Apr 012015

So here we are at April 1, when, we were assured by Mike Ripley, we would see his final “Getting Away with Murder” column for Shots eZine.

Not so fast there, pardner. That “final” column – column 100 – has just been published. And Ripley isn’t going anywhere. He explains:

“Well if Richard III can make a triumphal comeback after 500 years, so can I, although I admit the circumstances are slightly different. After all the weeping down a hundred telephones, the thousands of letters (many in green crayon) and a petition with almost a million signatures demanding that Jeremy Clarkson be given my job (surely some mistake – Ed), I have decided to continue to write this monthly missive for the outstanding organ that is Shots.”

May I see the hands of all those who are shocked and surprised? (Yes, thank you, Mrs. Ripley.) For the rest of us, however, who have become used to this entertaining monthly melange of news and gossip about the crime fiction scene, particularly in the UK, it is welcome news.

This month’s column includes news and brief reviews of some new thrillers and other mysteries, including a couple of books based on (and written for) the actor George Sanders, short lists for a number of relevant awards, some intriguing-sounding spy thrillers by Alexander Wilson published before 1940, some thoughts on a recipe in the new Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, a new serial killer book being blurbed by Lee Child, previews of some more books due for publication in May, and republication of a 1953 “lost” pulp novel by Cameron Kay – a pen name for Gore Vidal. 

Whew. Can’t wait to see what he’ll have for next month – and glad he’s sticking around to show it to us.

Mar 022015

Mike Ripley’s new – and, he says, final – “Getting Away with Murder” column has now been published in Shots Ezine. As usual, it contains a wide-ranging ramble through the current mystery scene, particularly as it appears in the U. K. Among the topics this month:

  • Another new Albert Campion book, Mr. Campion’s Fox, which Ripley has written with the blessing of the Allingham Society;
  • A reflection on an anonymous literary agent’s bad choice;
  • The seemingly endless parade of  nominees for mystery awards;
  • A recommendation for a new mystery that counts SIX different narrators;
  • Announcements about several other newly-published-in-the-UK books;
  • Books he’s reading for the Chianti Crime Festival in Siena, Italy, later this Spring;
  • Reviving some old TV serials;
  • Lots more book reviews;

And a possible farewell of sorts. This is column #100 for “Getting Away with Murder.” Ripley, who has insisted that column #100 would be his last, runs down a list of people who, he says, are some of the candidates to replace him – well, that’s what he says, though the biographies are, er, highly dubious at best.  I hope it’s somebody with Ripley’s quirky sense of humor, very much on display again here, which has made his columns required reading for me. It occurs to me, however, the next column being dated April 1, and therefore quite possibly an appropriate time to introduce any of these candidates, that it would be wise to withhold lavish displays of grief. At least for now…

Jan 302015

Perhaps British author, critic and man-about-town Mike Ripley needs to check his calendar. Although we are still in January, he has just published his February column for the Shots Crime & Thriller eZine, “Getting Away with Murder.” As always, it’s a good look at the state of crime fiction in the U. K. (primarily).

In this month’s edition, Mike is off on his usual round of publishers’ parties, drinks, new books, drinks, new publications, new/vintage Penguin Book covers (take heart, Green Penguin fans!), old mystery movies, a French police drama series on TV, and drinks. Also: a former US basketball star’s first mystery for adults, starring Sherlock Holmes’s older brother Mycroft; Sarah Weinman’s new blog, including her critique of some narrators of new “domestic suspense” novels who appear to be “TSTL” (Too Stupid To Live); a couple of James Bond, er, “continuation novels”; a forthcoming mystery convention in Italy sponsored by Chianti producers (yes, please); and some chatty previews of books coming down the road – at least, so far, in the U.K. Go read, go enjoy. By the way, this is his 99th column – and he insists the next one, number 100, will be his last…

Dec 312014

Here we are on the cusp of a new year. And Bev Hankins at the My Reader’s Block blog is ready with a new challenge for 2015.

Vintage Challenge 2015

And away we go. In 2014, we completed a “Golden” Vintage Mystery Bingo Score Card by reviewing 36 books that fit the various categories we were given on the card. The prime requirement was that each had to have been first published before 1960. (Yes, I know, that’s well beyond the customary dates given for the so-called Golden Age of Detective Fiction, between the two World Wars, but I didn’t write the rules, folks.)

So what’s up for 2015? Why…surprise…another version of Vintage Mystery Bingo, with another score sheet with a fair number of brand-new categories:

Vintage Golden Card 2015

Once again, I’ll be trying to complete the Golden score card, looking primarily for books that were published before 1960. These won’t be the only books on my list to read and review next year, but I am working on completing this card as quickly as I can – which means sometime in the third quarter of the year, most likely. I’ve already got candidates lined up for more than half the categories. What will they be? As usual on this blog, I’m trying to limit my reviews to books that are currently available, whether in print or as e-books, so that my visitors here will be able to find copies for their/your own reading enjoyment. I hope you’ll join me and check regularly to find my choices.

Oh – and if you’re another book blogger who enjoys writing about mysteries, why don’t you take the challenge too? You’ll find full instructions here, on the My Reader’s Block blog. You don’t have to do all 36 – just complete one (or more) line of six to claim a “Bingo” on the card. The more of us reading these books and writing about them, the more we may be able to bring our favorites to a new generation of readers. Let’s do it.

