Mystery Novels featuring a Celebration or Festival from the SMSA Library Crime Book Club

The last set of recommendations of crime novels for the year feature a celebration or festival. The Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library Crime and Mystery Book Club meets once a month and you will be able to find next year's list of themes here at the library website - There are also some reviews done by readers.  

The Body in the Transept by Jeanne MDams             

Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander           

Michaelmas Tribute by Cora Harrison                 

Burial Rites by Hannah Alexander                         

Wycliffe and the Last Rites by W J Burley                       

The Feast of Stephen; and The Ferryman Will Be There by Rosemary Aubert                          

The Christmas Bow Murder by Bill Battison                     

St Peter’s Fair by Ellis Peters                                       

A Christmas Escape; and A Christmas Garland by Anne Perry                      

Kissing Christmas Goodbye by M C Beaton                               

The Advent Killer by Alastair Gunn                    

The Guilty by David Baldacci               

Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews               

Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman                                      

Twelve Drummers Drumming by C C Benison                      

Recommendations from SMSA Crime and Mystery Book Club featuring Travel

A Second Helping of Crime Novels Featuring The Theatre, TV, Film or Music

Here are some more recommendations of crime novels featuring the theatre, TV, film or music. They range from the golden age of British crime to a modern take on the 1950s. Enjoy.

The Shadow of Death, The Perils of Night by James Runcie
The Shadow of Death is a collection of short stories that introduces us to Canon Sidney Chambers, vicar of Grantchester. It is 1953 and 32 year old bachelor Sidney is looking for a quiet life after his experiences during World War Two. Sidney becomes friends with Inspector Geordie Keating when a parishoner asks Sidney to look into the apparent suicide of her husband. The Perils of Night continues Sidney’s adventures in the mid and late 1950s and takes Sidney abroad to the Berlin and the beginning of the building of the Berlin Wall

The first series of stories have been dramatised for British TV with a series called Granchester. According to his website, James Runcie “is a writer and director. He is the author of The Grantchester Mysteries, Visiting Professor at Bath Spa University, and a fiction reviewer for The Independent. James Runcie was born in 1959, educated at Marlborough College, Cambridge University and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and lives in Edinburgh and London.”

The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid
This is a non-fiction novel about forensics and research behind solving crimes. Val McDermid is bestselling crime author who was once a journalist with the Manchester newspaper in her youth. She interviews forensic scientists and uncovers the context and history of the development of this science. From war zones to convicting murderers McDermid traces the story of forensics from its beginning in the late 1800s to modern day. An interesting read. 

Val McDermid is a prolific British writer, according to her website, "I started writing Report for Murder in 1984, and it was published by The Women's Press in 1987. The rest is history...I finally gave up the day job in April 1991, and I've been making my living by writing ever since."

Performance by Douglas Clark
Douglas Clark has written 27 Masters and Green novels starting with Nobody’s Perfect in 1969. Masters is Detective Chief Superintendent George Masters of Scotland Yard and Green is his assistant Bill Green. Performance (1985) is the 23rd novel in the series and it focuses on a series of eleven murders in the north of England. Masters and Green are sent to help the Northern Counties police with background and research into the unsolved cases. During the local performance of Handel’s Messiah, the alto soloist falls dead on stage. The twelfth victim. Masters and Green investigate.


Cool Repentance by Antonia Fraser
Cool Repentance is a Jemima Shore mystery. TV journalist Jemima Shore has been asked to present a program on the Larminster Festival (a theatre festival) and one of the main performers at the festival is Christobel Herriot, a beautiful and notorious actress who the subject of scandal and gossip. Jemima becomes involved when it becomes clear that Christobel’s life is danger at the festival after the series of murders.

British author, Antonia Fraser is known for her historical novels and biographies. Her crime fiction is focused on her Jemima Shore novels. She was made DBE in 2011 for here services to literature.

Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson
Nicola Upson has created a series of novels featuring real life crime author Josephine Tey. Fear in the Sunlight is set in 1936 in Welsh resort, Portmeirion, where Josephine Tey is celebrating her fortieth birthday. She is joined by Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville who are there to sign a film deal for Tey’s novel A Shilling for Candles. Hitchcock is keeping the party entertained with a trick about exposing people’s greatest fears. The next day one of Hollywood’s leading actresses is found brutally slashed to death in a cemetery near the village. Tey’s good friend Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Archie Penrose is on hand to help Tey solve the mystery. 

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

The theme for this batch of recommendations is book series that you like. This theme resulted in a joyful discussion on authors and characters that ended up like a trip across Europe into North Africa.  More information on the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Crime and Mystery reading Group can be found here.

The Kiss Murder by Mehmet Murat Somer (Kenneth Dakan - Translator)
The Kiss Murder (2008) is the first book in The Turkish Delight (Hop-Ciki-Yaya) series from Mehmet Murat Somer, which have been translated into English and done very well. Mehmet Murat Somer was born in Ankara, Turkey and studied and worked as an engineer before becoming a banker. In 1994 he became a management consultant. The unnamed heroine of the book is a male computer technician by day and a transvestite hostess of a nightclub in Istanbul by night and s/he becomes embroiled in the underworld of Istanbul when one of the 'girls' from the nightclub comes to him for help.  The series is described as charming and page-turning, so something to sample at least.

