Roughly twenty years ago, the British publisher Orion released a series of reprints under the banner of Crime Masterworks which had something of a transformative effect on the books Younger Me started to look out for. Included in that selection was the short story collection Nightwebs (1971) by Cornell Woolrich.Continue reading
I first encountered J.J. Connington’s two-book sleuth Superintendent Ross in his debut, The Eye in the Museum (1929), a novel I disliked so much I’ve banished from memory almost entirely. It was to be hoped, then, that Ross’ valedictorian case The Two Tickets Puzzle (1930) would strike me more favourably — which, given the rate these Golden Age tyros produced mysteries (this is Connington’s ninth crime novel in just four years), didn’t seem too unlikely: quality is bound to vary wildly under intense output. And, sure enough, Ross’ final case is an improvement: clearer, better structured, and far more engaging.
In the early days of this blog, to indicate my tastes, I brazenly avowed that certain authors were unlikely ever to be reviewed here; bang in the middle of that list, fresh from disappointments with his short fiction, was Dashiell Hammett. Even in the throes of castigation, however, I acknowledged the “dense and amazing” plotting of his debut novel Red Harvest (1929), which had a startling effect on this young man when finding my feet in the genre in the early 2000s. And then Nick Fuller’s recent review of that book — linked below — did to its reputation what the Continental Op does to Personville herein, and my interest in revisiting it was well and truly piqued.
Doubtless on account of my predilection for typically British novels of detection, I have somehow fostered the mistaken reputation of one who dislikes the Hardboiled school. I mean, I named Jim Thompson one of the four most important male authors in crime fiction, have heaped praise on James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, both Ross and John D. MacDonald, and the Cool & Lam books of Erle Stanley Gardner, but still there lingers an air of distrust whenever I step away from the Venetian vase of the drawing room and into the mean streets. So let’s look to The Dain Curse (1929) to exemplify a lot of the good that the subgenre has to offer.
I started, but did not finish, Daniel Cole’s debut novel Ragdoll (2017), which seemed to me a gruesome hook followed by a lot of meandering prose. Endgame (2019), his third novel, promised me a dead body in a locked room and so, since I’m reluctant to write off anyone after just one book, here we are.
The English language is a funny thing. Take for instance Chris McGeorge’s debut novel Guess Who (2018) which, revolving as it did around a group of people solving a mystery while locked in a room, was marketed as a ‘locked room mystery’ when that is a phrase which has already had another meaning for well over a century.
Since four Tuesdays in the month only allow me four books as part of this Going Home series, today we finish the current run. But I’ve enjoyed rereading these books and will doubtless return to this concept at some future point.
Another week, another look at a book which put me on the path to the classic detection obsession which occupies my every waking moment.