#831: “As you know, an unusual crime has a deep interest for me…” – Bodies from the Library 4 [ss] (2021) ed. Tony Medawar

I can’t believe that there is a GAD enthusiast who doesn’t look forward to the annual Bodies from the Library collections so expertly curated by Tony Medawar. In bringing to public awareness some of the forgotten, neglected, or simply unknown stories that the great and the good of the form produced, these collections have become a source of great excitement, and a must-read for even the most ardent student of the Golden Age.

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#791: Death at Breakfast (1936) by John Rhode

Death at Breakfast

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Is it damning Cecil Street with disgustingly faint praise to say that he has become the author about whose work I am most likely to say “Yeah, that’s pretty much what I expected”? Whether writing as Miles Burton or as John Rhode, he generally gives you a moderately interesting puzzle that would have been better if a little more time were devoted to its structure and contents. My admittedly small sampling of his work doesn’t display the variety of Freeman Wills Crofts nor the creative construction and elucidation of R. Austin Freeman, and that’s…fine. But given the materials at his fingertips it’s also…a little disappointing.

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#755: Mystery on Southampton Water, a.k.a. Crime on the Solent (1934) by Freeman Wills Crofts

Mystery on Southampton Water

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For evidence of the restless enthusiasm Freeman Wills Crofts brought to the writing of detective fiction, look no further than the two books he published in 1934. The first — The 12.30 from Croydon, a.k.a. Wilful and Premeditated — was his first inverted mystery, a fairly standard affair in which we are wise to the killer’s reasons, actions, and thoughts from the beginning and which Inspector Joseph French then unpicks quickly in the closing chapters. No doubt Crofts was interested in this new form, but simply repeating a formula which, if we’re honest, gets a little bit long-winded in the closing stages did not appeal. And so changes were wrought for a second stab.

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In GAD We Trust – Episode 13: Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World (2020) by Mark Aldridge [w’ Mark Aldridge]

This year’s celebrations of the centenary of Hercule Poirot’s debut and, arguably, the dawn of the Golden Age of Detection have obviously been overshadowed by wider events, but there’s still much to celebrate — not least of which is a new book about Poirot from Mark Aldridge.

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#701: Death on the Way, a.k.a. Double Death (1932) by Freeman Wills Crofts

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No, I’m not back from hiatus.  But if you think I’m going to let today’s reissue of three more Freeman Wills Crofts novels — Sudden Death (1932), Mystery on Southampton Water (1934), and Crime at Guildford (1935) — pass without comment, you’re mad.  Plus, in my absence WordPress has foisted a new post-writing setup upon us all, and I need some practice because I hate change.  But the world’s a negative enough place right now, so let’s dwell on the exemplary work done by HarperCollins in bringing Crofts back for us to enjoy; some people have been waiting years to be able to afford some of these titles, and it’s a wonderful thing to have them in general circulation.

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In GAD We Trust – Episode 8: Uncovering Long-Forgotten Short Stories + Bodies from the Library 3 (2020) ed. Tony Medawar [w’ Tony Medawar]

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Today was due to have been the sixth (sixth!) Bodies from the Library conference at the British Library but, for obvious reasons, it’s not.  I can’t, alas, give you a whole day of GAD-based discussion, but I can at least fill an hour with someone from that line-up of exceptionally knowledgable people, Tony Medawar.

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#688: Sudden Death (1932) by Freeman Wills Crofts

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Today, three previously very hard to find novels by Freeman Wills Crofts are republished by HarperCollins: Death on the Way (1932), The Loss of the ‘Jane Vosper’ (1936), and Man Overboard! (1936).  September will add Mystery on Southampton Water (1934), Crime at Guildford (1935), and Sudden Death (1932) to that, bringing the total of Crofts’ works in ready circulation up to twenty.  I have no idea why they’re being published out of order, and frankly I don’t really care — it’s mainly just delightful to see him getting some traction — and I wanted to celebrate by continuing my broadly chronological reading of Crofts with this, the first of his which ever came to my attention.

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#670: Sleeping Murder (1976) by Agatha Christie

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Agatha Christie famously wrote the final novels to feature her two biggest sleuths well ahead of their publication, and where Hercule Poirot’s swansong Curtain (1975) was a joyous return to the heights for a character she had grown weary of, Sleeping Murder (1976) — the last hurrah for Miss Jane Marple, a character you can’t help but feel Christie had a growing respect for as she aged — is…fine.  Yes, it had a cogency and precision that At Bertram’s Hotel (1965) and Nemesis (1971) sorely needed, but in all honesty the sound and fury on display here signifies something that doesn’t even add up to a hill o’ beans, if you’ll forgive my mixing of classics.

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