The Ghost Runner by Parker Bilal
Parker Bilal is the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub who writes in English. Born in London, he is the child of a British and Sudanese parents. He has lived over the years in the UK, Sudna, Cairo and Denmark. He currently lives in Barcelona. The Ghost Runner is the third novel in the Makana series, named after its lead character, Private Investigator Makana. The book is set in 2002 just as the US forces enter the West Bank after the 11 September attacks in the USA. Makana is living in Cairo at the time, in exile from his native Sudan. He is not in a good emotional space and becomes involved in looking for the murder of a teenage girl. The book follows his travels to Siwa, an oasis town on the edge of the Sahara Desert in search of the murderer.

This series highlights the everyday life of an area of the world that continues to be in turmoil from internal and external political, religious and social forces. 

Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker
This debut novel from Martin Walker introduces you to  Benoît Courrèges, aka Bruno, a policeman in St Denis, a small village in present day South of France.  Bruno is aiming to have a quiet life and has chosen to live in a small village in the South of France to do just that. He is a former soldier who was wounded while serving in the UN peacekeepers during the siege of Sarajevo. Bruno  likes his routines and calm life and that is disrupted when there is a murder on his patch of an elderly North African who fought in the French army.

Martin Walker used to be a foreign correspondent for the British newspaper, The Guardian,  in the USSR, USA, Europe and Africa. He has written non-fiction history books on the Cold War and 20th Century USA. He, like his creation, is looking for a calm life in the Perigold region of rural France.

Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick
This is series set in England about Father Anselm, a barrister turned monk. In Gardens of the Dead, the second in the series, Father Anselm becomes involved in solving a mystery when one of his former barrister colleagues dies and it is revealed that she was trying to resolve a case they both worked on when Father Anselm was Anselm Duffy Q.C. The story weaves questions around justice, innocence and redemption throughout the plot. 

William Brodrick was born in Bolton, Lancashire and grew up in Australia and the UK. He joined the Augustinian Friars in Dublin, Ireland in 1979. He lived several years as a friar before he left the order to set up a charity for homeless people. In 1991 he became a barrister. Broderick holds British and Canadian citizenship and is married with three children. He now lives in France. 

The Raven's Eye by Barry Maitland
Barry Maitland has been recommended before by this group, twice. For our recommendation on The Raven's Eye, Maitland's latest novel, go here.  For our recommendation on The Marx Sisters, the first novel from the Brock and Kolla series, go here

Barry Maitland has written twelve novels in total in the series. To quote his website, "the books have been described as whydunits as much as whodunits, concerned with the devious histories and motivations of their characters. Barry's background in architecture drew him to the structure of the mystery novel, and his books are notable for their ingenious plots as well as for their atmospheric settings, each in a different intriguing corner of London."

Lewis Island Trilogy by Peter May
Like Maitland, Peter May has been recommended before by our Mystery and Crime Reading Group. To find our recommendation on The Blackhouse, the first novel in the trilogy, go here, and for our recommendation for The Chessmen, the  last novel in the Lewis Island trilogy, go here.

The Lewis Man is the middle novel and it centres around the discovery of a body in the peat bog off the Isle of Lewis. First believed to be a find for the history books, it is revealed by the discovery of an Elvis tattoo on the body that it is a victim of a very twentieth century crime.

Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White
Also known as The Spiral Staircase, Some Must Watch (1933) is a mystery set in an isolated country home in Wales called The Summit. It focuses on an assortment of people in this house, Helen Cadel (a lady's companion), Professor Warren (the head of the household), his sister Blanche (who is also his housekeeper), his aunt (who is a bit sinister), his whiny son, his high maintenance daughter-in-law, his student and two servants. So it is a big house. Young girls have been murdered in the neighbourhood and this threat starts to infiltrate the house. Tension ratchets up, behave weirdly and everything is not what it seems. It was so popular as a novel it made into a movie three times. 

Ethel Lina White wrote 17 novels in total, her first three being mainstream novels before starting on crime writing in 1931. She was a well known and popular writer in the 1930s and 1940s and two other of her novels were made into movies. Namely The Wheel Spins (1936) which became The Lady Vanishes, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and Midnight House (1942) made into The Unseen.

Ethel Lina White was born in Wales in 1876 and died in 1944. Her novels were not a series.

Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves
We have recommended Ann Cleeves before, however it was in relation to her Shetland Island series, and you can read that here. Silent Voices (2011) is the fourth novel in the Vera Stanhope series that Cleeves began writing in 1999. These novels have been made into a TV show in the UK called Vera, with Brenda Blethyn in the lead role.

Vera is a Detective Inspector with the Northumberland police and she works with her colleague Sergeant Joe Ashworth to solve murder cases. Vera does not play nicely with others but she gets results and much of the series is about delving in behind the masks people wear in everyday life to get to the issues below. 

