A Selection of Crime Stories Involving Tourism or Travel

Some More Recommendations of Historical Crime

Crime Stories Read over the Break

Locked Room Mysteries We Have Read

Espionage in Crime and Mystery Novels

Favourite Characters in Crime and Mystery Novels

In this meeting, the Crime and Mystery Book Club at the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library discussed our favourite characters from the genre. Here are the books and characters:

Court Counsellor Fandorin from Special Assignments by Boris Akunin

Simon Templar from The Saint by Leslie Charteris

Phryne Fisher from Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

Aimée Leduc from Murder Below Montparnasse by Cara Black

Captain Richard Gaudeans from The Blindfold Game by Donald Thomas

Clara Vine from Black Roses by Jane Thynne

Marcus Didius Falco from The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis

Inspector Shan Tao Yun from Skeleton God by Eliot Pattison

Inspector Chen from Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong

Miss Marple from At Bertram Hotel by Agatha Christie

Richard Hannay from The 39 Steps by John Buchan

Lew Archer from The Underground Man by Ross Macdonald

Tommy and Tuppence from Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie

John Smiley from Smiley's People by John LeCarre

Jackson Brodie from One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

Hugh Llewellyn Monsarrat from The Soldier's Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally

Hugo Marston from The Bookseller by Mark Pryor

Father Anselm from The Silent Ones by William Brodrick

Professor Simon Shaw from Simon Said by Sarah R Shaber

Stewart Hoag from The Man Who Died Laughing by David Handler

Father Brown from The Innocence of Father Brown by GK Chesterton

Lovejoy from The Judas Pair by Jonathan Gash

Jesper Humlin from The Shadow Girls by Henning Mankell

Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn from Skinwalkers by Tony Hillerman

Ian Pembroke from Hot Money by Dick Francis

Kramer and Zondi from The Steam Pig by James McClure

Emily Tempest from Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland

Enzo Macleod from The Blackhouse by Peter May

Agnes Charmichael from Angel Without Mercy by Anthea Cohen

Detective Chief Inspector Adam Dalgleish from Cover Her Face by PD James

Crime Novels Set or Written in the 1930s

SMSA Library Crime & Mystery Book Club Favourite Stories of 2017

Crime Novels Featuring Libraries or Bookshops

Coffee, Tea or Bonnox Themed Crime Books

Our Holiday Reads - SMSA Library Crime & Mystery Book Club

Crime Books from the Year We Turned 21 (or thereabouts)

New Year & Over 40 Recommendations from the Latest SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

Welcome to 2016 and the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library crime & mystery book club's latest recommendations. All of them read over the holiday period. Click on the books listed below for reviews and information. Enjoy.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker

The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie

Her Royal Spyness Mysteries by Rhys Bowen

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Play Dead by Bill James

The Fall of Man in Wilmslow; The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh

Inspector Singh Investigates: The Singapore School for Villainy by Shamini Flint

Shoulder The Sky by Anne Perry

Chosen Perry by Karen Grigsby Bates

Smoke and Mirrors by Kel Robertson

Grandad, There's A Head on the Beach by Colin Cotterill

City of the Dead by Sara Gran

The Marathon Conspiracy by Gary Corby

Dishing The Dirt by M.C. Beaton

Chance Developments by Alexander McCall Smith

Even Days in the Wild by Ian Rankin

The Crossing by Michael Connelly

Dictator by Robert Harris

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

The Whites by Richard Price

The Spies of Warsaw; The Polish Officer; The World At Night by Alan Furst

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

The Dark Side of the Road by Simon R. Green

Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia Macneal

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs

Looking for Rachel Wallace by Robert B Parker

The Ghostway by Tony Hillerman

Singing the Sadness by Reginald Hill

Three Crooked Kings by Matthew Condon

Red Mass by Rosemary Aubert

The Man Who Watched Trains Go By by Georges Simenon

Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner

Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer

A Morning for Flamingos by James Lee Burke

Acute Misfortune - The Life & Death of Adam Cullen by Erik Jensen

The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

See you next month.

 

Recommendations from SMSA Crime and Mystery Book Club featuring Travel

Crime & Mystery Books featuring the Theatre, TV, Film or Music

Here is the first set of recommendations for books featuring theatre, TV, film or music as a major theme or setting from the Crime and Mystery Book Club at the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library.  

All My Enemies by Barry Maitland
This is a Kolla and Brock novel which begins with DS Kathy Kolla about to start a new job with the New Scotland Yard Serious Crime Division headed up by DCI David Brock. Kolla’s is assigned to her first case in the Division which involves the gruesome murder of a young woman that seems theatrical. The case leads her into a local amateur drama group and a more complex set of circumstances. 

