#421: Spoiler Warning(s) – Coming in October and January

Books Question Mark

Just as movie studios have become increasingly ridiculous in laying claim to release dates far enough in advance for you to plan your retirement party around them, so am I now going to lay out two upcoming events that seem waaaaaaay too far off to be talking about just yet.  But, well, I’ve started now…

Having just roundly discussed London Particular, a.k.a. Fog of Doubt (1952) by Christianna Brand in excrutiating detail — spoilers at that link on a chapter-by-chapter basis — the ever-restless voice that stirs me to spend far too much of my real life reflecting on the contents of this blog will only be temporarily sated by making and announcing further plans for future Spoiler Warning posts.  And so here we are.  I try to do one of these every three months, and have now planned the next two posts, though there’s a fairly good reason for that, as you’ll see.

The next — Spoiler Warning #8 — will be posted here in October and will focus on:

Halfway House SW

Yup, Halfway House (1936) by Ellery Queen, an author who has posed me no problems whatsoever and therefore a reading experience I fully expect to be enjoyable, effortless, fun, and most of all enjoyable.  Colin — best known for his incisive movie reviews at Riding the High Country, though also no slouch when it comes to his detective fiction as many of you know from his presence on many GAD blogs and the occasional reviews he posted at Sergio’s place — has kindly offered to talk me dow-, uh — I mean through — talk me through this one, and here’s hoping that his cynicism is able to tether the rising balloon of my own light-hearted joy at the prospect of more Ellery Queen in my life.

Of course, since I’m doing these in order, I still have to read and review The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935) — oh, god, do I? — but there’s plenty of time for that.

The Spoiler Warning after that, to be posted here in the unimaginable future of January 2019 — provided we’re not all out having too much fun in our hovercars and self-tying Reebok® footwear — is also part of the reason for announcing this now, because it’s not exactly an easy book to find and so I thought anyone wishing to play along might appreciate some warning.  How difficult is it to find?  Well, let’s just say that even my copy has gone missing.  What book is it?  Well, it’s…

Mr Priestley's Problem SW

Going variously as Mr. Priestley’s Problem (1927) by Anthony Berkeley or A.B. Cox, or as The Amateur Crime (1927) by A.B. Cox, this was reviewed by Kate at CrossExaminingCrime recently, and since she expressed a desire to talk about it depth with someone this seemed the perfect opportunity to dust off my (unread) copy and get into some details with her.  Currently, as I said, my copy is nowhere to be found in the foothills of Mount TBR and so I’m hoping it turns up soon — and I wish you luck in tracking down a copy of your own so that you are able to participate in the discussion Kate and I will have.

Is there any point having an involved, spoiler-filled discussion about a book that a lot of people probably won’t have the chance to read?  Besides the fact that Kate and I might want to, you mean?  Well, I think that’s reason enough.  I’ll make it up to you by doing something nice and accessible in April 2019, I pinkie-swear.

So, there you have it — expect an update on the next fourteen Spoiler Warning posts once these two have passed.  Oh, also, I’m in the continental United States for the next fortnight, and so may not be as responsive on here (or in reality) as usual.  Have a lovely weekend, all y’all, and I’ll see you on Tuesday for some very good Minor Felonies…

34 thoughts on “#421: Spoiler Warning(s) – Coming in October and January

    • HH was a title that was floated before by someone for a possible spoilerish look, but I was way out of chronology at the time. Will be interesting to compare First and Second Period Queen so close to the rift.

      As for Priestley — yeah, no idea, am entirely trusting Kate on this one!


      • It might have been me to suggest HH … I think it’s a crucial Queen title. As you say, comparing First and Second Period Queen; you can see the path between the nationalities series and Wrightsville in this book. When you read it, consider what it might have been like if it had been titled The Swedish Match Mystery.


        • Given the propensity of these nationality titles to have a double meaning, I’m now wondering if this was retitled becuase the dualism is rather transparent even before opening the book.

          Or I’m wrong. That could also be the case.


      • Oh heck! No pressure then. Really hope you enjoy it though. It is a lot of fun. In terms of getting a hold of Berkeley’s book I would not go for The Amateur Crime edition as it just goes for silly money. At the moment there are a handful of copies of Mr Priestley’s Problem online – cheapest is £12.99 on ebay, whilst Abebooks has some for around £20 and there is another copy on Amazon. Cheaper copies may come up, as I’ve seen it go for under £5 on ebay sometimes. Then again market forces may well have clocked your forthcoming spoiler post and altered prices accordingly…


        • Then again market forces may well have clocked your forthcoming spoiler post and altered prices accordingly…

          Henceforth, all Spoiler Warning titles shall be heavily implied in advance rather than explicitly named, so as to avoid such transparent tactics on behalf of unscrupulous sellers. People, you’re going to have to jump through some hoops now to even begin to figure out which book you should be reading…

          Ooooo, there could be a treasure hunt….!!!


