#951: Murder in the Basement (1932) by Anthony Berkeley

Murder in the Basement

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One of my very favourite detective fiction tropes is the Unidentified Corpse.  It’s at the heart of my favourite E.C.R. Lorac book, one of my favourite Freeman Wills Crofts books, and as a mainstay of the work of R. Austin Freeman is put to wonderful use both traditional and inverted. Murder in the Basement (1932) by Anthony Berkeley also invents the Whowasdunin?, giving us a cast of characters from which the corpse will be produced, and not divulging the identity of the victim until the halfway point. Thankfully, given Berkeley’s tendency to commit to a thought experiment regardless of whether the book that comes out of it is any good, he’s also written an entertaining and very witty novel along the way.

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#927: The Great Hotel Murder (1934) by Vincent Starrett

Great Hotel Murder

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The tension at the heart of the likes of the wonderful British Library Crime Classics and American Mystery Classics ranges is that they’re reprinting some genuine classics — Home Sweet Homicide (1944) by Craig Rice, The Bride Wore Black (1940) by Cornell Woolrich — whose authors I’d love to comprise their output for the next few years, but likes of E.C.R. Lorac and Mary Robert Reinhart will sell plenty of books to people who aren’t me, despite me feeling better books are out there. So while it would be harsh to say that The Great Hotel Murder (1934) by Vincent Starrett feels like a wasted opportunity, I can safely say that I’ve now read as much Starrett as I have any interest in reading.

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#922: This Deadly Isle: A Golden Age Mystery Map (2022) by Martin Edwards [ill. Ryan Bosse]

After the very enjoyable work done by Herb Lester and Caroline Crampton in mapping the key locations of Agatha Christie’s English mysteries, it was surely only a matter of time before a similar project was attempted. And This Deadly Isle, which maps the locations of a raft of Golden Age mysteries across the country, is the delightful inevitable follow-up.

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#921: The Footprints on the Ceiling (1939) by Clayton Rawson

Footprints on the Ceiling

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This might be the longest-gestating punchline in blogging history, but it was also about time I returned to Clayton Rawson. Ever since the American Mystery Classics reissued Rawson’s debut novel Death from a Top Hat (1938), I’ve been waiting for them to release his second, The Footprints on the Ceiling (1939), so that I could finally experience it. And then I discovered a few months ago that I’d already bought Footprints as an ebook and it had been waiting, long-forgotten, on my e-reader of choice. And, as someone who feels Rawson’s best work might have been his short stories, I have to say that I very much enjoyed…most of this.

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#918: The Life of Crime (2022) by Martin Edwards

Life of Crime

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To me falls the honour of rounding off the blog tour for The Life of Crime (2022) by Martin Edwards, adding to the deserved praise it has already garnered elsewhere. This “personal journey through the genre’s past, with all the limitations and idiosyncrasies that implies” is a monumental achievement, encompassing the breadth and depth of a genre that is now a good couple of centuries old, and finding many nuggets to share about it along the way. And, since any study of a genre must inherently be about that genre to some extent, Edwards’ trump card here is to tell a story of crime writing that also sheds light on the need for such stories to exist in the first place.

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