#584: Inspector French and the Starvel Hollow Tragedy (1927) by Freeman Wills Crofts

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As his seventh published novel, Inspector French and the Starvel Hollow Tragedy (1927) shows Freeman Wills Crofts again subtly altering his approach to take us through the minutiae of crime and detection, introducing a structural change which addresses the issue of “whodunnit” that these early GAD trendsetters sometimes struggled with.  While you may well be aware of the guilty party from about chapter 4, rest assured that Inspector Joseph French eventually cottons onto his target at around the halfway stage, and the final third of the book is then devoted to tracing the criminal.  And a lot of fun is to be had along the way.

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#581: The Wrong Letter (1926) by Walter S. Masterman

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I very nearly paid a king’s ransom for a secondhand copy of Walter S. Masterman’s debut The Wrong Letter (1926) a couple of years ago, since it was rare as rocking-horse teeth (wait, those are not rare…) and featured on Roland Lacourbe’s “100 Books for a Locked Room Library” list (or, well, the supplemental list of fourteen supposedly excellent impossible crime novels for which there were no French translations, at least).  Then, in 2018, Ramble House made it easily available for much more sensible money, and here we are.  More power to their elbow, frankly, as this is the strongest Masterman I’ve read, and has encouraged me to not write him off just yet.

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#579: Cover Stars – Abigail Salvesen on Hag’s Nook (1930) and She Died a Lady (1943) by John Dickson Carr [Polygon Books 2019 editions]

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Book cover art is, for me, a source of huge excitement. Be it for reasons of apt evocation of a bygone era — the British Library Crime Classics, say, or the reams of Dean Street Press reissues — or the beautiful, almost utilitarian simplicity of the much-coveted Green Penguin, there’s an ineffable element of skill in striking the right balance.

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