Locked Room Mysteries We Have Read

Murder by an Unusual Method

Crime Novels Set or Written in the 1930s

Crime Books Read Over The Australian Summer

The Crime and Mystery Book Club from the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library read many novels over the summer holidays. Here is a list of the ones that were crime and mystery books:

The King of the Rainy Country By Nicolas Freeling

Snobbery With Violence by Marion Chesney

The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse by Alexander McCall Smith

High Island Blues by Ann Cleeves

The Accident on A35 by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Out of The Ice by Ann Turner

Quieter Than Sleep by Joanne Dobson

The Age of Doubt by Andrea Camilleri

The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman

End Game by David Baldacci

Anatomy of A Murder by Robert Traver

The Bitter Taste of Victory by Lara Feigel

Houdini, A Magician Amongst the Spirits by Harry Houdini

The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum   

The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer

Blood, Money and Power - How L.B.J. killed J.F.K. by Barr McClellan

Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky

After the Fire by Henning Mankell

X by Sue Grafton

Police At The Station And They Don't Look Friendly; Hidden River by Adrian McKinty

Open Season by Archer Mayor

In Her Blood by Annie Hauxwell

Good Money; Too Easy by J.M. Green

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre

Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey

The Accident Man by Tom Cain

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Guilty Minds by Joseph Finder

The Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe

The  Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry

Beware of Johnny Washington by Francis Durbridge

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

The Mistletoe Murders by P.D. James

Don Among the Dead by C.E. Vulliamy

The Red Box by Rex Stout

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump by 27 Psychiatrists

Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

No Middle Name by Lee Childs

The Distant Echo by Val McDermid

Even Dogs In The Wild by Ian Rankin

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde

Vienna by William S Kirby

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 the SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

This month we recommended books that were published in the decade that members of the club were born. Here they are:

Night Has a Thousand Eyes by Cornell Woolrich
Written in 1945, when Woolrich was 42 years old. He was an unhappy man who was a homosexual who had a very brief marriage and then lived with his mother until her death in 1957. He then became a recluse. He struggled with diabetes and alcoholism and was quite miserable. However, he could write a cracking yarn full of a sense of doom. The Night Has a Thousand Eyes is about two people who seem to have everything in life but an obsession with death plagues them to the extent that all attempts they make to avoid death leads them right to it. Woolrich delves into the layers of a character, eroding their worldly positions to their instinct to fight, flight or fright, and in this case it is fright.  Well worth a read.

Fletch by Gregory McDonald
Fletch, the investigative journalist who was brought to life by Chevy Chase in the 1985 hit movie, was brought into being in the novel of the same name just over a decade earlier. Written by Gregory MacDonald, I.M. Fletcher, who hates his given names of Irwin Maurice and is known as ‘Fletch’ is a hot-shot reporter for a LA newspaper. At the age of 28 years old, he has two ex-wives, who are demanding alimony, a demanding editor and some military men who want to give him the Bronze Star for his service in Korea. While trying to dodge all these demands on his time, Fletch becomes involved in a scheme to help a man kill himself in a week’s time. The writing is fast, sharp and with an underlying wit. It is dialogue driven as it sketches the circumstances in rapid fire. Upon its’ success MacDonald wrote nine other Fletch novels. However these books were not chronological and jumped all over Fletch’s life, so do not rely on the publishing date for guidance if you like to read them in order of Fletch’s experiences.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins
Published in 1972, The Friends of Eddie Coyle has had a resurgence in popularity and identification as an American crime classic recently with a reissue of the book with a forward by Denis Lehane. Like Lehane, George V Higgins is a Boston writer who focuses on the intricacies of the city’s cultural influences, the American working class and the mix of the criminal world with the police force. Higgins was a lawyer who worked as a legal assistant and a deputy assistant attorney general in Boston from 1967 -69, working his way up to a special assistant US attorney from 1973-74. During this time there was a small gang war between the Irish and Italian criminal networks in Boston, and Higgins prosecuted a number of related murders. Part of his job was to listen to numerous wire taps of suspects, and these hours and hours of conversations directly impacted his writing style. The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a short, dialogue driven novel that focuses on a small time criminal Eddie Coyle who is about to go back to jail and is looking for a way out of this fate. He turns informant to try and negotiate his release and the consequences of this decision is the heart of the novel. It is a masterful novel that must have influenced David Simon when he was creating and writing the TV program The Wire. The realism and tone is very similar.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Published in 1939, The Big Sleep revolutionised the crime novel. This article gives insight into why Chandler wrote the way he did.  As the article says, Chandler’s literary hero was Dashiell Hammett, whose crime novels were initially seen as American pulp, and he was captivated by the completely different way of approaching a murder story. The Big Sleep is his most well known story, mainly due to the Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall movie from 1946. The real life romance of Bogart and Bacall became synonymous with novel and added to the allure of the crime story. Chandler introduced the world to his hardboiled private detective, Philip Marlowe, as well as a first person narrative with short, sharp sentences full of tone and atmosphere.

