#948: The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe (1938) by Erle Stanley Gardner

Shoplifter's Shoe

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When charged with republishing the work of someone as prolific as Erle Stanley Gardner, the chief difficulty must surely be where to begin and where — crucially — to stop. As a creator of memorable, compelling, easily-communicated, and complex protagonists the man perhaps has no equal, but as a plotter his loosey-goosey tendencies can sometimes get the better of him…a fact demonstrated no more clearly than in the wild variation represented by the eighty-six Perry Mason books published between 1933 and 1973. So the (thus-far) four titles in that series put out by the American Mystery Classics range make interesting reading.

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#946: Law and Order – Ranking the First Fifteen Inspector French Novels (1924-36) by Freeman Wills Crofts

With the sixteenth to twenty-fourth novels by Freeman Wills Crofts to feature his series detective Chief Inspector Joseph French due to be republished between now and January 2023 (well, #18, Antidote to Venom (1938), is already available from the British Library) it occurred to me that people might be looking for advice about the first fifteen — all, incredibly, in print.

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#945: Man Overboard!, a.k.a. Cold-Blooded Murder (1936) by Freeman Wills Crofts

Man Overboard

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Today sees the republication of Found Floating (1937), the twentieth of Freeman Wills Crofts’ novels and the sixteenth to feature (Chief) Inspector Joseph French, the first of eight reprints due between now and January 2023. And so let us turn our attention to Man Overboard, a.k.a. Cold-Blooded Murder (1936) — the fifteenth French novel and final entry in the last set of Crofts reprints — in which a man gets on a ferry in Belfast and is no longer aboard when it arrives in Liverpool…so what happened to him between those two points? Alas, in answering that question Crofts has written what is for me his first dud in 19 books.

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#944: Little Fictions – Four Corners, Volume 1: ‘He Took Richmond’ (1937) by Theodore Roscoe

I had intended to read and review the stories in Four Corners, Volume 1 (2015) — written for pulp story magazine Argosy between 1937 and 1941 — on Tuesdays last month, but was operating under a fatal misapprehension: that eponymous “Four” refers to the town, not the number of stories in the volume, of which there are five. Thankfully, August 2022 came to the rescue, and here we go,

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#942: In the Heat of the Night (1965) by John Ball

In the Heat of the Night

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In their debut novel, an outsider is arrested on suspicion of murder in a small town in the southern USA, only to quickly turn out to be innocent and have specialist investigative knowledge which they put to use helping the police and solving the crime. Having highlighted the folly of underestimating someone based on appearances alone, this character goes on to feature in a long-running series of books, two films that will see them forever linked to the actor who portrays them, and a television series. Today, we look at that debut appearance, the first time Jack Reache…uh, Virgil Tibbs sallied forth: In the Heat of the Night (1965) by John Ball.

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#940: A Little Help for My Friends – Finding a Modern Locked Room Mystery for TomCat Attempt #19: The Botanist (2022) by M.W. Craven

Believe it or believe it not, this occasional endeavour — in which I read modern locked room and impossible crime novels in the hope that I may save my fellow enthusiast TomCat some drudgery — started with good intentions, despite rarely going to plan. So, does the enthusiasm Puzzle Doctor showed for this no-footprints baffler mean we’ve found a good one?

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#939: The New Sonia Wayward, a.k.a. The Case of Sonia Wayward (1960) by Michael Innes

New Sonia Wayward

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Previous experience with the detective fiction that John Innes Mackintosh Stewart published under the name Michael Innes has universally left me cold, but Aidan’s laudatory review of The New Sonia Wayward (1960) convinced me to give him one more go. I’m glad I did, because I disliked this book immensely and can now strike Innes off my ungrammatically-titled list of Authors To Persevere With and never look back. But, here’s the thing, my dislike here is quite startlingly personal in a way that makes it interesting to me, so I thought I’d struggle through and write it up as a lesson to my future self. You are invited to come along, but I shall not mind (or know) if you refuse.

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