Category Archives: Crime Fiction Alphabet

X is for … X v. REX (1933) by Philip MacDonald

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog is nearing its end as it reaches the letter X – and my nomination this week, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, … Continue reading

Posted in Crime Fiction Alphabet, Five Star review, London, Philip MacDonald, Scene of the crime | 15 Comments

W is for … WOBBLE TO DEATH (1970) by Peter Lovesey

The 2011 Alphabet of Crime community meme hosted by Kerrie over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog is nearing its conclusion. This week it reaches the letter W – and my nomination is … WOBBLE TO DEATH by Peter Lovesey … Continue reading

Posted in Crime Fiction Alphabet, Peter Lovesey | 9 Comments

V is for … SOLOMON’S VINEYARD (1941) by Jonathan Latimer

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog is nearing its end as it reaches the letter V – and my second nomination this week, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

SOLOMON’S VINEYARD (1941) by Jonathan Latimer

“I fought in the war,” Jonesy said; “but it wasn’t like this.”

This is a book that comes with a lot of baggage after gaining notoriety as a mystery that was so hardboiled that it wasn’t published uncut in the US for some forty years – does it, could it, really live up to that promise? Is this the book that is to the crime and mystery genre what DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was to ‘serious’ literature – an emancipating, liberating turning point in the genre? Well, no, not all. It’s still a damn good book though. Here’s some reasons why. Continue reading

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V is for … THE VIKING FUNERAL (2002) by Stephen J. Cannell

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog is nearing its end as it reaches the letter V – and my first nomination this week is …

THE VIKING FUNERAL by Stephen J. Cannell

“What happened next made no sense at all”

Graham Greene’s The Third Man is combined with a James Ellroy-style exposé involving corrupt politicians and rogue cops in the second of Stephen J. Cannell’s series featuring 20-year LA Homicide Squad veteran Shane Scully. Following directly from The Tin Collectors (2001), masterfully reviewed by Margot Kinberg over at her Confessions of a Mystery Novelist blog, we find Scully undergoing mandatory psychiatric evaluation after he took some highly ‘unorthodox’ methods to unravel a giant conspiracy to cover up a land grab involving a Hollywood mogul, the LA Mayor and his Chief of Police. He also fell in love with Alexa Hamilton, rising star of Internal Affairs (the eponymous ‘tin collectors’) and discovered he was the father of Charles ‘Chooch’ Sandoval. Continue reading

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U is for … UNNATURAL DEATH (1927) by Dorothy L. Sayers

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog has reached the letter U, and my nomination this week, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

UNNATURAL DEATH (1927) by Dorothy L. Sayers

“I believe this is the case I have always been waiting for. The case of cases. The murder without discernible means, or motive or clue”

This is the third published case featuring Lord Peter Wimsey, that most upperclass of amateur sleuths, and it is one in which he declares himself fascinated by the possibility of cracking a case where no one even believes there is in fact a murder to be solved. In fact this is  a novel all about the way people perceive one reality as opposed to that which may lie underneath, about discerning secret patterns beneath a humdrum exterior and how realities are formed and perhaps even manufactured. Lord Peter comes to believe that, in one sense, he may very well be the one actually responsible for setting in motion a series of murders that, for his intervention, might not in fact have occurred at all. Continue reading

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Blogs what I have read

Unaccustomed as I am to blogging (with apologies to the immortal British comedy duo Morecambe and Wise and their scriptwriter Eddie Braben), I just thought I’d stop for a minute or two to point with amazement at the apparent synchronicity surrounding the great time I have been having of late participating in the blogosphere. Without realising it, I seem to have joined a group of bloggers all of whom celebrate fairly traditional detective stories, with most of us in particular being great fans of John Dickson Carr and Ellery Queen.

There’s a lot of great crime and mystery bloggers out there and I have to tip my hat to several that I have recently had the pleasure of getting better acquainted with Continue reading

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THAT ANGEL LOOK (1997) by Mike Ripley

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter T, and my nomination, is …

THAT ANGEL LOOK by Mike Ripley

“I resorted to one of my long-standing philosophical maxims and thought: Stuff this for a bunch of soldiers.”

