In GAD We Trust – Episode 23: What’s in a Watson? [w’ Caroline Crampton]

The companion of the fictional detective — the “stupid friend” as Ronald Knox styled them — is something I have spent far too long thinking about, mainly because the protoype is always taken to be Sherlock Holmes’ chronicler Dr. John H. Watson. Joining me this week to discuss why that might not always be a good comparison to draw is Caroline Crampton of the superb Shedunnit podcast.

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#809: The Clock Strikes 13 (1952) by Herbert Brean

Clock Strikes Thirteen, The 2

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Just a few days ago it was my lot to be unimpressed by the concluding volume of one series, and so time is ripe for me to be slightly underwhelmed by the fourth and final novel to feature Herbert Brean’s photographer-sleuth Reynold Frame. This feels like the thousandth book I’ve read this year to which my response has been “Yeah, it was okaaaay…”, but it’s sort of pleasing to finally encounter something by Brean that fails on its own terms — though if you can’t help but go into this “ten people trapped on an island, then murder intrudes” story expecting an update of And Then There Were None (1939), you do so at your own damn peril.

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#806: The Red Thumb Mark (1907) by R. Austin Freeman

Red Thumb Mark

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As a firm proponent of reading an author’s work chronologically, I’m a terrible hypocrite. I initially encountered Dr. John Evelyn Thorndyke in his eighteenth published volume, and then read his third, fifth, fourteenth, seventeenth, fourth, and sixteenth before now getting to his debut, The Red Thumb Mark (1907). Those of you following along at home will know how much enjoyment I’ve taken from Freeman’s writing, and the simple truth is that, had I started here, I may still be working up the enthusiasm to read further. Not that this is a bad book, and in many ways it’s a fascinating one, but it’s difficult from here to see the heights RAF would scale later in his career.

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#803: Pick Your Victim (1946) by Pat McGerr [a.p.a. by Patricia McGerr]

Pick Your Victim

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The cover of this Dell mapback edition of Pick Your Victim (1946) by Pat/Patricia McGerr is one of the oddest I have ever encountered. Not only does the front imply a masked — or, y’know, deformed — serial killer disposing of their victims with the eponymous pick (in the book it is the verb and not the noun, and the sole victim is strangled), but the map on the back is…sorta useless, since the environs of the strangulation are completely irrelevant, making them ill-suited to illustration. The book has other problems besides these, but quite what Dell thought they were selling would probably take a book of its own to explain.

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#802: Minor Felonies/Little Fictions – ‘The Vanishing Passenger’ (1952) and ‘Hard Case’ (1940) by Robert Arthur

Herewith, my thoughts on the last two stories in Robert Arthur’s Mystery and More Mystery (1966) collection that I’ve not previously read. Not “the last two stories”, you understand, because there are two more in the book after these. But those actual last two stories, coming next week, I’ve encountered previously. Grammar’s a bastard, isn’t it?

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