Raymond Chandler has been reincarnated in the expressive prose of Shamus Dust.
On Christmas Day, a man is found dead on the porch of a church in post-WWII City of London. By all accounts, the victim, Raymond Jarrett, was up to no good. Pictures of young boys in compromising positions are found in his apartment. The apartment is owned by a government official who hires private eye, Newman, to figure out what happened and hush up any scandal.
While the mystery is good, it is the lush writing style that makes Shamus Dust stand out.
“In this mile-wide hub of empire and enterprise there are operators who rub against other operators with fewer scruples than they own themselves. When that happens and they get taken to the cleaners, it’s not a thing they advertise or mention to police. Not even to a high-class agency, on account of the embarrassment. So far, I don’t see what your embarrassment is. Without it the job wouldn’t be in my line.”
The author appears to have polished each sentence within the book to a high shine. This book needs to be slowly savored like a fine wine. It is also the type of book that will be even better the second time around. I highly recommend this literary noir. 5 stars!
Thanks to Matador and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: 1940s, British, Noir, Oct 28 2019
You don’t have to have lived in the 1950s to enjoy The Man that got Away. However, it is eminently easier to understand if you’re from England.
There is a murder, a con man, and a criminal mastermind in Brighton, a beach town on the English coast in1957. Only young Constable Twitten has a chance to solve the crime if his bungling co-workers don’t stop him.
I read many British mysteries. But this series continues to confuse me with Briticisms and product names available only in England. Possibly only in the past. My Kindle dictionary doesn’t even know what they mean. I also don’t like or relate to the bumbling policemen. They have an office cleaner who is really a master criminal. Their chief didn’t notice he was being conned by the local wax museum. Reading The Man that got Away forces the reader to totally suspend disbelief.
While I enjoyed this entry, the second, more than the first, I still believe it was only good—not great. Still the mystery itself was entertaining. Plus I enjoyed the delights and surprises of an English beach town. 3 stars.
Thanks to Bloomsbury USA and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: British, cozy mystery, Oct 15 2019
Another great selection of eleven British golden-age mystery stories is found in the Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories.
From Blind Man’s Hood from the great John Dickson Carr to ‘Twist the Cup and the Lip by Julian Symons, many of the authors will be familiar to those who love golden-age mysteries. Even better, some are complete unknowns to a modern audience though they were famous in their day. The introductions to each story explain each author’s place in the universe as well as their most famous characters.
I love these British Library Crime Classics Christmas anthologies. The stories are excellent. All have some sort of a twist on the Christmas setting, either a ghost story of murder on Christmas Eve or a mysterious woman on a train with a trio of policemen who are heading to Christmas dinner. Each story has aged well with no blatant racism or sexism in sight. But I am sure that you, as do I, read these tales for the puzzles. The game is afoot, indeed, with some clever misdirection so famous in British golden-age plots.
Whether you want to get into the Christmas mood without all the saccharine carols, or as a perfect gift for the mystery fan in your life, the Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories will meet, and exceed, your expectations. 5 stars!
Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: British, Golden age mystery, Oct 1 2019, short stories
“Alive, I was Cleo Sherwood. Dead, I became the Lady in the Lake, a nasty broken thing.”
Maddie is feeling unfulfilled in her life as a full-time wife and mother of one. It’s 1965, when women can dream of careers—and Maddie is a good dreamer. She leaves her husband of twenty years to become a reporter at the Baltimore Sun. Stuck with fluff pieces, she dreams of breaking a big story. She finds that story in Cleo Sherwood.
The Lady in the Lake is an almost perfect sixties adaptation of a forties crime noir. Instead of a good man in a hat, it’s feminist Maddie finding truths that are best kept hidden. Like classic noir, most of the characters are unsympathetic. The pacing is slower than modern thrillers. If both of those traits are fine with you, you will enjoy this “modern” update. 4 stars!
Thanks to Faber & Faber and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: British, Jul 25 2019, Noir
In 1894, there is a Murder in the British Museum. Private Inquiry Agent Daniel Wilson and his live-in lover Abigail Fenton, a famous archaeologist, investigate at the request of the museum director.
Esteemed Professor Lance Pickering is most famous for his work on the new King Arthur exhibit and for his new book about Arthur’s uncle, Ambrosius. That is until he is stabbed in the museum’s restroom behind a locked cubicle door.
Daniel quickly guesses how the murder was done. Unfortunately, he must work even faster to discover the who before his nemesis, Superintendent Armstrong of Scotland Yard, beats him to it.
If you enjoy learning some Arthurian and 19th century London history while reading an engaging mystery, you will enjoy Murder at the British Museum. There is also a strong feminist as the detective’s side kick plus the almost obligatory bumbling Scotland Yard employee complicating the case. I liked the no-nonsense romance between Daniel and Abigail. The mystery was good too. Overall, I rate it at 3.5 stars!
Thanks to Allison & Busby and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: British, feminism, Jul 18 2019, Police procedural
Definitely the best noir I’ve read this year! The Sleepwalker is the third dark thriller in the terrific Aidan Waits series.