What can you say about a crime novel in which the hero, despite being bright, articulate, University-educated and a worldly-wise musician, spends most of his time driving a black cab and working as a gopher? That this same protagonist, when he’s not getting pushed around by cops and drug dealers, is also clearly under the thumb of not just his ambitious girlfriend but also completely at the mercy of his vicious pet cat? That this is the kind of novel in which the leading ladies turn out to be either neo-Nazis, witches or Thatcherite scum? Well, for starters, you would have to accept that this is a paradoxical book, one that treats subjects such as racism without levity and yet has a wisecracking laugh-to-page ratio to make most hardboiled wordsmiths envious. Welcome to Angel’s world, which resembles London, England in the 1990s on the cusp of the Internet revolution. Continue reading

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SILENCE OF THE GRAVE (2002) by Arnaldur Indriðason

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog has reached the letter S. My first nomination this week is …

SILENCE OF THE GRAVE by Arnaldur Indriðason

“As far as I can see this is the remains of a body. He hasn’t been there long. This is no Viking.”

According to the followers of Harold Camping, 21 May was Judgement Day, as reported in the New York Times here; ten days earlier an earthquake was apparently prophesied to hit Rome and raise the Italian capital, as reported in The Guardian here, with hundreds of people apparently fleeing the city as a result even though it was just an urban myth. Thankfully neither of these events took place and so did not need to be added to the spate of natural disasters that have befallen people all round the world in the last few months. Fear of such dire portents, this time from over a hundred years ago, lies at the heart of Silence of the Grave, the second in Arnaldur Indridason’s Inspector Erlunder series. Following the advice of Mrs P over at her fine transnational crime fiction blog, earlier this year I embarked on my first ever Icelandic crime novel, Indridason’s Jar City. The results were terrific (you can find my review here) , so it was with great anticipation that I cracked open my copy of the next volume in the series. Would it be as good as the first, or succumb to the difficult second album syndrome? Continue reading

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THE RED RIGHT HAND (1945) by Joel Townsley Rogers

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog has reached the letter R, and my second nomination this week, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

THE RED RIGHT HAND by Joel Townsley Rogers

“… surely one of the dozen or so finest mystery novels of the 20th century.” - Jack Adrian

There are prolific mystery writers, of great and small acclaim, who become defined by just one work – I’m not thinking of Helen Eustis and her sole adult contribution to the genre, the groundbreaking The Horizontal Man (1946), nor of distinctive but only belatedly recognised authors such as John Franklin Bardin. Rather there are those who, for various reasons, despite producing a number of offerings over their careers, only became popularly known for a small or even single portion of it. In some cases this is just an indication of capitalising on commercial success, as in Robert ‘Psycho’ Bloch for instance, but there are others only known to cognoscenti except for one exceptional title – and Joel Townsley Rogers is certainly one of those authors. Continue reading

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RIDE THE NIGHTMARE (1959) by Richard Matheson

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog has reached the letter R, and my first nomination this week, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

RIDE THE NIGHTMARE by Richard Matheson

“We’re going to Mexico but I had to stop and see you first, didn’t I, Chrissie boy?” said the man. “I been waiting a long time for this.”

A slender, slickly written paperback original that originally sold for 35 cents a copy, it is a breathlessly told tale of youthful rebellion gone sour. Chris Martin is 32, married and the father of a young girl. He runs his own small business, is a new member of the local Chamber of Commerce and he and his wife Helen are managing to save a little money towards buying a bigger place. He is content and seems to be living the Eisenhower-era dream – but this is all turned upside down and inside out within a matter of minutes by an anonymous phone call late one Wednesday evening. Chris has a deep, dark secret … Continue reading

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A QUEER KIND OF DEATH (1966) by George Baxt

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog has reached the letter Q, and my second nomination this week is …

A QUEER KIND OF DEATH by George Baxt

“I loved the boy,” she cackled, “but he did need murdering.”

