#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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#865: There Is Nothing Either Good or Bad, But Thinking Makes It So – Examining the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones List

If you’ve met me, firstly I apologise, and secondly it’ll come as no surprise that I have a tendency to ruminate on that which many others pass over without so much as a backward glance. Previously this resulted in me writing something in the region of 25,000 words on the Knox Decalogue, and today I’m going to turn my eye upon the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones list. Prepare thyself…

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#861: The Man Who Died Twice (2021) by Richard Osman

Man Who Died Twice

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Anyone who didn’t buy Richard Osman’s second novel The Man Who Died Twice (2021) when it came out last year probably got it for Christmas, and you’ve doubtless read it by now. I actually read it just before Christmas, but it’s taken me a long time to order my thoughts regarding this second visit to the septuagenarian denizens of Cooper’s Chase retirement village. On one hand, I can see how millions of people around the world will be completely charmed by Osman’s whimsy; on the other, the plot here only really occupies the last 70 pages, with the rest of the book filled out by padding of the most egregious hue and stripe.

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#793: Minor Felonies/Little Fictions – ‘Mr. Manning’s Money Tree’ (1958) and ‘Larceny and Old Lace’ (1960) by Robert Arthur

It would be difficult to overstate the respect I have for the work done by Robert Arthur in the mystery genre. From creating The Three Investigators to turning out highly enjoyable fair-play mysteries for younger (and older) readers, the man displayed a brilliant creativity and a talent for diversity that makes every encounter with him a joy.

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#712: The Thursday Murder Club (2020) by Richard Osman

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I really should not have enjoyed The Thursday Murder Club (2020) as much as I did. I’m an avowed devotee of the rigour of Freeman Wills Crofts and I have a nerdy podcast where we get far too serious about the minutiae of classic era detective fiction, for pity’s sake — a lightly comedic crime novel in which a group of septuagenarians inveigle their way into a murder investigation while worrying about the quality of supermarket own-brand biscuits should not raise from me even a curious eyebrow. And yet, honestly, I loved it. I don’t think I’ve been this charmed in years, and I haven’t laughed so much and so helplessly since reading Catch-22 (1961) when I was about 17.

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#670: Sleeping Murder (1976) by Agatha Christie

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Agatha Christie famously wrote the final novels to feature her two biggest sleuths well ahead of their publication, and where Hercule Poirot’s swansong Curtain (1975) was a joyous return to the heights for a character she had grown weary of, Sleeping Murder (1976) — the last hurrah for Miss Jane Marple, a character you can’t help but feel Christie had a growing respect for as she aged — is…fine.  Yes, it had a cogency and precision that At Bertram’s Hotel (1965) and Nemesis (1971) sorely needed, but in all honesty the sound and fury on display here signifies something that doesn’t even add up to a hill o’ beans, if you’ll forgive my mixing of classics.

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