I’ve mentioned before how I grew up reading a lot of SF — Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula Le Guin, Larry Niven, E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith — and how certain authors like Philip K. Dick, Sheri S. Tepper, and Connie Willis still delight me in my dotage.
Given the inevitable decline in Agatha Christie’s powers as her career drew to a close, there’s a moderate irony in that fact that she had come off probably the most successful decade in the history of detective fiction writing when she opted to portray Hercule Poirot at his apparent worst.
It’s difficult to know where to begin with A Taste for Honey (1941), the first of three ‘Mr. Mycroft’ novels by H.F. Heard. The core conceit is delightfully barmy — I shall avoid naming it in this review to preserve it for the curious — and played with an impressively straight face, but beyond that there’s really only a short story’s worth of content here, spread thinly over 189 generously-margined pages. With only one plot-line, only really three characters, and nothing to widen the universe or engage the mind in any meaningful way past the halfway point (when the ending will already be painfully obvious to anyone), this really is just a latter-day Holmes pastiche with verbal diarrhoea.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the most unpleasant character in any murder mystery typically ends up dead. The cozier the mystery, the truer this adage becomes. And the more hobby-based the mystery is, the cozier it tends to be…so welcome to Murder Brewed at Home (2015).
A certain amount of debate continues to rage — “rage” might be too strong a word — over whether the impossible alibi qualifies as a true impossible crime. I suggest that, should it eventually be inducted into future Locked Room Murders supplements, we do so on a ‘one out, one in’ policy and retire the “death by unknown means” to make space.
The joy of self-publishing must be the freedom to live or die solely on your own efforts. There’s most likely no-one looking over your shoulder to advise you, and while that may be the key factor that ruins a lot of SP fiction, if you can get it right on your own I imagine it’s rather thrilling.