It’s been an odd couple of months on the blog. The focus on Golden Age mysteries, due to the excellent Bodies From The Library event at the British Library, meant that I was reviewing some books that I wasn’t expecting to and that, coupled with some review requests, meant that it was rare to actually read a book that felt like a completely free choice. Kind of an odd feeling, but it meant that I came across some very interesting reads that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Ten books in total – as I said, some new, some old. But which will walk away with the Puzzly this month?
Bampton in Derbyshire, 1978. Walking home from school, two girls, Rachel Jones and Sophie Jenkins, are lured into a stranger’s car. Rachel returns home with little memory of what occurred but Sophie disappeared without trace. Rachel has tried to move on with her life, but the ghosts of the past become vividly real when, thirty years later, Sophie’s mother apparently commits suicide in an hotel room.
Detective Inspector Francis Sadler and his team, DS Damian Palmer and DC Connie Childs, are prompted by the sudden death to re-open the original case but when a body is discovered in the woods where Rachel was found all of those years ago, it seems that someone is determined to keep the secrets of the past buried. But with both the police and Rachel hunting for the truth, can the truth possibly remain hidden?
Following on from her exploits in A Murder At Rosamund’s Gate (and preceding those in The Masque Of A Murderer), Lucy Campion has found herself in a difficult position. The former lady’s maid at the house of a magistrate no longer has a lady to, er, maid (what is the verb there?) – the plague-fire combination of London 1666 rather took its toll on families.
She finds a job as a sort-of apprentice to a printer, writing, printing and selling manuscripts. But while she’s helping clean up after the Fire, she comes across a dead body stuffed inside a barrel in the ruins of a public house. But the cause of death wasn’t plague, fire or drinking oneself to the bottom of said barrel. It’s the knife in his chest. Lucy soon finds herself swept up in the hunt for a murderer and for the solution of a cryptic message that the corpse was carrying…
News has reached the ears of Puzzle Doctor (via the mainstream media, not due to any particular contacts) that there’s an Agatha Christie movie in the works, with Kenneth Branagh attached to direct. And that film is… well, the title of the blog post gives it away. It’s Murder On The Orient Express.
Now this isn’t the worst Christie rumour that I’ve heard – that was this (which never got the green light, by the way) – but the question that springs to mind is, why?
John Lafcadio, a great painter (in his own opinion at least) has concocted a scheme for his fame to last well beyond his death. He has bequeathed twelve paintings to his wife to be unveiled ceremoniously, one a year, after his death.
Eight years later, his friends and family gather for the unveiling in Little Venice. After the painting is unveiled, the lights go out and guess what? When the lights come back on, a young artist lies dead, stabbed with a pair of scissors. Luckily for Lafcadio’s widow, one of the guests at the viewing is a certain Mr Albert Campion. He begins his hunt for the killer – but this killer is already several steps ahead of Campion…
And so the day finally arrived – the Bodies From The Library Conference at the British Library, a conference focusing of Golden Age detective fiction. You can probably tell from the fact that over two-thirds of recent reviews on the blog have been for Golden Age books that I was excited about the day – in part as I’ve never been to such an event before. I’ve thought about it, but the problem with such events is that the focus is usually very broad (i.e. crime fiction) and there are parts of the genre that don’t really interest me that much.
But the Golden Age? That’s my cup of tea. My ticket was bought as soon as I heard about. But then, after a bit of thought, I began to get a little nervous – just how well did I know the Golden Age? Christie, yes. Carr, yes. Queen (who got barely a mention – probably due to being a bit too American), yes. Marsh, a little bit. Anyone else, I’d read at most two books, but for the majority, including Allingham and Sayers, I’d read almost none. Hence my splurge recently. Did it do any good?
What would you expect to find on a golf course during a round of golf? A lost ball or two perhaps. But when Messers Maryatt (a vicar), Carmichael (a don), Reeves (a retired spy) and Gordon (an actual golfer) stumble across a body, apparently fallen from a train crossing a nearby viaduct, an opportunity presents itself. With the police convinced it is an accident, the four friends decide to play sleuth to track down a murderer.
Each of the men tackles a different thread, each advancing the case a little further forward (or in some cases, a little further backward). But will the sleuths be able to channel the spirit of the great Sherlock Holmes and catch the murderer?