Monday, November 29, 2010

{review} out of print

Bertha M. Clay Fetters of Fire (London: Robert Hale & Co.; n.d. [c.1937])

Bertha M. Clay is a pseudonym of Charlotte M. Brame (1836-1884) although it was also used by other writers and this potboiler certainly seems to be one of those hundreds (!) of books issued under the pseudonym. There's a nice bit on the various Clay suspects in the New York Times of 1914. If I had to guess, I'd say Fetters of Fire was from around 1910 but there are no absolute giveaways. I can't see it in any catalogues before 1912 and this edition seems to be from sometime in the later 1930s. It is an ex-library copy which happily retains a bit of glued on dust-jacket:


In a fit of foolhardiness the heroine Margaret Thornton marries the dastardly George Aston, despite not liking him and, indeed, despite saying this when he asks for her hand:
I don't think I even liked you, Mr. Aston. To be perfectly truthful, I was rather afraid of you, and avoided you.  A clergyman's daughter, placed as I am, has remarkable experiences. My father is too poor to pay a curate, and a great deal of the out-door work devolves upon me. I have heard of you among the workers, and you are well hated everywhere. A hard and cruel man they call you. And once I saw you beat a horse unmercifully. It was I who wrote to the Prevention of Cruelty authorities.
Of course, Aston is a thorough brute ("To my mind he's got the face of a murderer"), and jealous, and the rest of the book describes the lengths Margaret must go to escape these "fetters of fire" which bind her to the odious Aston. Divorce is nigh impossible for a wronged woman of this era. 
I'll break you -- I'll smash you -- ruin you and your family -- in a social sense. And she shall feel the full force of my hatred and vengeance.
Margaret flees to an old school-friend in London who is by far the most interesting character in the book: Edith Janson, a self-sufficient lady journalist who specialises in interviewing celebrities. She has "never yet seen the man for whom I would give up my freedom, and glorious independence." Quirkily, in another scene we read that, "Long practice had given her the agility of a man in jumping from moving vehicles". 

Luckily for Margaret, Edith interviews the celebrated engineer and inventor Patrick Ward who needs a "refined young lady to be a companion to my little daughter" and Margaret is dispatched to the safety of the countryside.  Patrick Ward also has secrets and the household includes a mysterious mad wife, a devious Indian ayah, a handful of loquacious old servants and the child Dolly. And how the coincidences pile up: Patrick has had unfortunate business dealings with the crooked Aston. Will Patrick defeat his enemy and regain his wealth? Can Margaret hide her attraction for Patrick ("She had the usual subtlety of women, and her powers of intuition revealed something deep down in her heart which filled her with sorrow and dismay")? What will happen when Aston finds his runaway bride? Whose child is Dolly really? Why do madwomen always have access to deadly weapons? Why don't people slap the thoroughly irritating heroine when she faints all the time?
I swear that there shall be no divorce, Margaret Aston... I coveted you months since -- I laid little traps to win you; I won you, and I am going to keep you. You are a desirable woman, Margaret, and I admire your splendid spirit. You are not one of those wishy-washy creatures to be broken into subjection...
A strangely addictive load of tripe.

Rating: 4/10

If you liked this... oh dear. Um... Something with a high level of hysteria and chapters  with titles like 'A Woman's Choice'. That'd be Ethel M. Dell's The Way of an Eagle (1912). Read for free on Project Gutenberg.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

{weekend words}

Suffice it to quote the answer which Anatole France gave to a philistine who admired his library and then finished with the standard question, "And you have read all these books, Monsieur France?" "Not one-tenth of them. I don't suppose you use your Sèvres china every day?"
Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), 'Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting' (1931), in Illuminations [quotation p.62 in my Fontana 1973 edition, translated by H. Zohn with an introduction by Hannah Arendt].

Illuminations: Essays and 
Reflections

Thursday, November 25, 2010

{wishlist}

Begging to join the groaning shelves this week:


Mary McCarthy (1942)
Nice new Virago edition coming soon...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

{review} nesbø's redbreast

Jo Nesbø The Redbreast (English ed. 2009).