Down these dark hospital corridors a man must go… Aidan and his shady partner Sutty are watching a serial killer called The Sleepwalker die. The Manchester Police are hoping that the prisoner will tell Sutty where he left the body of his last victim. Instead, he denies the killing immediately before both he and Sutty are bombed in the hospital room.
While this is only the beginning of the twisty tale, I can’t even begin to tell you more without it being a spoiler. What I can do is highly recommend this gritty British noir for its impeccably nuanced characters and impressive plotting. Every noir fan must read this book! Fans of thrillers and police procedurals (though Aidan is not one to follow many rules) will enjoy it also. 5 stars!
Thanks to Doubleday UK and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: British, Jul 11 2019, Noir, Police procedural
In Truth or Die, Detective Sergeant Imogen and her partner (and friend with benefits), DS Adrian are investigating a professor’s death. The philosophy professor’s head was bashed in with a glass paperweight. Their sleuthing uncovers an awful truth playing out at the university.
Both Imogen and Adrian are getting over recent relationships when this tale begins. While there is a mystery and some police procedures described, this seemed more an excuse to show Imogen and Adrian’s relationship moving forward rather than the other way round. There were also a lot of character names to juggle. I found myself frequently backtracking to determine who the character was that was speaking. I believe my problem was that I was trying to read this as a standalone. It would be much easier if I had the previous four books experience with many of the characters.
If you have read the previous books in this series and don’t mind some romance, frequent gore, and occasional twists in your police procedurals, you will already know whether you will enjoy Truth or Die or not. However, if you haven’t read the other books (at least the last one, The Promise), I think you will be as confused as I was while reading this one. I can only give my own review of course, so 3 stars for this character-driven thriller.
Thanks to Avon Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: British, Jul 11 2019, Police procedural
Roxane is a complex, underworked private investigator trying to save her brother from a murder charge in the Stories You Tell.
When her brother Andrew calls Roxane in the middle of the night, she comes running. Andrew is worried about former co-worker and one-time (or maybe two time) lover, Addison. Addison arrived at his house earlier bloody and incoherent. She then ran off before he could get the whole story. Work has been slow for PI Roxane so she agrees to check on the girl.
Roxane discovers Addison really is missing and she worked at the nightclub across the street from Andrew’s home. When Addison’s father reports her missing, Andrew is the police’s number one suspect. Roxane decides she must solve the crime to prevent Andrew from being indicted for murder.
Stories You Tell is a character-driven police procedural where the winter setting in Ohio almost feels like a character too. Roxane’s relationships are the heart of the book with lover Catherine, ex-lover Tom who was also her dead policeman father’s partner, and her brother Andrew. There are many mysteries to solve within this book but the clues are carefully hidden making it a fun tale for armchair detectives.
Overall, the book received 4 stars from me. I’m looking forward to reading the earlier, and subsequent, books in this series.
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: British, Jul 9 2019, Police procedural
“Clap clap. She ducked a minute too late as the coil of rope settled around her neck.” from the prologue of the Suffering of Strangers.
Roberta has had a day. Her six week old son will not stop crying. Her husband calls and wants her to pick up some champagne to celebrate his new job. When she reaches the store, her son is blessedly silent. She decides to just run into the shop quickly while leaving her son in the car. When she returns both her car and son are gone. After a frantic search, Roberta finds her car but the infant in the car seat is not her son. DI Costello investigates.
Meanwhile, DCI Anderson is investigating a 20 year old cold case. A young mother is out late buying milk when she is roped around the neck, raped, and tossed behind some rubbish bins. She can’t recall what happened. Could this be part of a series?
I enjoyed guessing how these cases were connected and whodunit. However, jumping into this series at the ninth book may not be wise. While it can be read as a standalone, the sheer number of characters—some important for this story and some obviously carryovers from previous books—makes a slow and confusing book at the start. However, the momentum quickly builds after about 20% into a twisty conclusion.
The Suffering of Strangers is a rip-roaring British police procedural highly recommended for armchair detectives. However, it might be best to read at least one other entry in the series before beginning this book. 4 stars!
Thanks to Black Thorn Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: British, Jun 6 2019, Police procedural
A historical mystery set in 1926, but written in 2018, describes a Death at the Wychbourne Follies.
Lady Gertrude Ansley was an actress before landing her Marquess husband and retiring. Wishing to relive her youthful adventures she invites her fellow actors to her country house, Wychbourne Court. She hopes to put on the Wychbourne Follies at the local pub with her former friends.
Things turn uncomfortable when the topic turns to Mary Ann Darling whose disappearance allowed Gertrude her star turn in the play, The Flower Shop Girl. After hinting at having incriminating evidence about Mary Ann’s disappearance, one guest is found bludgeoned to death.
Death at the Wychbourne Follies is a fine Agatha Christie’sque mystery that includes the usual rounding up of all the suspects by the Inspector at the denouement. Chef Nell is an unusual amateur assistant to Chief Inspector Melbray. Nell acts as a younger Miss Marple with her observant eye and knowledge of human nature.
If you like golden age mysteries, you will enjoy this book. The mystery is challenging because everyone seems to have secrets they are protecting. Even though this is the second in the Chef Nell series, I had no problems reading it as a standalone. 4 stars!
