Regular readers of In Search Of The Classic Mystery Novel will know that I’m one for statistics, in particular keeping track of the number of my posts. And my next review is going to be my 700th book review. So before posting that, I thought I’d take a look back at a select bunch of the books that I’ve reviewed over the past five and seven-twelfths years.
Let me clarify the title – I’ve selected ten books that I’ve reviewed that I can utterly recommend but that I’d guess that most of my readers won’t have read. So I’m not going to pick anything by Agatha Christie, for example. In fact, I’m going to shy away from the Golden Age entirely and stick to authors who are in print. One of the useful facets of my reviews is the ability to say “Thank You” to authors that I enjoy so I thought I’d use this post to try and nudge their sales up a bit… I’ve not picked certain authors – Kate Ellis, Martin Edwards, L C Tyler, for example, as their books tend to pop up in good bookshops. I’ve gone for those authors that are harder to stumble across…
So, in no particular order – well, alphabetical by author’s forename for reasons that I’m not going to explain – which books have I picked?
Alan Gordon wrote six books featuring Theophilus of the Fools’ Guild. This is the first – and the only one available as an ebook – being a sequel to Twelfth Night, by that Shakespeare chap. Theophilus aka Feste returns after ten years to investigate the murder of Duke Orsino. I appreciate not everybody would savour the combination of whodunit and Shakespeare, but for me, it was an absolute treat. It was recommended by a reader of the blog, so I’ll pass the recommendation along to you.
Long term readers of the blog won’t be surprised by this recommendation. It was sent to me a while back by the author and when reading it, I made a bit of a mistake. I read it thinking it was the standard cozy, enjoying the humour (a lot) as it went along, but was completely stunned to discover by the end that I’d been reading a well-clued fair play mystery. Needless to say that I didn’t make the same mistake with books two and three. No news as yet about book four, but fingers crossed it’ll be along soon. Oh, and this one is FREE as a Kindle ebook. So you’ve got no excuse (unless you haven’t got a Kindle of course…)
I’m not a fan of the noir format, whether it’s the traditional question-punch-question-punch-repeat… format or the cozy noir (question-tea-question-cake…) that pass for Christie-esque mysteries. But there are two exceptions. Apocalyptic Noir – The Last Policeman series by Ben H Winters is one, but as that’s won awards, I’m hoping that it’s been successful enough. The other sort is Clown Noir, a rather bonkers trilogy set in a carefully constructed circus town. Loads of fun.
There have been one or two audiobooks in my reviews, all of which aren’t really audiobooks but audio dramas, all of which produced by Big Finish productions, and most of which feature Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. I’m actually not a massive fan of Holmes or pastiches, but the stories written by Jonathan Barnes have been outstanding. This is the first one, a tale of the aftermath of the Titanic disaster, seeing an estranged Watson revisiting his old friend, only to encounter J Bruce Ismay, the head of the White Star Line being haunted by a phantom from the doomed ship. This month, by the way, it’s available to download for only £2.99 from the Big Finish website.
A one-off mystery novel (at the moment) from an author who has also produced academic histories of Christopher Marlowe and Lucretia Borgia, it concerning a police officer Jack Ravenshaw, from an acting dynasty returning to London to investigate an impossible poisoning or two. But Ravenshaw is haunted by ghosts from his past, both figuratively and literally… Unfortunately, this does seem to be a one-off novel, as the second was due in 2014 but no sign just yet. It’s only 99p on Kindle, so do check it out…
I’ve picked this one due to the fact that I wish more of my readers would try the historical mystery genre. Michael Jecks, Paul Doherty and Peter Tremayne’s books are probably the most under-commented on books that I review, and I do wish that more people would dip their toe into the historical genre. Michael’s books are more than just cleverly constructed mysteries, he has a skill of delivering the point of view of characters from seven hundred years ago. I’ve picked The Sticklepath Strangler as it’s a grippingly dark tale of a possibly-supernatural (it’s not) serial killer, but I could have picked anything from this series, to be honest.
This one baffles me. In a time when it seems that psychological thrillers populate the bookshelves and bestseller lists and this one, released earlier this year, is truly outstanding, but it seems to have been overlooked for some reason. It tells of a woman, Monica, suffering from severe and constant neurological pain, whose regime of painkillers is distorting her memory. When she makes a discovery that throws her world into turmoil, she finds herself unable to trust anyone. Is she in danger? And who from? Nev Fountain also wrote the Mervyn Stone books (and audio), which were one of the inspirations for the blog. You should read those, too…
Well, I could have picked a bundle of Paul’s books, but I’ve plumped for this one, the subject of my recent laughable competition. I’ll be going into Paul’s work in a little more detail later in the month, as the new Hugh Corbett book is launched, along with an interview with the man himself. But briefly, his books present proper mysteries, often with a locked room thrown in, presented against the backdrop of history in all its colour, both light and dark.
And my third “why don’t you read an historical mystery” pick! Peter Tremayne has, to date, written twenty four novels featuring Sister Fidelma, both a dalaigh (a lawyer) and a religieuse (a Celtic nun). Don’t judge the set up based on those monk books set in Shrewsbury, these are properly constructed mysteries, complete with a gathering of suspects thrown in at the end. Admittedly, they do have more “overthrow the local lord” plots than most Agatha Christie novels… This one is the third book, and the one that really got me hooked on the series. A murdered abbot and a village decimated by a local warlord lead Fidelma into serious danger in an isolated monastery.
- Holmes On The Range by Steve Hockensmith
Well, I’m not going to say anything about this one just yet – this post is about 700 reviews but I’ve only written 699. Guess which book is number 700…
So, ten books that come with a cast-iron Puzzle Doctor seal of approval. Why not give one of them a try?