Skeleton Road by Val McDermid
Skeleton Road is the third in Val McDermid's Inspector Karen Pirie series. Inspector Pirie lives in Fife, Scotland and is a cold case expert. Like the two previous novels featuring Pirie, Skeleton Road is about the remains of a body found in a Victorian Gothic building in the historic part of Edinburgh that is being developed into new flats. Pirie tracks the case to former Yugoslavia and the Balkan Wars of the 1990s.

Val McDermid is very good writer and her novels are always complex with great plots intertwined with a study of psychological impulses of killers as well as those who hunt them. McDermid has three well known as established series that we have recommended before. Go here to see that recommendation.  She has also written over a dozen standalone novels. 

Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst
Alan Furst is an American author how writes historical spy novels set in the first half of the twentieth century. Spies of Warsaw (2008) is the tenth in the Night Soldiers novels that Furst began writing in 1988. Each novel has different protagonists, however he has a cast of secondary characters that appear in a number of the stories across the series.

Spies of Warsaw is set in a pre-World War Two Warsaw where French and German spies are playing deadly games that involve the underworld and the elite. Each major European country seems to have a spy in play in town and everyone who is anyone is a piece on the chessboard in the lead up to war.

 Spies of Warsaw was made into a British TV miniseries in 2013. 

Mystery Muses: the 100 Classics That Inspire Today's Mystery Writers by Jim Huang & Austin Lugar
According to the Crumb Creek Press website, Jim Huang and Austin Lugar asked 100 published crime writers: 

"Did a mystery set you on your path to being a writer? 
Is there a classic mystery that remains important to you today?"

These crime writers penned each penned an essay with these two questions in mind and Huang and Lugar edited these essays for this collection. The essays range from insights into Patricia Highsmith, Denis Lehane, golden age authors such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, and hard boiled legend Raymond Chandler. The essays are arranged in order of the classic novels they cover so there is a sense of change and history in the collection.

Spirit of Steamboat by Craig Johnson
Spirit of Steamboat (2013) is a Christmas themed novella from the writer of the  Walt Longmire series set in Wyoming, which has been made into a TV series called Longmire

Good Reads website puts the plot succinctly, "Sheriff Walt Longmire is reading A Christmas Carol in his office on 24 December when he is interrupted by the ghost of Christmas past: a young woman with a hairline scar across her forehead and more than a few questions about Walt's predecessor, Lucian Connally. Walt doesn't recognise the mysery woman, but she seems to know him and claims to have something she must return to Connally. With his daughter, Cady, and his undersheriff Vic Moretti in Philadelphia for the holidays, Walt is at loose ends, and despite the woman's reticence to reveal her identity, the agrees to help her.

At the Durant Home for Assisted Living Lucian Connally is several tumblers into his Pappy Van Winkle's and swears he's never clapped eyes on the woman before. Disappointed, she whispers "Steamboat" and begins a story that takes them all back to Christmas Eve 1988, when three people died in a terrible crash and a young girl had the slimmest change of survival....back to a record-breaking blizzard, to Walt's first year as sheriff, with a young daughter at home and a wife praying for his safety...back to a whisky-soaked World War II vet ready to fly a decommissioned plane and risk it all to save a life."    

In the Morning I'll Be Gone by Adrian McKinty
This is the third novel in The Troubles Trilogy from Irish writer Adrian McKinty's Sean Duffy novels. McKinty was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the late 1960s and grew up in Carrickfergus, County Antrim. He lived in New York city and Denver in the USA in the 1990s and early 2000s. He now lives in Melbourne, Australia. 

His novels are set in the early 1980s in Ireland and focus on the Irish 'troubles'. Sean Duffy in a Catholic cop in the Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary. He is caught between the Irish and the British during Margaret Thatcher's time as UK Prime Minister and the plot delves into this contentious time in British/Irish relations and involves an IRA master bomber, MI5, and the British Conservative Party Conference in Brighton in 1984, where Mrs Thatcher is giving the keynote speech. If you want to know why this occasion is important in the conflict, you can click here

Ratking & Dead Lagoon by Michael Dibdin
Ratking (1988) is the first in the Aurelio Zen series by Michael Dibdin, and Dead Lagoon (1996) is the fourth. Dibdin wrote 11 novels in total featuring Zen, and unfortunately died in 2007 just after finishing the last book in the series. 

Zen is an Italian Police Commissioner and is part of the elite Italian Criminalpol squad stationed in Rome. He is described as middle-aged and "disgusted with - but begrudgingly resigned to - the political bog of corruption and cynicism with which he has to work". These books are a mixture of police procedure and psychological suspense, Dibdin gives us a way into the dealings of the modern Italian police force. They were made into a British TV series in 2011. 

