Thursday, November 23, 2017

THE FEATHERED SERPENT - Edgar Wallace

























After Miss Ella Creed was knocked out by thieves outside her home, she was terrified.  She seemed to care little for her lost jewels - they were just imitation after all - but when she was unconscious a card had been toed around her neck.  On it was  a crude drawing of a feathered serpent.

Reporter Peter Derwin soon discovers that a wealthy artist, a boxing promoter and a nouveau riche stockbroker share her fear.  But why? And who is behind the crimes of the Feathered Serpent?

Published in 1932 this is a fun little adventure and reasonably complex for Wallace who churned the books out, 173 novels it is believed.  He liked a punt and was forever writing to pay the bills.

With these stories you suspend belief and enjoy some crime from simpler times when burglars actually said "fair cop, guv" and love was chaste.

This is a nifty little edition  published in 2007 by Hodder.  Its a facsimile of the original and they have even gone to the trouble of adding rubbing discolouration and  staining.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

HANGMAN'S HOLIDAY - Dorothy L Sayers

























In twelve ingenious and baffling tales Dorothy L. Sayers demonstrates her mastery of the short, sharp story.

This is a good short story collection, their are four stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey, six featuring the travelling wine salesman Montague Egg and two standalone tales.

The Montegue Egg stories are the most enjoyable, the little salesman seems to stumble across  murder and murderers where ever he goes.  Egg is a good character and its a shame Sayers didn't write more featuring him.

As stated a good collection, ideal for a flight or the bathroom.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

DEAD MAN'S KNOCK - John Dickson Carr

























Rumbustious Dr Gideon Fell has been invited to inspect the material for a book by an early detective novelist.  He hardly expects that he will have to investigate a real death at the same time.  But an over-amorous woman is found killed in exactly the same way as the victim in the book.  So Dr fell leaves his literary pursuits and thunders into action.

This is a locked room murder mystery of which Carr is a fine exponent, except in this story.  Set in a small American college town it has too many red herrings that are left hanging and the entire cast of characters are all unlikeable.

Carr's detective, Fell, doesn't make an appearance until half way through the story and adds nothing to the story.  To cap it off there is silly last chapter, I have no idea why this was added as the story had been resolved prior.

Reading Carr is worthwhile but I'd leave this one way down the list  of his books to read first.

Friday, November 10, 2017

TREASURE ISLAND - Robert Louis Stevenson

























When young Jim Hawkins finds an old map showing the location of a hoard of buried treasure, he joins the crew of the Hispaniola who set sail to find it.  But they soon have a mutiny on their hands, led by the duplicitous pirate Long John Silver.  As the quest turns murderous, Jim's bravery is put to the test, and he discovers much about friendship, loyalty and betrayal on this daring voyage. 

This is one of, if not the greatest adventure stories ever written. The story was originally serialized in the children's magazine Young Folks before being published in 1883. 

Its intriguing and exciting from the outset when Billy Bones arrives at the Admiral Benbow Inn.  From here we are introduced to characters and language that have become part of our everyday life, Blind Pew, Ben Gunn ,Long John Silver and

Fifteen men on the dead man's chest-
Yo,ho, ho, and a bottle of rum!

There seems to have been several hundred film and television adaptations of this story of which I remember a few but none I've seen have done justice to this tale.  Wonderful

Sunday, November 5, 2017

BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON - Dorothy L Sayers

























At last...Lord Peter Wimsey and his Harriet- the woman he had saved from a wrongful conviction for murder- were married.  With the reception over and the reporters dodged, they only had to slip into the Daimler, which the suavely imperturbable Bunter had laden with provisions from Fortnum's and a tenderly wrapped crate of port, and cruise down to Paggleham for what should have been the most peaceful of honeymoons.

But this is 'a love story with detective interruptions'; the newly wedded lord and his lady were only allowed one night in their goose-feather marriage bed before a corpse presented itself.

This is a 'locked room' mystery but there's a massive cheat in that there is no way the reader can solve the problem because we are not told half the story.

What redeems this is the Harriet Vane character, she is as good as you get in detective fiction, clever funny and interesting.  Its a shame Sayers didn't do more with her but explains why 'Gaudy Night' is my favourite book in this series.

More serious than early books with some character development going back into how Wimsey and Bunter paired up.  Not the best of this series I've read but still better than most.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

THE PONSON CASE - Freeman Wills Crofts

























When the body of Sir William Ponson is found in the Cranshaw River near his home of Luce manor, it is assumed to be an accident- until the evidence points to murder.  Inspector Tanner of Scotland Yard discovers that those that would benefit most from his death seem to have unbreakable alibis, and a mysterious fifth man whose footprints were found at the scene is nowhere to be found.

Published in 1921 this is more police procedural that the normal murder mystery that was published around this time.

The reader is taken through the investigation step by step and is given all the information and is privy to all conversations that the police have and undertake so if you have a heart beat you should be able to figure out the end result.

Being taken painstakingly through the investigation process could be terribly dull but Crofts writing style keeps the reader engaged and builds tension nicely making for a very satisfying read.

This edition is a re-published hardback by the Collins Crime Club from 2016 with the original dust jacket reproduced.

I'm loving the fact that more of these 'golden age' crime books are becoming available as the earlier editions are becoming harder to locate. This is especially true for the likes of Crofts whose profile has not been maintained like that of  Sayers, Allingham or Christie.

Friday, October 27, 2017

THE MOVING TOYSHOP - Edmund Crispen

























Richard Cadogan, poet and would-be bon vivant arrives for what he thinks will be a relaxing holiday in the city of dreaming spires.  Late one night, however, he discovers the dead body of an elderly woman lying in a toy shop and is coshed on the head.  When he comes to he finds the toy shop has disappeared and been replaced with a grocery store.  The police are understandably sceptical of his tale but Richard's former schoolmate, Gervase Fen ( Oxford professor and amateur detective), knows that truth is stranger then fiction.

So begins a brilliant locked room mystery first published in 1946.  Gervase Fen runs around Oxford at a frenetic pace with his friend trying to solve the murder.

The story is peopled with wonderful characters, students, dons and villains.  Crispen continually throws in literary references, i.e to pass the time when locked in a cupboard he has our heroes play,
Unreadable Books, making them list books they have been unable to finish.

Fen is a terrible driver, a lover of a drink and a very good amateur detective.  You read this and it is understandable why this features on 'best of' lists.

Enormous fun, preposterous fun, but so enjoyable.