The story starts with Marlowe being hired by General Sternwood to track down the gambling IOUs and the nude photographs of his younger daughter, Carmen. As Marlowe sets upon his task he becomes more embroiled in the whole family and their activities, especially with Vivian, Carmen’s older sister, who is married to the expatriated and now missing I.R.A. veteran Rusty Regan. How the plot comes together is the subject of many discussions about The Big Sleep. However, this novel is more about the journey than the destination. 

The Little Man from Archangel by George Simenon
First published in English in 1957, this bleak mystery by Belgian Georges Simenon is set in a small market town in France after the Second World War. It is a story of prejudice, isolation and loneliness. It is about an unassuming, physically small man, Jonas Milk, who had come to the town after the war from Russia and had married a promiscuous younger French woman.  Jonas runs the second-hand book shop and puts up with his wife’s habit of going a way for a few days with another man, as she always returns to him. One day Jonas wakes to find that his wife has disappeared and proceeds to lie to his neighbours about her whereabouts. When his wife fails to return, rather than face the truth about his wife’s infidelities, Jonas maintains his lie in the face of his neighbours hostility and accusations and soon spirals into despair.

Jonas’ stance and actions are informed by his experiences during the war. As a Russian Jew, his family was either killed or scattered during the Russian revolution and the Second World War. His choice to settle in the French village was an attempt to replace his family and be accepted into a community. Their subsequent rejection of him because of his wife’s disappearance is devastating to Jonas. Don’t let the bleakness put you off, it is well written and compelling. Georges Simenon was a prolific writer known for his Inspector Maigret stories. This standalone story was written in the middle of his career.

Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers
We have recommended this novel before back in November 2013. As we said then, Dorothy L. Sayers introduced Lord Peter Wimsey, her amateur gentleman detective, in 1921 in the novel Whose Body? .Busman's Honeymoon is the 13th and last full crime novel she wrote, only completing short stories and leaving an unfinished manuscript upon her death. This novel is set in 1937 during Lord Peter and Harriet Vane's honeymoon at their newly acquired estate in the country where a man is found dead in the cellar. Most of the investigating is left to Harriet as Peter is called to do some work for the Foreign Office. As a writer of crime novels and someone who has assisted Lord Peter in his work before, this is really a Harriet Vane novel. It is an intellectual puzzle like all DL Sayers novels, and if you are a fan of the characters, a good way to see how this relationship is going to work as a marriage. Harriet was introduced in Strong Poison (1930) where she was on trial for the murder of her lover.  She is also part of Have His Carcase (1932) and Gaudy Night (1935), all of which featured their unusual courtship and the duo solving a couple of murder cases. Other Lord Peter novels where written in between these and are pretty much stand alones, except for a reference to the time and place they are set.

The Short Weekend by T. S. Strachan
This novel is an original Green Penguin (crime and mystery series of novels). Not to be mistaken for the 50 Popular Green Penguins issued in the last couple of years reflecting the history and development of crime novels since the 1800s. First published in 1953, it is one of three known novels from Tony Simpson Strachan. The other two being Key Major (1954) and No Law in Illyria – A Novel (1956). It is another book and another writer who is difficult to find any information on. However, it is an original Green Penguin which recommends it as a classic of its time.


Dark Emerald by Joan Storm
First published in 1951 it was reissued by Black Dagger Crime in 1997. Another British writer, Joan Storm wrote two other novels, Bitter Rubies (1952) and Deadly Diamond (1953). That is all we can find on the internet about this author and this book. Joan Storm is an author with Random House in the UK but there is no current biography for her. The member of the group who read the novel enjoyed it and recommends it as an interesting British crime novel.

Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer
Georgette Heyer is known for her Regency romance novels, however she did write quite a few 20th century crime mysteries. Envious Casca (1941) is her second Inspector Hemingway book which is set at Christmas time at Lexham Manor with a limited number of suspects and an investigating detective. This time in the the British cosy crime mystery sub-genre, it is Inspector Hemingway of Scotland Yard. It is a light book and only should be written if you are into this cosy sub genre.

The Case of The Abominable Snowman by Nicholas Blake
Nicholas Blake is a pseudonym of the British poet laurette Sir Cecil Day Lewis. He wrote this novel in 1941 and is set in the winter around a single house (Easterham Manor) and focused on a number of houseguests and the snow man of the title. It is told in flashback and features Blake's recurring character, amateur detective, Nigel Strangeways who used to be a poet. He is summoned to the Manor to investigate some strange events that ends with an apparent suicide of a young woman. 

This is a Golden Age British cosy crime mystery in the tradition of Agatha Christie. It is interesting because of its author rather than its content. 

Mr Jelly's Business by Arthur Upfield
We have written about Australian author, Arthur Upfield previously here. In this novel, his fourth Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte (Bony) story, published in 1937, Upfield has Bony work incognito as a government employee on a section of the rabbit fence near the wheat town of burracoppin in western Australia. Like most Bony stories Bony’s mixed heritage helps him track the clues on the land and in through watch human behaviour.  

The novel focuses on the disapperance of a farmer, whose car is found smashed along one of the longest fences in the world in Burracoppin in outback Western Australia. As part of his investigation, Bony, meets the unusual Mr Jelly who is an amateur criminologist who collects portraits of murders and provides Bony with some insight into the case. 

The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey
The Franchise Affair written in 1948, is the third Inspector Alan Grant novel written by Josephine Tey.  However, this story focuses on a mystery that is not solved by Inspector Grant but by a solicitor Robert Blair, who plays amateur sleuth as he tries to find out the truth about the accusations levelled at his client Marion Sharpe and her mother. Marion is a local woman who lives quietly with her mother at their decrepit country house, The Franchise and they are accused of brutally kidnapping a demure young woman named Betty Kane. Who is telling the truth? Betty Kane or Marion Sharpe? That is the crux of the story as it explores class and sexuality.

According to Wikipedia, “Josephine Tey was a pseudonym used by Elizabeth mackintosh (25 July 1896 – 13 february 1952) a Scottish author best known for her mystery novels. She also wrote as Gordon Daviot, under which name she wrote plays with an historical theme.”

Murder in The Telephone Exchange by June Wright
US publisher Verse Chorus Press reissued this neglected Australian crime novel in April 2014. Written in 1948, Murder in The Telephone Exchange was June Wright's debut novel and she drew from her own experiences working at the Melbourne Central Telephone Exchange from 1939 to 1941 to create the story and setting. The book was a success and so were who subsequent five novels. According to the Sisters in Crime website, "Wright stopped writing crime fiction to earn a regular salary when her husband Stewart became unable to work. She returned to the telephones, this time at the TAB, where she worked for six years. Stewart later established a cleaning business, and Wright retrained in business to assist him until his death in 1989." However, today her novels are all but forgotten. Thanks to the re-issue from Verse Chorus Press, we have the opportunity to discover these gems.

Murder in The Telephone Exhange features the young telephonist, Maggie Byrnes, who investigates the death of one of her colleagues who is rather disliked.   

1934 Plot by Linda and Gary Cargill
This is book two of the Edward Ware series that is set inbetween the world wars. Published in 2013, it is a novel that is reminiscent of a boys' own adventure story. It name checks famous people from the time as it traverses continents. It is a light and easy read.

The Cargills are married and write this series together. they live in Tuscon, Arizona, USA.  Linda Cargill also writes young adult suspense novels.


