Here I am again with my spell the Month in Books choices! This time, I’m looking at a bookstack of crime and mystery stories which I have on my shelves and which contain a whole host of fantastic characters, whether detective/sleuth or criminal.
Here’s my list of books:
Fear in the Sunlight – Nicola Upson
Except the Dying – Maureen Jennings
Brat Farrar – Josephine Tey
Raffles – E.W. Hornung
Unnatural Habits – Kerry Greenwood
And then There Were None – Agatha Christie
Riddle of the Third Mile (The) – Colin Dexter
You Let Me In – Lucy Clarke
Fear in the Sunlight is one of Nicola Upson’s wonderful mysteries set between the wars and featuring the writer, Josephine Tey, as the sleuth. While Josephine is on holiday in Portmeiron to celebrate a friend’s fortieth birthday and to sign a film deal with Alfred Hitchcock for a novel she’s written, one of the group becomes the unfortunate object of a brutal and gruesome murder. The next day, it happens to another one of the party. Is there a serial killer on the loose? Josephine joins forces with Chief Inspector Penrose to find out as suspicion grows rife among the remaining guests and they fear for their lives.
The fantastic Victorian detective William Murdoch appears in Except the Dying. It is 1895, and the body of a pregnant girl is discovered in a freezing cold street in Toronto. Murdoch soon begins to think that her murder may well be an attempt to disguise the knowledge that she had been embroiled with a man belonging to one of the affluent families in the city. I find Murdoch such an endearing character, and I love his quirkiness, his inventiveness and his relationships with the other characters. As someone who has watched all of the Murdoch Mysteries episodes (many times!), it’s very difficult not to envisage Yannick Bisson as the Murdoch of the book. I don’t have a problem with that in the slightest…!
Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar gives the writer another mention in this particular bookstack, although this time, as the non-fictional version! I’m going to be honest and say that, although I’ve owned Brat Farrar quite a while, I’ve not yet read it. But I must! A man has been coached on every possible detail of the supposedly dead Patrick Ashby, who died at the age of thirteen, in order to claim his inheritance. But dark secrets emerge that threaten both Brat Farrar’s plan and his life, the longer he continues his deception.
Raffles is one in my bookstack which most certainly is not a sleuth-style crime book! In fact, it is quite the opposite, and is the first in a series of witty stories exploring the world of crime from the viewpoint of the thieves. In this first story, Raffles: The Amateur Crackman, Raffles’ schoolboy friend, Bunny Manders, enlists his help to get him out of gambling debt which has mounted up so badly that he almost shoots himself directly in front of Raffles. And so begin the adventures – starting with a daring robbery of a jewellers. This should keep Bunny out of trouble now, surely?
I really love Kerry Greenwood’s lady detective, Phryne Fisher, and Unnatural Habits sees Phryne and her maid-come-sidekick, Dot, getting involved in a series of disappearances. The victims all have something in common: they are blonde-haired girls, and three of the are definitely pregnant. They also all have one other connection – they work at the Magdalene Laundry. An intrepid female journalist is also on the case, and it’s not too long before she also goes missing. Phryne needs to do something about this before any more girls vanish without trace. What I always find thoroughly endearing about Phryne is her capability of using everything within her power – her wealth and position, certainly, but also her femininity and her empathy and understanding with all women and girls placed in dreadful situations, because there is so much more to this lady detective than beautiful clothes and a privileged lifestyle.
My all-time favourite crime writer once again appears in my bookstack. Agatha Christie wrote a number of standalone crime stories, some thriller, some with a dark Gothic feel or occult element, and some incredible mysteries. And Then There Were None, I think, combines all of these, and it is one of my absolute favourites of the standalones. Ten strangers are ‘invited’ to a house on an isolated island in Devon by the mysterious U.N. Owen. During their first dinner together, a record containing the voice of the mysterious host begins to accuse each of the guests of hiding a terrible secret and, before the end of the evening, one of the guests ends up dead. It doesn’t take long for the remaining guests to realise that the killer must be on the island, and worse, that it is one of them – and whoever it is is going to kill again and again…
Ah, now, Inspector Morse. I’ve never come across a Morse book or episode that I didn’t like. I might have cheated (just a tiny bit) by ignoring ‘the’ in the title, but the book itself hopefully makes up for it. As usual, this book sees the detective display his usual contempt for the dons of Oxford, as the torso of one of them, Browne-Smith (or at least Morse believes it could be) is fished out of the Oxford canal. Browne-Smith has disappeared and it appears that an event that happened in World War II may be the motive for the murder, but is it really? And is the dismembered body actually Browne-Smith or another victim entirely? There are suspects galore, and endless twists and turns to this one. Riddle of the Third Mile is definitely one to read for its complexity and if you love a plot to throw you in every possible direction.
I failed in my last letter, as I had to repeat last month’s book! Who would have thought it was so difficult for me to find a crime book beginning with ‘y’ on my bookcases?! So here we are again with You Let Me In. Briefly, as I described the book last month, I can tell you that Elle has felt very strange since renting out her house. Then she starts to receive threats which suggest that the person who is in her house now knows about her past – and what she did. What exactly do they know, and what are they going to do about it? And why is her imagination hearing footsteps, seeing shadows? It is in her imagination, isn’t it?
I hope that you might be inspired to read some of the books in my February bookstack. If I was going to point you to one in particular, if you’ve never read it, then be sure to read And Then There Were None. There is also an absolutely amazing three-part adaptation of the book on Amazon Prime Video, which I didn’t bother renting but bought outright and have watched countless times (Charles Dance and Sam Neill star, so what’s not to love?!). I thought it was fantastic and exceptionally well done. If you’re interested in looking that one up, you can find it here. I will definitely be writing more on this story, and in detail on the adaptation of this, and many other Christie stories, in the coming weeks.
As always, just so you know, my links in this post are Amazon (US) affiliate links, so if you purchase through them I may receive a tiny commission. I only ever link to a book or product I have actually read or used and have loved, so that they are always genuine and heartfelt recommendations. Doing this is also showing me that I really do need to read more of my Josephine Tey collection, and get around to curling up with Lucy Clarke’s book. Although I’m not sure that I’m going to feel very warm and cosy once I get going. I think I might be checking my door..! Sounds thrilling. 🙂