The third of four crime dossiers Dennis Wheatley and J.G. Links prepared in the late 1930s, and the second I’ve read. I don’t own the other two and they’re too expensive for me to get hold of, sadly. This wasn’t quite as enjoyable as Murder off Miami, partly because there’s not a great variety in evidence to sift through: it’s mostly letters and everything else feels either contrived (it could have been in a letter) or is plain irrelevant – which is bad form for a red herring. A good red herring is a clue we’ve been steered to misinterpret. This time, there’s a whodunit and a howdunit, as we dig into the massacre of a late Victorian aristocratic family on a small island off Scotland. I got the howdunit but I only got the whodunit by suspecting more or less everyone, and didn’t get any of the clues. The Malinsay Massacre is enjoyable and diverting, but lacks the coherence and sparkle of Murder Off Miami.
Mrs Pym of Scotland Yard (1939) directed by Fred Ellis
This film is huge fun, and stars Mary Clare as a Scotland Yard officer who has to work more or less solo while the male superiors she runs rings round protest her very presence on the grounds of her sex. It stars lots of theatrical types in a range of standard roles – heiress, journalist, shady businessman – and centres around the deaths of two women who visited the same psychic medium. Mrs Pym exposes the bogus seances and uncovers the killer. The film was supposed to be the first of a series by Nigel Morland, who later reused the title for a novel, but the series never materialised, and Mrs Pym survives chiefly in book form.
Death of an Englishman (1981) by Magdalen Nabb
A short, diverting, and forgettable mystery set in Florence, where an Englishman has been shot in the back just before Christmas. The down-to-earth Florentine Police have to overcome their differences with a class-conscious Scotland Yard duo to get to the truth. The author, who is new to me, followed this up with Death of a Dutchman, also set in Florence, and a few more mysteries and seems to have gone on to write children’s literature.
The Hunting Party (2019) by Lucy Foley
I wasn’t sure what to expect of The Hunting Party, mainly because it was aggressively marketed like those vapid mysteries that are being written with more than one eye on Netflix and which don’t stand up to … anything (One of Us is Lying, The Last, etc.). So I didn’t get round to reading it until I needed to, and I was astonished. It’s brilliant – a psychologically nuanced thriller with compelling, relatable characters and a driving, twisty narrative. The more outlandish the action gets, the more believable it becomes.
Rules for Perfect Murders (2020) by Peter Swanson
The concept here is irresistible: a bookseller releases a blog post listing the most ‘perfect murders’ in crime fiction, and, years later, someone seems to be committing murders that correspond to those in the list. The execution is also marvellous. A wonderful combination of the many branches and valences of classic and contemporary crime fiction, Swanson’s novel invites you to read it in one sitting. It is the perfect read for any broad-church crime fiction fan who wants something to escape with and doesn’t take the genre too seriously.