Pursuit to Algiers (1945)

It’s a shame, I know, but as we say in Italy, not every ring doughnut comes out with a hole in the middle. And the tenth entry in Universal Studios’ Holmes and Watson series, is by common consent considered the very least of them. It involves the protection of a member of a foreign royal family, stolen emeralds and is largely set aboard a ship and has a trio of memorable villains too. So far, so good. But we begin in a foggy old London fish and chip shop for an elaborate meet and greet that gets pretty silly …

The following review is offered for Todd Mason’s Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme over at his fab Sweet Freedom blog.
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Posted in Arthur Conan Doyle, London, Sherlock Holmes, Tuesday's Overlooked Film | Tagged , | 17 Comments

THE NIGHT MANAGER (1993) by John le Carré

This is a spy novel that got great reviews from the get-go, but I somehow kept delaying actually reading it and despite several attempts, never seemed to actually crack on with it (I don’t mean that literally – cracking spines is not cool in my house). I almost started it last year, ahead of the TV version, but never got round to it in time so missed seeing the well-received adaptation too. Why did I keep delaying? Well, probably because my paperback copy (here on the left) is 700 pages long and I wasn’t sure I wanted to carry it around with me on the tube for a couple of weeks!

Finally after some prodding from an old mate (codename: ‘Soldier’), I’ve got round to reading the book. And ..?

I offer this review for Patti Abbott’s Friday’s Forgotten Books meme at her fab Pattinase blog.

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Posted in Bahamas, Egypt, England, Espionage, John le Carre, Switzerland | 38 Comments

THE FRUMIOUS BANDERSNATCH (2003) by Ed McBain

Cultural appropriation is the theme and the music biz the scene for this unusual entry in the 87th Precinct series. ‘Bandersnatch’ is the name of a new album, taken of course from Lewis Carroll, and initially there is more than a touch of the absurd about this tale of a kidnapped singer, and not just because bigot supreme Fat Ollie Weeks seems to have found himself a girlfriend. But we also see the return of the under-used Cotton Hawes (about time) for a book with a somewhat post-modern literary feel that while occasionally playful in its allusions ends very bleakly indeed.

I offer the following review for Friday’s Forgotten Books meme run by Patti Abbott at her fab Pattinase blog.
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Posted in 87th Precinct, Ed McBain, Friday's Forgotten Book, New York, Police procedural | 14 Comments

THE STORY OF CLASSIC CRIME IN 100 BOOKS – guest post by Martin Edwards

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Martin Edwards is a pretty amazing chap. A busy blogger (Do You Write Under Your Own Name?), a lawyer by trade, a fine and prolific mystery author, he is also the consulting editor for the bestselling range of vintage mystery reprints from the British Library (and he writes the intros too).  He is also Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and in 2015 was elected eighth President of the Detection Club. He is also Archivist of the CWA and of the Detection Club.

Now he has a new book out, one that tries to paint a picture of the Golden Age of detective fiction through its best books. Over to you Martin:

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Posted in Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Wallace, England, Julian Symons, Martin Edwards, Michael Gilbert, Patricia Highsmith, Sherlock Holmes | 13 Comments

Summer of Spies

This Summer the Waterstones bookchain is running a “Summer of Spies” promotion at its Gower Street shop in London, as a run-up to the publication of the new Smiley novel by John le Carre, A Legacy of Spies, due to be published in September.

Book club events cost £3; author meets, hosted by Jake Kerridge, are £6 (£4 for students), which includes a glass of wine.

Our old friend Mike Ripley and Telegraph crime and thriller critic Jake Kerridge will explore the history of British thrillers from the austere 1950s through the boom time of the Swinging Sixties and early 1970s at an event being held on 22 August, one of a series events including a quiz night – see below for the full line-up.

Tickets are redeemable against the purchase of books on the night. You can book online here:  https://www.waterstones.com/events/search/shop/gower-street

Posted in Espionage, George Smiley, John le Carre, Mike Ripley | 8 Comments

THE BURNING COURT (1937) by John Dickson Carr

There are oddly obscure mysteries from the Golden Age that are in fact still entertaining and clever and deserve to be rediscovered. Then there are novels that once were considered classics but now seem very tame indeed. And then there are those that were game changers, genuinely thrilling works that brought something brand new and which ensured that nothing could ever truly be the same ever again. John Dickson’s Carr’s The Burning Court, first published in 1937, is truly one of those. And, without spoilers, here’s why:

I submit this review for Bev’s 2017 Golden Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt; and Friday’s Forgotten Books meme run by Patti Abbott at her fab Pattinase blog.

