|Conan Edogawa dons a seasonal deerstalker|
here we are again. A year has gone by since my last annual round-up
and the blog has undergone one notable change during that time: I
dispensed with the confusing blog-titles and opening quotes, which
used to be only tangibly related to the book or short story being
reviewed – a decision that has saved me a lot of time. I no longer
have to feverishly rummage through my bookshelves or trawl the web
for fitting opening quotes.
the same time, I was toying with the idea to rename the blog "Path
of Logic," but decided against it and keep everything as it is for
the foreseeable future.
best-of list this year consists of the following categories: the best
and worst mystery novels read in 2018, a split section for the best
short stories (singles and collections) and my favorite locked rooms
of the year. Yes, just like in every other year, the locked room and
impossible crime story dominate the list. Christopher
Bush has four novels listed and could have been more, but decided
to cut out a couple of them. And he has one novel mentioned in the
worst-of column. The non-English mysteries (French, Norwegian and
Japanese) are well represented here.
only real surprise this year? A severe and shocking lack of John
Dickson Carr! He's represented here by a single short story. I'll
have to penance and rectify this gross oversight in 2019. Enough
padding for one filler-post. Let's take down this list from the top.
BEST MYSTERY NOVELS READ IN 2018:
early work of the Japanese shin honkaku movement, but
distinguishes itself by being a comedic locked room mystery in the
spirit of Leo Bruce's Case for Three Detectives (1936). Here
we have two baffling arrow murders inside a mansion shaped like the
number 8 interspersed with comedy bits at the expense of one of the
policeman. A funny, clever and, above all, an enjoyable read.
highly amusing, solidly plotted juvenile mystery novel, in which
Jupe, Pete and Bob have to crack a six-part coded riddle in order to
find the treasure of the titular dead man, Marcus "Dingo" Towne.
They're frustrated in their efforts by their long-time nemesis, "Skinny" Norris, but find an unexpected alley in Dingo's
eight-year-old grandson, Billy, who wants to be detective – who
even dons the cape and deerstalker. I should also return to The
Three Investigators more often in 2019.
entry on the list constitutes the biggest and most pleasant surprise
of 2018! A juvenile detective novel concerning a rash of apparently
impossible burglaries in an otherwise quiet, charming village, but
what makes the story standout is the crystalline plot and fair play –
complete with clues, red herrings and red herrings that become clues
once you know they're red herrings. A gem from the juvenile corner of
novel that introduced the wonderful Reverend Ebenezer Buckle and the
second best title from this lamentably short-lived series, in which
Maurice Mostyn is murdered during a house party with an uncomfortable
cast of house guests. A splendidly clued detective novel, complete
with a chapter entitled "A Study in Clues," but what really
impressed was the daring choice of murderer. Something that could
easily have ruined the whole story. So it says something about Brady
that he made it work.
delightfully Carrian mystery novel and one of Bush's rare, full-blown
impossible crime stories. An elderly, penny-pinching man is shot to
death in the middle of his living room, while surrounded by his
relatives, but nobody saw the person who fired the shot. A
delightfully complex and knotty detective story.
textbook example of Bush's minutely-timed, clockwork plots with one
of his trademark alibi-tricks, but framed in what is one of his
darkest stories and deals with the murder of a sadistic child abuser,
Quentin Trowte – who (mentally) abused his 10-year-old
granddaughter. I can only think of a handful of murder victims, in
detective fiction, who deserved to be knifed more than Trowte.
first in a trilogy of wartime mysteries and actually wanted to pick
Case of the Kidnapped Colonel (1942), but settled on The
Case of the Murdered Major because it had stronger, better worked
out wartime setting – namely a POW camp. Captain Ludovic Travers is
appointed as the Adjutant Quartermaster of No. 54 Prisoner of War
camp, but, once again, has to play detective when the unpopular major
is murdered. As always, there's an excellent alibi-trick hidden in
Travers is summoned to the home of a celebrated mystery writer,
Austin Chaice, who want to use his book, Kensington Gore, as a
reference source for a writing manual he's working on, but Travers
has to play amateur criminologist once more when Chaice is murdered.
