#487: The Polferry Riddle, a.k.a. The Choice (1931) by Philip MacDonald

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For now, like, the fourth time in my experience — and the second involving a book by Philip MacDonald — the Roland Lacourbe-curated list of 100 excellent impossible crime novels has disgorged a title which is not in any way an impossible crime.  I’m still fully capab- (hang on, carry the one…then minus…yup, you’re good) fully capable of enjoying a book which is sans-impossibility, but I find it weird that a list compiled by such eminent heads includes so many books that don’t qualify.  The simplicity of MacDonald’s own narratives should be a giveaway anyway, since he’s really not about the complexities or misdirection, sticking more to a simpler, thriller-tinged path.

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#485: “What I say is, is it wise or necessary to rake up things?” – Memory as Evidence in Elephants Can Remember (1972) by Agatha Christie

Elephants Can Remember

You’ve heard of Elephants Can Remember (1972): it’s the final time Hercule Poirot investigates a case at Agatha Christie’s direction, written in the final stretch of her career when everything she did was awful and without merit.  Not even I could find something positive to say about it…could I?

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#484: The D.A. Calls a Turn (1944) by Erle Stanley Gardner

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Thanksgiving evening, Sheriff Rex Brandon receives a call from a contrite drunk claiming to have stolen a car, and heads over to pick him up along with D.A. Doug Selby.  Arriving too late to prevent an accident in which the man is killed, a chance observation by Selby leads to an identity different to one the man had claimed  This in turn brings Brandon and Selby to Carmen Freelman, who had been called away from dinner with her new husband’s family that evening by her boss…who just happens to be the man killed in the crash.  So run the first twenty-four pages of The D.A. Calls a Turn (1944) by Erle Stanley Gardner.  Strap in for a wild ride…

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#482: A Sea-Change Into Something Rich and Strange for The Secret of Skeleton Island (1966) by Robert Arthur

Secret of Skeleton Island

Quite a week it’s been: a humdinger of a self-published impossible crime novel, then a low-key classic from John Dickson Carr…if the best things come in threes, it seems only sensible to finish with another case — the sixth, as I continue my way through this series chronologically — for Jupe, Pete, and Bob, a.k.a. The Three Investigators.

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#481: The Seat of the Scornful, a.k.a. Death Turns the Tables (1941) by John Dickson Carr

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It’s cold outside, it’s dark outside — yes, thank-you, The Southern Hemisphere, no-one likes a smartarse — Christmas is over; time to battle through with some beloved authors.  First up, and most beloved of them all despite a recent charge by Freeman Wills Crofts, Mr. John Dickson Carr and Dr. Gideon Fell, here engaged in no showy impossibilities but instead the sort of low-key case for which Carr doesn’t get enough credit.  Where the relative simplicity of this might lead to this being overlooked, I’d argue that its restrained execution and structure are so brilliantly without flaw that the more easily you dismiss it the more you’re falling into the very trap it lays.

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#478: All But Impossible – The Impossible Files of Dr. Sam Hawthorne [ss] (2017) by Edward D. Hoch

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I’m probably starting in the wrong place with this chronologically fourth collection of the Dr. Sam Hawthorne impossibilities by short story specialist Edward D. Hoch.  However, it contains the very first Hoch story I ever read and so seemed as good a place as any to start.  I’ve read maybe three Hawthornes in other collections and figured it would be good to end 2018 with a long-awaited perusal of them in greater concentration, and…well, I’m a little underwhelmed.  Hoch has a talent for capturing ambience very piquantly, and the best of these stories are very good, but far too few of them have anything like the rigour or intelligence I’d expected given how highly-regarded this series seems to be.

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#475: The Sentence is Death (2018) by Anthony Horowitz

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Having gotten so successfully into the skin of Dr. John H. Watson for his Sherlock Holmes tale The House of Silk (2011), Anthony Horowitz has now found a Watson whose skin fits even better: himself.  And if Horowitz is to be Watson, he needs a Holmes — a role obligingly filled by the brilliantly perceptive ex-D.I. Daniel Hawthorne, a man as private as he is borderline-unlikable, who is parachuted into cases which run the risk of sticking around for a while and making the Metropolitan Police Force’s statistics look bad.  And with Horowitz as his chronicler, it’s to be hoped that any cases they meet will require at least 80,000 words to solve…

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