#972: Peril at Cranbury Hall (1930) by John Rhode

Peril at Cranbury Hall

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Accompanying an architect in an examination of the faded ancestral pile of Cranbury Hall, prim solicitor Arthur Gilroy happens upon his wastrel half brother Oliver, with whom he has an interview later that evening, who is rather elliptical about the reason for his presence.  The two part on not unfriendly terms and, soon after, a shot rings out that is attributed to poachers taking liberties on the ownerless land.  But when Oliver fails to show up for their meeting, Arthur begins to suspect that “some mysterious tragedy had occurred”…and he might be right, since that shot turns out to have been merely the first attempt on Oliver’s life.

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#928: “Now we’re involved in it all over again…” – Heads You Lose (1941) by Christianna Brand

With the British library Crime Classics range apparently achieving the impossible by arranging for Green for Danger (1944) and Death of Jezebel (1948) by Christianna Brand to be reprinted, the time seemed ripe to take her second novel Heads You Lose (1941) out of the shelf space that it recently started occupying and see how it stacks up.

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#921: The Footprints on the Ceiling (1939) by Clayton Rawson

Footprints on the Ceiling

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This might be the longest-gestating punchline in blogging history, but it was also about time I returned to Clayton Rawson. Ever since the American Mystery Classics reissued Rawson’s debut novel Death from a Top Hat (1938), I’ve been waiting for them to release his second, The Footprints on the Ceiling (1939), so that I could finally experience it. And then I discovered a few months ago that I’d already bought Footprints as an ebook and it had been waiting, long-forgotten, on my e-reader of choice. And, as someone who feels Rawson’s best work might have been his short stories, I have to say that I very much enjoyed…most of this.

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#641: Killed on the Rocks (1990) by William L. DeAndrea

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The brain works in funny ways. TomCat has been a champion of Killed on the Rocks (1990), the sixth novel to feature William L. DeAndrea’s semi-amateur sleuth Matt Cobb, for as long as I can remember.  I learned of this book from TC’s list of favourite impossible crime novels, and was delighted to find a copy about 16 months ago, but it would have sat on my shelves for a long time yet — because, dude, my TBR is haunting — had I not learned, quite by accident, that DeAndrea himself died at the tragically tender age of 44.  I can’t explain the logic, but I suddenly had the urge to read this, and the desire to enjoy it…and now I’ve done both.

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#554: The Case of the Solid Key (1941) by Anthony Boucher

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Several years ago, discovering that the impossible crime novel was a thing, I read Anthony Boucher’s Nine Times Nine (1940), originally published as by H.H. Holmes, and loved it.  I then discovered TomCat’s list of favourite impossible crime novels and was intrigued by the fact that, eschewing the accepted classic that Nine Times Nine is, Boucher’s later, less discussed The Case of the Solid Key (1941) was included there instead (TC, it must be said, is something of an iconoclast…).  More Boucher followed, some of it disappointing, and last year I finally ran to ground a copy of TCotSK in a secondhand bookshop in Philadelphia and — at long, long last — here we go.

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#334: The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934) by Ellery Queen

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Sure, laugh it up.  Just a few short months ago I stated my intention to read the entirety of the output of Manny Lee and/or Frederic Dannay under the Ellery Queen nom de plume, and here I am — some struggles later — jumping ahead to a more warmly-perceived title.  I’m not happy about it myself, I much prefer to do these things chronologically, but equally I want to want to read their books again.  I’ve loved some, been unaffected by others, and abominated a handful, and as such Queen remains a problem child for me.  So here I am, back on the horse in a different town, mixing metaphors with the best of ’em.  And the result…?

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#240: Tour de Force (1955) by Christianna Brand

Tour de ForceI was pretty much goaded into this, you should know.  Ben at The Green Capsule is diversifying his blogging to extend beyond the works of John Dickson Carr, and the first book he chose was Christianna Brand’s Green for Danger.  In the comments, conversation turned to other Brand titles and Brad had the temerity to doubt my fortitude: I don’t think JJ should read Tour de Force either. I couldn’t bear to think what he would make of it!  Well, challenge accepted.  Now, true, Brand and I didn’t get off to the best of starts — Green for Danger made her very much the new stepmother trying too hard to replace Agatha Christie in my affections — but we’ve had some great times since then, and so I came to this with an open mind.

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#239: Construction, Clarity, Conformity, and the Contortions of Ellery Queen in The French Powder Mystery (1930)

French Powder Mystery

Contrary to what the books may tell us, the father of Ellery Queen, detective, is not Inspector Richard Queen but instead Philo Vance, the dilettante amateur wise-arse detective created by S.S. van Dine.  I’m not claiming this is an original observation — far from it — but reading the second novel to feature the Queens and the first in which Ellery actually solves the case (he has a very small hand in their debut, The Roman Hat Mystery) it’s interesting to realise just how heavily Dannay and Lee were leaning on van Dine at this point of their careers.

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#219: No Flowers By Request, a.k.a. Omit Flowers (1937) by Stuart Palmer

No Flowers by RequestSummoned by a distant relative to a secluded family pile, a young(ish) man finds himself isolated with a fixed cast of closely-related characters as money-hungry relatives, murder, and all other sorts of puzzle plotting chicanery inveigle themself onto the scene.  Yes, in many ways No Flowers By Request takes the exact same ingredients as The Search for My Great-Uncle’s Head — vast swathes of it will appear ominously familiar — and plays perfectly in the 1937 tradition that Rich has got us investigating this month for Crimes of the Century.  But does the rest of the book hold up past these fundamentals?  And is it any good, after the failure of Jonanthan Latimer’s stirring of these same ingredients?

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