#954: The Wrong Murder (1940) by Craig Rice

Wrong Murder

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At the bunfight following his marriage to Helene Brand, theatrical agent Jake Justus, reflecting that “he had had more than his fair share of homicides”, is unprepared for Mona McClane boasting that she will kill someone “in broad daylight on the public streets, with…plenty of witnesses”. Surely she can’t be serious? And so a bet is struck — powered, no doubt, by the veneer of alcohol that drives so much of Craig Rice’s wild plotting — that, if Mona commits the murder, Jake will prove her guilty of it. And then a man is shot dead on the busiest corner in Chicago during the Christmas rush, with Mona McClane spotted in the vicinity just moments before.

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#946: Law and Order – Ranking the First Fifteen Inspector French Novels (1924-36) by Freeman Wills Crofts

With the sixteenth to twenty-fourth novels by Freeman Wills Crofts to feature his series detective Chief Inspector Joseph French due to be republished between now and January 2023 (well, #18, Antidote to Venom (1938), is already available from the British Library) it occurred to me that people might be looking for advice about the first fifteen — all, incredibly, in print.

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#940: A Little Help for My Friends – Finding a Modern Locked Room Mystery for TomCat Attempt #19: The Botanist (2022) by M.W. Craven

Believe it or believe it not, this occasional endeavour — in which I read modern locked room and impossible crime novels in the hope that I may save my fellow enthusiast TomCat some drudgery — started with good intentions, despite rarely going to plan. So, does the enthusiasm Puzzle Doctor showed for this no-footprints baffler mean we’ve found a good one?

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#930: Night at the Mocking Widow (1950) by Carter Dickson

Night at the Mocking Widow

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I love a good village poison pen mystery but, as I’ve said before, they’re difficult to write because both the village and the mystery must convince and compel. Night at the Mocking Widow (1950), the twentieth book written under John Dickson Carr’s Carter Dickson nom de plume to feature Churchillian sleuth Sir Henry ‘H.M.’ Merrivale, starts off seeming like a great example of both…but once we hit the halfway stage and the impossible appearance and vanishing of the sinister Widow presents itself, the life rather goes out of things. From that point on, it feels more like a writing exercise than a novel, and one that Carr is forcing himself to complete.

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#924: The Curse of the Reckaviles (1927) by Walter S. Masterman

Curse of the Reckaviles

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How to explain my fascination with the work of Walter S. Masterman? The five books I’ve read so far are all written in a sprawling, loose style evoking detective fiction’s Victorian forebears — as if actually penned in the 1880s and discovered in a trunk before being published during the genre’s Golden Age — and the consequent veering of his plots should vex me immensely. And yet I keep returning to these Ramble House reprints because there’s something fascinating about Masterman’s insistence on writing books in this style despite the genre accelerating away from him. I mean, RH have published twenty-five of his novels…so he was hardly a flash in the pan.

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