Jul 282014

The problem was that nothing about the murder made sense to Inspector Maigret. Monsieur Gallet had been shot, the bullet clearly fired from outside his window. But he died of stab wounds. He died in Sancerre, but he had just sent a postcard to his family from Rouen, some 200 miles away. He seemed to be nearly penniless, but he had provided an insurance policy that would pay his wife 300 thousand francs.

There was quite clearly a great deal that Maigret didn't know about The Late Monsieur Gallet, which was the name of Georges Simenon's second (or perhaps third) book about Inspector Jules Maigret. Originally published in 1931, it has been reissued by Penguin, which is republishing all of Simenon's Maigret novels. The publisher provided a copy for this review. The full review can be heard on today's Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to it by clicking here.

Maigret found the case of the murder of Monsieur Gallet to be difficult. Every time he thought he was making some progress, some other odd facet of the case would turn up, and Maigret would find himself having to begin all over again. That oddity, that wrongness about the case, will eventualy prove the key to the whole mystery.

This is early Maigret, and the overall tone is quite dark. There's not much in the way of happy endings available here. The new translation by Anthea Bell sometimes seems a bit awkward to me - it sounds like a translation rather than more colloquial English, but it's quite serviceable and transmits the events and characters quite well. It's a pretty short book, and I think it's worth your reading time.

Thanks to Sally Powers and the I Love a Mystery newsletter, where a version of this review first appeared, for allowing me to use it here as well.

The Challenge

As part of my continuing commitment to the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge under way at the My Reader's Block blog, I am submitting this to cover the Bingo square calling for one translated work. For details about the challenge, and what I'm doing for it, please click here!

Jul 262014

From time to time this year, I've talked about submitting appropriate reviews to the ongoing Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge under way at Bev's My Reader's Block blog. The idea is that we are filling in a "Bingo"-type scorecard in which each square requires reading a book that meets a particular criterion (see below). For the Golden scorecard, the books must all have been published prior to 1960. There are 36 squares on the scorecard.

Vintage Golden Card 001

So far this year, I have read (and submitted) reviews of 18 books. 

So it's time to get serious. Each book selected for the podcast for the next 18 weeks will fill in one of the missing squares. In other words, my goal is to fill in the entire scorecard.

here are links to all of the ones I've read and reviewed so far (with space for the squares not yet filled). I am listing them as they appear on the scorecard, by row from top to bottom, in order going across left and right.

Row 1:

Row 2:

  • One book set anywhere except the U.S. or England:
  • One book with a number in the title:
  • One book that has been made into a movie:
  • One book with a lawyer, courtroom, judge, etc.:
  • One book with a time, day, month, etc. in the title:
  • One book with a place in the title: Murder a la Richelieu, by Anita Blackmon

Row 3:

  •  One book that features a crime other than murder: Murder Must Wait, by Arthur W. Upfield
  • One book that features food/cooks in some way:
  • One book with an amateur detective: Whose Body?, by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • One book already read by a fellow challenger: One Drop of Blood, by Anne Austin
  • One translated work:
  • One book with a size in the title:

Row 4:

Row 5:

Row 6:

  • One book set in the entertainment world: And So to Murder, by John Dickson Carr, writing as Carter Dickson
  • One book with a woman in the title:
  • One book that involves a mode of transportation:
  • One book outside your comfort zone:
  • One book that you have to borrow (you do not own):
  • One book set in the U.S.:

So that's 18 filled so far - and you can see what lies ahead. I have books selected for all those so-far empty spaces and slots. Thanks to Bev Hankins for coming up with a really challenging challenge this year.

Time to get readin'. I hope you'll come along for the ride!


Jul 172014

We interrupt the normal flow of things to announce that it's summer (something you may already have noticed, granted). Schedules often change in the summer, so my regular-every-Monday publishing date for the podcast and new blog entry will be a bit flexible as I succumb to the lure of other events taking place away from my computer terminal.

What all that means is that next Monday's podcast will actually be posted a day early this week, on Sunday, and there will be a couple of similar shifts in August. So if you come in on a Monday and don't see anything new...well, be patient.

Thank you. Now, back to the mysteries.

Jul 022014

Two announcements in the past few days from The Wolfe Pack, that intrepid organization of fans devoted to Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe, are worth repeating.