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Posted in 2017 Golden Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt, Five Star review, Gothic, John Dickson Carr, Locked Room Mystery, Pennsylvania | 78 Comments

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (2017 Blu-ray)

Finally available (it was released yesterday) in a restored and high def format that preserves the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this visually audacious whodunit lands on Blu-ray in a gorgeous looking edition from Arrow Films. Starring Tony Musante and Suzy Kendall, beautifully shot by Vittorio Storaro and scored by the great Ennio Morricone, writer-director Dario Argento made a very assured debut in this genuinely chilling and thrilling mystery.

The following, updating a previous post, is offered as part of the Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme hosted by Todd Mason over at his Sweet Freedom blog.

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Posted in Dario Argento, Fredric Brown, Giallo, Rome, Scene of the crime, Tuesday's Overlooked Film | 28 Comments

FAT OLLIE’S BOOK (2002) by Ed McBain

Ed McBain decided that ultra-bigot Detective/First Grade Oliver Wendell Weeks – known colloquially (if not to his face) as ‘Fat Ollie’ – somehow merited having his own 87th Precinct mystery, even though he’s from the 88th! But what about Roger Havilland and Andy Parker, the two equally un-PC cops actually from the 87th? They never got a volume dedicated to them. But life is never fair .. Carella actually does most of the work tracking down the murderer of a candidate for mayor; Ollie instead tries to find the miscreant who lifted the manuscript of his debut novel!

I offer this review for Friday’s Forgotten Books meme hosted today by Todd Mason at Sweet Freedom.
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Posted in 87th Precinct, Ed McBain, Friday's Forgotten Book, New York, Police procedural | 32 Comments

Quincy, M.E (1976-83)

quincy

“You are about to enter the most fascinating sphere of police work, the world of forensic medicine”

Jack Klugman, one of the best actors who ever worked on American film and TV, was already a 25-year veteran, and star of the hit sitcom The Odd Couple, when he scored his biggest personal success in Quincy, which ran for 7 years. I just watched the third season …

This brief review is offered as part of Tuesday’s Overlooked Film & TV meme hosted by Todd Mason over at his Sweet Freedom blog,
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Posted in California, Tuesday's Overlooked Film, TV Cops | 32 Comments

TRIAL AND ERROR (1937) by Anthony Berkeley

It’s time for a guest post from my blogging buddy Livius, who writes about movies at his marvellous blog, Riding the High Country. And now it’s over to the man himself:

The inverted crime story is one where the perpetrator is known from the outset, or close enough to it, and the thrust of the story is carried forward by our interest in seeing law or its representatives piece together the clues and evidence that will bring the criminal to book. In short, if you’ve ever seen an episode of Columbo, then you know exactly what I mean.

We submit this review for Bev’s Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt; and Friday’s Forgotten Books meme, hosted today by Todd Mason at his Sweet Freedom blog

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Posted in 2017 Golden Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt, Anthony Berkeley, Columbo, Courtroom, England | 29 Comments

Death Valley (2011)

At least in popular culture, one might think that zombies really have inherited the earth. At least this hybrid cop show has a sense of humour and doesn’t get too bogged down in the morbidity of it all. Indeed this is a surprisingly amusing show, though I’m not that surprised that it didn’t last too long on the airwaves. One imagines in fact that it might do considerably better today than way back in 2011 – but then, a lot has happened to the world in the last six years …

“These are the stories of the cops that capture the monsters. And the camera crew, that capture the cops. Death Valley.

The following review is offered for Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme hosted by Todd Mason at Sweet Freedom.

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Posted in California, Police procedural, Postmodern | 10 Comments

Hark! The 87th Precinct podcast

Well, this just made my day! Just as I am winding down to my last remaining reviews of the 87th Precinct series, here are a whole bunch of enthusiasts who are looking at the books anew in a smashing podcast – click on to read more:

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Posted in 'In praise of ...', 87th Precinct, Ed McBain, Police procedural | 12 Comments

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY (2001) by Ed McBain

Steve Carella is paired with Fat Ollie Weeks in this unusual entry in the 87th Precinct series. Shifting away from the whodunit formula, this is a contemporary thriller involving drug trafficking, counterfeiting and the secret service and featuring a rogue’s gallery of villains ranging from petty burglars to hit-men (and hit-women) and Islamic terrorists on  American soil.