Harry Hole is a cop with alcohol and commitment problems unable to protect those he loves. Hmmm. Does this sound familiar? He even has a dodgy old car. Does all the crime fiction of Northern Europe come from some well of angst, bad-dressing and second-hand cars somewhere on the arc between Amsterdam and Helsinki? But I thought Jo Nesbø's The Redbreast was a high quality example of the genre with a neatly interwoven text that jumped between contemporary Oslo and the Second World War Russian Front. There is plenty of historical detail to get your teeth into (the issue of the complicity of some Norwegians with Germany and its post-war aftermath). The Russian Front made an interesting change from more conventional war settings: a fair bit of research has gone on behind this book. The villain was guessable, but there were lots of satisfying red herrings and complicated dead-ends along the way. Another thing that marked this book out as 'different' was a sort of ghostly, other-worldly theme which cropped up in places and added an extra chill to the narrative. I'm going to read more about Harry Hole.

Rating: 7/10

If you liked this: I still think, if you want to read something from the cold north, you'd be going to beat the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. The Swedish series begins with Roseanna (1965). I see that the latest Nesbø jackets have him as the new Stieg Larsson though. Eek!

Roseanna : The Martin Beck Series 

Monday, November 22, 2010

{review} fine feathers

E. F. Benson Fine Feathers, selected by Jack Adrian (1994).

Fine Feathers And Other Stories 
'Dear Mrs Brick, she said. 'How perfectly delightful of you to dispense with the formality of an invitation and look in on us... You will find ever so many of your friends here.' ('Dodo and the Brick').
This is a collection of short stories by E. F. Benson, author of the Mapp and Lucia series of books. There is even a Mapp story in here ('The Male Impersonator'), which delivers the customary comeuppance to the social-climbing Miss Mapp. The collection is divided, sort of, into genres. I say 'sort of', since so many of the stories could really be classed as 'society stories', but we also get 'sardonic stories' (another classification which could apply overall), the whimsically entitled 'crank stories', some sporting stories ("playing golf with phenomenal inability... this ruiner of gutta-percha") and a few ghostly offerings. There is much to love here for Benson fans and it is hard to pick a favourite. I loved 'Professor Burnaby's Discovery' - about an Egyptologist taken for a ride by a canny hotelier with an eye for faking antiquities.

In 'Miss Maria's Romance', Benson's acute eye for the ridiculous runs riot:
Meantime, like the poet, Miss Jane had passed through the town and out of the street, in something resembling a tumult of soul. The sun of romance had shone on the red-brick house, she was invigorated by his rays; snails, a bicycle, ordering dinner, and washing up a set of Crown Derby had hitherto been provender sufficient for her psychine needs, but now her capacity for spiritual adventure had suddenly been enlarged.
Here Miss Mapp is painting:
She was intending to be very bold over this, following the method which Mr Sargent practised with such satisfactory results, namely of painting not what she knew was there but what her eye beheld, and there was no doubt whatever that the broad waters of the high tide, though actually grey and muddy, appeared to be as blue as the sky which they reflected. So, with a fierce glow of courage she filled her broad brush with the same strong solution of cobalt as she had used for the sky, and unhesitatingly applied it.
There are a number of stories based on certain types of mistaken identities causing social disaster (familiar to readers of the Mapp and Lucia stories) and other stories warning of the perils of daring to step out of your given social level and the perils of social climbing. The story in which Mrs Ames appears (the title story 'Fine Feathers') is one of these - a Mrs Altham gets her comeuppance (money can never buy class). Benson's description of Mrs Altham is one of my favourites (and a classical allusion to boot):
...Mrs Altham was of sterner stuff; there was something of the House of Atreus about her.
Benson is the master of the one-sentence summary which makes his characters shine:
He was a large man, pleasantly furnished with flesh, and filled a chair beautifully.
He had just gone through the Moral Sciences Tripos at Cambridge, in which he had taken a first. But his philosophy lay far deeper than this, for a Tripos may be only a sort of fungus-growth on a man...
There is no question that Benson is best known as the cruel bubble-burster of social climbers. At this he is arch and sardonic and quite brilliant. One story was quite different from the stereotypical Benson, namely 'My Friend the Murderer' about the relationship (?) between the narrator and the classically handsome Greco-Albanian fisherman Yanni. This story really demonstrates Benson's range and would certainly make me curious to track down some of his less 'social stories' material.

