My TBR pile was on track to be below one hundred for the first time in a long time and then a kind hearted friend told me that there were twenty Brian Flynns in their local charity shop!
My personal reading highlights can be summarised as follows:
Best Short Story Collections
100 Malicious Little Mysteries -averaging 4-5 pages each these are deliciously wicked amuse-bouches. “An Easy Score” by Al Nussbaum where an old woman takes an unexpected revenge on the men who attacked and robbed her was the most memorable for me.
Lawrence Block: The Collected Mystery Stories – having enjoyed a first encounter with one of the Bernie Rhodenbarr novels, I was delighted to pick this collection of 71 stories for just £4. It opens with three tales of Bernie, before introducing the reader to the lawyer Martin Ehrengraf, who despite sometimes overwhelming evidence that his client is guilty always presumes that they are in fact innocent and will go to any extent to demonstrate this. Also included are some of the exploits of hitman Keller and private eye Matt Scudder, alongside plenty of stand-alones, including “Strangers on a Handball Court” which puts a new spin on Patricia Highsmith’s classic premise.
Stanley Ellin: The Speciality of the House – I first read this collection too young when I was still at secondary school and couldn’t properly appreciate it. There is some humour such as “The Orderly World of Mr Appleby” and “Unreasonable Doubt” but this is more than tempered by the horror of the title story and others such as “Death on Christmas Eve” and “The Question”. Intriguingly there are two stories which are unresolved and yet done so well that I didn’t feel cheated.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Paul Halter – Having read a few of his novels and two short story collections I finally got round to buying up the remainder of his oeuvre from Locked Room International. He is definitely the modern King of the Impossible Crime. I particularly enjoyed the simplicity of the method in “The Demon of Dartmoor” to explain how someone was pushed out of a window despite there being no one close to them, the subtle clue which explained “The Madman’s Room” and the dizzying back and forth of “The Seventh Hypothesis” with its echoes of the film “Sleuth”.
I have three novels of the year, which handily fit neatly into the following categories.
Best Classic Mystery Award: Death of Jezebel by Christianna Brand – this has been long out of print and yet a number of my friends had read and reviewed it and praised it as the best thing since sliced bread. I was therefore very excited when it was reissued as a British Library Crime Classic. It was almost impossible for it to live up to such stratospheric expectations and coming in to land I was feeling slightly disappointed and then there was the genius reveal which is absolutely brilliant and yet absolutely absurd at the same time.
Best Translated Mystery Award: Death of the Living Dead by Masaya Yamaguchi – an amazing Japanese hybrid mystery which looks at what might happen if some people although they had experienced events that would normally have killed them did not die and blends that with a classically clued mystery. My full review is here and Libby Stump has written a number of posts such as this which have whetted my appetite for more – if they ever get translated that is!
Best First Mystery Award: The Red Death Murders by Jim Noy – a spectacular début novel which more than lives up to its daring claims to “provide clues openly in the tradition of Agatha Christie, ingenious explanations worthy of John Dickson Carr, and a complex plot to delight fans of Seishi Yokomizo”. My full review is here.
Thanks for reading and commenting during 2022 and here’s to a fantastic 2023.