He flipped back his jacket, holstered the gun, and said, “You owe me one, Steve-a-rino.”

I offer this review for Friday’s Forgotten Books meme, hosted today by Todd Mason at his Sweet Freedom blog
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Posted in 87th Precinct, Ed McBain, Friday's Forgotten Book, New York, Police procedural | 19 Comments

KISS KISS, BANG BANG by Mike Ripley

The subtitle really does say it all: The Boom in British Thrillers from Casino Royale to The Eagle Has Landed

Though I sadly missed the launch party last week due to an international incident (but which sadly I can’t discuss due to a slew of D notices) Mike Ripley’s history of the modern, post-war British thriller, with a foreword by Lee Child, is now finally in the shops. It is available  in hardback, e-book and audio versions courtesy of Harper Collins after making its way through the courts. It reveals – inter alia – that, though Britain may have lost an empire, her thrillers helped save the world.

You’d you’d be a fool to miss this book – and  here’s why:

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Posted in Adam Hall, Alistair MacLean, Clive Egleton, Eric Ambler, Frederick Forsyth, George Smiley, Gerald Seymour, Ian Fleming, James Bond, James Mitchell, John le Carre, Lee Child, Len Deighton, Mike Ripley | 26 Comments

The Man in Room 17 (1965-67)

Created by Robin Chapman, this glorious 1960s TV show was big in its day and deserves to be rediscovered. The eponymous room is the secret centre of operations for the Department of Special Research. And the man is Edwin Oldenshaw (Richard Vernon) who, assisted by Ian Dimmock (Michael Aldridge) in season 1 and later Imlac Defraits (Denholm Elliot), is set to solve the cases that nobody else can even understand. And do it without ever leaving their special room …

The following review is offered as part of Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme hosted by Todd Mason over at his Sweet Freedom blog.

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Posted in Film Noir, Noir on Tuesday | 22 Comments

RIVERS OF LONDON by Ben Aaronovitch

I first read this urban fantasy / police procedural hybrid several years ago and really enjoyed it, but for various reasons stopped there with the series. Recently a couple of friends of mine mentioned they had been reading the later books in the cycle (the seventh volume in the series is due out in September) and when a good friend of mine recently gave me a copy of the first, I decided the gods of literature were trying to tell me something! So I decided to re-read it, with a view to actually getting into the whole cycle of adventures featuring probationary policeman, Peter Grant.

I offer this review for Friday’s Forgotten Books meme hosted today by Todd Mason at Sweet Freedom.

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Posted in Ben Aaronovich, Doctor Who, Friday's Forgotten Book, London, Police procedural, Scene of the crime | 32 Comments

Last Resort

When is a submarine thriller not just a submarine thriller? Well, in this case, when it’s also an allegory of right-wing American imperialism – which is definitely what I liked most about Last Resort. In this short-lived TV show (only 13 episodes were made), Andre Braugher stars as the captain of the USS Colorado who is forced off the grid when he becomes a pawn in an attempt by forces within the Washington military-industrial complex to take over the government.

The following review is offered as part of Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme hosted by Todd Mason over at his Sweet Freedom blog.

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Posted in Noir on Tuesday | 20 Comments

THE LAST DANCE (2000) by Ed McBain

Given the title and the fact that it was the fiftieth entry in the 87th Precinct series, it is possible, just maybe, that this was envisaged as the last one – or maybe McBain was just toying with us. Certainly, this novel proved to be the end of the road for informant extraordinaire Daniel Nelson, aka Danny Gimp, a fixture since 1956’s Cop Hater, the first volume in the series.

… Danny was already dead when Carella knelt beside him.

I offer the following review for Friday’s Forgotten Books meme run by Patti Abbott at her fab Pattinase blog.
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Posted in 87th Precinct, Ed McBain, Friday's Forgotten Book, New York, Police procedural | 25 Comments

THE RIDDLE OF THE THIRD MILE (1983) by Colin Dexter

This book in the Inspector Morse series generally sees little love from either critics or fans  – and was changed greatly when adapted for TV (even the title, to ‘The Last Enemy’). Is this a book that is worth reclaiming?