Favourite word: "chaffening".
Typo!: Alwyn for Aylwin, p.258

Rating: 8/10

If you liked this... I shall bump Benson's Mrs Ames up the TBR and start hunting down the first volume of short stories, Desirable Residences. Oh, and some more 'Dodo' stories.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

{weekend words}

...and every time he gazed at her he fainted by reason of her passing charms.
Sir Richard Burton in The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1885). He adds the note that, 
According to the Hindus there are ten stages of love-sickness : (1) Love of the eyes ; (2) Attraction of the Manas or mind ; (3) Birth of desire ; (4) Loss of sleep ; (5) Loss of flesh ; (6) Indifference to objects of sense ; (7) Loss of shame ; (8) Distraction of thought ; (9) Loss of consciousness ; and (10) Death.

Tales from the Thousand and One Nights (Penguin Classics)   

Friday, November 19, 2010

{lit link}

Allan Massie reassesses
the "historical novel"
- & esp. Sir Walter Scott's Waverley
in Standpoint (April 2010)

Waverley (Penguin English Library)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

{wishlist}

Begging to join the groaning shelves this week:

 Too Many Murders: A Carmine Delmonico Novel

Colleen McCullough (2009)

I loved On, Off (2006), 
the first in the Carmine Delmonico series.

On, Off: A Novel

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

{review} out of print

R.A.J. Walling The Corpse in the Crimson Slippers (Hodder & Stoughton, 1936)


My copy seems to have come from a circulating library in Murray Bridge, with the dust wrapper glued to the boards for eternity. This is fortunate, otherwise I might have missed that R.A.J. Walling is "The ingenious Mr R.A.J. Walling". It is, however, repeated inside, with a list of his ingenious works:


The Corpse in the Crimson Slippers is certainly not lacking in ingenuity. It has all the trimmings of the locked room, "copper-bottomed, A 1-at-Lloyds case for suicide", improbable forensics genre and also manages to cram in secret agents, false beards, dodgy financiers, counterfeit bank-notes, mysterious scientists, plucky house-keepers, fly-fishing, country-house living and Early English Architecture. From the moment the hero got on the train carrying his "Banister-Fletcher though he weighed about three pounds", I was hooked. Have you encountered Banister-Fletcher's A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method (still in print, 20th edition, since 1896)? It is the sort of encyclopaedic guide to architecture that could keep one entertained on a desert island for a decade. I was quite sad that it didn't become the murder weapon.

Source: George P Landow, here.

Words repeated too often (and directed at the emotional French: "For an instant Tolefree feared Thibaud was about to embrace him. The danger passed."): persiflage, popinjay.

Rating: period flavour 8/10, literary merit 4/10.

If you liked this... here's another out of print stinker.

Monday, November 15, 2010

{review} a woman in berlin

Anonymous A Woman in Berlin (1st English edn 1954; new translation Virago 2005)