A pure, puzzle-driven detective story with the delightful destruction
of several risky, closely-timed alibis.
wheelchair-bound ex-homicide detective, Justine Carmichael, gets
involved with his former colleagues when the owner of a private,
second-rate art gallery is brutally murdered and a painting
disappears from the vault. The book-title is a shining example of
truth in advertising.
first of a series of three novels and precursor to the acclaimed Ken
Holt book by "Bruce Campbell," a shared penname of Sam and Beryl
Epstein, who used here the name "Martin Colt" for a short-lived
series about two brothers, Roger and Bill Baxter. They live in a
tiny, out-of-the-way seaside town and, one summer, they're swept up
in an exciting adventure when a suspicious-looking stranger rents
their cottage. A charming and intelligent written example of the
juvenile corner of the genre with very believable child-characters.
first recorded case of one of Fearn's flagship detective-characters,
Dr. Hiram Carruthers, who investigates the destruction of a
fishmonger's shop and several fires that were started in empty,
locked places. A first-class mystery novel by my favorite
excellent treatment of the courtroom drama with a plot somewhat
reminiscent of Anthony Berkeley's Jumping
Jenny (1933) and Joan Fleming's Polly
Put the Kettle On (1952): Viola Ross is standing trial for
the murder of her husband, Teddy Ross, but one holdout among the
jurors is determined to prove her innocence. A cunningly cut gem from
the Golden Age that had me fooled.
truly magical, fairy tale-like mystery novel that tells the story of
a young woman who can become invisible, turn stones into gold and can
predict the future and there's a lonely, clifftop house – where the
wind kills people. One of my favorite Paul Halter novels to date!
plot of this one is hard to describe and condense in a short,
capsule-like review, but this is a good example of the semi-inverted
mystery with a twist with the added bonus of presenting an amusing
picture of an advertising agency. A good and fun read!
rural example of the Van Dine School of Detective Fiction: Steven
Steele, the Philo Vance of the Great Plains, helps the police with
finding answers to the baffling questions surrounding the murder of
prominent Wichita oil operator. A well written and characterized
detective novel with a tight plot and a beautiful backdrop. And the
story memorably depicted a deadly oil well explosion.
highly original historical mystery novel, set in 1879, praised by
John Dickson Carr for its authentic depiction of the Victorian era
and its people, which takes place during a six day Go-As-You-Please
contest – en endurance test for the Proven Pedestrian also known as
Wobbles. A great example of how good the historical detective story
can be in the right hands.
to be expected from Rhode, this is a pure, plot-oriented detective
novel with an impossible murder at the heart of the plot. Jimmy
Waghorn and Dr. Priestley have to figure out who bludgeoned Robert
Fransham to death in a locked cloakroom with a second murder
demonstrating Rhode's technical ingenuity when it came to snuffing
comedic mystery in which Jake Justus and Helene Brand try to tie the
knot, but they're too busy dragging bodies around the place and
running from the police. Luckily, the infamous criminal lawyer, John
J. Malone, is close at hand to smooth everything out. Nobody did the
madcap chase mystery better than Rice.
(The Iron Chariot, 1909) by Stein Riverton
can only describe this story as a sultry premonition of the coming
Golden Age, but has only recently been translated from Norwegian and
is well worth a read.
entry used to be one of the more rare, hard-to-get and expensive
detective novels on the secondhand book market, but Coachwhip
republished the entire Inspector Norton Kane series in 2017. A series
comprising of five mystery novels and this one is undoubtedly the
best. A grand-old mansion is divided between two brothers who are not
on the best of terms, but, when they begin to reconcile, the house
becomes to the scene of two baffling murders – one of these murders
is committed under impossible circumstances in a closed, moving
elevator. A long-lost gem recommended to everyone who loves
old-fashioned, puzzle-focused detective fiction. Read it!
splendid detective novel that takes place in a modern villa,
constructed on top of a 16th century Portuguese fortress, on Apostle
Island. A holidaying mystery writer, Quentin Seal, solves two very
peculiar murders there. And the second murder would definitely have
raised some eyebrows when the book was first published.
