#704: “That’s an interesting choice of phrase, young man…” – The Dead Sleep Lightly (1983) by John Dickson Carr [ed. Douglas G. Greene] Part 1 of 2

It’s fair to say that no-one has done more for the curation of John Dickson Carr’s work than Douglas G. Greene: collecting various obscure short pieces in the likes of The Door to Doom and Other Detections (1980), Merrivale, March, and Murder (1991), and Fell and Foul Play (1991), writing the staggeringly comprehensive (and recently reprinted) biography The Man Who Explained Miracles (1995), and enabling, through Crippen & Landru, publication of two — soon to be three — collections of Carr’s radio scripts edited by Tony Medawar.

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#691: Off the Record (2010) by Dolores Gordon-Smith

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You know the drill: two men in a meeting, a shot rings out, one of them is found with a bullet in him, the other holding the gun that fired it.  Stir in a “But he was already dead when I got here!” and simmer until an associate of an-amateur-sleuth-with-a-friend-in-the-police asks them to get involved (usually for personal reasons).  That Off the Record (2010) follows this recipe so perfectly is a credit to how perceptively Dolores Gordon-Smith has assimilated the Golden Age detective novel, because never does it feel just like we’re jumping through hoops for the sake of it.  The setup is familiar, but never less than engagingly handled.

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#672: Adventures in Self-Publishing – Murder by Magic (2017) by Paul Tomlinson

Murder by Magic

Typical, eh?  You wait years for a blog to talk about magic, and then suddenly three posts come along at once: the most recent In GAD We Trust episode with John Norris, and two self-published impossible crime stories — one this week, and one next.  Sure, that’s stretching the definition of “at once” to an Orwellian degree, but that’s how I apparently roll.

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#666: Adventures in Self-Publishing – The Thirteenth Apostle (2020) + ‘The Episode of the Nine Monets’ (2020) by Jamie Probin

Thirteenth Apostle, The

There’s a quote attributed to Michaelangelo essentially stating that a statue already exists inside a block of stone and it’s merely the sculptor’s job to chip away the stone that isn’t part of the resulting artwork.  This came to mind a lot whilst reading The Thirteenth Apostle (2020) by Jamie Probin, because if you remove the excess of nervous repetition and tedious tone setting there’s probably a great book in here somewhere.

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#644: A Hundred Thousand Dragons (2010) by Dolores Gordon-Smith

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When Jack Haldean encounters Durant Craig in the lounge at Claridge’s hotel, the latter apparently carries a grievance from their war days and offers up a volley of abuse before storming out.  Haldean refuses to disclose the reason for Craig’s outburst — offering only that “I let him down rather badly once…I deserve it” — and instead seems keen to forget the meeting.  When a mysterious car accident during a fancy dress party raises the possibility of murder, it’s not long before Halden and Superintendent Ashley find themselves investigating a menage that involves one Durant Craig…and so it seems that Jack Haldean has a reckoning with the misdeeds of his past.

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#629: Hardly a Man is Now Alive, a.k.a. Murder Now and Then (1950) by Herbert Brean

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Three books into the seven-strong output of Herbert Brean, I’m going to suggest that he’s one of the most unjustly-neglected writers of the latter-GAD era — that “latter” prefix being key.  Brean’s plots are dense enough for the puzzle fiends of the 1930s, and his social milieu more than matches the requirements of the post-GAD 1950s hankering after domestic suspense, but each school will be disappointed by how much of its rival is present.  Thus, puzzle fans lazily insisting he’s in the same bracket as John Dickson Carr and realism fans keen to play up his HIBK credentials each sell him as writing sorts of books he never wrote, and everyone ends up disappointed.

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