A Woman in Berlin
Then I... came across [Aeschylus'] The Persians, which, with its lamentations of the vanquished, seems well suited to our defeat. But in reality it's not. Our German calamity has a bitter taste - of repulsion, sickness, insanity, unlike anything in history. The radio just broadcast another concentration camp report. The most horrific thing is the order and the thrift: millions of human beings as fertilizer, mattress-stuffing, soft soap, felt mats - Aeschylus never saw anything like that.
One can see why doubts were cast on the authenticity of this polished memoir of events surrounding the fall of Berlin from the 20th of April to the 22nd of June 1945. It is indeed polished – but who wouldn't tart up their diary for publication, for Heaven's sake? Moreover, the anonymous author is suspected to be a female journalist; that is, a professional writer. She also speaks some Russian, which lends her another level of access to her experience (for instance, she is able to get some work translating). But it is the content which seemed to concern the doubters most. Why would a woman offer such a blatant account of her multiple rapes at the hands of the Russian invaders and her attempts to achieve a compromise that will keep her alive ("sexual collaboration for survival", as Antony Beevor aptly phrases it)? 
He gave me a little notebook, a German-Russian dictionary for soldiers, assuring me he could get hold of some more. I've looked it over; it has a lot of very useful words like 'bacon', 'flour', 'salt'. Some other important words are missing, however, like 'fear' and 'basement'. Also the word for 'dead'... which I find myself reaching for quite often in recent conversations.
This is not a coy memoir, by any means. It is shocking and, despite its polish – or perhaps the polish serves to highlight the rawness of the events? – it is emotionally raw. The horror in the text is often evoked less by the narrator's terrible plight (she maintains an extraordinary level of coolness, even calculation) but by the appalling events overtaking those around her. 
...out of the male beasts I've seen these past few days, he's the most bearable, the best of the lot. Moreover, I can actually control him... I can actually talk with the major. Which still isn't an answer to the question of whether I should now call myself a whore, since I am essentially living off my body, trading it for something to eat... It goes against my nature, it wounds my self-esteem, destroys my pride- and physically it makes me miserable.
Starvation, suicide, sexual assault – this is a difficult read: "We washed our sheets so my bed is freshly made - a much needed change after all those booted guests."

One aspect I found particular intriguing was how the victims of these multiple and multiplied sexual assaults (Beevor offers the figures of between 95,000 to 130,000 woman in Berlin and an estimated 2 million in Germany) supported each other by talking about their trauma and comparing notes (that is a harsh-sounding phrase, I know, but that is what it is: "In answer to the standard question, 'How often did they...?'") The moment their menfolk returned from the front, all discussion became verboten and their trauma became internalised, unspeakable and shaming. The double standard is at work here – revictimising the victims for their apparent cooperation in their violation, although it saved their lives. There is presumably an element in this shaming of the shame of the men who could not protect them. Or who have, perhaps, been behaving similarly in other conquered lands?
All my feelings seem dead, except for the drive to live. They shall not destroy me.
This book makes you ask yourself what you would be prepared to do to survive. 
In the queue at the pump one woman told me how her neighbour reacted when the Russians fell on her in her basement. He simply shouted, 'Well why don't you just go with them, you're putting all of us in danger!' A minor footnote to the Decline of the West.
What moral compromises are you willing to make for, e.g., one square meal when you and your household are starving? At what point does your own survival require you to sacrifice another? This memoir provides some frank and brutal answers.

Rating: 10/10.

If you liked this… I'm slowly reading Antony Beevor's Berlin: The Downfall 1945. Beevor wrote the excellent introduction to A Woman in Berlin and includes some information on the purported author.

Berlin : The Downfall 1945 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

{weekend words}

 Though not a positive drunkard, Mr Robson habitually swallowed great quantities of wine, and took with relish an occasional glass of brandy and water. He taught his nephew to imitate him in this to the utmost of his ability, and to believe that the more wine and spirits he could take, and the better he liked them, the more he manifested his bold and manly spirit, and rose superior to his sisters. Mr Bloomfield had not much to say against it, for his favourite beverage was gin and water, of which he took a considerable portion every day, by dint of constant sipping - and to that, I chiefly attributed his dingy complexion and waspish temper.
Anne Brontë (1847) Agnes Grey

Agnes Grey (Oxford World's Classics) 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

{wishlist}

Begging to join the groaning shelves this week:

This Night's Foul Work

Oooh... a Fred Vargas that I haven't read:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

{review} daniel silva

Daniel Silva Moscow Rules (2008)
Daniel Silva The Defector (2009)

Moscow Rules (Gabriel Allon)  The Defector (Gabriel Allon)

Almost every time I read the latest in Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon series, I think to myself, 'I must go and read these all again'. Silva is a master craftsman: characterisation, settings, plot, everything. I can't rate his books highly enough in their genre (um...? Fanciful espionage with a pro-Israeli slant). He also writes really well, which helps. 