Before making his accomplished debut as a novelist with this seductively unorthodox whodunit, George Baxt had already established himself as a scriptwriter of several modestly effective British thrillers and horror movies. The best of these include three notable collaborations with producer Julian Wintle and director Sidney Hayers: Circus of Horrors (1959), Payroll (1961), from the novel by Derek Bickerton, and Night of the Eagle (aka Burn, Witch, Burn) (1962), a fine adaptation of Fritz Leiber’s 1943 classic take of modern witchcraft ‘Conjure Wife’ and which Baxt was asked to rewrite following attempts by such noted authors as Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson (all three would ultimately share on-screen credit). Baxt’s background as a screenwriter, and as a supplier of gossip to Walter Winchell back in his days as an agent in New York in the 1950s, are well in evidence in A Queer Kind of Death, which made a considerable splash when it first appeared.

Probably the book’s best review, and the one emblazoned on many a reprints, was the one by Anthony Boucher in the New York Times where, inter alia, he said:

“This is a detective story, and unlike any other that you have read. No brief review can attempt to convey its quality. I merely note that it deals with a Manhattan subculture wholly devoid of ethics or morality, that staid readers may well find it “shocking”, that it is beautifully plotted and written with elegance and wit … and that you must under no circumstances miss it.”

Continue reading

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P is for … Polygamy and Poodle Springs

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter P. My third contribution this week is …

POODLE SPRINGS (1989) by Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker

Over at his estimable Classic Mystery blog the Puzzledoctor recently posted a review that combined the letter P and matrimony, which I thought was darn clever given the Royal Wedding hullabaloo over the past weekend. As a cheeky homage, let me counter (with apologies to the good doctor) with a brief overview of what might be termed a polygamous book (in many senses) …
At the time of his death in 1959 Raymond Chandler was working on a new novel featuring Philip Marlowe, the immortal private eye he created twenty years earlier in The Big Sleep. Tentatively entitled ‘The Poodle Springs Story’, Chandler’s parody of Palm Springs, it sees Marlowe married off to Linda Loring, the wealthy socialite he first met in The Long Good-bye (1953) and who proposed to him at the end of Playback (1958). Chandler left some notes and four completed chapters of his new story after wrestling with it for months, unsure if marrying off Marlowe was a good idea or not. Nearly thirty years later Robert B. Parker, the creator of Boston PI Spenser, was tasked with turning these scant 20 or so pages into a novel. Continue reading

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PUZZLE FOR PLAYERS (1938) by Patrick Quentin

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog has reached the letter P, and my second nomination this week, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

PUZZLE FOR PLAYERS by Patrick Quentin

In 1936 the new ‘Inner Sanctum’ imprint from publishers Simon & Schuster was inaugurated with Puzzle for Fools, which not only was the first book published under the new ‘Patrick Quentin’ byline but also served to introduce a new kind of literary detective. Set in Dr Lenz’s mental asylum, we meet alcoholic theatrical producer Peter Duluth while he is undergoing treatment for depression. Unlike the equally hard-drinking Bill Crane, introduced the previous year in Jonathan Latimer’s Murder in the Madhouse (1935), Duluth really is an inmate and a undercover detective masquerading as one. Duluth was Broadway’s golden boy but after the tragic death of his wife he hit the bottle and his career has gone downhill. Now he is in the sanitarium and in the course of his stay he helps solve a couple of murders; but more importantly he meets fellow patient, Iris Pattison, and the two fall in love. Although a great little book, Puzzle for Fools is not the best in the series, so here I have plumped for the follow-up, which apart from being a superior mystery also has the benefit of having another ‘P’ in the title … Continue reading

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PIGEON ENGLISH (2011) by Stephen Kelman

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog has reached the letter P, and my first nomination this week is …