As highlighted before on this blog, Barry Maitland was born in 1941 in Scotland. He studied architecture at Cambridge, practised and taught in the UK before moving to Australia, where he became a Professor of Architecture at the University of Newcastle. He retired in 2000 and took up writing full-time.

A Decent Interval, So Much Blood by Simon Brett
A Decent Interval and So Much Blood, both feature the actor and amateur sleuth, Charles Paris. The Paris novels are one of four series written by Simon Brett. The others feature Mrs Pargeter, Fethering, and brother and sister - Blotto & Twinks. A Decent Interval book picks up Charles’ life when he is cast as the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father and First Gravedigger in the latest production of Hamlet. Charles finds himself one of the more experienced theatre actors in the cast with the role of Ophelia being played by the winner of a television talent show, and another reality TV contestant playing the lead role of Hamlet. What could go wrong?

In So Much Blood, Charles is in a fringe show at the Edinburgh Festival which becomes the backdrop to a gory murder involving a fading pop star. 

Steel Guitar by Linda Barnes
Linda Barnes was born in Detriot the home of Motown, and moved to Boston for college. She sets her PI Carlotta Carlyle novels in her adopted home town. In Steel Guitar, Carlotta is moonlighting as a hack driver when she picks up a fare that is a blast from the past. The fare is Carlotta’s ex-friend and former band mate Dee Willis, who has made it big on the charts. Dee hires Carlotta to find a friend and involves Carlotta in a story of blackmail, murder and stolen songwriting credit.

 

 

A Pocketful of RyeWitness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie

Two of Agatha Christie’s many many novels were recommended, The Witness for the Prosecution and A Pocketful of RyeThe Witness for the Prosecution is a short story and play that was published in 1925. A Pocket Full of Rye, on the other hand, was published in 1953. It is one of her later novels featuring Miss Marple and is based on a children’s nursery rhyme, Sing a Song of Sixpence.

 

 

Vintage Murder, Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh
Another Dame of Golden Age crime fiction was recommended for this theme. New Zealander Ngaio Marsh was primarily known for her Inspector Roderick Alleyn novels, a gentleman detective who works for the London Metropolitan Police. The first of her novel highlighted is Overture, which focuses on amateur actors in the village of Chipping who are putting on a production for charity when one of the cast members, wealthy spinster Idris Campanula is killed. The second novel is Vintage Murder, fifth in the Alleyn series, and it centres on a travelling theatre troupe in New Zealand.

 

A Three Pipe Problem by Julian Symons
This book is about Sherlock Holmes, the literary character. The story's protagonist is Sheridan Haynes, an actor, who plays Holmes in a TV series. Sheridan becomes a method actor when there are a series of unsolved murders in London and he starts to investigate. What could go wrong?

Julian Symons is an English author who has written a huge amount of books ranging subjects from social and military history to biography, criticism and crime. He was named a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America in 1982. He also succeeded Agatha Christie as the president of Britain's Detection Club.

 

Recommendations of Crime & Mystery Books featuring Medicine

Our theme for this meeting of the Sydney Mechanic's School of Arts' Library crime and mystery book club was anything to do with medicine or caring for others in a vocational capacity. The subjects covered include nursing, social work, dentistry and doctors at sea.

Death Duty by Clare Littleford
Published in 2004, Death Duty is Clare Littleford’s second novel. It features Jo Elliott, a social worker in Nottingham, UK. Jo has recently broken up with her partner Alex, another social worker, and is going about her day when she is the victim of what is thought to be a mugging. She begins to suspect that the mugging is not a standalone event and that she is being stalked when small things begin to go wrong or are damaged. It is a slow burn story that focuses on Jo’s life, both personal and professional, especially a case she was involved in eight years earlier involving a problem family called the Metcalfes, the stress that she and her fellow social workers are coming under from an current inquiry following the death of a child in their care, and Jo’s recent break up with Alex.

The insight into social work is most probably spot on as Clare Littleford’s used to be a social worker. According to the Book Depository, Clare was born in Bedford in 1973, and ‘used to work at Nottingham City Council, in the housing department, before taking an MA in Writing at Nottingham Trent University. She then worked for a lottery-funded community development project in inner city Nottingham.’