“Morse was his hero, and always would be. But even heroes had their momentary weaknesses, as Lewis had so often learned.”

I submit this review for Bev’s 2017 Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt; and Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme hosted by Todd Mason over at Sweet Freedom.

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Posted in 2017 Silver Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt, Colin Dexter, England, Inspector Morse, London, Oxford, Tuesday's Overlooked Film | 15 Comments

SHE DIED A LADY (1943) by Carter Dickson

OK, let’s get this out of the way: Carter Dickson, aka John Dickson Carr, is my favourite Golden Age detective story writer. For me, he was better than Christie, Queen, Sayers and Stout, love them all though I do. And She Died A Lady is a superbly clever and brilliantly crafted example of his skill and ingenuity – and here’s why, with nary a spoiler in sight!

“Mrs Wainright and Mr Sullivan walked out to the edge of that cliff, and they didn’t come back.”

I submit this review for Bev’s Golden Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt; and Friday’s Forgotten Books meme run by Patti Abbott at her fab Pattinase blog.

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Posted in 2017 Golden Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt, Carter Dickson, Five Star review, Friday's Forgotten Book, Henry Merrivale, John Dickson Carr, Locked Room Mystery | 89 Comments

The Woman in Green (1945)

This film marked the final (re) appearance of Professor Moriarty (or, rather, as credited, ‘Moriarity’) in the Universal Holmes and Watson series, this time in the chilly, smooth-tongued form of Henry Daniell (who was said to be Rathbone’s favourite). And this time he is behind a particularly gruesome series of murders,

Professor Moriarty: Holmes has one weakness, his insatiable curiosity. If you can rouse that, you can lead him anywhere.

The following review is offered for Todd Mason’s Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme over at his fab Sweet Freedom blog.
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Posted in Arthur Conan Doyle, London, Sherlock Holmes, Tuesday's Overlooked Film | Tagged , | 30 Comments

THE BIG BAD CITY (1999) by Ed McBain

mcbain_big-bad-cityThe murder of a nun, a burglar who leaves cookies as a calling card and various family entanglements involving Steve Carella, his sister and the man who murdered their father, are just some of the elements to be found in the last 87th Precinct novel from the 20th century. And a very good one it is too!

“I thought it was … forgive me, I thought it was a bundle of clothes or something. Then I realised it was a woman”

I offer this review for Friday’s Forgotten Books meme, hosted today by Todd Mason at Sweet Freedom.
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Posted in 87th Precinct, Ed McBain, Friday's Forgotten Book, Police procedural | 28 Comments

THE SILENT WORLD OF NICHOLAS QUINN (1977) by Colin Dexter

This was the third book in the Inspector Morse series, and is perhaps my favourite of them all (well, it is either this one or Service of All the Dead, I always struggle a bit between the two). Not only is the story very clever but it is also notable because in creating it, Colin Dexter seems to have drawn quite heavily on his own life. And it also made for a superb piece of TV drama when it was adapted by Julian Mitchell for the Inspector Morse series.

I submit this review for Bev’s 2017 Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt; Rich’s Crime of the Century meme;  Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme hosted by Todd Mason over at Sweet Freedom.

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Posted in 2017 Silver Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt, Colin Dexter, Crime of the Century, England, Five Star review, Inspector Morse, Oxford, Tuesday's Overlooked Film | 38 Comments

ANGEL’S FLIGHT (1960) by Lou Cameron

This dynamic piece of jazz noir was the debut novel of Lou Cameron (1924–2010), an author who would later establish himself as the ultra prolific authors of hundreds of Westerns. First published as a Gold Medal original, it spins the parallel story of a pair of musicians across two decades: Ben Parker, who narrates, and his nemesis, the charismatic blackguard that is Johnny Angel. It begins in the late 1930s with Angel managing to insinuate himself in to the band where Ben plays and the bed of the bandleader’s daughter too …

I submit this review for Bev’s 2017  Silver Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt; and Friday’s Forgotten Books meme run by Patti Abbott at her fab Pattinase blog.