Berlin Noir Trilogy by Philip Kerr
We have recommended this trilogy before, read here. This trilogy is set in Nazi Germany pre World War Two and features Detective Barnie Gunther. The first novel in the trilogy is March Violets (1989) and is set at the time of the Berlin Olympics in 1936. The Pale Criminal (1990) is set two years later and Bernie is investigating the death of Aryan teenage girls. The frog is no longer being slowly boiled in Berlin in relation to how the Nazi regime is impacting every day life for all Germans, especially those who do not support the Nazi party but identify themselves as patriotic Germans. It is basically a nightmare, and Kerr does not shy away from this. It can make this trilogy a difficult read, but it is a fascinating one. The third novel is A German Requiem (1991) is set after World War Two in 1947, and the Russians and the Americans are the new masters of Berlin and Bernie is navigating the shortages that dominate the city as well as the new politics of what becomes the Cold War.

Buried Angels by Camilla Lackberg
Buried Angels (2014) is the eighth (and latest) novel in the Patrik Hedstrom/Erica Falck series from Swedish writer Camilla Lackberg. Her first novel in the series, The Ice Princess, was published in 2003. Patrik is a detective in a small fishing village, Fjallbacka, and his wife, Erica is a crime writer. The books are as much a look at a working partnership as a police procedural and they take the reader into the life of a community that is reliant on the land and the sea. 

Buried Angels focuses on a cold case about a family that vanished from their home on an idyllic island off the coast over Easter in 1974 leaving their one year old daughter Ebba behind. 40 years later Ebba has returned to find out what happened.

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.

Recommendations from the SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

This month the theme was architecture and the range of books read and recommended reflect big cities and small towns both in modern times and days gone past. Quite a few are Australian authors and there are a couple of debuts. Enjoy.

City of Ransom by Robert W. Walker
City of Ransom is the first novel to feature Inspector Alistair Ransom of the Chicago Police Department. Set in 1893 during the Chicago World's Fair, the world wary Ransom is hunting for a killer who is using the hustle and bustle of the great Exhibition to cover their tracks. If you like The Alienist by Caleb Carr and similar novels that delve into the advances in forensics, change in policework, and the rise of big Amercian cities at the turn of the 20th century, this is the book for you. 

According Harper Collins Publisher, "Robert W. Walker, a graduate of Northwestern University, is the author of thirty-six novels, including the acclaimed PSI Blue featuring FBI Psychic Rae Hiyakawa, the Instinct Series with FBI Medical Examiner Dr. Jessica Coran, and the Edge Series featuring Texas Cherokee Detective Lucas Stonecoat and psychiatrist Meredyth Sanger. He has also recently published the serialized thriller set in India entitled Fleshwar on\shorts. Robert was born in Corinth, Mississippi; grew up in Chicago, Illinois; and currently resides in Chicago and Charleston, West Virginia. In between teaching, lecturing, and book touring, Rob is busy tackling his next two novels, City of the Absent and Deja Blue."

The Bookseller by Mark Pryor
The Bookseller is Mark Pryor's debut featuring Hugo Marston, the head of security at the US Embassy in Paris, France. Marston is ex-FBI and has friends in the CIA. Through his friendship with the bookseller of the title, a riverside bouquiniste who runs one of the stalls on the River Siene near Notre-Dame Cathedral, Marston is drawn into investigating the deaths of these bouquinistes. The book is well researched and learning about the history of this unique aspect of Paris is very interesting. The is a great sense of place, and the backstreets of Paris come to life. The plotting of the story is a bit movie of week by numbers, and Marston is a nice enough protagonist, who is from Texas, so is a straight shooter and heroic in a traditional way.  

According to goodreads, "Mark Pryor is a former newspaper reporter from England, and now an assistant distribut attorney with the Travis County District Attorney's Office, in Austin, Texas. He is the creator of the nationally-recognised true-crime blog D.A. Confidential." So it looks like he knows his Texans. 

Angels in the Architecture by Mary-Rose MacColl
Australian author MacColl has written three novels, Angels in the Architecture (1999) in her second book. She contributes to Australia's leading literary magazine, Griffith Review. The blurb discribes the plot as "In a secret chamber uncovered by a fire that nearly destroys the nineteenth-century chapel at Archangels University, architect Harriet Darling finds a skull. The police have a body and murderer in mind, and on campus, rumours are rife. But Harriet wants to save the chapel from further harm, and hse has ideas of her own. She has a blue rosary and a Black Madonna, and they take her back, to a girls' school, a powerful nun, and a time of innocence lost and found." It is a well written story which delves into a fictional university and school in Australia and uses this premise to explore gender politics, moral responsiblity and how much trust you put in the person telling a story.

MacColl (yes this is the correct spelling, even though this picture says different) writes standalone novels with strong female protagonsts who are well educated and cerebral. As she sets her novels in Australia, you also get a slice of life from late 1990s/ early 2000 Australia city life. 

There is No Place Like Holmes by Derham Groves
Senior Lecturer in Architect at University of Melbourne, Australia and author Dr Derham Groves is a crime fiction fan, especially Sherlock Holmes, and has combined his two main passions in this book. There is No Place Like Holmes explores the impact of the settings and sense of place to Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. 