PIGEON ENGLISH by Stephen Kelman

This novel was launched earlier this year on a wave of advance publicity following a surprising bidding war between publishers for the rights – surprising because this is Stephen Kelman’s first book. Like the previously reviewed Rupture by Simon Lelic, another debut novelist, this is a work that is recognisable within the confines of the crime genre and yet one that many will feel doesn’t comfortably belong there. Both have plots centred around a seemingly senseless crime in London’s urban sprawl and both try to reveal some greater truth beneath acts of violence all to familiar from the nightly news. While Lelic’s book was mostly notable for taking in over a dozen points of view, Pigeon English is much more narrowly focused though it too goes to great pains to paint a convincing picture of contemporary modes of speech and behaviour as used by inner city youth. Continue reading

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O is for … THE ORIGIN OF EVIL (1951) by Ellery Queen

As the Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog reaches the letter O, my second nomination this week, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

O is for … THE ORIGIN OF EVIL by Ellery Queen

This is the third and last of Ellery Queen’s ‘Hollywood’ novels and indeed the three have been published together as an omnibus, though this does tend to emphasise the massive change of style in the final volume.

Indeed, what we are offered here is a jaundiced view of Hollywood and of the great detective himself, who here acts without the help and support of his father in a story which is much more redolent of the post-war noir sensibility we would more normally associate with Woolrich or Chandler for instance. It is a rich and strange novel, one that while being unmistakably ‘Queenian’ shows authors Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee continuing to explore new formulas to try and incorporate increasingly complex themes within the mystery genre. Continue reading

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O is for … OBELISTS AT SEA (1932) by C. Daly King

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter O, and my nomination, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

O is for … OBELISTS AT SEA by C. Daly King

C(harles) Daly King penned seven mystery books  in the 1930s before turning his back on fiction to concentrate on psychoanalysis. His books, some of which are very hard to obtain today, are marked by an impish sense of humour, some highly original ideas and some slightly obscure ones as well, not least of which is: what is an ‘obelist’? By starting at the beginning perhaps we can find out. This was the first of King’s novels and the first of his ‘Obelist’ trilogy, all of which combine murder, travel and psychiatry. It is set on a luxury transatlantic liner, the SS Meganaut, traveling with over 1,000 passengers from New York to Cherbourg. One evening lightning shorts out the generator and the first class smoking lounge is plunged into darkness. While the lights are out a shot is fired and when they return, self-made multi-millionaire Victor Smith is dead, a his female companion’s pearl necklace has been stolen and another man, shady lawyer De Brasto, is literally holding a smoking gun. But nothing is what it seems. Indeed it turns out that Smith has not one but two bullets inside him, one immediately on top of the other,  even though only one shot was heard – and neither has been fired from De Brasto’s gun. To add to the confusion, while the daughter is later pronounced dead she later vanishes from the doctor’s surgery. Continue reading

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NOW YOU SEE IT … (1995) by Richard Matheson

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog has reached the letter N, and my second nomination this week is …

NOW YOU SEE IT … by Richard Matheson

Sixty years after the publication of his first short story, ‘Born of Man and Woman’ in 1950, Richard Matheson is probably still best known for such tales of science fiction and fantasy as The Incredible Shrinking Man and the oft-filmed I Am Legend, as well as for his many television scripts for the original version of The Twilight Zone. But he is a varied and prolific writer with literally dozens and dozens of scripts, short stories and novels to his credit who outside of the fantasy genres has also written westerns, non fictions studies of metaphysics and philosophy – and several thrillers. One the most unusual of these is Now You See It … (1995), which combines mystery, suspense and magic and which, as we shall see, has a complex history all its own. Continue reading

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N is for … NINE TIMES NINE (1940) by Anthony Boucher

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter N, and my nomination, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …

NINE TIMES NINE by Anthony Boucher

This golden age mystery is one of several fine examples of the genre that, like Clayton Rawson’s Death from a Top Hat (1938) and Edmund Crispin’s Love Lies Bleeding (1948), were inspired directly by the work of John Dickson Carr, the master of the locked room / impossible crime story. In this particular case, the book is not only dedicated to Carr, but in fact has an entire chapter devoted to discussing one of his novels. Continue reading

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M is for … MAN OUT OF NOWHERE (1965) by LP Davies

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter M.

