#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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#800: The Plague Court Murders (1934) by John Dickson Carr [a.p.a. by Carter Dickson]

Plague Court Murders AMC

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The Plague Court Murders (1934), the debut of John Dickson Carr’s sleuth Sir Henry ‘H.M.’ Merrivale and published under his Carter Dickson nom de plume, struck me when I first read it as among the ne plus ultra of locked room mysteries.  A decade on, having read much more of Carr’s output, I now see it differently.  Carr published five books in 1934, each one now feeling lilke an attempt to work some new wrinkle into his writing. For all the cleverness — and it is very clever — this is really an apprentice work from a man who would go on to do much, much better.

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#797: The Tiger’s Head (1991) by Paul Halter [trans. John Pugmire 2013]

Tiger's Head

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I had intended to reread The Tiger’s Head (1991) by Paul Halter for my 800th post next Thursday, as it is a permanent toss-up between this and The Madman’s Room (1990) for my favourite of the French maestro’s work thus far translated by John Pugmire. But then everything — everything — I tried to read this week struck me as turgid, tedious, and unbearable, and Ben at The Green Capsule had a wonderful time reading Halter’s The Phantom Passage (2005), and I thought “Why not bring it forward a week and actually enjoy myself for a change?”. So here we are, and I don’t regret it, not even for a moment.

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