Here is an endorsement from some of Groves' colleagues from the University of Melbourne:

"Derham Groves has had the brilliant idea of considering architecture as a detective story. It is a fascinating thought—that buildings might be crime scenes: in both bodies go missing—and Groves unfolds it in fascinating ways. If modern architecture has notoriously failed to make places where people can live, perhaps it is time architecture was put on trial. If so, the designs of its rooms are vital clues! Derham Groves is on the trail of a particular lost body: the home of Sherlock Holmes. He has students design buildings constructed like brilliant deductions. He designs a Sherlock Holmes Centre where the great man is absent but clues to his presence lie everywhere. An absorbing meditation on the way we read architecture, an engaging challenge to designers and the stories they tell, There’s No Place Like Holmes possesses the rare quality of making what seemed cryptic in architecture elementary, and the obvious once again filled with enchantment."
Paul Carter, Professorial Fellow, University of Melbourne.

The Dancing Floor by John Buchan
The Dancing Floor (1926) is the third Edward Leithen novel - he wrote five about this character in total. Leithen is a lawyer who befriends the young and handsome Vernon Milburne, who confides in Leithen about a recurring dream he has at the same time each year. The dream reveals details about an impending threat each time he has it and when Leithen and Milburne meet again on Plakos, a Greek Island, it seems that Milburne has enough information to figure out what is of threat to him.   We have written about John Buchan before and you can read more about him here.

One of the commentors on the Good Reads page about this book give us some extra information about how the story developed. Jayaprakash Satyamurthy says

"This is an expanded version of a short story, first published in 1914, called 'Basilissa'. I've read it in a volume of Buchan's weird fiction published by Penguin Classics, 'The Strange Adventures of Mr. Andrew Hawthorn and other stories'. Edward Leithen, Buchan's barrister/MP protagonist isn't present in the original story, which may explain why his role in this narrative isn't really pivotal so much as that of a fly on the wall, albeit a fly whose paths intersect with those of the main players in a number of ways."

The Mystery of Cloomber by Arthur Conan Doyle
A non-Sherlock Holmes story from Arthur Conan Doyle. Yes, he did write them. The Mystery of Cloomber is actually one of the first novels he wrote, but only published in 1888 (two years after A Study in Scarlet, his first Sherlock Holmes novel). Cloomber Hall is in a remote county in south-west Scotland and it has been standing empty for many years until General Heatherstone, who used to be part of the Indian Army and fought in the First Afghan War (1839 - 1842), takes up tenancy. The closest neighbour to Cloomber Hall is John Fothergill West whose adult children start to forge friendships with the General's adult children. These relationships are used to open up and explore the General's past in India and how that impacts the mystery of what is happening at Cloomber Hall now.  

Conan Doyle was renowned for believing in an afterlife and communicating with people who have died. This belief is a viable explanation for the going ons at Cloomber Hall and it is up to the reader to either explain the mystery this manner or in another less mystical way.  

The Marx Sisters and All My Enemies by Barry Maitland
The Marx Sisters (1994) is Barry Maitland's debut novel and introduced his detective duo, Brock and Kolla, two Scotland Yard detectives. Set in London, the Brock and Kolla novels use the setting of the city as another character. His books are known for their atmosphere and intricate understanding of the area of London in which it is set. The plot of The Marx Sisters is as follows - Brock and Kolla 'investigate the murder of Karl Marx's great-granddaughters (via an illegitimate son) and the theft of the unpublished manuscript of a fourth volume of Das Kapita.' The area of London that is explored in this book is Jerusalem Lane, near Clerkenwell Road in Farringdon.  

Born in Scotland during World War Two, Maitland studied architecture at Cambridge University and was a practicing architect in the UK and in Australia, which he immigrated to in 1984. He became the professor of Architecture at the University of Newcastle in Australia until he retired in 2000, whereby he started writing full time.


The Tower by Michael Duffy
The blurb on the back describes the plot as follows: It's going to be the biggest skyscraper in the world. One rainy night a young woman falls from an unfinished upper story, landing on a ploice car. Detectives Jon McIver and Nicholas Troy think it will be a pretty simple investigation, but all is not what it seems...' You are just waiting for the intro music from a song by The Who aren't you? Or at least a voiceover from the movie trailer guy. This is a Michael Duffy novel and he writes very visual, airport thrillers that could be commissioned into a TV or movie very easily. The Tower (2009) is the first in what is hoped to be a series featuring Detective Nicholas Troy and set in Sydney, Australia. 

Michael Duffy is a former journalist and editor. He wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald and presented ABC Radio National's Counterpoint, and edited The Independent Monthly.

Have Mercy on Us All by Fred Vargas
We have recommended French author Fred Vargas before, and this novel was published in 2001, translated into English in 2003 and made into a movie (French) in 2007. Set in Paris, it features Chief Inspector Adamsberg and his team. It is the fourth in the Adamsberg series and focuses on a the possiblity that the black death may have returned to Paris when a flea-bitten corpse with plague like symptoms is found in a derlilect building. 

