#904: “If you knew the man, you would realize that he is mad enough for anything.” – Cross Marks the Spot (1933) by James Ronald

Actress Cicely Foster, calling at the home of movie mogul Jacob Singerman to discuss a role in a ‘talkie’, is innocent enough to be shocked by his advances and fights him off, striking him on the head in the struggle before fleeing. When reporter Julian Mendoza, “the bloodhound of Fleet Street”, tracks her down and tells her that Singerman was found dead shortly after her departure, it looks bleak…but for the small matter of the corpse having been found with a bullet between his eyes.

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#903: The Loss of the Jane Vosper (1936) by Freeman Wills Crofts

Loss of the Jane Vosper

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Hector Macdonald’s excellent thriller The Storm Prophet (2007) was the first book to ever make me consider the terror of being trapped aboard a sinking boat in the open sea.  15 years later, the opening chapters of The Loss of the Jane Vosper (1936) by Freeman Wills Crofts, in which the eponymous freighter is shaken by mysterious explosions and must be abandoned, brought those anxieties back, despite the calm competence of her crew and some surprisingly elegiac imagery (“[the lifeboats] turned with one consent and began rowing with her, determined to see the end…Not a man but was heartily thankful to be out of her, and yet she was their home.”).

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#901: “Killing? Who said anything about killing?” – Future Crimes: Mysteries and Detection Through Time and Space [ss] (2021) ed. Mike Ashley

Mike Ashley, surely the world’s hardest-working editor of short story collections, has combined two of my loves with Future Crimes (2021): detective fiction and SF. As a fan of crossover mysteries, this seems tailor-made for me, and I have Countdown John to thank for bringing it to my attention. So, how does it stack up?

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#900: The Twyford Code (2022) by Janice Hallett

Twyford Code

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Depending on who you ask, the wartime children’s books of Edith Twyford are either “an unchallenging read on every level [with n]o subtext [and n]o depth” or they’re “nasty, sadistic, moral little tales full of pompous superiority at best and blatant racism at worst.” Her series based around The Super Six in which “[t]hree girls and three boys…solve mysteries that have been puzzling the local community” has been gradually updated with each successive generation and translation, so that their outdated attitudes can be put aside once and for all. But might something else have been lost along the way? Something people would kill for?

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#897: Jumping Jenny, a.k.a. Dead Mrs. Stratton (1933) by Anthony Berkeley

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Soren Kierkegaard said that life is to be lived forwards but only understood backwards, and the same is true of my reading Anthony Berkeley Cox. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read the majority of Cox’s novels, but only in revisiting them — with, admittedly, a firmer grounding in the detective genre’s Golden Age which he explored so rigorously in a staggeringly small number of books — do I appreciate what he was trying to do. Jumping Jenny, a.k.a. Dead Mrs. Stratton (1933), for example, is the inversion of every novel of detection written to that point and a vast majority of those written since, and only in seeing this did I finally understand just how damn good it is.

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