#715: The Woman in the Wardrobe (1951) by Peter Shaffer [a.p.a. by Peter Antony]

Woman in the Wardrobestar filledstar filledstarsstarsstars
The one thing a book cannot guard against is the expectations that build up around it — and the rarer a book proves to be, the more apocryphal its contents, the higher those expectations tend to rise. The Woman in the Wardrobe (1951) by Peter Shaffer has been staggeringly unobtainable for decades now and, with no less an authority than Robert Adey promising “a brilliant new solution” for its locked room murder, had much to live up to. We can’t blame the book for the solution not being new — not even slightly, Bob — but we can blame it for the flaws that disappointingly crop up in several key regards.

Continue reading

#712: The Thursday Murder Club (2020) by Richard Osman

Thursday Murder Clubstar filledstar filledstar filledstar filledstars
I really should not have enjoyed The Thursday Murder Club (2020) as much as I did. I’m an avowed devotee of the rigour of Freeman Wills Crofts and I have a nerdy podcast where we get far too serious about the minutiae of classic era detective fiction, for pity’s sake — a lightly comedic crime novel in which a group of septuagenarians inveigle their way into a murder investigation while worrying about the quality of supermarket own-brand biscuits should not raise from me even a curious eyebrow. And yet, honestly, I loved it. I don’t think I’ve been this charmed in years, and I haven’t laughed so much and so helplessly since reading Catch-22 (1961) when I was about 17.

Continue reading

#708: Adventures in Self-Publishing – Ill Wind (2020) by Jean Heller

Recently, while recording an episode of the rightly-popular Shedunnit podcast, I was moved to lament the decline in quality represented by most modern attempts at the impossible crime in fiction (and, for all I know, in reality, too). Today’s self-published crime novel, Ill Wind (2020) by Jean Heller, perhaps demonstrates the reasons for that decline better than I’ve previously managed myself.

Continue reading

#706: The Case of the April Fools (1933) by Christopher Bush

Case of the April Foolsstar filledstar filledstarsstarsstars
Three years.  That’s how long ago TomCat’s review of The Case of the April Fools (1933) typified Christopher Bush’s writing as falling “halfway between Freeman Wills Crofts and John Dickson Carr”.  So I read the oft-celebrated Cut-Throat (1932) and didn’t really get on with it and then, to be honest, other books intruded and I simply never got back to Bush.  I wasn’t avoiding him, per se, and Dean Street Press had gamely recommended Bush’s twentieth novel The Case of the Green Felt Hat (1939) as possibly more to my liking…but, in these reprint-rich times, it can be difficult to keep up, y’know?

Continue reading

#704: “That’s an interesting choice of phrase, young man…” – The Dead Sleep Lightly (1983) by John Dickson Carr [ed. Douglas G. Greene] Part 1 of 2

It’s fair to say that no-one has done more for the curation of John Dickson Carr’s work than Douglas G. Greene: collecting various obscure short pieces in the likes of The Door to Doom and Other Detections (1980), Merrivale, March, and Murder (1991), and Fell and Foul Play (1991), writing the staggeringly comprehensive (and recently reprinted) biography The Man Who Explained Miracles (1995), and enabling, through Crippen & Landru, publication of two — soon to be three — collections of Carr’s radio scripts edited by Tony Medawar.

Continue reading

#695: The Perfect Alibi (1934) by Christopher St. John Sprigg

Pefrect Alibi, Thestar filledstar filledstar filledstar filledstars
The discovery of a bullet in a body in a fire in “one of the most peaceful and law-abiding parts of Thameshire” ushers in a game of Murder or Suicide? that will be familiar to the seasoned GAD reader.  And since the Chief Constable would “rather have a few murders than [Scotland Yard] nosing round in his area” it falls to his nephew, constable Laurence Sadler, and Sadler’s superior Inspector Trenton to get to the bottom of Antony Mullins’ death.  But even Sadler and Trenton, as the local men, are unprepared for the characters who seek to inveigle their way into proceedings, and the complexity that will unfold as a result.

Continue reading