Fred Vargas is the pen name of French historian and archeologist Frederique Audoin-Reuzeau. She is seen as an expert on the Black Death and bubonic plague.  So she knows what she is talking about when she references the plague in this novel. In addition, there are excellent historical detail and a sense of place and culture. 

The Diggers Rest Hotel, Blackwattle Creek and St Kilda Blues by Geoffrey McGeachin
Geoffrey McGeachin is an Australian author and according to the Australian Crime Association website, he 'started his working life as a photographer, shooting pictures for advertising, travel, theatre and feature films. He has lived and worked in Los Angeles, New York, Atlantic City and Hong Kong. Now based in Sydney he takes pictures, teaches photography and writes." He wrote his first novel in 2001, followed by three spy novels featuring special agent Alby Murdoch. The three novels listed here are his crime novels featuring Charlie Berlin, an ex bomber pilot and former prisoner of war during World War Two, now a detective in the Victorian police. The Diggers Rest Hotel won the 2011 Ned Kelly Award for best fiction and Blackwattle Creek won the 2013 Ned Kelly Award for best fiction. St Kilda Blues has just been published and we will wait to see if it also wins the Ned Kelly Award for best fiction.  These three crime novels are set in the 1960s in Melbourne and delve into the changes and developments of the city during the massive social and political changes of the 1960s in Australia. 

Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr
Nevada Barr has been recommend before by the book club. Track of the Cat (1993) is the first of 18 novels she has written featuring Angela Pigeon, national park ranger. This novel is set in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas (each novel is set in a different national park in the USA). According to Barr on her website, "this is the book that gave Anna Pigeon life. Guadalupe Mountains was my second duty station with NPS (National Park Service). There are a couple of folks in Texas who really needed to be dead. I spent a lot of time wandering th back country wondering how I could kill them and get away with it. Fortunately, Anna Pigeon came along; otherwise I might be writing you this from the penitentiary." Makes you want to read it doesn't it? 

Cold Smoked by K.K. Beck
Cold Smoked is the fourth novel featuring Jane de Silva, who offers her services as a private detective to solve mysteries for people who cannot afford to hire anyone. She does this because it is a stipulation of her Uncle's will. If she does not offer to do this, she does not receive anything from her Uncle's Trust. Cold Smoked is about seafood, the fishing industry and environmentalism. Jane becomes involved when she is entertaining representatives from the Salmon Industry who are in town for an International Seafood Show and someone runs into the hotel lounge screaming that there is a dead body in their bathroom. Jane's investigation takes her from Norway to the Shetland Islands following the red herrings (yes I went there) before she ultimately solves the crime. 

Katherine Kristine Beck Marris is an American novelist who has written over a dozen novels. She has written to crime series, one featuring Iris Cooper, a young woman who is looked after by her wealthy aunt (set in the 1920s) and the other featuring de Silva. Beck lives in Seattle, USA and was married to fellow crime novelist Michael Dibdin, who died in 2007.

Quota by Jock Serong
This is another debut novel for an Australian author. Jock Serong is a lawyer, features writer and editor of Great Ocean Quarterly. Quota (2014) features barrister Charlie Jardim who snaps after a particulary hard court case. His mentor, Harlan Weir, sends him to Dauphin, a small coastal town in Victoria to check out a witness to a murder. Jardim starts to investigate the story he is told by the witness and finds himself delving into the life of the small town to find out what actually happened. The weather beaten buildings and seaside town life is very much a character in this novel and there is a great sense of place. 


Recommendations from the SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

This month we read comedy crime and have collated our suggestions below:

Vane Pursuit, The Withdrawing Room by Charlotte MacCleod and Murder Goes Mumming as Alisa Craig
Canadian born writer, Charlotte MacLeod also wrote as Alisa Craig and published over 35 crime novels, short stories and non-fiction stories. She was co-founder and past president of the American Crime Writers League. She immigrated to the USA in the 1920s and became a US citizen in 1951. She studied in Boston and had a career in advertising before retiring in 1982. Her first crime novel was published in 1979. She had four different crime series and they could all fall under comedy crime, but are definitely all ‘cosy’ crime with little violence or gore. Our members read four of her books, two were written as Charlotte MacLeod, Vane Pursuit (1989) from the series featuring Prof. Peter Shandy of (fictional) Balaclava Agricultural College and his wife Helen Marsh Shandy, set in New England; and The Withdrawing Room (1981) from the art investigators Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn series set among Boston's upper crust on Beacon Hill.

The other two novels were published under Alisa Craig and were set in Canada. One was from the Lobelia Falls Grub-and-Stakers Gardening & Roving Club featuring Dittany Henbit Monk, and Murder Goes Mumming (1981) from the Madoc Rhys of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and his wife Janet Wadman Rhys.

