#842: Red Harvest (1929) by Dashiell Hammett

Red Harvest

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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.

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#727: The Dain Curse (1929) by Dashiell Hammett

Dain Curse

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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.

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#576: A Little Help for My Friends – Finding a Modern Locked Room Mystery for TomCat Attempt #12: Endgame (2019) by Daniel Cole


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.

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#549: A Little Help for My Friends – Finding a Modern Locked Room Mystery for TomCat Attempt #11: Now You See Me (2019) by Chris McGeorge

Now You See Me

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.

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#192: The Tuesday Night Bloggers – First Steps Into the Woods with Orion’s Crime Masterworks…


Last week I talked about my first encounter with both Agatha Christie and classic detective fiction, and it got me all reflective about how things built from there and brought us to the point where via magic of some sort you’re reading words that I’ve written and anticipating that this will have something to do with classic crime and detective fiction any minute now…

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#162: The Tuesday Night Bloggers – Meta-Fictional Historical Deconstruction in Magpie Murders (2016) by Anthony Horowitz


Anthony Horowitz is probably my favourite contemporary author of detective fiction, as his superb Sherlock Holmes novel The House of Silk (2011) and its genuinely exceptional follow-up Moriarty (2013) displayed an affinity for both the milieu of Holmes and the necessary misdirection and construction of a blistering plot that blindsides you at will which seems to elude many who try to walk this path these days.  His earlier novel The Killing Joke (2004) isn’t really detective fiction per se, but shows a playfulness with narrative that is aware of many of the tropes of genre fiction and is worth mentioning here precisely because of how much it foreshadowed the work he does in Magpie Murders when it comes to deconstructing the classical detective and his ilk.

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#118: Jack Glass (2012) by Adam Roberts

Jack Glass“The impulse for this novel,” says Adam Roberts “was a desire to collide together some of the conventions of ‘Golden Age’ science fiction and ‘Golden Age’ detective fiction, with the emphasis more on the latter than the former.”  Well, count me in!  Sure, the authors he then cites (Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, Michael Innes) don’t all fill me with delight, but this is a collision of my two favourite genres plus impossible crimes — how could I pass it up?!  And it would have passed me by entirely had not blog-commenter ravenking81 brought it to my attention, so my most genuine thanks for that; at its best it’s a fascinatingly successful attempt at merging the two genres in a way that recalls both Isaac Asimov and John Dickson Carr, who, y’know, are the two finest authors to have worked in their respective genres.  So that’s a good thing.  By definition, however, it is not always at its best. Continue reading

#73: The Murder Room is dead, long live The Murder Room!

Murde Room titles

Mark Twain-esque, it seems that I may have extrapolated incorrectly from reports that Orion’s e-book initiative The Murder Room was ceasing operations and that the books will in fact be available for a little while yet.  Former Murder Room publisher Julia Silk – or someone purporting to be Julia Silk, but it seems an unlikely deception to perpetrate as she hasn’t even requested my bank details – has dropped by to let us know that not only a) will the books be available for a while yet (whew!) but also b) there’s new stuff coming as well.

Happy days!