Death of an Airman

by C. St. John Sprigg

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If you read Sprigg’s bio on Goodreads, you will find a very interesting man who died way too young.

Certainly I would like to know more about him.

Reading this book, I would have sworn that Sprigg was a pilot. Reading his bio on Wikipedia Under his real name of Christopher Caudwell,… I found out that he was knowledgeable about flight and wrote a couple of books about it.

& this book got off to a cracking start when an Australian bishop turns up at the Baston Air Club wanting flying lessons. But there are some strange goings on…

The book was terrific at the start, (& had some wonderful characters throughout, like Lady Crumbles the ruthless fundraiser!) it did lose a bit of momentum in the centre, but the ending tied up all the loose ends. & just for once I guessed the chief villain – only two pages before the reveal but still!

One of the better Golden Age books I have read by a lesser known writer.

Murder in Vienna

by E.C.R Lorac

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I’ll make this review short & sweet.

I really enjoyed an earlier Lorac I read, Fell Murder, but this one fell (tee hee!) more than a little flat.

I did really enjoy the travelogue-like descriptions of Vienna. I’ve been to this city twice, both times a long time ago, & loved both visits. But when the mystery began, I rapidly became bored. There was so much repetition on quite trivial matters that the whole story just dragged. By the time of the resolution, I no longer cared who had done it.

If I read any more Lorac, it will be books earlier in her career than this one.

Ice Station Zebra

by Alistair MacLean

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Alistair MacLean was one of my late Dad’s favourite authors & I read many of MacLean’s books when I was young. My favourite was Where Eagles Dare. I’m fairly sure I haven’t read this title before. I think I would remember the plot idea, as for me it was a very original one.

A nuclear submarine, the Dolphin, answers a distress signal to investigate what has happened at a weather monitoring station. Aboard the Dolphin is the mysterious Dr Carpenter, & it soon turns out he has a very close connection to the Drift Ice Station Zebra…

This book was an uneven read for me – slow moving in parts, with a lot of Dialogue as an Explanation and a large caste of characters who often had similar speaking styles. I had a lot of trouble telling them apart & in the end I gave up. The peacock-like mutual admiration that some of them feel for each other was a turn off, & the book shows it’s age being that there isn’t a single female character.

But the parts of the books that worked really worked & had a lot of action & excitement.

No longer my genre & while I would like to read Where Eagles Dare again, I can’t imagine that I will read any of MacLean’s other books.

Gaudy Night

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book wasn’t what I expected, but it is none the worse for that!

For one thing, this isn’t a murder mystery.  What this is is a complicated study of relationships in the almost cloistered world of female academia at Oxford in the 1930s. There is a vicious Poison Pen on the loose – who could it be?

This is a world that Sayers knew well. She was one of the first women to ever receive a degree from Oxford and her knowledge of the culture there shines through in every line. there is also a lot of knowledge about women and how they interrelate to each other & some fascinating political insights – the 1930s were certainly an interesting time!

This is a book for a patient reader – which is normally the sort of book I hate! Just shows what a writer of skill can make you accept!

Fear Stalks the Village

by Ethel Lina White

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I loved Ethel Lina White’s The Lady Vanishes but only liked this book, & find it hard to believe that there was only four years difference between the publishing dates, as I remember The Lady Vanishes as being a far more accomplished book.

What I did like was the sense of place White gave with her description of village life. The village did sound too good to be true – which of course it was! Ignatious Brown was an interesting in character detective & I’m trying to allow for the fact that this book was first published in 1932 so was groundbreaking for it’s time.

But I didn’t like the way that a character, who appeared important when she was introduced, completely disappeared. & Fear is given a physical (& fanciful appearance) Didn’t work for me & I found the resolution both unsatisfying and over the top.

I have another couple of White books on my Kindle & I liked this book well enough that I will read them in the future.

A Midsummer’s Equation

by Keigo Higashino

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When I read The Devotion of Suspect X & Salvation of a Saint I was reminded of Chess or Shogi;

With this title (the third Detective Galileo novel published in English) I am reminded more of a kaleidoscope;

Where there are a lot of repetitive and blurry images that eventually become clear when you get to the resolution of the book – the true centre.