Thanks to Severn House and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: British, Mar 1 2019
Death in the Stocks is the first Superintendent Hannasyde mystery written in 1935.
Arnold Vereker is found locked in the village stocks and stabbed to death. Superintendent Hannasyde has a multitude of suspects since everyone seemed to dislike him and no one has an ironclad alibi.
Maybe it is the shadow of Agatha Christie, who was writing at the same time, but Georgette Heyer’s mysteries seem overlong and rather stuffed with English upper crust commentary that seems irrelevant more than eighty years after they were published. Rather than reading Death in the Stocks, read one of the author’s excellent regency romance books for which she is famous. For a great mystery, read Agatha or Dorothy L. Sayers. 2 stars.H
Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: British, Feb 5 2019, Golden age mystery
Set in the houses of Parliament in 1932, when it was also written, the Division Bell Mystery is the first mystery written by a female member of Parliament.
Someone is murdered. However, the focus is on British politics. Not being British, I had a hard time following the story. Those familiar with Parliament might enjoy the intrigue. However, I didn’t think the mystery was good enough to wade through all the politics. It is more of a curiosity than a good read. 2 stars.
Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: British, Dec 4 2018
It’s 1969. Bryant and May are tasked with keeping a witness safe at an English Country House weekend. Unfortunately, the Army has closed the only exit road due to war games. There are nine suspects and more than one potential victim in this Hall of Mirrors.
Hall of Mirrors is the fifteenth entry in the Peculiar Crimes Unit series but the first I’ve read. It is a perfect entry point because it is a prequel of one of Bryant and May’s early cases. London in 1969 sounds like a groovy time, man. The setting of hippies, eastern spirituality and old staunch England all collide with humorous results. This book includes everything but the kitchen sink: mythical creatures, WWI heroes, innovative murder methods and motives. The conclusion was fabulous. I loved this book and will be looking for more from this series. It is highly recommended to armchair detectives and anyone looking for a challenging mystery. 5 stars!
Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: 1960s, British, Dec 4 2018
Amateur detective Mordecai Tremaine is back is the fine mystery In at the Death.
Dr. Hardene is found bludgeoned to death inside a vacant house. When Chief Inspector Boyce of Scotland Yard is called to investigate, he brings his buddy Mordecai Tremaine. Numerous questions emerge. Why was the Doctor carrying a gun in his bag? Why was his car parked down the street? Why does everyone in the small town seem to be hiding something?
Written in 1952, In at the Death showcases the puzzle making skills of the author. He seems to be hitting his stride in the fourth Mordecai Tremaine mystery. I was totally blindsided by the conclusion. If you want to play armchair detective too, I highly recommend reading this book. Hopefully, you will have better luck guessing the murderer. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: British, Oct 2 2018
Herbert Cargate is a very unpleasant man. He is also soon to be poisoned on a train in the English countryside in Excellent Intentions.
Starting a murder case at the end, in the courtroom trying to prove a mysterious person’s guilt, is an unusual plot structure. Published in 1938, fifteen years before Agatha Christie’s more famous courtroom drama Witness for the Prosecution, Excellent Intentions also uses a courtroom setting to obscure the face of a murderer. While I enjoyed the change, it did make playing armchair detective much more difficult. The point of view makes quick jumps between people and time periods. The author uses excessive and mostly meaningless detail as a red herring. The effect is rather like jet lag. Eventually, you are resigned to it and are just reading to find out whodunnit.
Excellent Intentions is an interesting golden-age British curiosity. However, it doesn’t work very well as a mystery. Therefore, it is recommended only for readers interested in the historical underpinnings of mysteries. It would be an unusual structure for a modern mystery writer to use and improve upon. However, even with the unexpected twist at the end, I can’t recommend it to regular mystery readers. To those people, I recommend the much better example of the author’s work, Murder of my Aunt. Excellent Intentions is rated a scant 3 stars.
Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: British, Golden age mystery, Oct 2 2018
A beguiling mystery, unique romance and dynamic characters make the Hollow of Fear a perfect readcation for female Sherlock Holmes fans.
Set in Victorian England, the Hollow of Fear follows Charlotte Holmes and Mrs. Watson. Looking for her half-brother, Charlotte runs into Moriarty’s handiwork. Also, when Lady Ingram turns up dead, Lord Ingram is suspected. Charlotte must find the real murderer to clear his name while her relationship with the Lord takes an unexpected turn.
The use of Victorian language and plot devices (hidden tunnels and a multitude of disguises) matches the original Holmes atmosphere well. I especially liked the unusual romantic dynamic between Charlotte and Lord Ingram. Despite swapping genders of some characters and a very 21st century feeling to Charlotte, the mystery felt like it belonged in the Sherlock Holmes canon. It definitely wasn’t easy for this armchair detective to solve.
This is my first book in the series. While understandable as a stand alone, I felt the tale would have been more enjoyable if I had read the two previous books first. Regardless, it is a solid 4 star read!
Thanks to the publisher, Berkeley, and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review
Posted in Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: British, Oct 2 2018, Sherlock Holmes, Victorian