation. In Gosho’s story the detective takes on guise of a child due to an experimental poison. Luke in Murder is Easy poses as a researcher into witchcraft. Sgt. Beef in Case with Ropes and Rings goes undercover as a school caretaker and Holmes goes to Alder’s house as an out of work drunk groom and as a clergyman. I can only assume that the detective in The Picture from the Past equally takes on a disguise or pretence of sorts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • WINNER! What with this and Puzzle Doctor’s eight-second giveaway the other month, you’re becoming quite the speccy class know-it-all…careful, now, Brad may get jealous.

      Your YOBoLRC will be on its way…soon. Ish. Definitely by noon tomorrow. Probably. I just have a few things to tidy up. What’s your preferred format?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow seriously didn’t expect to be right, as I really had no idea about the Halter book- synopsises online are very circumspect. Very excited for the YOBoLRC – could I have it as a pdf as I am very un-technological and I don’t have a e-reader. Technically in my own TNB post (which will be going up soon) I am stepping into your area of expertise of locked rooms and impossible crimes, so I look forward to seeing what you make of the question I pose.


  2. Kate’s right, of course, although I was going to add that all five are books your neighbor Luke’s kid Glynnis borrowed and drooled all over with an ice lolly. I was about to buy Picture From the Past as my next terrible mist- er, Halter read, but I found another title at the Book Depository that was on sale. Yes, Halter seems to be making his way to the bargain bins! I’m glad you liked Murder Is Easy, just as I was about to think there was no pleasing you, JJ.

    Kate deserves first prize. I deserve something for giving Halter yet another chance.

    Liked by 2 people

    • haha you definitely do deserve a prize, like you know a free appointment with a psychiatrist to get to the bottom of your need to keep buying books from an author which up until now hasn’t greatly worked for you. Your commitment and dedication is impressive nonetheless.


    • Dammit, that Glynnis has no respect for other peoples’ property. I’ve spoken to Luke about it time and again, and he just won’t listen…


      I of course mean: I admire your perseverence, Brad, but also recall the expression that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. I mean, hey, I’m not gonna dissuade anyone from buying any LRI books, but no-one will doubt your right to pack it in. I’d love you to find some joy in Halter, and I hope you do, but maybe make this the last one, huh? Else we’ll all have to stage an intervention of sorts and buy you some cigarettes to keep you from panic-purchasing a bunch of untranslated titles at some point in the not too distant future…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. What are five books that aren’t in my library? (sorry, that’s a Seinfeld allusion).
    You do make me want to try Case Closed, and I’ve been considering it for a while since I’m interested in shin honkaku these days. So thanks for that push with your recommendation.
    My favourite Non-Series Christie Not Set On An Island is Crooked House. But in Murder Is Easy, I seem to recall an elderly colonel sputtering in rage about a “Miss Nancy” who runs the local antique shop who has hair of a length that the colonel finds un-masculine, or words to that effect. I actually wondered if that had been excised from later editions — did you remember seeing it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read MiE many years ago and don’t remember it, but my edition is old enough to contain such things (my contemporaneous Death in the Clouds has the now-excised line about not liking Negroes). That’s the best I can do at present, I’m afraid.

      And, yeah, it’s shin honkaku that’s pushed me into Case Closed, too (that, and 14 editions of it showing up in a charity shop round the corner…). Expect more on this as I go — it’s off to a nice start, and TC is adamant they become amazing after the first 7 or 8, so if it improves then there are some great things ahead…


      • Yes, Case Closed takes a few volumes to warm up, but after the seventh or eighth one there’s a noticable up-tick in quality. And by the time the series hits double-digits, all of the storylines are in full sail.

        Well, you can see how much I and Ho-Ling have been enjoying the series. So get hooked and become one of us.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Let’s all take a moment and thank JJ for “colubrine”. As Nero Wolfe once said, in “Please Pass the Guilt”:
    “No. Instead of ‘fraud’ make it ‘by subreption’. It’s more precise and will add to vocabularies.”
    For me, comparing someone to Nero Wolfe is high praise indeed! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, I take that as a compliment indeed — much appreciated! Maybe I can prove my blog is ed-jue-kay-shunal now and get some government funding for it, hm?


  5. Pingback: Tuesday Night Bloggers: Crime in Costume Week 4 | crossexaminingcrime

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