Operation Doctors by Holly Roth
American crime writer, Holly Roth was born in Chicago after the First World War and died in 1964 after falling off a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea. Her body was never found. She wrote 24 spy and detective novels in 10 years, starting with her first novel in 1954, The Content Assignment. Roth began writing crime novels in 1957 with two novels featuring the British detective Medford. Operation Doctors is the second of those books. It is set on board a ship, off the European coast, and has a wide range of nationalities on board. It is centred around a young woman who is injured and loses her memory. One of the passengers is an American neurosurgeon and is the primary character solving the mystery. Medford the detective only features in the story in the second half. It is a slightly implausible story that is of its time. The cold war is just about a character in its own right. Roth is excellent at ratcheting up the tension and it is an interesting read.

Roth led an interesting life. The travelling her father did as part of his business, included his family, so she grew up seeing a lot of the world. She was married at age 20 and widowed the following year. She worked as a model as well as a writer for some American magazines. She wrote two of her novels under the name PJ Merrill and four as KG Ballard.

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie, I know, we could not get through a meeting without a recommendation that includes Agatha Christie. This is why she is the Queen of crime writing.  One, Two, Buckle My Shoe is a Hercule Poirot story that features the death of Poirot's dentist, Henry Morley. Morely was killed by a gunshot wound and it was officially found to be a suicide. However, Poirot does not believe this to be the case and he goes on the hunt for the killer. 

The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen
American author,Tess Gerritsen is known for her series of novels featuring Boston Detective Jane Rizzoli and Medical Examiner Maura Isles (now a long running TV series, Rizzoli and Isles). Gerritsen is a qualified doctor who began writing when she was on maternity leave. she is now retired and writes full time. So she knows what she is writing about when it comes to the medical detail in her novels. In The Bone Garden Maura is working on finding out the mystery surrounding the remains of a woman discovered in the grounds of a home in rural Massachusetts. The story connects back to a previous tale of murder and cadaver trafficking in Boston in 1830. Gerritsen weaves both timelines and the two stories to a satisfying if gruesome conclusion. For lovers of crime who like quite a bit of detail in relation to the state of the body and subsequent medical findings.

Angel Without Mercy, Angel of Vengeance, Destroying Angel by Anthea Cohen
This series of 18 books which begins with Angel Without Mercy (1984) and ends with Better Dead (2005), features Agnes Carmichael, a nurse who uses accidental and not so accidental homicide as a way to right the wrongs in her world. Mean, nasty people are Agnes' victims, as she follows a code that could be compared to Jeff Lindsay's serial killer protagonist, Dexter Morgan. These novels turn the cosy British village crime novel on its head with a protagonist that acts on what most people feel about that person who deliberately drove over the neighbour's cat.  

Anthea Cohen, which is the pseudonoym for Doris Simpson, was born in 1913 and died in 2006.

Blood Work by Michael Connelly
Blood Work is the debut of retired FBI criminal profiler Terrell, 'Terry' McCaleb. While recovering from a heart transplant, Terry is drawn into the death of the person whose heart he received, which occurred during an unsolved convenience store robbery. This investigation takes him back to a previous case that involved a serial murderer called the 'code killer'. 

This is a typical Michael Connelly novel, a fast moving, plot driven thriller. It was made into a movie starring Clint Eastwood in 2002. 

Recommendations from the SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

This month the topic was interesting authors. This gave us another wide range of choices and suggestions from old staples such as Agatha Christie and Margery Allingham to buried treasures like Eric Ambler, all who lived very interesting lives. The library at the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts has a great selection of crime fiction, science fiction, romance and biographies. More so than the typical municiple library. It is in the heart of the city and is a lovely respite from the hustle and bustle of the streets.  You can find out more about it here.

Angel Court Affair by Anne Perry
This is a Charlotte and William Pitt novel, the 30th one actually. Set in Victorian London, William Pitt is a policeman who is married to Charlotte, who is from the aristocracy. As it is the 30th novel, William has risen through the ranks and as the characters have aged through the books. This is a very popular crime series and you get more joy out of reading this novel if you have read previous ones as it is just as much about the characters as it is about plot. Anne Perry was chosen as an interesting author due to her past that came to light in 2003. When she was 15 years old and living in New Zealand, she and her best friend killed the best friend's mother. The story was made into a movie, Heavenly Creatures, by Peter Jackson.  Perry served her time and changed her name upon release. If you would like to read more, click here

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie
Murder in Mesopotamia is Agatha Christie's 14th novel and was published in 1936. It is set on an archeological dig in what is now Iraq and features Hercule Poirot, the infamous Belgian detective. Agatha Christie is most probably the most famous crime writer of the early 20th century and you can read about her here. What we are highlighting is those 10 days she disappeared in 1926. Her first husband, Archie, asked for a divorce as he was in love with another woman, and Christie, already a famous author, drove away from her house in Berkshire in early December, not to be seen for over 10 days. There was a nationwide hunt for Christie, with hundreds of volunteers and the press spinning theories and accusations of foul play as her car was found abandoned. There was so much speculation that contempories, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L Sayers were drawn into solving the puzzle. She was found registered under a false name living in a hotel in Yorkshire in mid-December. Christie claimed to have no memory of the missing days, but soon returned to her life. She divorced Archie in 1928 and remarried in 1930 to archeologist Max Mallowan, whom she travelled with extensively.   