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Posted in 2017 Silver Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt, Friday's Forgotten Book, Hollywood, Los Angeles, New York, Stark House Press | 30 Comments

The Marseille Contract (1974)

the_marseille_contract_1974This unpretentious thriller, running just under 90 minutes and released in the US as The Destructors, was shot on location in France and features Michael Caine as a professional assassin, Anthony Quinn as a US intelligence agent and James Mason as a Mr Big in the Marseilles underworld. The score is by the great Roy Budd, the lovely cinematography by Douglas Slocombe and the car chases staged by the legendary Remy Julienne. So it should be great, right? Well …

I offer this review (in hope, and admiration) Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme hosted by Todd Mason over at Sweet Freedom.

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Posted in Film Noir, France, Noir on Tuesday, Paris, Tuesday's Overlooked Film | 28 Comments

The House of Fear (1945)

house-of-fear_posterSherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are off to a remote part of Scotland to investigate the peculiar goings on at Drearcliff House, a gloomy old mansion where its inhabitants are all starting to receive mysterious threats before dying. Has their group insurance policy got something to do with it?

Dr Watson: I’m sorry I’m late. I didn’t sleep very well.
Sherlock Holmes: Didn’t sleep very well? You snored like a pig!

The following review is offered for Todd Mason’s Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme over at his fab Sweet Freedom blog.
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Posted in Arthur Conan Doyle, London, Scotland, Sherlock Holmes, Tuesday's Overlooked Film | Tagged , | 48 Comments

The House that Dripped Blood (1971)

Robert Bloch (1917-1994) is one of my favourite writers. I discovered him at a very early age and I doubt I’ll ever be able to let him go – but how can you not love an author who once quipped, more or less:

“I may seem scary, but I have the heart of a little child. I keep it in a jar on my desk.”

Luckily for us he was not only funny and scary but highly prolific as a short story writer, novelist and screenwriter. He adapted many of his own short stories for the screen, most notably perhaps in the anthology films he wrote for Amicus, such as The House that Dripped Blood.
I submit this review for Todd Mason’s Tuesday’s Overlooked Movie meme at his fab Sweet Freedom blog as part of the celebrations for the centenary of Robert Bloch, who was born on 5 April 1917.

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Posted in Amicus, England, Robert Bloch, Tuesday's Overlooked Film | Tagged , , | 52 Comments

Colin Dexter, requiescat

Colin Dexter at the Wimborne Literary Festival in 2012 (photo: Haydn)

Colin Dexter has died aged 86. To crime fiction fans he will of course be remembered as the creator of Inspector More and Sergeant Lewis, two of Oxford’s finest detectives. Dexter was also an educator and a crossword buff, and both of these elements regularly crept in to his novels and short stories.

I only got to meet him once, some 25 years ago at a book signing for his (then) latest Morse book, The Jewel That Was Ours, in London’s then premiere bricks and mortar mystery bookshop, Murder One. He was jovial, welcoming and engaged and was great to talk to. He kindly signed copies of all his Morse paperbacks for me, as a wedding present for my cousin Simon, who loves Dexter even more than I do.  Below is my celebration of the Morse books and TV series, revised from a post that originally appeared many years ago, as a tribute to the great Dexter.

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Posted in 'Best of' lists, 'In praise of ...', Colin Dexter, Inspector Morse, Oxford | 39 Comments

Smile Jenny, You’re Dead (1974)

smile-jenny-youre-deadThis is was the second of two feature-length TV Movies that ultimately served to launch the short-lived private eye series Harry O (1974-76) starring David Janssen, which in its first season may have got as good as this genre ever got on the small screen.

Harry is hired to help solve a murder but gets tangled up in a case involving a stalker, a photographer obsessed with the wife of an older and powerful man.

The following review is offered as part of Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme hosted by Todd Mason over at his Sweet Freedom blog.

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Posted in California, Film Noir, Noir on Tuesday, Private Eye | Tagged | 33 Comments

OUR GAME (1995) by John le Carré

lecarre_our-game

After several globe-trotting excursions, including The Little Drummer Girl (1983), The Russia House (1989) and The Night Manager (1993), John le Carré got back to basics in this very compact spy novel which doesn’t set foot outside UK until the very end. It tells the story of Tim and Larry, two men bound by their past working for British intelligence but who, after being let go, are supposed to be living civil civilian lives in Somerset. But Larry just isn’t the quiet type and when he goes missing, Tim and his girlfriend Emma are dragged back into his old life …

I offer this review for Patti Abbott’s Friday’s Forgotten Books meme at her fab Pattinase blog.

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Posted in England, Espionage, France, John le Carre, London, Russia | 37 Comments