Cleo‘s fault again, I’m afraid, but I can’t resist this sort of challenge – one that doesn’t change my reading plans. Basically, it’s a Bingo card to review your reading for the year. So I thought I’d take a look at it – it’s a chance to highlight some of the books that aren’t going to win any prizes this year (and some that are – although, of course, any prizes awarded by me are somewhat etheric) but are still well worth your time. So, eyes down…
For more info on the books, just click on the pictures – they should take you straight to the reviews.
A Book With More Than 500 Pages
I’ve not consciously picked a long book to read – today’s inflated page counts are one my many bugbears, but often the length of an ebook can sneak past me. So a quick check on Amazon, and the outstanding Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton clocks in at 576 pages. Never wouldn’t have realised that when reading it, as it flew by. One of the best reads of the year.
A Forgotten Classic
Well, there’s more than a few so far this year, thanks to the wonderful work of Dean Street Press and the British Library Crime Classics range. So many authors that I’d never heard of being given a new lease of life. But I’ll plump for Christopher St John Sprigg’s Death Of An Airman as we go up-tiddly-up-up with the Bishop of Cootamundra who smells a rat when an experienced flyer crashes their plane.
A Book That Became a Movie
Probably the hardest to fill – it took a little while to spot one. But then something tickled at the back of my memory and a quick search on the IMDB revealed there was a TV movie of Murder Is Easy by Agatha Christie, starring Bill Bixby as Luke. Probably didn’t win any awards, but the category says “movie”, so I’ll say that this counts.
A Book Published This Year
Oodles for this one as I’m getting a lot of review requests (although mostly for Golden Age bits and bobs) but this one is one that ought to be going to the top of your Christmas lists – the rather wonderful In Bitter Chill by fellow blogger Sarah Ward. At some point I plan on having a go at one myself but I seriously doubt that I could come close to this.
A Book With A Number In The Title
Not many to choose from, somewhat surprisingly. But I was rather fond of Thirteen Guests by J Jefferson Farjeon, from the British Library Crime Classics range. The other Farjeon that I’ve read, The Z Murders, is utterly bonkers – still not sure if it’s bonkers in a good way – but I really liked this one. It’s a very satisfying read with some nice ideas.
A Book Written by Someone Under Thirty
Now this took some finding. Ages aren’t the easiest thing to find for modern authors, and the majority of classic authors started a bit late – but after googling about half of the authors that I read this year, I found that Gladys Mitchell was 28 when she wrote Speedy Death. So I’ll go for that one. Not the greatest book, but an intriguing debut nonetheless.
A Book With Non Human Characters
Trolls, dwarfs and, of course, an orang-utan populate the pages of Terry Pratchett’s Men At Arms, the second of his City Watch books. One of my favourite mysteries simply because I only realised what it was when it came to the denouement. The series chronicles the rise of Captain Sam Vimes, a career policeman, in the primary city on the Discworld. Which reminds me, I must get back to these…
A Funny Book
My first idea was for this to be the Non Human Characters one, but only Hamilton the micro pig counts really. So it’ll take this slot instead – yes, it’s another plug for Chef Maurice And A Spot Of Truffle by J A Lang. Word of mouth seems to be spreading about this new series of properly clued and laugh-out-loud funny books. And this one’s currently free on Kindle!
A Book By A Female Author
More than a few to choose from – I wonder, what is the gender split of mystery writers? Anyway, I’ll go for for Everyone Lies by A D Garrett aka Margaret Murphy, a forensic thriller with some proper science. I met Margaret at a book signing for The Starlings and, like all writers, is absolutely charming. Must get round to the sequel as soon as possible…
A Book With A Mystery
A mystery… now did I read any mysteries this year? Maybe one or two… To my mild embarrassment, I’ve only read one of the Sister Fidelma books this year – no idea why, general forgetfulness, I guess, but A Prayer For The Damned by Peter Tremayne is a cracking example of what people who don’t read historical mysteries are missing out on. A fair play mystery that had me fooled.
A Book With A One Word Title
Word of mouth from my fellow bloggers tempted me to move outside my comfort zone for Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson, my first foray into Icelandic noir. Not exactly my cup of tea, but the quality of the book was clear – it’s nice to try something different once in a while, and I’ll come back to the series at some point – the sequel Nightblind is out in January.
A Book of Short Stories
A collection from the master of short story (in this case locked room) mysteries – Nothing Is Impossible: Further Problems of Dr Sam Hawthorne by Edward D Hoch. The third collection from Crippen & Landru – please hurry up with the rest. Hoch is a vastly under-republished author but there are a few (overlapping) collections out there as ebooks as well.
