Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to discuss Postern of Fate (1973), the final novel written by Agatha Christie, and will be doing so in full, spoiler-rich detail. Read no further unless you’re willing to be spoiled on this, probably the most-disregarded book in Dame Agatha’s oeuvre.
Disorientated, drenched, and on the verge of a fever, George Lassiter wanders the streets of London until attracted to a particular house which he breaks into in order to warm himself by the fire. While he is waiting in the darkness and warmth, three people enter, one of them apparently drops dead on the spot, and Lassiter beats a hasty retreat before being caught by a local bobby. Upon telling his story, the house is investigated and no sign of a body is found, so Lassiter is carted away to the local hospital. And when Lassiter’s friend, part-time sleuth and general man-about-town Jack Haldean, hears of his predicament, it’s the beginning of a complex and dangerous skein.
There’s a comforting familiarity about the Ken Holt Mysteries for Boys written by Beryl and Sam Epstein under the nom de plume Bruce Campbell. This is only the third one I’ve read, but, perhaps because of the strict adherence to classic ingredients, I feel like I’m about 12 books deep in the series.
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.
Part of the fun of this blogging collective with its focus primarily on classic style mysteries is seeing the individual enthusiasms of bloggers and commenters alike assert themselves. To pick just three, I’ve turned into quite the most unexpected fan of Freeman Wills Crofts, Puzzle Doctor is soon to convert us all to the joys of Brian Flynn, and TomCat has derived great pleasure from the works of John Russell Fearn. And it’s nice to share in a joy with someone, so through an uncertain combination of runic alchemy and liturgical dance, I ended up at the conclusion that Death in Silhouette (1950) would be the next Fearn for me to try, and here we are.
At some point in the 1980s, Britain started pumping out crime fiction by authors who literary darlings could feel smug about admitting they slum it with: Colin Dexter, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, and today’s experiment, Reginald Hill, among others — authors I’ve sampled here and there and who generally leave me cold. My precise objection to them is difficult to pin down, but they seem to me to be forcing upon the genre a staid acceptability it neither needed nor flourishes under, and that’s something I can’t get further into without reading more of it…and, well, I’m reluctant to do that. A Killing Kindness (1980) perfectly exemplifies why.