Gabriel Allon is an assassin and master spy, but a reluctant one: trained as the lead assassin in the hunt for the Munich terrorists, he now tries to live a peaceful life as an art restorer. This is a neat variation on 'tough guy with a quirk'. But, of course, his loyalty lies with the Israeli intelligence service and his peaceful existence is constantly jeopardized by his masters and their many enemies, because Allon is good at killing: "Gabriel put him down as if he were a target on a training range: three tightly grouped shots to the center of the body, one to the head for style points."

In Moscow Rules, the newly-married Allon is pulled from his honeymoon (restoring a Poussin for the Vatican in Umbria) to meet a Russian journalist who has news of a threat to Israel and the West. The journalist is assassinated at the meeting place (St Peter's Basilica in Rome!) and Allon sets out to investigate the threat. The story involves elaborate deceptions, art forgery, kidnappings in exotic locations - Moscow, St Tropez, etc. - and ends with Allon barely escaping Russia with his life, along with two dissident defectors and the wife and children of an ex-KGB Russian 'oligarch' and arms-dealer.

There were some typical moments of Silva's keen eye for detail: "The Kremlin's Trinity Tower was nearly lost in a gauzy shroud of exhaust fumes, its famous red star looking sadly like just another advertisement for an imported luxury good."

The Defector picks up the action almost immediately (indeed, almost as though it was meant to be part of the first book?): the Russian arms-dealer strikes back against the defectors, now living in London, and Allon's pregnant wife becomes a bargaining chip in the oligarch's fight to get his children back from US protection.

It must be tricky writing your eleventh and twelfth books in a long series. Those who've never picked one up before require some essential information; those who are diehard fans want to catch up on favourite characters who will need introducing to the newbies. Gabriel Allon's past assignments have all added certain facets to his history - two wives, lovers, friends and enemies in the intelligence services of many countries, his best mate the Pope, that sort of thing. Silva has a more tricky job to pull this together than, say, Lee Child with his Jack Reacher series - the loner with no family and few allies doesn't require quite the same level of back history transmission.

And this brings me to a problem. I thought that Moscow Rules was typically quality Silva material - interesting story, great locations, lots of tension, a few more well-drawn characters, reunions with old friends, and the typical scenario of an elaborate mission spiralling out of control but saved by a timely miracle. Silva could do this in his sleep but his standards here are high. Then we come to The Defector, which I read straight after Moscow Rules. Chunks of The Defector are lifted straight from the prequel. Almost word for word. The CIA's Adrian Carter is again introduced using what was an original turn of phrase in Moscow Rules: "He had... a mustache that had gone out of fashion with disco music, Crock-Pots, and the nuclear freeze." Fine, it's tricky to introduce everyone again, but this was lazy recycling. I thought The Defector was formulaic and lacking the well-drawn tension of the other books. It is a book of fast action and much brutality, but there didn't seem to be a bigger picture: Allon's mission here is personal, not national. I hope that this was just a lapse and the next one (The Rembrandt Affair) will be back to the high quality I expect from a Daniel Silva novel.

Something that made me laugh. I had to read "They were executioners and kidnappers, buggers and blackmailers..." twice! 

Rating: Moscow Rules 7/10, The Defector 5/10.

If you liked these... Daniel Silva honed his craft on the excellent The Unlikely Spy, set in England in WW2.

The Unlikely Spy  The Rembrandt Affair (Gabriel Allon)

Monday, November 8, 2010

{review} gimlet lends a hand

W. E. Johns Gimlet Lends a Hand (1949).

Image source (I read the same edition)
£10,000 is offered for the services of a man accustomed to living dangerously. Must be physically fit, prepared to go anywhere, possess a high degree of initiative and able to furnish highest references concerning moral character. Familiarity with lethal weapons and ability to speak colloquial French are essential qualifications. Apply in first instance to Box 4791.
I re-read Gimlet Lends a Hand for the umpteenth time earlier this year when I was planning a trip to the South of France. My reading program for this visit was somewhat eccentric, I suppose: W. E. Johns Biggles 'Fails to Return' (1943; set around Nice/Monaco); Ernest Hemingway Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises (1926; I didn't get as far as Biarritz); and, for my more northerly plans, Mabel Esther Allan It Happened in Arles (1964); Fred Vargas Seeking Whom He May Devour (2004). I ran out of time before I could reacquaint myself with Worrals' adventure in the Cévennes (W. E. Johns Worrals on the Warpath, 1943; I did see a bit of the Camargue tho'). Anyway, that sort of thing. As you can see, the modern world doesn't hold that many attractions for me, though I appreciate a good en-suite bathroom.

