#1061: Death and the Conjuror (2022) by Tom Mead

Death and the Conjuror

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Tom Mead is that rare thing these days: an author writing detective fiction in the classic tradition with some actual interest in the classic tradition of detective fiction. When he peppers the text of Death and the Conjuror (2022), his very entertaining and easy-to-read debut novel, with references to the work of R. Austin Freeman, G.K. Chesterton, Melville Davisson Post and others, you know it’s the result of time spent reading the genre rather than a few quick Google searches to give him credibility. And when he plays the games of identity and location as well as he does here, you also know he’s having a joyous time playing in his favourite sandbox…and wonderful it is to see.

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#1049: The End of Andrew Harrison, a.k.a. The Futile Alibi (1938) by Freeman Wills Crofts

End of Andrew Harrison

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It’s been a long road to The End of Andrew Harrison, a.k.a. The Futile Alibi (1938) by Freeman Wills Crofts.  Back when I was fairly new to classic era detective fiction in general, and impossible crimes in particular, I heard rumours of this book — the first I’d ever heard of Crofts — but it turned out to be rather unavailable.  I also heard that Crofts was dull, dull, dull, however, and so spent a long time avoiding him before finally taking the plunge, falling in love with his writing and reading 22 of his novels in broad chronology, in which time Andrew Harrison was reprinted by Harper Collins.  And…that just about brings us up to date.

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#1035: “Our guest has a problem and I direct him to favour us with it.” – Tales of the Black Widowers [ss] (1974) by Isaac Asimov

“Twelve mystery masterpieces by the maestro” promises the back cover of Tales of the Black Widowers (1974), the first collection featuring Isaac Asimov’s puzzle-solving dining club, and given that Asimov says in the introduction that his “detective ideal is Hercule Poirot and his little gray cells” it seems like it might not be an empty promise…

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#1019: Back from the Grave (1940) by Walter S. Masterman

Back from the Grave

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In the London suburb of Balham, stark among the red-brick villas that stand like “lines of red cabbage in a field”, can be found the “ugly and squat” house Bloomfield, the one-time home of Mr. Peabody which contains within its high surrounding wall some three acres of land and presents a “forlorn appearance” to the world. Following the death of its elderly owner, who refused to sell out to the “rising tide of suburbia” and insisted the house and land be kept together, Bloomfield stands empty for many months until the mysterious Dr. Cox arrives on the scene and takes possession — refusing to answer any queries about himself or his work, much to the frustration of the local busybodies.

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#1018: “If it’s a new wrinkle in the art of homicide, I want to know all about it.” – The White Priory Murders (1934) by Carter Dickson

It speaks volumes about the excitement that the work of John Dickson Carr provokes in me that, with still around 20 of his novels unread, I’m revisiting some favourite titles from his output. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the likes of the American Mystery Classics and the British Library Crime Classics ranges are putting out such lovely new editions — and who wouldn’t want to revisit Carr in his prime?

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