M is for … MAN OUT OF NOWHERE by LP Davies

Leslie Purnell Davies is an author truly deserving of the ‘cult’ epithet. Not just for the two dozen novels and sixty or so short stories that has garnered him a small but dedicated following over the last 50 years or so; but also because, not long after bursting on the literary scene, he almost as quickly turned his back on it to become seemingly as elusive and mysterious as one of his protagonists. After an intense period of activity in the 1960s and early 70s, which saw him achieve a small measure of success in both the mystery and science fictions genres, Davies stepped back in the shadows and left his creative life behind – to be rediscovered by intrepid readers picking up copies of his books in second-hand bookshops. One publisher looking to reprint his work eventually had to hire a private detective to track him down, but found only a grave on foreign soil for his troubles. This is all well in keeping with Davies’ own fiction, which deals with identity, aberrant states of mind and loss of control. This is particularly true of Man Out of Nowhere, also published in the US as Who is Lewis Pinder?, his second novel and one of his most ingenious Continue reading

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L is for … THE LEAGUE OF FRIGHTENED MEN (1935) by Rex Stout

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter L. My contribution this week is also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge. L is for …

THE LEAGUE OF FRIGHTENED MEN by Rex Stout

There are some books that in order to properly savour you have allow them time to properly ferment, books of such standing that to properly appreciate their vintage you must allow for expectation to build, perhaps even over a matter of years or perhaps decades before you metaphorically uncork them. To put it more prosaically, there are books that you know are probably really, really good and you are prepared to indulge in some serious deferred gratification so as to not to ruin them. I knew after my first Carter Dickson experience (the wonderfully titled, THE READER IS WARNED) that I would want to read all the author’s books – and the same went after my first encounters with Raymond Chandler (THE BIG SLEEP), Graham Greene (BRIGHTON ROCK), Ellery Queen (FACE TO FACE), Ross Macdonald (THE CHILL), Margaret Millar (THE SOFT TALKERS), John le Carre (CALL FOR THE DEAD) and so many other that, over thirty years later, I still read with undimmed pleasure. And I am glad to say that for most of these writers there are still a few examples of their work, in some cases major ones, that I have left deliberately untouched, saving them as small investment for my future, perhaps to stave off a time when I will no longer be able to contemplate one. That list has of course been getting shorter and shorter as the years have gone by, and THE LEAGUE OF FRIGHTENED MEN is one of the last of the unread Rex Stout books on my shelves – and I finished it today, having first made plans to read it overt twenty years ago. Was it worth the wait? Continue reading

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The 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reached the letter K. My contributions this week have been four of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain with titles starting with the letter K. Why four? There were just too many good ones to choose from is one answer – another is that actually this is all the fault of the Puzzledoctor! In an exchange over at his fine blog we discussed potential titles that might fit the letter K, L and M as part of the Alphabet of Crime meme, particularly from the hard-boiled and police procedural categories of which I am a particular fan. Batting titles to and fro, I was suddenly struck by quite how many of Ed McBain’s books from the 87th Precinct series start with the letter K – and, as I have them all, I thought I would try something different this week. I would blog on four of the novels, all published between 1958 and 1959, to explore quite how varied the series could be but choosing them also so that I could submit all of them towards my pre-1960 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge currently running over at Bev’s Block. To go directly to those reviews, please click on the following links:
Killer’s Choice
Killer’s Payoff
Killer’s Wedge
King’s Ransom

This post however is by way of an introduction to Ed McBain and his 87th Precinct series, which consist of 55 volumes Continue reading

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K is for … KING’S RANSOM (1959) by Ed McBain

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter K. My contribution this week is made up of a quartet of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain published before 1960 so as to also be eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge. Today’s book is …
KING’S RANSOM (1959)

“If you try to figure out what motivates a crook, you go nuts.”
“You’re destroying a boy’s faith in detective fiction,” Meyer said.