First, there are the Nero Award finalists, nominated by the group's judges as the best American mystery of 2013 written in the tradition of the Nero Wolfe books. This year's nominees are:

  • Ask Not, by Max Allan Collins;
  • Three Can Keep a Secret, by Archer Mayor;
  • Murder as a Fine Art, by David Morrell;
  • A Study in Revenge, by Kieran Sheilds;
  • A Question of Honor, by Charles Todd.

The winner will be announced at the Wolfe Pack's annual Black Orchid Banquet, held in New York City on the first Saturday in December.

The Wolfe Pack has also announced that the Ninth Annual Black Orchid Novella Award competition, sponsored jointly by the Wolfe Pack and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, is now accepting submissions for next year's BONA award. Full details about length and requirements may be found here. The winner of the 2015 award will receive a $1000 prize and publication of the novella in a future issue of AHMM

Hat tips are due to Janet Rudolph at Mystery Fanfare and Jeff Pierce at the Rap Sheet blog, both of whom got to this before I did!

Jul 012014

Another month, another update on what's happening in and around and somewhat in the vicinity of crime fiction in the U.K. and the rest of Europe. It's another monthly report from Mike Ripley in the Shots Ezine column "Getting Away with Murder," and - as always - it's worth your reading, if only to see who has been hanging out at the parties Ripley attends. But there's so much more - reviews, comments, even photos. Go enjoy it.

Jun 252014

The newest edition of the bimonthly I Love a Mystery newsletter has just been posted for your reading pleasure. For 20 years, this newsletter has provided readers with reviews of all kinds of mysteries. Whatever genre or sub-genre you prefer, you'll find something here that will intrigue and entertain you. I review classic books and classic authors for the newsletter, but I assure you that there are a great many other reviewers and a huge selection of other books to tempt you. Give it a try - it's free!

Jun 242014

Some very fine modern mysteries will be up for awards this fall: Janet Rudolph, the editor of Mystery Readers Journal, has announced the nominees for this year's Macavity Awards, which will be presented in November (along with this year's Anthony Awards) at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, California.

The Macavity Awards are presented for Best Mystery Novel, Best First Mystery, Best Mystery Short Story, Best Non-Fiction and the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award. For a complete list of the nominees, click here. The awards are nominated, and voted upon, by members and friends of Mystery Readers International and subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal

The Macavity Awards are named for Macavity the Mystery Cat, one of the cats celebrated by poet T. S. Eliot in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats:

Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime - Macavity's not there!

Well, at least I learned something as an English major.

Congratulations to all the nominees - it looks like a very rich field!

Jun 232014

Now here's an interesting mystery. It's a Golden Age classic, set in Oxford, England, in the 1930s. It involves the students and staff at a college for women students, part of Oxford University, at a time when the notion of providing an Oxford education to a woman was still a matter of heated debate. It revolves around a member of that staff who seems to draw criticism and controversy to herself. It was published in 1935. It's title is...

Wait a second. You're thinking that I must be talking about Gaudy Night, by Dorothy L. Sayers, one of the mysteries featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. 


I am talking about Mavis Doriel Hay's book, Death on the Cherwell.

Mavis who?

Mavis Doriel Hay wrote just three mysteries in the course of her career. They were written at the peak of the so-called Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Death on the Cherwell is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.

In Death on the Cherwell, we are introduced to several young women, all undergraduate students at Persephone College for Women within Oxford University. They have gathered at an old boathouse on the Cherwell to form a secret society. Its purpose (for all such organizations must have a purpose): to curse the name of Miss Denning, the college bursar, who has - according to the students - made all their lives miserable.

Their meeting is interrupted rather rudely by the appearance of a canoe - the bursar's canoe, in fact - floating down the river with - I very much regret to say - the bursar's dead body inside. And so begins a lively, quite well written (and well-clued) mystery. The students are concerned that a lot of the evidence, as it turns up, seems to be pointing to one of their fellow students. They don't believe it - or do they? They are determined to find out what really happened. And the police, though they are quite competent and pleasant themselves, are quite willing to let the young women do some of their investigating for them...

This is the second novel by Mavis Doriel Hay that I have read. There is one more still to go, sitting in my To Be Read pile, and I'm inclined to move it up and read it pretty quickly. I like what I've read of Hay's books and I do wish she had written more - she lived on into the 1970s, but abandoned crime novels after those first three. Her books quickly disappeared and remained out of print and virtually impossible to find until British Library reprinted them among their Crime Classics books. This edition contains an informative introduction by Stephen Booth providing more background about Hay and her books.

