#918: The Life of Crime (2022) by Martin Edwards

Life of Crime

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To me falls the honour of rounding off the blog tour for The Life of Crime (2022) by Martin Edwards, adding to the deserved praise it has already garnered elsewhere. This “personal journey through the genre’s past, with all the limitations and idiosyncrasies that implies” is a monumental achievement, encompassing the breadth and depth of a genre that is now a good couple of centuries old, and finding many nuggets to share about it along the way. And, since any study of a genre must inherently be about that genre to some extent, Edwards’ trump card here is to tell a story of crime writing that also sheds light on the need for such stories to exist in the first place.

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#909: The Mask of the Vampire (2014) by Paul Halter [trans. John Pugmire 2022]

Mask of the Vampire

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For someone who wishes there was more ambition displayed in the modern impossible crime novel, I prove hard to please when Gallic maestro of the impossible Paul Halter stretches his wings into his more enterprising undertakings. I can’t shake the feeling that I rated The Man Who Loved Clouds (1999, tr. 2018) a little too harshly, and maybe in a couple of years I’ll feel that The Mask of the Vampire (2014, tr. 2022) deserves more than the three stars I’m giving it. Because, see, there is a lot of ambition here, and I want to celebrate the complexity of Halter’s intentions and achievements…but, I dunno, something just holds me back.

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#895: “There are some jokes, young man, that are not permitted here.” – Speak of the Devil [rp] (1994) by John Dickson Carr [ed. Tony Medawar]

The recently-published The Island of Coffins (2020) brought several of John Dickson Carr’s previously-unavailable radio plays to public attainability, and gave many of us the chance to appreciate the Master in a slightly different milieu. Shortly after reading that wonderful volume, I was lucky enough to acquire Speak of the Devil (1994), the script for the eight-part radio serial Carr wrote for broadcast in 1941, and it is to that which we turn today.

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#891: A Fête Worse than Death (2007) by Dolores Gordon-Smith

Fete Worse than Death

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Attending a village fete in support of family connections, Jack Haldean is vexed to be confronted by the boorish Jeremy Boscombe — an acquaintance from his war days he’d rather avoid. Several whiskeys later, Boscombe is deposited in the fortune-teller’s tent and, when Mrs Griffin returns victorious from the cake competition to resume her palm readings, it’s discovered that Boscombe’s presumed drunken slumber is in fact a rather more permanent state of affairs: someone has crept up to the tent and shot him dead. And Jack Haldean, who had made his displeasure at Boscombe’s presence known, had been standing right outside the tent when it happened…

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#865: There Is Nothing Either Good or Bad, But Thinking Makes It So – Examining the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones List

If you’ve met me, firstly I apologise, and secondly it’ll come as no surprise that I have a tendency to ruminate on that which many others pass over without so much as a backward glance. Previously this resulted in me writing something in the region of 25,000 words on the Knox Decalogue, and today I’m going to turn my eye upon the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones list. Prepare thyself…

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#863: Minor Felonies – Premeditated Myrtle (2020) by Elizabeth C. Bunce

On page 110 of 355 of Elizabeth C. Bunce’s Premeditated Myrtle (2020) we learn that 12 year-old Myrtle Hardcastle starts reading novels in the middle because “beginnings were often boring”. Thankfully the unproved murder on which the entire book to that point has hung is finally suspected a few pages later and the book comes to life at last, but there’s an uncomfortably meta air to the criticism at the time.

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#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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#819: A Little Help for My Friends – Finding a Modern Locked Room Mystery for TomCat Attempt #17: The Knight’s Tale (2021) by M.J. Trow

The last time I checked out a modern impossible crime novel on the increasingly-tenuous pretence that this is being done exclusively for the beneft of TomCat, I took a swing at something that turned out to (maybe?) contain no impossibility at all. Thankfully that won’t happen again. Right?

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#818: Waltz into Darkness (1947) by Cornell Woolrich [a.p.a. by William Irish]

Waltz into Darkness

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It’s fair to say that, in the course of writing this blog over the last six years, I have become known as something of a plot fiend. Atmosphere is lovely, memorable characters are preferable, social commentary perfectly acceptable, but what drew me to classic-era detective fiction was the possibilities of plot and plenty of it. On that front, Waltz into Darkness (1947), Cornell Woolrich’s 1880s-set epic of catfishing, revenge, and much more besides should leave me cold — heavy on emotion, laden with dread, fond of repetition to hammer home obvious points…everythng that should send me running. And yet, damn, I wish this probably 120,000-word book was twice as long.

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