#718: Blue Murder (1942) by Harriet Rutland

Blue Murder

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I read the first half of Blue Murder (1942), the third and final novel by Harriet Rutland, in a single gasp.  It’s a fascinating opening, deliberately short on setting and description so as to emphasise the characters you’re going to be spending the book with, and it drew me like a moth to a flame, eager for the destruction to come. From the outset, when headteacher Mr. Hardstaffe learns that his affairs are being gossiped about by the village schoolchildren and calls them “little bastards!” for showing such disrespect, we’re clearly not in the genteel arm of GAD, and it’s only a matter of how savagely Rutland develops from here. And, as things progress, we seem to ring more than a few changes.

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

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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?

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#676: The Heel of Achilles (1950) by E. & M.A. Radford

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When a man wrongly implicated in criminous deeds finds himself at the mercy of a blackmailer, is pushed to the limit by the blackmailer’s avarice, kills said blackmailer and goes to great lengths to cover up the crime only to find himself pursued by a highly-observant criminologist…you’re not the only one getting Mr. Pottermack’s Oversight (1930) vibes.  And, Pottermack being one of my most delighted discoveries of the last couple of years, you’d expect The Heel of Achilles (1950) by E. & M.A. Radford to suffer by comparison, but it is in fact simply proof of how much richness the Golden Age was able to find in the same material.

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#385: Cut Throat (1932) by Christopher Bush

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Flour, eggs, sugar, butter.  Mix them, put them in the oven, you get a cake.  But there are cakes and there are cakes.  Equally, books.  Give me a baffling murder, the precise focus of which shifts again and again like the first two sections of John Dickson Carr’s The Arabian Nights Murder (1936), and stir in a Croftian alibi trick and I should be in heaven.  Alas, this is one of the bad cakes — the sort of well-intentioned thing your seven year-old nephew bakes and you take two bites from out of politeness and then put down and hope no-one brings back to your attention.  Christopher Bush has taken promising ingredients and cooked us a turgid mess.

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#86: Where has all the classic detective fiction gone…?

Unavailable classics

If you’re anything like me, well, firstly my condolences, but also you have a list of books not printed any time in the last few decades that you spend hours scouring secondhand bookshops, book fairs, online auction sites, and other people’s houses in the hope of finding.  A lot of them – in my case, say, The Stingaree Murders by W. Shepard Pleasants – are rather obscure and so their lack of availability is understandable, but in other cases it just seems…baffling.

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