Venables is dispatched, as an emissary, to the fictitious Balkan
kingdom of Iconia to help the ruling dynesty, the Herzvogins, lay a
family curse to rest, but his presence is unable to prevent the death
of Queen Hanna – who's murdered in closely guarded Royal
bedchamber. An excellent, solidly plotted detective story with a
realistic take on the Ruritanian romance.
suspenseful, turn-of-the-century style damsel-in-distress yarn
updated to the plotting standards of the genre's Golden Age and even
has an inexplicable poisoning during a séance.
volume comprising of two novellas, "Not Quite Dead Enough" and "Booby Trap," which are, in my opinion, two of the best stories
this series has to offer. Stout rarely wrote, or plotted, them better
than these two absolute gems!
this one is, plot-wise, one of the weaker titles on this list, but,
in spite of its imperfections, this was a good and fascinating
detective novel about the impossible poisoning of a champion boxer
during a world-title match.
Gordon Knollis of Scotland travels down to the village of Trentingham
to help the local Chief Constable with the brutal murders of two
pets, a bird and a cat, who belonged to the wife of a rich,
unscrupulous and despised furniture magnate, Fred Manchester –
who's murdered shortly after Knollis arrived. What ensues is a
marvelous example of the Golden Age mystery and the plot has an
intriguing plot-thread about a possibly murdered hangman.
absolutely honey of a detective story that begins when a body is
discovered in a disused well in the garden of an abandoned cottage.
The plot buzzes with bee-themed clues, red herrings and lore.
landmark novel of the Japanese detective genre and has one of the
country's most iconic detective-characters, Kosuke Kindaichi, solving
a series of utterly bizarre murders at the lakeside villa of an
influential silk family. A classic detective story if there ever was
BEST SHORT STORIES READ IN 2018:
Stories from Collections:
- "Het meisje dat bleef rondhangen" ("The Girl Who Stuck Around")
- "De dame die niet om hulp had gevraagd") ("The Lady Who Had Not
Asked for Help")
- "The Problem of the Leather Man"
- "The Problem of the Phantom Parlor"
- "The Problem of the Crowded Cemetery"
- "The Problem of the Miraculous Jar"
- "The Problem of the Enchanted Terrace"
- "The African Fish Mystery"
- "The Japanese Card Mystery"
- "The Zanzibar Shirt Mystery"
- "The Philippine Key Mystery"
- "The Case of the
- "The Case of the
Shocking Science Quarterly"
- "The Unguarded Path"
- "Coffee Break"
- "He Took Richmond"
- "I Was the Kid With the Drum"
- "Le mystère des ballons rouge" ("Mystery of the Red Balloons")
by Thomas Narcejac
- "The Book Case" by Dale C. Andrews and Kurt Sercu
- "The English Village Mystery" by Arthur Porges
- "Elroy Quinn's Last Case" by Dennis M. Dubin
- "The Man Who Read Ellery Queen" by William Brittain
- "E.Q. Griffin Earns His Name" by Josh Pachter
- "The Ransom of EQMM #1" by Arthur Vidro
WORST OR MOST DISAPPOINTING READS OF 2018:
had to cut a lot of Bush's mystery novels from my best-of section,
because otherwise he would have utterly dominated this years list.
So, in order to balance everything out, I'll add the only Bush that
has so far disappointed me. A poor and utterly disappointing
treatment of the Golden Age serial-killer story with a treat-bare
plot. A complete dud.
a detective story, this one began promising and had potential, but
Mavity wanted to have her cake and eat it, but left a messy and
disappointing story behind. And one that doesn't play particularly
rare, hard-to-get title that has often been praised by those who
managed to get their hands on a copy, but nothing about it impressed
me. Not the story-telling, plot or characters. Discovering this was a
middle-of-the-road title in the series was a letdown to say the
favorite locked room mysteries of 2018:
love for the impossible crime tale is well documented on this blog
with more than 400 blog-posts tagged with the "Locked
Room Mysteries" label. Predictably, I have read quite a few
locked room stories this year, but my two favorites came from the
Conan anime series. The
Cursed Mask Laughs Coldy has a standard locked room premise,
but the ingenious solution is startlingly original and has to be seen
to be believed. The Case of the Séance Double Locked Room has
a pair of cleverly contrived, ingeniously linked impossible murders.
I consider these two episodes to be classics of the locked room
wish everyone who has continued to read my blog a Merry Christmas and
a Happy New Year! I'll see you all in 2019. :)