According to wikipedia MacLeod was ‘described as a "true lady" and often seen with hat and white gloves, MacLeod began writing at 6 a.m., continued through the morning, then used the afternoon for rewrites. She only started new books on Sundays and during writing would stay dressed in a bathrobe to avoid temptation of leaving the house for an errand.’ She died in 2005 in Maine after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
Spencer Quinn is a pseudonym of crime author Peter Abrahams. Dog On In is the first crime novel written under this name and it seems to be done to distinguish Abrahams existing action crime thrillers and his Echo Falls mystery series from this very different style and tone of the Chet and Bernie mysteries introduced in this novel. These stories are narrated by Chet, a dog, Bernie’s best friend and constant companion. This is a difficult central conceit to do well and thankfully Quinn does this. He keeps the story light and fast paced and once he establishes Chet’s mindset and capabilities, he maintains the logic of the storytelling from this perspective. The result is a delightful romp that gives you asides that we could well imagine could be from a dog, such as food as a distraction and spotty memory that is not related to food.  Bernie Little runs the Little Detective Agency and he and Chet are a detective duo of the old gum shoe mould, driving around in the old convertible solving small crimes that have the tendency to become big.

Rumple and the Age of Miracles by John Mortimer
John Mortimer was an English barrister, author and writer for stage and screen. He is known for creating Horace Rumpole, an English barrister, who defended those accused of crime in London’s criminal courts at the Old Bailey. The character of Rumpole was modeled after Mortimer’s father, Clifford, and was initially created by Mortimer for a BBC Play for Today in 1975. The character of Rumpole was played by Leo McKern and proved to be so popular that a TV series, Rumpole of the Bailey, was devised. In addition to providing scripts for the TV series, Mortimer wrote several books about Rumpole.  According to wikipedia, Mortimer ‘developed his career as a dramatist by rising early to write before attending court, and his work in total includes over 50 books, plays and scripts.’

Rumpole and the Age of Miracles (1988) is a collection of short stories which were also dramatised for the TV series. Rumpole as usual negotiates the case before him with wry humour and sharp observation as well as ensuring that he keeps his wife (also known as ‘she who must be obeyed’) happy. If you were a fan of the TV series, the books are just as much fun and well worth a read.


The Mysterious Mickey Finn by Elliot Paul
American journalist and author, Elliot Paul wrote 33 books from 1922 to 1957. He fought in World War One in France where he fought in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. After that war he became a journalist and began to write books inspired by his military experiences in his spare time.  In 1925 Paul left the USA and joined the grouping of authors, artists and musicians in the Montparnasse Quarter of Paris, France. He continued to work as a journalist, first as the international contributor for the Chicago Tribune, then becoming co-editor of the literary journal, transition, before returning to the newspaper business as a journalist for the Paris Herald. He was friends with James Joyce and Gertrude Stein and wrote three more novels during this inter war period before suffering a nervous breakdown. He left Paris and recuperated on the island of Ibiza where he became embroiled in the Spanish Civil War. This caused him to flee Spain back to Paris where he created his amateur detective, Homer Evans. All a bit of a preamble before we even get to the bit about a comedy crime novel. But interesting none the same.

The Mysterious Mickey Finn was his 10th novel published in 1939 and it features Homer Evans. Evans is an American in Paris who becomes involved in trying to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a millionaire. This story is written as comic fiction with flights of fancy and poking fun at the seriousness of hard noir crime fiction of the time. Whether you find it funny or not will depend on your sense of humour.

With the outbreak of World War Two, Paul returned to the USA, where he began writing for Hollywood and continued to do so until 1953. He died in 1958 at the Veteran’s Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, USA.

Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb
Sharyn McCrumb has written over 20 novels and counting. Her first published story was in 1984 with the debut of her character Elizabeth MacPherson, a forensic pathologist in the South in USA. In 1988 she published the first of her two satirical novels set in the world of science fiction conventions and fandom, Bimbos of the Death Sun. The story is set at a fictional science fiction convention in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. The guest of honour, a fantasy author who is unpleasant and not liked is killed with a bullet through his heart. His co-guest of honour, an engineering professor who has written a hard science fiction novel, takes it upon himself to investigate the death.   

McCrumb is known for The Ballad Novels that celebrate the history and folklore of Appalachia Mountains in North Carolina, USA. These novels are studied in universities around the world. In addition she has written the St. Dale series, which she started in 2005, inspired by her love of NASCAR racing and her desire to update Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
One For The Money (1999) is the debut of the comedy crime series, written by Janet Evanovich, featuring New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. This is the beginning of a long running series that is just as much about the working class community in New Jersey and the interconnectedness of families as it is about a Stephanie’s adventures in bounty hunting. Stephanie is actually good at her job as she is underestimated by those she is looking for, despite what happens to the cars she drives. Her grandma Mazur is the perennial favourite with readers and the first 3 or 4 books in the series are very well written and very funny, however this series is an example of one that should be ties up sooner rather than later.

The Man in the Sopwith Camel by Michael Butterworth
John Michael Butterworth was a British comic book writer who was known for the popular boys' adventure strips, The Rise and Fall of The Trigan Empire. He wrote 22 novels between 1967 and 1987, 10 under the name Carola Salisbury. The Man in the Sopwith Camel (1974) is 'Walter Mitty' like with its focus on an unassuming bank clerk who has the opportunity to rob a bank. It is a caper story with dreamlike elements.

