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Saturday, 6 January 2018

Mini reviews #12

Death in a White Tie (1938) by Ngaio Marsh. Blackmail, debutantes, and dying social niceties abound in this golden-age mystery with more than a touch of the self-parodic. Although one of the least substantial Roderick Alleyn novels, I think it’s one of the best. Marsh is at her best when she’s writing like a wasp sampling sugar.

Knots and Crosses (1987) by Ian Rankin. The first Rebus novel, which was, apparently, never meant to spawn a series. The idea of a divorced alcoholic detective, unable to recreate his former glories while all the time the world around him needs fixing is old and hackneyed now, but it was probably fresh when Rankin wrote this. And, the way he writes, it still feels fresh.

Agatha Christie: The Grand Tour (2012), edited by Mathew Prichard. I’m conflicted about this beautiful book. It is, undeniably, a lovely thing to behold. The format is simple: a collection of Agatha Christie’s letters, written to her mother during her 1922 world tour with her first husband. As a Christie enthusiast, I love the insights into my favourite writer’s early professional life. As a human being, I feel a bit dodgy dipping into her personal – and definitely not professional – correspondence.

Death Comes to Pemberley (2013) by P.D. James. An almost unspeakably dull mystery sequel to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and, it turns out, James’s final book. I have very little good to say about this, except that the author’s love and affection for her source shines through on most pages.

Detecting Wimsey: Papers on Dorothy L. Sayers (2017) by Nancy-Lou Patterson. A collection of old (mostly 1970s/1980s) essays on Sayers and her detective, previously published in specialist journals and edited by Patterson’s students. While there is nothing ‘new’ in the scholarship, it provides a fascinating glimpse of how crime fiction studies used to be – and, by proxy, how far the field has come.

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