This book can barely be termed a 'Gimlet' one, since Captain Lorrington 'Gimlet' King doesn't appear until near the end. Instead this is about Nigel 'Cub' Peters, Gimlet's young protégé, and his Second World War commando comrades-in-arms, the French-Canadian 'Trapper' and the Cockney 'Copper'. Then again, it is really Cub who is the hero of the entire series although it is his Skipper Gimlet's strong moral presence and sense of daring which inspires so many of his actions.

To business: Cub takes a job to find a kidnapped child who is being held in a mountain village somewhere in the South of France. The scenery is spectacular – Roman aqueducts, dodgy cafés in Nice, ruined medieval chateaux – and the cast of characters are suitably exotic – American gangsters, gypsies with hearts of gold, and a dubious effete poet (the effete, with the exception of Gimlet himself, are always villainous). Of course, Cub will triumph, though not before Gimlet has to 'lend a hand' to save the day.

The series which followed the spectacular WW2 books (particularly Gimlet, King of the Commandos, 1943) are always well-written and have gripping and imaginative narratives. W. E. Johns, it is quite clear, was never daunted by the end of hostilities cutting off his subject matter and all his three major heroes (Biggles, Gimlet, Worrals) managed very interesting after-lives. I particular enjoyed the ingenuity of Gimlet Mops Up (1947) where a group of vengeance-fuelled Nazis do a sort of reverse Nuremberg and establish their own war crimes tribunal – everyone's guilty – and execute their 'guilty' victims in various dirty underhand ways (and in fancy dress). They try to bump Gimlet off while he's judging the local flower show. That some allied atrocities could be perceived in the same light as those of the Axis is, of course, never fully explored.

Don't over-analyse children's books – but bear in mind that they're written by adults with issues… I try to remember, quite successfully, that it was the Biggles' books which fuelled my love of reading as a child and made me the avid reader and nostalgic traveller I am today.

Rating: 7/10.

If you liked this... you'll have to go secondhand as it is well and truly out of print.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

{weekend words}

Your essay on Robert [Byron] is utterly misleading. He couldn't write and his ideas about art were as ludicrous as his politics. He was a modern version of Roger Fry, without Fry's occasional instinct for a good painting. Besides your essay was squeamish. You said nothing about his perpetual buggery.
Letter (c. 1946) from Evelyn Waugh to Christopher Sykes, on Sykes' essay on Robert Byron in Four Studies in Loyalty (1946). Quoted in The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh edited by Charlotte Mosley (Hodder & Stoughton, 1996), p.62. Byron was the author of the bestseller The Road to Oxiana.