Death on the Cherwell is another of my entries in the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge under way at the My Reader's Block blog, and it fills the space on my golden scorecard calling for "One academic mystery." 

Jun 182014

For those of you who may live in the northeastern U. S. - particularly in New Jersey and/or New York - there's another event coming up a little more than a month from now which ought to interest you: a conference of mystery writers and readers called Deadly Ink. It's not a huge gathering, like Bouchercon, or a fair-to-middling-sized one like Malice Domestic or Left Coast Crime. As a result, it might be a good introduction to these conferences for those of you in the region who have never tried one before and are looking to get your feet wet at a relatively small event. It happens August 1 through 3 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Brunswick, NJ.

Small in size, but large in talent. Guests of honor this year will be Donald Bain and his wife and co-author, Renee Paley-Bain, who are responsible, among other achievements, for nearly forty "Murder She Wrote" books whose characters are based on the TV series.  Toastmaster for the event will be Donna Andrews. (Disclosure: The group has named me as their Fan Guest of Honor this year, which is flattering, to say the least.) There will be a banquet Saturday night, August 2, to announce the winner of the group's David Award, presented in memory of David G. Sasher, Sr., for the best book published during the last calendar year. This year's nominees are:

  •  Lethal Treasure, by Jane Cleland;
  • There Was an Old Woman, by Hallie Ephron;
  • Condemned to Repeat, by Janice MacDonald;
  • The Wrong Girl, by Hank Phillippi Ryan;
  • Dark Music, by Eric Watkins.

Attendees will vote for the winner during the conference.

I've attended Deadly Ink before - I enjoy the intimacy of the event and the chance to get to know some of these talented authors and ardent fans a little better. There's a lot happening here for all the attendees. You'll go home with new reads - and new friends. I hope to see some of you there!

Jun 162014

There is no question that the book that Monica Stanton wrote was scandalous. For a minister's daughter to write a book named Desire was certainly something her relatives wished had never happened. For a British movie company to buy the film rights turned her world upside down - particularly when she discovered that the studio was not hiring her to rewrite her own book. Instead, she would rewrite a detective novel...and the man who wrote that book would rewrite Monica's book for the movie version. And all that was before the deadly attacks began...

That's the situation we find in And So To Murder, by John Dickson Carr, writing as Carter Dickson. The 1941 mystery, featuring Sir Henry Merrivale, is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the complete review by clicking here.

The attacks on Monica really began in earnest when somebody lured her to the set of another movie and tried to pour vitriol - sulfuric acid - down a speaking tube and onto her face. The unsuccessful attack was followed by frightening anonymous letters. And there were more attacks. Fortunately for Monica, Bill Cartwright, the writer of that detective story which she had been assigned to rewrite, was nearby - and a friend of Sir Henry Merrivale. And it turns out that Sir Henry was very interested in some other mysterious goings-on at the movie studio, which might have been the work of enemy spies.

 I have always been fond of Carr's Sir Henry Merrivale mysteries. The Old Man, as "H.M." is known, is a brilliant but irascible man, apparently qualified as both a lawyer and a doctor. He spends much of his time working for the British government - particularly in wartime books, such as And So to Murder, where he is heading up British secret service. In many of Carr's books, Sir Henry provides a great deal of comic relief - not nearly as much so, however, in And So to Murder. There is a lot of humor in the goings-on at the film studio, where it is considered only normal to have two writers working to adapt each other's books rather than adapting their own work. But Sir Henry is remarkably restrained. He doesn't even appear in the book until well past the halfway point, and, aside for a few bursts of bad temper, he is mostly serious. Perhaps that was only to be expected in 1941 Britain, deep into the war years.

It is also worth noting that, by the time of And So to Murder, Carr had had very bad experiences with film studios; Carr's wife is quoted as saying that her husband hated "with complete loathing" his time at the studio. He certainly gets his revenge in his biting and often hilarious picture of the industry.

And So to Murder isn't my favorite Carr book - for one thing, without drifting into spoiler territory, I think Carr violated one of his own fair-play rules to mislead the reader. Still, for the characters, for the film industry byplay, and for the plot, you will most likely enjoy And So to Murder. Contrary to what I said when I recorded the podcast version of this review, the book is available in a trade paperback edition from the Langtail Press, and it's certainly worth your purchase!

This is another entry in the continuing Vintage Mystery Bingo reading challenge under way at the My Reader's Block blog. On my bingo card, it fulfills the requirement for "one book set in the entertainment world."