There were a lot of issues that resonated with me as I live in a touristy part of New Zealand (back when we had tourists) and the trade offs that are involved with having tourists, having other businesses operating and really wanting to enjoy a tranquil unspoilt world. And we have had plenty of battles with mining companies too! Some of these issues are repeated maybe too much. Others do have a point.

do have a point (hide spoiler)].)

A Higoshino read seems to always be a read that needs patience. But you will be rewarded.

I’m looking forward to reading Silent Parade next year.

The Paradine Case

by Robert Smyth Hichens

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I picked this book up from an op (charity) shop quite some time ago. I was surprised it wasn’t available as a kindle, especially as Hitchcock made this book into a film with the same name.

I’m no longer surprised

For one thing, at over 500 pages, this book is very long – & for the first 300 pages, very slow moving. Minute details are repeated endlessly.

Jewishness of some characters was repeated endlessly – I mean what are Jewish shoulders?

Accused poisoner Ingrid Paradine is probably meant to be enigmatic, but for most of the book her character comes across as…well she doesn’t have much character. Or personality. Her barrister, Sir Malcolm Keane’s infatuation can be partly explained by Ingrid’s resemblance to the wife Keane had previously adored (after all many of us go for the same type time after time.) & Keane will sacrifice everything & everyone for this blank doll…

From the film Alida Valli & Louis Jordan

Most people would have given up. I have no idea why I didn’t. But as slow moving as this book was, it was well written, with very vivid descriptions of the different scenes. It certainly reminded me of the old black & white movies I used to watch with my Mum on Sunday afternoons. But the last two hundred pages may have been melodramatic, but they were totally gripping – I had several ideas in my head how it was going to turn out – & they were all wrong!

For the patient reader.

Country House Murders

by Thomas Godfrey (Editor)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I bought this book (in hard cover!) many years ago. I read The Usual Suspects, but couldn’t get into the authors that had fallen into obscurity. I’m now an enthusiastic Golden Age mystery reader, so I thought I’d give these stories another try.

The Adventure of Abbey Grange by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Not every story in this book is Golden Age – and what collection of mysteries would be complete without a Sherlock Holmes! This isn’t one of Doyle’s best, but it certainly gives some interesting insights into Holmes’ character and his relationship with the faithful Dr Watson! 3★

A Marriage Tragedy by Wilkie Collins. I tried (& failed) to read The Moonstone many years ago. Maybe I would be more open to it now. I was definitely intrigued enough to finish to find out what had happened to husband from Hell, James Smith. This is by far the longest selection in this book (most of the others are less than 20 pages) and it did drag in a couple of places and the ending was somewhat gloomy. 3.5★

Lord Chizelrigg’s Missing Fortune by Robert Barr. Entertaining but very improbable. Lord Valmont is like an early version of Hercule Poirot! 3★

The Fordwych Castle Mystery by Baroness Orczy. Looks like it wasn’t just the obscure writers I was disappointed by! Silly, improbable, melodramatic and didn’t make much sense. I was really disappointed as Lady Molly was one of the first female detectives. 2★

The Blue Scarab by R. Austin Freeman. Competent mystery with workmanlike writing. Similar in style to Conan Doyle, but less engaging. 3★

The Doom of the Darnaways by G.K. Chesterton. Now this was very engaging writing with a cleverly constructed mystery. The clues are there for you – you just need to know where to look! 4★

The Shadow on the Glass by Agatha Christie. I read this last year in The Mysterious Mr. Quin I thought this was one of the slighter stories in that collection. I still think that 3★

The Queen’s Square by Dorothy L. Sayers. This was just too short to carry all the ideas & potential this mystery had. Bit of a shame. 3.5 ★

Death on the Air by Ngaio Marsh. Dame Ngaio didn’t write many short stories & (if this is representative of her skill with them) that is a pity because this one is ingenious & puts her normal snobbishness (which normally drives me crazy!) to good use. Unusually for Marsh this one shows a contempt for young female servants – in this case, insensitive & heartless. Still 4★

The Same to Us by Margery Allingham. Witty & entertaining, with a sly dig at some racist assumptions. My favourite so far. 4.5★