The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh

Friday, November 5, 2010

{READ IN 2017}

  • SEPTEMBER
  • AUGUST
  • 85.
  • 84. Sweet Danger - Margery Allingham
  • 83. Police at the Funeral - Margery Allingham
  • 82. Look to the Lady - Margery Allingham
  • 81. Mystery Mile - Margery Allingham
  • 80. The Crime at Black Dudley - Margery Allingham
  • 79. The White Cottage Mystery - Margery Allingham
  • 78. Murder Underground - Mavis Doriel Hay
  • 77. No Man's Land - David Baldacci
  • 76. The Escape - David Baldacci
  • 75. The Forgotten - David Baldacci
  • 74. Zero Day - David Baldacci
  • JULY
  • 73. Pilgrim's Rest - Patricia Wentworth
  • 72. The Case is Closed - Patricia Wentworth
  • 71. The Watersplash - Patricia Wentworth
  • 70. Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth
  • 69. The Listening Eye - Patricia Wentworth
  • 68. Through the Wall - Patricia Wentworth
  • 67. Out of the Past - Patricia Wentworth
  • 66. Mistress - Amanda Quick
  • 65. The Black Widow - Daniel Silva
  • 64. The Narrow - Michael Connelly
  • 63. The Poet - Michael Connelly
  • 62. The Visitor - Lee Child
  • 61. No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Stories - Lee Child
  • JUNE
  • 60. The Queen's Accomplice - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 59. Mrs Roosevelt's Confidante - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 58. The PM's Secret Agent - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 57. His Majesty's Hope - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 56. Princess Elizabeth's Spy - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 55. Mr Churchill's Secretary - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 54. A Lesson in Secrets - Jacqueline Winspear
  • 53. Hit & Run - Lawrence Block
  • 52. Hit Parade - Lawrence Block
  • 51. Hit List - Lawrence Block
  • 50. Six Were Present - E. R. Punshon
  • 49. Triple Quest - E. R. Punshon
  • MAY
  • 48. Dark is the Clue - E. R. Punshon
  • 47. Brought to Light - E. R. Punshon
  • 46. Strange Ending - E. R. Punshon
  • 45. The Attending Truth - E. R. Punshon
  • 44. The Golden Dagger - E. R. Punshon
  • 43. The Secret Search - E. R. Punshon
  • 42. Spook Street - Mick Herron
  • 41. Real Tigers - Mick Herron
  • 40. Dead Lions - Mick Herron
  • 39. Slow Horses - Mick Herron
  • APRIL
  • 38. Everybody Always Tells - E. R. Punshon
  • 37. So Many Doors - E. R. Punshon
  • 36. The Girl with All the Gifts - M. R. Carey
  • 35. A Scream in Soho - John G. Brandon
  • 34. A Murder is Arranged - Basil Thomson
  • 33. The Milliner's Hat Mystery - Basil Thomson
  • 32. Who Killed Stella Pomeroy? - Basil Thomson
  • 31. The Dartmoor Enigma - Basil Thomson
  • 30. The Case of the Dead Diplomat - Basil Thomson
  • 29. The Case of Naomi Clynes - Basil Thomson
  • 28. Richardson Scores Again - Basil Thomson
  • 27. A Deadly Thaw - Sarah Ward
  • MARCH
  • 26. The Spy Paramount - E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • 25. The Great Impersonation - E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • 24. Ragdoll - Daniel Cole
  • 23. The Case of Sir Adam Braid - Molly Thynne
  • 22. The Ministry of Fear - Graham Greene
  • 21. The Draycott Murder Mystery - Molly Thynne
  • 20. The Murder on the Enriqueta - Molly Thynne
  • 19. The Nowhere Man - Gregg Hurwitz
  • 18. He Dies and Makes No Sign - Molly Thynne
  • FEBRUARY
  • 17. Death in the Dentist's Chair - Molly Thynne
  • 16. The Crime at the 'Noah's Ark' - Molly Thynne
  • 15. Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh
  • 14. Night School - Lee Child
  • 13. The Dancing Bear - Frances Faviell
  • 12. The Reluctant Cannibals - Ian Flitcroft
  • 11. Fear Stalks the Village - Ethel Lina White
  • 10. The Plot - Irving Wallace
  • JANUARY
  • 9. Understood Betsy - Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • 8. Give the Devil his Due - Sulari Gentill
  • 7. A Murder Unmentioned - Sulari Gentill
  • 6. Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris
  • 5. Gentlemen Formerly Dressed - Sulari Gentill
  • 4. While She Sleeps - Ethel Lina White
  • 3. A Chelsea Concerto - Frances Faviell
  • 2. Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul - H. G. Wells
  • 1. Heft - Liz Moore