Joyland by Stephen King
Written in 2013 but set in the 1970s, Joyland merges mystery with a little bit of horror and pulp, and with Stephen King at the wheel there is an expectation of a cracking yarn that is well written. However, the novel hinges on the reader’s acceptance of the carnie world of the North Carolina seaside amusement park. The Joyland of the title. King creates a carnie language that establishes the otherness of the world, bit is also a barrier to enjoying the novel. All that aside, the plot is basic King, Devin Jones, who has just finished his junior year of college has taken a summer job at Joyland. Devin is in the middle of dealing with a break up with his girlfriend and is pondering the meaning of life and his future when he starts to become more interested in the carnie life and the history of Joyland. Which of course reveals the murder of a girl inside the funhouse many years ago. It is a bit Scoobie Doo, but it is Stephen King, so if you are a fan of his. You may enjoy this.

Recommendations for the SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

This month we focused on books written or set between the two world wars. Writers were rediscovered and some were discarded. Read on to see our recommendations.


Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
We have talked about Jacqueline Winspear before here, we we recommended her debut, Maisie Dobbs. Birds of a Feather is the second in the series and it continues to delve into how Maisie became a private investigator in the 1920s and how the past informs the actions of today. Well the today portrayed in the novel, not the present.

Jacqueline Winspear is an English writer and has won several awards for her Maisie Dobbs series.


The Man and The Queue and A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey
Josephine Tey is not new to our group, and two of her novels were recommended this month.  The Man and The Queue is the first Inspector Alan Grant novel and A Shilling for Candles is the second. They may feature the same character but they were written years apart. A Man and the Queue was published in 1929 and A Shilling for Candles was published in 1936.  The next one in the series came out in 1950, so she obviously liked to have some time between novels with this character. This was the only series she wrote as she wrote seven other novels (one is a biography) and two plays. There is quite a difference in how the books are written and her experience as a writer is definately more prevelant in the seond novel. 


Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer
Georgette Heyer is known for her historical romances set in the Regency era, however, she also wrote some crime fiction. Footsteps in the Dark is her first thriller, written in 1932, and it is set in a old house, The Priory.  Guests are charmed by the remote, ramshackle house as they stay during summer, however the frisson of a possible haunted house turns deadly when someone is murdered. It is a very light read and can be irritating and inplausible at times.  Only for the fans.


The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham

This is Margery Allingham's second novel, but first crime fiction, that was originally written as a serial for a newspaper. It has been edited into a novel by her sister in 1928. It is a single location murder in the English countryside. The body of a man is found in The White Cottage and as Detective Chief Inspector Challenor and his son Jerry begin to investigate, they find that he was not well liked by the community. To explain any further would ruin the plot.

Margery Allingham went on to write the Albert Campion series (21 in total) and 11 standalone novels and short story collections. She wrote her first novel, The Blackkerchief Dick, was published when she was 19 year old in 1923, and it had occult and supernatural themes. She included the occult in many of her stories.


The Viaduct Murder by Ronald Knox
The Viaduct Murder was published in 1925 and is seen as a classic British crime story. It tells the story of four older gentlemen, a clergyman, a retired don, a former member of military intelligence and a vacationing golfer, stumble across a body below the railroad viaduct during a golf game. They set out to solve the murder.

According to the website Clerical Detectives and some other crime fiction, selected by Phillip Grosset, Ronald Knox was "Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (1888-1957), was a well-known English Roman Catholic theologian, preacher, satirist and writer. Educated at Eton (which he liked very much. It probably really was the happiest time of his life) and Balliol College, Oxford, he had to give up being the Anglican chaplain at Trinity College, Oxford, when he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1917. He was (not very happily for him) sent by his bishop to teach Latin at St Edmund's College, Ware, then became RC chaplain at the University of Oxford (1928-1939), during which time he decided he would have to make ends meet by writing detective stories, five of the six featuring Miles Bredon. He also wrote a short story (Solved by Inspection) featuring Bredon"


For the Defence: Dr Thorndyke by R. Austin Freeman
This is a Dr Thorndyke novel that was published in 1934. It is a very plodding novel that starts with crime and has a unrealistic mistaken identity that is the central conceit. If you can swallow this set up, you will enjoy the novel, if you can't employ the Nancy Pearl rule of reading. Dr Thorndyke is a medical/legal forensic investigator, which is a combination that is a little ahead of its time.

Richard Austin Freeman was a doctor in the British colonial service until that late 1890s, when he returned to London. During World War One he served as a Captain in the Royal Medical Corps. He brings this knowledge to his books. He started writing the Thorndyke novels in 1907 and wrote one just about every year until his death in 1943.