Evan Hunter first came to prominence as the author of The Blackboard Jungle (1954), an expose of juvenile delinquency that was turned into an even more successful movie by MGM shortly afterwards. For the next 15 years or so Hunter would continue to publish serious mainstream novels on topical subjects and many of these would also be adapted for the cinema, including Strangers When We Meet (book 1958, film 1960), A Matter of Conviction (1959, filmed in 1961 as The Young Savages) and Buddwing (1964, filmed as Mister Buddwing in 1966). During these years Hunter also became a successful screenwriter, adapting his and other people’s works for the cinema and television. The impact of the latter can certainly be felt in the crime novels he started to publish under the ‘Ed McBain’ byline starting with Cop Hater (1956), the first novel in the 87th Precinct series. Continue reading

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K is for … KILLER’S WEDGE (1959) by Ed McBain

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter K. My contribution this week is made up of a quartet of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain published before 1960 so as to also be eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge. Today’s book is …

KILLER’S WEDGE (1959)

“There was, of course, no such thing as a locked-door murder mystery.”

McBain makes his first great stylistic departure in this, the eight volume in his 87th Precinct series, juxtaposing two radically different cases and two completely different traditions within the mystery genre, the whole kept tightly bound together by the exertion of the titular pressure – and all taking place in a single afternoon. In fact the novel takes place in just under 4 hours in total. Continue reading

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K is for … KILLER’S PAYOFF (1958) by Ed McBain

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter K. My contribution this week is made up of a quartet of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain published before 1960 so as to also be eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge. Today’s book is …

KILLER’S PAYOFF (1958)

“You can carry deduction only so far”

This novel continues directly from Killer’s Choice, the previous book in the series, and begins about 10 days later. It includes some of the same characters from that novel and in fact even reveals the name of the murderer in passing, so the two should definitely be read in sequence if possible. It is still June 1957 but the balmy weather has turned to rain and one evening, in the style of a 1930s gangster hit, a man is gunned down from a passing car. But Sy Kramer isn’t shot with a tommy gun – rather, it’s a hunting rifle and he wasn’t a mobster but a blackmailer, albeit a prosperous one living the high life. And now it’s up to detectives Kling, Carella and Hawes to find out which of his victims decided to turn the tables and become a predator. Continue reading

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K is for … KILLER’S CHOICE (1957) by Ed McBain

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter K. My contribution this week is made up of a quartet of the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain published before 1960 so as to also be eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge. Today’s book is …

KILLER’S CHOICE (1958)

“Like on Dragnet?”
“Better than Dragnet” Kling said, modestly.

This entry, the fifth in the series, made two significant adjustments to the roster of characters courtesy of an appropriately dramatic departure and a major new addition to the team of detectives.

Set in June 1957, it follows two murder cases which criss-cross and ironically overlap but which are otherwise completely distinct and separate. Annie Boone is found shot dead inside the liquor store where she worked as a cashier, covered in alcohol and shards of glass in what appears to have been part of a frenzied but inexplicable destruction of the stock. Indeed the boss seems sorrier about the loss of his merchandise than of his faithful employee. That same night one of the 87th precinct’s toughest detectives, the violent and cynical Roger Havilland, sees a dazed young man sitting on the sidewalk outside a shop. Uncharacteristically he actually tries to help, but is repaid by a violent shove through the shop’s plate glass window. The detective’s carotid artery is severed by a shard of glass and bleeds to death while his assailant makes a fast getaway. The man had in fact just attempted to rob the shop and had been shot in the shoulder by the barely conscious proprietor as he escaped. Continue reading

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J is for … THE JUDAS WINDOW (1938) by Carter Dickson

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter J, and my nomination is …

J is for … The Judas Window (1938) by Carter Dickson.

