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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

"A Very Murderous Christmas"

Crime short stories with a Christmas theme, including:

The man with the sack by Margery Allingham
A country house burglary takes place under the nose of Mr Albert Campion. A festive crime depressingly full of snobbery. The old rich look down their noses at the ghastly nouveaux riches. In the end the old order is triumphant.
  • He’s like a depression leaving the Azores.
  • Jail shyness, that temporary fit of nerves which even the most experienced exhibit for a week or so after their release.
  • A neck that would disgrace a crocodile.” 

The Adventure of the Red Widow” by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr
A Sherlock Holmes short story involving a guillotine.

Camberwell Crackers by Anthony HorowitzA wonderful story about the murder of the owner of a Christmas Cracker factory. Full of dazzling wit. I particularly liked the jokes but Horowitz sparkles and his detective, on his first murder case, is wonderfully incompetent. Great fun, especially the original denouement in which the reader knows who dunnit but the copper doesn’t. Brilliant.
  • A chimney which had given up smoking.
The Flying Stars by G K Chesterton
A Father Brown story
  • If you’re born on the wrong side of the wall, I can’t see that it’s wrong to climb over it.
A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake
A murder in a snowbound train in Cumberland. Not exactly the Orient Express but a challenging whodunnit.
  • A voice succulent as the breast of a roast goose.
Loopy by Ruth Rendell
A classically macabre tale in which a man devoted to his mother likes to dress up in a wolf costume ...
Morse’s Greatest Mystery by Colin Dexter
Scrooge-like, miserly, grumpy Morse and the case of the money that went missing at Christmas.

The Jar of Ginger by Gladys Mitchell
A discussion club debates methods of murder including a poisoned piece of ginger in a jar.

Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces by John Mortimer
Rumpole is a brilliant creation and this offering is, as they always are, full of wit and character. 
  • "My first impression of Coldsands was a gaunt church tower, presumably of great age, pointing an accusing finger to heaven from a cluster of houses on the edge of a sullen, gunmetal sea.  ... As soon as we got out of the taxi, we were slapped around the face by a wind"
  • "He made cruciform gestures, as though remembering the rubric 'spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch' and forgetting where these important items were kept.
The Problem of Santa's Lighthouse by Edward Hoch
A tale set in New England in 1931

Most of these are whimsical. The best (Allingham, despite the appalling snobbery and racism, Mortimer and Horowitz) can write really well despite the limiting temptations of the format. Those stories that focus on the solution of a puzzle are forgettable, perhaps especially so in a short story format.

January 2019

My wonderful wife bought me a subscription to Books and Beer; each month I receive a crime book and some cans of beer. The other titles I have received so far are:
  • Most Wanted by Robert Craik: a fast-paced thriller set in California
  • The Devil's Dice by Roz Watkins: a whodunnit set in the English Peak District
  • Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth: a stunning tale of crime and revenge, of temptation and sin, of evil and redemption set in 1880s Queensland and as gritty as only the Australian Outback can get.

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