The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay
The title does give the theme away, it is a yuletide murder mystery and it has been republished by the British Library Crime Classic series. The original came out in 1936 and it is English mansion crime mystery. The patriarch of the Melbury clan, Sir Oswald is found dead on Christmas Day dressed in a Santa Claus suit. The book gives you the different family members points of view before Colonel Halstock takes over as protagonist and investigates the murder.

Mavis Doriel Hay wrote three detective novels and thanks to the British Library Crime series all three are now available.


The Dorothy Parker Murder Case by George Baxt
This is the first in the Detective Jacob Singer novels that merge fact and fiction and focus on famous people as co-investigators with Jacob. This novel is set in 1926 and as you can tell from the title, involves writer and witticist Dorothy Parker and some of her cohorts from the Algonquin Roundtable, George Kaufman and Alexander Woollcott, help solve the death of a New York showgirl. Baxt manages to capture how you think these people would talk to each other and has some lovely witty comments. 

George Baxt wrote 13 novels in the Celebrity Murder series as well as two other series, one featuring a gay black protagonist (Pharoah Love) and the duo Plotkin and Van Larsen. He also wrote five standalone novels. Baxt has also written screenplays for TV and cinema. He died in 2003.


The Feathered Serpent and Mr J. G. Reeder Returns by Edgar Wallace
Two of Edgar Wallace's novels were recommended this month. One a Mr J. G. Reeder story and the other an Inspector Wade book.  

Edgar Wallace was a prolific writer with six crime series (which includes 36 novels), 83 crime novels, nine other novels, three poetry collections, 16 non-fiction novels, six screenplays, 48 short story collections and 25 plays. So, a few. As well as writing he was a war correspondent during the Boer War and stayed on in South Africa to write for local newspapers before moving back to the UK prior to World War One. After the war,  he continued to work as a journalist until the 1920s when he wrote full time. 


In the Train by Frank O'Connor
In The Train is a short story by Frank O'Connor, one of the great Irish writers from between the wars. For some background on O'Connor, you can read this article from The Guardian.  Many of his short stories are out of print, but can be found now and again in collections such as the Collection of Great Irish Detective Novels. 

In the Train was written in 1935 and it is about the people on a train heading back to their country town from the city after they have all participated in one way or another in the murder trial of a townsfolk. The story unravels the story from different perspectives.  


The Middle Temple Murder by J. S. Fletcher
Published in 1919, The Middle Temple Murder is of course set in the Middle Temple part of London, which is, according to wikipedia, "the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, commonly known simply as Middle Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court exclusively entitled to call their members to the English Bar as barristers, the others being the Inner Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn. It is located in the wider Temple area of London, near the Royal Courts of Justice, and within the City of London." So it is safe to say that the murder is strongly connected to the legal system in England. This book not only searches for the killer but also the identity of the victim. 

Joseph Smith Fletcher was a British journalist and a crime writer from the early twentieth century.  He died in 1935. He was very prolific and wrote over 230 novels, both fiction and non-fiction.


Bring the Monkey by Miles Franklin
Australian author Miles Franklin is better known for her non-genre books, however, this is her take on a crime novel and it is a spoof of an English country house cozy crime. The story is complete with eccentric characters such as the narrator, her dazzling companion and a monkey.  Published in 1933, the book satirises the English upper class but not in a mean way. It is fun to read.

Stella Franklin wrote under the name Miles Franklin so that she would be published. Her novel My Brilliant Career is an Australian and feminist classic. The top Australian Literary Award is called the Miles Franklin Award.  


Thrones & Dominations by D. L. Sayers & Jill Paton Walsh
Dorothy Sayers has been written about before on this blog, and the continuation of her characters, Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, by Jill Paton Walsh have also been touched on before here. Thrones & Dominations is the first book that continues the series after Sayers death. Sayers started writing the novel in 1936 and Paton Walsh completed it in 1998. It focuses on Lord Peter and Lady Harriet settling into married life and they are dragged into the death of a young woman. This is mainly a Harriet Vane story as Lord Peter spends most of the plot off doing Foreign Office business in the lead up to World War 2.

Next month we will be reading crime novels that feature rock, paper or scissors. A wide range indeed.