      • HH, which to be honest I remember little about – my review is very vague – is, I feel, hampered by its structure and its intended readership. But I’ll say no more for now…

        Oh, Spanish Cape is fun, btw. It’s a bit bonkers but in a good way. You say you need to read it chronologically speaking – haven’t you missed out Siamese Twin?


        • Siamese Twin is before Chinese Orange, though, right? I’m continuing from there. And strict chronology isn’t vital, I know, but I’d like to vaguely do some kind of order, and the First/Second Period border seems important to do right.

          I also appreciate you being the first person to be positive about Spanish Cape. My spirits have lifted…!


          • Oh yes, a quick check and Orange is later than I thought. A shame, as it’s rubbish and Twin has a beautiful idea contained therein and has something lacking from other early titles – atmosphere.

            As for this first/second period stuff, you could make a case for everything from HH to The Dragon’s Teeth before we get to the more serious/boring (ducks to avoid flak) second period. It’s not as cut and dried as some people might suggest.


            • At this point, the most important aspect of the Second Period is that it’s markedly different from the First, and that can’t be bad for you. HH is more character driven, and Ellery is less and less of a prat. I liked The Door Between, but you will hate it, locked room enthusiast that you are. In my humble etc., The Dragon’s Teeth is a slog, pure and simple. I offer no opinion on the Hollywood novels because their enjoyment is in the eyes of the beholder.

              Just promise me that if Period Two goes wrong for you, you won’t wholeheartedly abandon Period Three!


            • No PD, Period Two starts with Halfway House and includes everything until 1940. Period Three starts with Calamity Town, includes all of Wrightsville, and pretty much ends when the ghostwriters begin (or goes to the end of his career – there’s room for debate.)


            • That’s a fairly short period, and I’d say the tone in those five books is inconsistent enough to see it as a transition rather than a phase in itself. And there’s a world of difference between Calamity Town and, say, The King Is Dead, big enough not to group them together in a single phase either. Not convinced that this idea of classification actually works beyond the similarity of the first nine books.


            • I agree with Christian that Halfway House really belongs with the first nine – so does The Door Between – but I’m a bit lost on the need to divide the works of Queen so precisely. No one does it for Carr, for example, which seems to fall into clearer eras to me…


            • Thanks for the shout-out, Brad. I’ve been on hols, so that’s why I couldn’t toot my own horn previously. (The check is in the mail.)

              I kinda agree with PD that it’s a bit pointless having a period that consists of only four years and very few stories. Especially since all those stories are quite diverse – even more so if we allow “Halfway House” in Period Two. But since Nevins is the foremost expert on all things EQ I guess we all have to follow his intent – though I think his approach could be bettered.

              Liked by 1 person

      • In fairness, I did keep nudging you in that direction once the idea was out there, so you can blame me without feeling guilty if you end up hating the book, which I don’t think you will. Mind you, my predictions tend to be a bit crap, so…


    • This doesn’t totally surprise me, as Kate’s not as much a fan of hardcore detection as I am. And, in fairness, it wasn’t really Berkeley’s forte…


  1. You know what? You’ve brought up a mystery here that is starting to eat away at me. This is something like the tenth time the following conversation has occurred:

    You: I’m going to read The Spanish Cape Mystery.
    Reasonable Person: Not by any stretch the best Queen of the First Period but the last one. If you’re reading them in order, does that mean you’ve read (the far superior) The Siamese Twin Mystery?
    You: . . . . .

    Why won’t you answer that question, JJ? Theories abound:

    a. You read it and actually liked it, but you don’t want to spoil your sour record on Queen.
    b. You are, yourself, a conjoined twin, and the book is too painful to contemplate. (You are either a separated twin, or Daniel is your brother.)
    c. You don’t understand the question.

    I know the answer is d. You’re trying to annoy me. So never mind. Have fun in America.


    • Bradley, I apologise. No, I have not read The Siamese Twin Mystery. I remember making a comment that, since it preceded Chinese Orange, it would be the book I’d finish this chronological approach with, and was therefore a good finisher being such a highly-regarded book — but, you are correct, thay doesn’t mean I haven’t read it. Well, I haven’t.

      Unless I’ve forgotten. Or am lying. Which is now probably the plot of a Woman in Peril novel coming from the hottest new author in town next month.


  2. Thanks for the preview, and giving us advance warning. 😊 I do very much enjoy Anthony Berkeley, and as I only have two more mystery novels of his to go, I decided to snap up a neither-reasonably-nor-unreasonably priced copy. And then I read Nick Fuller’s comment on its ‘light, Punch-ish story’ that made me go 😨.


    • Sure! Why not?! They won’t come up until after I loop back around to the beginning, so I’ll either be entirely innured to any problems or I’ll have given up entirely. It’s a rollercoaster of discovery!


  3. Pingback: Coming Soon – something a little different… | Riding the High Country

  4. Pingback: Halfway House (1936) by Ellery Queen – Suddenly at His Residence

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