I began my last post for the Alphabet Crime meme by declaring my lack of enthusiasm for the modern Grisham-style legal thriller – and then proved it was all stuff and nonsense by praising Scott Turow’s latest example of the genre to the hills. And this week I’ve compounded my lack of credibility by picking another courtroom drama, but this time at least I’ve got some mitigating factors I can offer in my defence: not only is it from the golden age of detective stories, not only is it by my all time favourite mystery author John Dickson Carr, but it’s a stone cold classic of my favourite subcategory of the genre: the locked room mystery. In fact this is a book that ticks so many boxes for me that I am also offering it as the third of my eligible books as part of the 2011 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge over at Bev’s Reader’s Block website (check it out, it’s amazing – I just don’t know where she finds the energy or the time to do all that reading and blogging – she’s a true demon and an inspiration that one). Continue reading

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I is for … INNOCENT (2010) by Scott Turow

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter I, my nomination is …

I is for … INNOCENT (2010) by Scott Turow

I’ve never been a particular fan of the modern legal thriller, despite a) being a confirmed mystery addict, b) loving courtroom dramas on TV and at the cinema and c) someone who got a law degree at university. What I really mean I suppose is that despite several notable examples of serious literary activity in the courtroom that I greatly admire – including important books by such authors as Charles Dickens, EM Forster, Harper Lee and Victor Hugo – I am not a fan of the genre as it has developed today through the efforts of the likes of John Grisham or Steve Martini, often finding them either too dry to engage with or too overblown to convince. But I know plenty of people who are thoroughly addicted to the genre and Scott Turow is always placed very near to the top of the heap. Continue reading

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H is for … HAZELL PLAYS SOLOMON (1974) by PB Yuill

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter H, so I nominate …

HAZELL PLAYS SOLOMON (1974) by PB Yuill

“My name is James Hazell and I’m the biggest bastard who ever pushed your bell-button”

And so begins the first in a series of three brisk novels (and one short story) featuring the East End of London’s answer to Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade and the Continental Op. It’s a great opening line, but not really that representative of the tone of the book as a whole, or of the lead character either come to that.

Hazell is 33, recently divorced, a recovering alcoholic and late of the Metropolitan Police Force (following a severe beating from a vicious gang of thieves who virtually destroyed his ankle). After hitting skid row (or the East End of London’s equivalent) he is trying to put his life back together as a private inquiry agent. Although undeniably tough (and emotionally immature) he is also far from being a total cynic – he has a lot more in common say with Ross Macdonald’ Lew Archer (featured in last week’s post) than cro-magnum PI’s like Mike Hammer and with considerably more humour than either. Continue reading

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G is for … THE GALTON CASE (1959) by Ross Macdonald

The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog this week reaches the letter G, so I nominate …
THE GALTON CASE (1959) by Ross Macdonald
Private detective Lew Archer (known in some editions as Lew Arless, and in the cinema, as played by Paul Newman, as ‘Lew Harper’) first appeared in THE MOVING TARGET (1949) by John Macdonald, a pseudonym for Margaret Millar’s husband Kenneth (named, not insignificantly as we shall see, after his father, John Macdonald Millar). Following complaints from fellow mystery writer John D. MacDonald, the pseudonym quickly transmuted into ‘Ross Macdonald’ as the books grew in critical acclaim. Macdonald in fact was quickly heralded as the natural successor to Hammett and Chandler in the hardboiled genre, a serious author using the crime genre with literary intent and not just a purveyor of tough guy pulp fictions. The eighth Archer novel, THE GALTON CASE, was first published in 1959 and in many ways can be seen as a turning point in Millar’s career. Continue reading

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F is for … Fredric Brown

Over at the always informative, market-leading In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel blog, attention has been drawn to the Alphabet of Crime, in which every week a successive letter of the alphabet has to be reflected in a blog entry either through the title of a book or the first or last name of an author. Sounds like fun – so, tipping my fedora in acknowledgement … Continue reading

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