My Very Own Murder by Josephine Carr
Josephine Carr initially wrote young adult novels before writing My Very Own Murder. Her style is light and fast paced and in this novel she is focused on a newly divorced 50 year old Anne who whiles away her time in her luxurious apartment in Washington DC, living the good life. She is a free spirit and completely believes when she hears a voice whispering to her as she was dropping off to sleep that a murder will occur in 30 days, and she must prevent it. Anne and her cleaning woman, Mary, plan to find out what will happen in the next 4 weeks. This novel is a bit of fun if you suspend your disbelief and jump straight in.

The Good Thief's Guide to Paris by Chris Ewan
Chris Ewan is known for his ‘Good Thief’ series, of which this is his third. They feature Charlie Howard, a thief and author of his own crime series, who writes about his exploits in each city he is ‘working’ in. The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris was shortlisted for the Last Laugh Award for best comic crime fiction.

Ewan is British and was born in Taunton, Somerset. He now lives on the Isle of Man. He has written seven novels to date, five of them are in the ‘Good thief’ series.

The Stately Home Murder by Catherine Aird
This is an Inspector Sloan and Constable Crosby novel from Catherine Aird. As the title suggests, there is a murder at a stately home that has just been opened up for public tours. A young boy discovers a dead body in a suit of armour when he lifts the visor. Sloan and Crosby set out to find out who stashed the body and why.

Catherine Aird is a pseudonym for Kinn Hamilton McIntosh. She is a British author of over 25 crime novels that could be classified as cosy or crime procedural. Aird writes with a witty, lyrical style, which makes her books great to come back to time and again.

Riotous Assembly by Tom Sharpe
This is Tom Sharpe's debut novel that is set in South Africa during aparthied in a fictionous town called Piemburg. It was published in 1971. The story focuses on the police in this town investigating a local murder. This gives Sharpe a structure by which to satirise aparthied through the microsom of a town. Sharpe is a British author known for two satirical series, Wilt and Porterhouse Blue and his standalone novels like Riotous Assemby and Blott on the Landscape.

Sharpe spent a decade in South Africa before being deported for sedition for speaking against aparthied. He lived his remaining years in the UK and Spain writing novels. He dies of complications of diabetes in 2013.

Blotto, Twinks and the Bootlegger's Moll by Simon Brett
We have written about another series by Simon Brett featuring Charles Paris, the amateur sleuth and actor, however this series is more of Brett's take on P.G. Wodehouse with brother and sister duo, the goodlooking but rather dumb Honourable Devereux Lyminster (Blotto) and his much more intelligent and equally as goodlooking sister, Twinks. Brett rests on the chummyness and speaking patterns of the English aristocracy clashing with the gangster speak of Prohabition Chicago to provide the tone and 'hilarity' in the novel. It is difficult to right a light farce without it falling flat and if you are into this type of farce it is an ok story, however the slight mocking of the tropes and stereotypes are not enough to offer anything more. We would recommend sticking with the Charles Paris series. 

A Feline Felony by Lael J. Littke
Lael Littke is an American writer who has authored more than 40 novels for children, young adults and adults. A Feline Felony is one of her short stories that was published in an Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in January 1968. As you can see by the title this is a cat mystery which derives its humour from the observations of cat behaviour and human behaviour.

Littke was born in Omaha, went to university in Utah and now lives in California.

Dr Nightingale Comes Home by Lydia Adamson
Dr Nightingale Comes Home (2003) introduces veterinarian Dierdre (Didi) Quinn Nightingale who runs a practice in New York State in this cozy crime series.  The first novel in the cozy series 2003. Didi investigates the death of her good friend Dick Obey, a dairy farmer, whose body is found horribly mutilated. Adamson is known as the queen of cat myteries with her series about cat sitter and New York actress, Alice Nestleton, and her third series about Lucy Wayles, a librarian who also lives in New York. If you like animals with your crime, this is the book for you.

Filmi Filmi Inspector Ghote by H.R.F. Keating
This is the 10th Inspector Ghote story from Keating published in 1976. Keating has written 26 in the series in total from the 1960s to the 2000s. Inspector Ghote is a detective with the Bombay Police Department during this novel and he is dragged into the world of Bollywood to solve the murder of one of the top villians in the industry. The time in which this story is written is reflected in the condescending characterisation of Ghote and whoever he meets. It is a dated novel. The comedy is described as farcical, however the reader of this book this month did not find it funny. Comedy is subjective.   

Do Butlers Burgle Banks? by P.G. Wodehouse
P.G. Wodehouse is known for his comedy novels featuring the fopish aristocrat Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves and the Blanding Castle stories. This novel is a standalone and was written in the last 10 years of his life. Set in the 1930s, Do Butlers Burgle Banks? (1968) brings Chicago gangsters to a small English village where they run a sting on the local 'lord of the manor' who also owns the local bank.  It is an English farce. Wodehouse has a wonderful turn of phrase and is a very gifted writer. He may be seen a lighthearted but this is a very difficult style to write, and even more so do to well. Which he does.