The Hunt Ball by Freeman Wills Crofts. A very fine example of what Thomas Godfrey (the editor of this collection) calls an “inverted” mystery where the reader knows who commits the crime & waits for the story to play out. 4★

The Incautious Burglar by John Dickson Carr. A satisfying mystery even though there were very few suspects. 5★

The Long Shot by Nicholas Blake Well written, but a bit improbable. 4★

Jeeves and the Stolen Venus by P.G. Wodehouse Funny (Of course – it’s Wodehouse!) But I was confused. 3.5★

Death in the Sun by Michael Innes Just too improbable for me! 3★

An Unlocked Window by Ethel Lina White. Yes I did guess where it was going but the journey was wonderfully thrilling! 5★

The-Wood-For-The-Trees by Philip MacDonald. I have been looking for The Rasp for quite some time, as I know reviewers who really love it. This short story made me want to look even harder. I’m quite sure I’ve read it before, a few too many characters, & if I hadn’t read it before I did a very good job of guessing everything that was going to happen! 4.5★

The Man on the Roof by Christianna Brand. Not so this one, although I normally like Brand’s work. Occasionally witty, but a confused/confusing mish-mash. I’m wondering if I should read again, but provisionally 2.5★

The death of Amy Robsart by Cyril Hare. In case you are wondering if this Golden Age author wrote a historical murder mystery – he didn’t. Very entertaining murder mystery with a film setting. There is a plot hole but I enjoyed this very much. 4★

Fen Hall by Ruth Rendell. The first thing I have read by Rendell. Well written but another plot hole & this one isn’t a whodunnit! Still very well written & I now want to read some more Rendell. 3.5★

A very Desirable Residence by P.D. James Well written but improbable. I found the end quite satisfying though! 3.5★

The Worcestershire Enigma by James Miles. “Who?” You might well ask! I couldn’t find any other trace of this author who uses another author’s creations (Conan Doyle’s) & a real life person. (I won’t spoil this for you) very badly. It isn’t quite as bad as the Orczy one but I am still giving this 2★

So, as always with short story collections, a very mixed bag! I would still recommend reading if you want a ‘taster’ of some of the less well known writers. Most of them I want to read some of their full length books!

Murder in Stained Glass

by Margaret Armstrong

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Armstrong has a bright and breezy writing style and a glimpse of her real life world (Armstrong was from a wealthy background in real life and her father was a stained glass artist) I was very envious of her female gumshoe’s life style (a Park Ave apartment!) & I do wish Armstrong’s detective, Miss Trumbull, had made more than just this one appearance in detective fiction.

Unfortunately, although Trumbull’s foibles were endearing, a lot of her actions didn’t make much sense. There was one heart stopping moment when Trumbull realises who the murderer is though and the book is an interesting snap shot of wealthy 1930s USA.

If the murderer had a motive though I missed it!

Recommended as a light, escapist read.

& an interesting bit of trivia. Armstrong was a talented professional artist. She designed the cover which is beautiful, but not relevant to the book!

Cover of edition I own

The Case is Closed

by Patricia Wentworth

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Although I thought this Miss Silver mystery was definitely a step up from the first one, [book:The Grey Mask|54529691] but I am giving them both the same rating. Just can’t quite bump the rating upt to 4★ as I know some of the later Silver novels are much better than this.

At the start of the story we find that Geoffrey Grey is already in prison for a crime that his wife’s cousin, the jaunty Hilary Carew, is convinced he didn’t commit. Marion Grey is Hilary’s cousin & she cuts a tragic [Bad Carol: too damn tragic!] figure for most of the book. But Hilary is a wonderful character with a habit of making up rhymes whenever she is bored or in a tight corner.

How bitter when your only bun, Is not at all a recent one

Brave and resourceful she refuses to give up on Geoffrey – and she ends up dragging her former fiancé along for the ride.

The book improves considerably near the second half with the arrival of Miss Silver, but it struggles from Miss Silver being too omniscient, too many clues and too few suspects. But there were a couple of very neat twists at the end and I will certainly read more Miss Silver mysteries.

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