Dec 212014

I wouldn’t call it gloating, exactly, but I feel a great deal of quiet satisfaction in the news that a Golden Age mystery has become a runaway bestseller, at least in the U. K. The book is J. Jefferson Farjeon’s Mystery in White: A Christmas Crime Story, first published in 1937, which was reviewed on this blog a couple of weeks ago. It was republished recently as part of the first-rate British Library Crime Classics series. An article in today’s The Independent newspaper in the U. K. says the big British bookstore chain Waterstones says the book is selling in “astonishing numbers,” with some 60,000 copies sold to date. Waterstones says it is outselling popular modern mysteries such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch.

Blogger and author Martin Edwards, who wrote the introduction to the new edition of Mystery in White, notes:

“I suppose the success of the British Library Classic Crime books shows that, if one is patient for long enough, the roulette wheel of public taste will move in one’s favour. It’s a shame that J. J. Farjeon is not around to see how popular his book has become in the 21st century, but it’s nevertheless a heart-warming story – a reminder to authors that the books we write may, just possibly, enjoy a good life long after we are gone.”

I suspect most readers of this blog would agree – certainly I’m delighted to see the success of these books and to see them reaching a new (and, I hope, younger) audience. Oh, and if you haven’t read Mystery in White yet, I strongly urge you to give it a try – especially during Christmas week, when it is most timely.

P. S. – I just checked Amazon – there’s been so much demand that the paperback is out of stock, with more expected soon (I see they’re talking about February delivery!). So be advised that it’s also available as an e-book, with no waiting…

Dec 062014

Another new month (well, a few days old, anyway), another new “Getting Away with Murder” column from Mike Ripley in the Shots Crime & Thriller eZine. 

Among the many items on the agenda this month:

  • Interesting notes from the Autumn Lunch of the Margery Allingham Society;
  • From that lunch, a review of an interesting-sounding mystery by Jane Stevenson;
  • A new Sherlock Holmes exhibition in London;
  • A list of Ripley’s favorite mysteries of 2014;
  • A couple of newly-reissued Golden Age classics which I must check out quickly;
  • Lots of reviews of new books published, or about to be published, in the UK;
  • And concluding with a hearty “Merry Crimbles to One and All” from The Ripster.

It’s a great way to keep up with what our friends across the pond are doing to keep crime fiction alive and well. Enjoy your reading!

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 202014

The beliefs in Spiritualism and the occult attracted the attention of a great many people in Victorian England. For some, it was a system of religious beliefs mixed with scientific fervor, a system that might offer the possibility of finding some real basis for the manifestations of ghostly spirits allegedly taking place during seances. For others it was a convenient mask to hide all sorts of criminal activity. That is how Sergeant Cribb first became involved in A Case of Spirits: A Sergeant Cribb Investigation, which is the title of Peter Lovesey’s book being reviewed today on the Classic Mysteries podcast. You can listen to the complete review by clicking here.

Peter Lovesey is a marvelous British author who continues to turn out first rate mysteries. He began his mystery-writing career with a series of books set in the Victorian England of the 1880s. They featured Sergeant Cribb, a tough but fair and intelligent detective from Scotland Yard. The books give readers a good feel for what late-nineteenth century London must have been like, the same sense of atmosphere that we can enjoy in a Sherlock Holmes story.

And then there was Spiritualism, a belief (or at least, for some, the hope) that the spirits of the dead could communicate with the living, usually through a person acting as a medium. As we see in A Case of Spirits, Sgt. Cribb had little patience for Spiritualism – like the great magician Harry Houdini, Cribb had seen far too many frauds and charlatans to believe very much of what he observed at seances. He is sent by his superiors to investigate some peculiar burglaries and thefts at the homes of some influential people involved in psychic research. The victims whose homes were robbed were all upper-middle-class people who had been dabbling in séances and Spiritualism – and, in fact, the robberies appeared to have been timed to occur when the homeowners would be safely out of the house, attending another séance. Cribb has a pretty good idea about what has been going on – but he is confronted suddenly by a seance that ends in murder. 

Lovesey writes with humor and wit, and Sergeant Cribb is a remarkably likeable investigator. The reader will also learn a good deal about some of the tricks used by less-than-scrupulous mediums to produce the effects of “spirits” at their seances. There will be some interesting and enjoyable run-ins with some of these characters before Cribb pursues his clues leading to a surprising conclusion. A Case of Spirits is available both in paper and as an e-book, and it is very much worth your time.

First published in 1975, A Case of Spirits will be my entry into the so-called “Silver” Bingo scorecard at the My Reader’s Block Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge, filling the square for “One book with a professional detective.” (The Silver card covers mysteries first published between 1960 and 1980.) Once again, I urge you to visit that blog to see the many different books being submitted there.



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!

May 032014

While I’m off gallivanting about at Malice Domestic, you can and should keep up with the latest news from the mystery world, with emphasis on what’s happening in the U. K., by reading Mike Ripley’s latest monthly column for Shots ezine. You’ll find the usual mix of facts, humor and general stuff. It’s worth reading regularly.

Now…exactly what is “gallivanting about,” and how does one do it?