#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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#913: “You people have the most cheerful imaginations…” – It Walks by Night (1930) by John Dickson Carr

With the superb British Library Crime Classics range having recently published its one hundredth title, and with doubtless many more books still in its future, the time seems ripe to revisit one of its most exciting reprints, It Walks by Night (1930) the novel-length debut of John Dickson Carr and his first sleuth, Henri Bencolin.

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#912: Phantom Lady (1942) by Cornell Woolrich [a.p.a. by William Irish]

Phanton Lady

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I hadn’t intended Phantom Lady (1942) to be my next Cornell Woolrich read — that was going to be a revisit of the short story collection Nightwebs (1971) which so underwhelmed me and put me off Woolrich for two decades, only for me to fall in love with the man’s work recently — but, after his own glowing review of this title, I don’t think Ben at The Green Capsule would have forgiven me if I’d gone anywhere else. And, honestly, I’m having such a blast with Woolrich’s nightmarescapes that I was probably going to enjoy whatever I read…but, woo, can I ever see why he wanted me to read this one. So, attempting to avoid nudges, winks, and spoilers that might mar your enjoyment, here goes…

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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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#907: “Whimsical and bizarre conceits of this kind are common enough in the annals of crime…” – The Sign of Four, a.k.a. The Sign of the Four (1890) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My memory of The Sign of Four (1890), the second story to feature Sherlock Holmes from the pen of Arthur Conan Doyle, was that it offered little of interest or consequence, and stood rather as a footnote in the canon than a core text. And, rereading it for this post, I’ve come to realise that this impression is both quite right and very wrong indeed.

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#904: “If you knew the man, you would realize that he is mad enough for anything.” – Cross Marks the Spot (1933) by James Ronald

Actress Cicely Foster, calling at the home of movie mogul Jacob Singerman to discuss a role in a ‘talkie’, is innocent enough to be shocked by his advances and fights him off, striking him on the head in the struggle before fleeing. When reporter Julian Mendoza, “the bloodhound of Fleet Street”, tracks her down and tells her that Singerman was found dead shortly after her departure, it looks bleak…but for the small matter of the corpse having been found with a bullet between his eyes.

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