Not convinced this one fits into any other category, but I must include one of my favourites of the year. The peasants are about to revolt and Brother Athelstan has a locked room murder to deal with in The Herald Of Hell by Paul Doherty. And for a happy while, I thought that one of the characters herein had been named after me. Unfortunately not, so Paul tells me, but it was nice thought while it lasted…
A Book Set On A Different Continent
Off to Africa with L C Tyler in a book from a series that counts as one of my series of the year. The first two books are such fun – a nice line in meta-humour that still services a proper mystery novel while never being predictable. L C Tyler has diversified into historical mysteries as well, but this series is still going strong. Book Five – Crooked Herring – to be reviewed soon.
A Book of Non-Fiction
I worried for a while about this one as the True Crime genre is something that’s an anathema to me – although I do intend to try Martin Edwards’ Dancing For The Hangman sometime soon. But then I has a brainwave. I did review The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook and most of the recipes are non-fictional (although one is by Richard Castle from “Castle” fame.)
The First Book By A Favourite Author
Mildly tricky as I tend to read series in order, so it’d have to be a damn fine book to have been read this year and also be by a favourite author. But once I thought about it – easy peasy. The series is only two books in but it’s already on my read-a-new-one-as-soon-as-possible radar. It’s A Meditation On Murder by Robert Thorogood.
A Book I Heard About Online
Heard about online… does that include anything I spotted on Netgalley, I suppose, so let’s pick The Chessman by Dolores Gord0n-Smith, a lovely homage to the Golden Age, complete with mildly bonkers plot from the villain of the piece as they go around slaughtering a chunk of the cast list while leaving chess pieces in their wake.
A Best Selling Book
Oh, if only you all listened to my words of wisdom… So many books over the year have deserved to be bestsellers but the perception of what people will read is so limited by the average bookshop. I’m sure it makes business sense, but it makes it harder to break into the market. But some of them deserve it – such as Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves.
A Book Based Upon A True Story
Once upon a time, a young priest got a girl pregnant and caused her to miscarry, fleeing for his life. He was eventually returned to the village of Gidleigh to face his punishment. If you want a summary, click here. If you want the tale from the point of view of Michael Jecks, who weaves a dark tale of mystery, murder and tragedy around those events, then check of The Mad Monk Of Gidleigh.
A Book At the Bottom Of Your “To Be Read” Pile
I had a bit of a John Dickson Carr phase recently, which has metamorphosed into a run of obscurer Golden Age authors, but I did take a look at a Carr book that was certainly on my long list. Two, in fact, but The Dead Man’s Knock is a bit of clunker. The Sleeping Sphinx, however, has a lot more going for it. Not perfect, by any means, but much better than I remembered.
A Book Your Friend Loves
Well, I’ve been hassling my much better half to read a mystery novel, but to no avail, so I’ll resort to picking one of the many Golden Age classics that my blogging buddy Sergio enjoyed too – in this case, the early serial killer mystery Death Walks In Eastrepps by Francis Beeding. Can’t even remember how this crossed my radar but I’m very glad that it did.
A Book That Scares You
I don’t scare that easily with a book, although it has to be said that I don’t read ghost stories or many things that are likely to scare me. But it still terrifies me that books like Monk’s Hood by Ellis Peters are rated so highly on Goodreads – admittedly, it’s 5/5 as a cure for insomnia, but as a mystery? Better than The ABC Murders or She Died A Lady? I fear for people’s tastes…
A Book That Is More Than 10 Years Old
Again, it’s a little hard to know which one to pick here – part of me wants to carefully scan my reading list to find one published in October 2005 – but this post has taken enough time to write so far and I really have far more important things to do. But, while by no means my favourite book of the year, A Cotswold Killing by Rebecca Tope came out in May 2005, so that’ll do nicely.
The Second Book In A Series
An age ago, I got a request to review something that sounded so bonkers that I had to review it, namely Honk, Honk, My Darling by James Finn Garner. I generally dislike Noir but this was different – it was Clown Noir. I really enjoyed it, so I was delighted to able to review the second book Double Indignity. Bonkers but so creative and one of the best alternate-world series that I’ve read.
A Book With A Blue Cover
Actually, all of the Murder Room’s reprints are pretty blue, so let’s pick Ronald Knox’s debut, The Viaduct Murder. Sometimes with the British Library and Dean St Press’ reissues, it’s easy to overlook that the Murder Room have been doing it for ages. Maybe they need prettier covers. Regardless, the content is excellent and this one, while rather verbose, is an intriguing insight into the start of the Golden Age from the man who wrote the rules…
So, I think that it’s time to shout “Bingo!”. Anyone else fancy a go?