An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson
We have written about Josephine Tey previously, with the usual top level biographical information on the author. Josephine Tey is a pseudonym for Elizabeth Mackintosh, who was born in Inverness, Scotland. Not much is known about her as she was very private and did not give interviews. Here is what we know: She was a physical education teacher in England until her mother died in 1926 and she returned to Inverness to care for her father; she had a fiancé who died in World War One and never married; she was an accomplished gymnast; she started writing when she lived in Inverness; her writing also included plays which were published under the name Gordon Daviot; she wrote a play for John Gielgud and they became lifelong friends; she referred to her detective novels as her yearly knitting; in 1950 her father died and she moved to Stratham, south England and increased her writing output. An Expert in Murder features a fictional Josephine Tey who solves a murder in the London theatre district in the 1930s at the time the real Josephine Tey was writing plays. This fictional Tey works with Detective Inspector Archie Penrose to find the killer of a young woman who in some way is connected to her latest play. An Expert in Murder (2008) is Upson’s debut, she has written six more featuring the fictional Tey

Better to Rest by Dana Stabenow
Better To Rest is the fourth Liam Campbell novel by Dana Stabenow. Stabenow was born in Anchorage, Alaska in 1950, and she writing crime fiction, science fiction and historical adventures. Stabenow brings the experiences of living in Alaska to vivid life in her crime novels. You can read more about it hereAccording to an article written by Claire E. White in conversation with Stabenow in 2000, "she was raised on a 75-foot fish tender in the Gulf of Alaska. Her mother was a deckhand on a salmon tender called the Celtic, for five years, from the time Dana was in the third grade. Dana and her mother lived on board most of the time. After falling into the hold with a load of fresh fish one day, she refused to eat salmon again until she was 35. When she wasn't seasick, she wrote stories about normal children who lived on shore, and made her mother read them. She claims this was probably some of her best work.”

The Discourtesy of Death and The Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick
According to Goodreads, ‘William Broderick was born in Bolton, Lancashire in 1960. Having lived in Canada since he was eleven, he went to school in Australia and England, and went on to take a BA in Philosophy and Theology, then a MTh (Master of Theology) and a Degree of Utter Barrister. Brodrick worked on a logging camp in British Columbia, Canada, before joining the Augustinian Friars (1979-1985). He began his life as a friar in Dublin, Ireland, based on a farm that deployed Iron Age techniques bringing him very close to nature. After several years as a friar, he left the order to help set up a charity at the request of Cardinal Hume, The Depaul Trust, which worked with homeless people. In 1991 he became a barrister. He holds British and Canadian citizenship and is married with three children with whom he lives in France.” 

Murder in the Frame by Dave Warner
Murder in the Frame is a light crime novel featuring a former rock star and recluse Andrew ‘The Lizard’ Zirk and is set in Australia. It is the second book in the series written by Dave Warner who is a former punk rocker. In the 1970s he formed the punk band Pus. He formed his next band, The Suburbs in 1977. This band was more successful with a number of hit singles. By the 1980s Warner started to diversify and he wrote a theatre revue, The Sensational Sixties, and later The Sixties and All That Pop. He started writing screenplays in the 2000s, both movies and episodes of Australian TV programs. He wrote his first novel, a crime story, City of Light, which was published in 1995. He started his Andrew Zirk novels in 1998.

The Secret of the Garden by Arthur Gask
Englishman Arthur Gask was born in London in 1869. He trained to become a dentist, which he would be his day job until he died in 195. He married in 1898  and had four children. He divorced and married his children’s nanny in 1909 and had another two children. He and his second wife and their children moved to Adelaide, Australia in 1920. He set up a practice and self-funded the publication of his first book, The Secret of the Sand Hills in 1921. It sold well and he was taken on by a London publisher. He wrote more than a crime novel a year, often set in Adelaide. Many of them became best sellers. He wrote 30 crime novels featuring his main character, Gilbert Larose, 14 short stories and four standalone crime novels. The Secret of the Garden (1924) is a standalone crime novel.

The Fear of the Sign by Margery Allingham and her biography by Julia Thorougood
Born in Ealing, London in 1904, Margery Allingham was the daughter of writers. Not writers of literature in the traditional sense of the word, but of more popular writing, such as stories for women’s magazines (her mother) and pulp stories (her father). She always wrote stories and plays as a young girl, getting published for the first time at the age of eight in her aunt’s magazine. She studied at the Regent Street Polytechnic studying drama and speech-training (she had a stammer since childhood) where she met her husband Philip Youngman Carter, whom he marries in 1927. Her first novel, Blackkerchief Dick was published in 1923, Allingham was 19 years old. It featured occult themes that continued to be prevelent in many of her subsequent novels. This book was not a commercial success, so Allingham wrote some plays and attempted to write a ‘serious’ novel, soon discovering that she preferred a more light-hearted approach. She began writing crime stories. The Crime at Black Dudley was published in 1929. It introduced Albert Campion, who was a minor character in this story. Her publishers encouraged her to develop Campion into her main protagonist and feature him in her next story. She wrote another 16 books and 20 short stories with Campion at the centre. Allingham died from breast cancer at 62 years old. Her final book was completed by her husband.

Journey into Fear by Eric Ambler
This is a great article about Eric Ambler that was published in The Guardian. It really explores his work and life. No point in writing anything further here. Just click on it and read about his life here.

 

The Competition by Marcia Clark
Marcia Clark has written four crime novels featuring her Los Angeles District Attorney Rachel Knight, in addition to some short stories and a non-fiction chronicling Clark’s famous trial as a LA prosecutor, the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995.  She was the prosecutor for the State of California at the time and took on the case herself, along with Christopher Darden, a 15 year veteran of the LA District Attorney’s office. Former American football star, actor and entertainment personality, O.J. Simpson was prosecuted for the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. As a suspect, he was infamously chased through the streets of Los Angeles by the police, driving a black bronco SVU. Filmed by the TV news, this chase became the beginning of a sensational trial that found Simpson not guilty.  Although Clark failed to make her case, Simpson did not ultimately end up a free man. He was found guilty of robbery and kidnapping in 2007. You can read about it here

Coornaki the Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson
According to Wikipedia, “Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder is a collection of occult detective short stories by author William Hope Hodgson. It was first published in 1913.” So early pulp fiction. Hodgson was English, the son of an Anglican priest and his wife. He was the second of 12 children and three of his siblings died as young children. The death of a child is a common theme in his work. Hodgson ran away to sea at 13 years old, he was caught and returned to his family, but he did receive permission to become a cabin boy from his father. He was apprenticed for four years, and during that time his father died and Hodgson was left to help support his family. After his apprenticeship he studied and received his mate’s certificate, as such becoming a full time sailor and paid for his services. He was bullied at sea which led him to begin a program of personal training, whereby he developed his body. He was short and of a sensitive nature, with what was described as a beautiful face. He was a target who could now defend himself. In addition to physical health, Hodgson took up photography, honed his marksmanship and kept a journal about his time at sea. At 22 years of age, in 1899, he opened the W. H. Hodgson’s School of Physical Culture, in Blackburn, England. A personal trainer of sorts, who had amongst his clients, members of the Blackburn police force. He courted publicity by appearing on stage in handcuffs and escaping, like Harry Houdini, and doing other feats of physical strength. He discovered in a few years that he could not make a living as a personal trainer and closed down his business. He turned to writing and began to write articles for journals and magazines in 1903. He published his first short story in 1904 and his first novel in 1907. His stories we adventure tales with elements of horror and thrilling crimes. They were popular and he was able to earn a living, even if it was a meagre living. In 1912 Hodgson married and moved to the south of France, as it was cheaper than England. He continued to write. When war broke out in 1914, they returned to England. He joined the University of London’s Officers’ Training Corps and received a commission as a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. He was injured in 1916 by being thrown from a horse and was given a mandatory discharge. He refused to stay out of the war and recovered enough to re-enlist. He continued to write articles during this time, mainly about his war experience. He was killed in Ypres in April 1918.

Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno
This is seen as the definitive biography of the author of Catcher In The Rye (1951) and Franny and Zooey (1961). Shane Salerno also did a documentary on Salinger released in 2013 and is seen as a companion piece to the biography. He was an unusual man, who had issues with his own identity and had an unusual relationship with the women in his life. You can read about this more here. He fought in World War Two and was affected quite deeply by his experiences. His writing reflects this as well as his ever changing beliefs. Salinger isolated himself and whoever the woman in his life was and his tendency to more extreme approaches to life had him dabble in many 'isms' including early work by L. Ron Hubbard. We recommend reading the biography or watching the documentary to try and understand this quite peculiar man.