{READ IN 2016}

  • (K = Kindle; rr = re-read)
  • DECEMBER
  • 92. Richardson's First Case - Basil Thomson [K]
  • 91. The Alington Inheritance - Patricia Wentworth [K; rr]
  • 90. Orphan X - Gregg Hurwitz [K]
  • 89. The House of Godwinsson [Bobby Owen 24] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 88. Music Tells All [Bobby Owen 24] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 87. Helen Passes By [Bobby Owen 23] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • NOVEMBER
  • 86. It Might Lead Anywhere [Bobby Owen 22] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 85. There's a Reason for Everything [Bobby Owen 21] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 84. Secrets Can't Be Kept [Bobby Owen 20] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • OCTOBER
  • 83. Night's Cloak [Bobby Owen 19] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 82. The Conqueror Inn [Bobby Owen 18] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 81. The Diabolic Candelabra [Bobby Owen 17] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 80. The Dark Garden [Bobby Owen 16] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • SEPTEMBER
  • 79. Picture Miss Seeton - Heron Carvic [K]
  • 78. Down Under (Benbow Smith 4) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 77. Walk with Care (Benbow Smith 3) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 76. Danger Calling (Benbow Smith 2) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 75. Fool Errant (Benbow Smith 1) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 74. The Annam Jewel - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 73. Mr Zero - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 72. Will o' the Wisp - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 71. Red Shadow - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 70. Pursuit of a Parcel (Lamb 3) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 69. Who Pays the Piper (Lamb 2) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 68. The Blind Side (Lamb 1) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 67. Outrageous Fortune - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 66. The Amazing Chance - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 65. Red Stefan - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • AUGUST
  • 64. The Coldstone - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 63. Anne Belinda - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 62. The Black Cabinet - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 61. Hue & Cry - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 60. The Skin Collector - Jeffery Deaver [K]
  • 59. The Kill Room - Jeffery Deaver [K]
  • 58. Nothing Venture - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 57. Kingdom Lost - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 56. Beggar's Choice - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 55. Hole and Corner - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 54. Touch and Go - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 53. The Red Lacquer Case - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 52. Run! - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 51. Fear by Night - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • JULY
  • 50. The Dower House Mystery - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 49. The Astonishing Adventure of Jane Smith - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 48. Weekend with Death - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 47. Blindfold - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 46. Silence in Court - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 45. Acts of the Assassins - Richard Beard [K]
  • JUNE
  • 44. Hack - Kieran Crowley [K]
  • 43. The Portable Veblen - Elizabeth McKenzie [K]
  • 42. The Spirit Murder Mystery - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • MAY
  • 41. The Ginger Cat Mystery - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • 40. The Pleasure Cruise Mystery - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • 39. The Polo Ground Murder - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • APRIL
  • 38. The Outsider - Jason Dean [K]
  • 37. The Hunter's Oath - Jason Dean [K]
  • 36. Missing or Murdered - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • 35. The Beetle - Richard Marsh [K]
  • MARCH
  • 34. A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell 1) - Deanna Raybourn [K]
  • 33. The Chimera Vector - Nathan M. Farrugia [K]
  • 32. An Infamous Army - Georgette Heyer [K]
  • 31. Mr Bazalgette's Agent - Leonard Merrick
  • 30. Don't Tell - Karen Rose [K]
  • 29. Say Goodbye - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 28. Gone - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 27. The Killing Hour - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 26. The Next Accident - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 25. The Third Victim - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • FEBRUARY
  • 24. The Perfect Husband - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 23. Find Her - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 22. Fear Nothing - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 21. Catch Me - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 20. Love You More - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 19. Live to Tell - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 18. The Neighbour - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 17. Hide - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 16. Alone - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 15. The Humans - Matt Haig [K]
  • 14. Utopian Man - Lisa Lang
  • 13. Love Insurance - Earl Derr Biggers [K]
  • JANUARY
  • 12. The Ignition Effect - Viv Ronnebeck [K]
  • 11. My Brilliant Career - Miles Franklin [K]
  • 10. Dangerous & Unseemly - K. B. Owen [K]
  • 9. In Bitter Chill - Sarah Ward [K[
  • 8. Half a Crown - Jo Walton [K]
  • 7. Ha'penny - Jo Walton [K]
  • 6. Hilda Wade: A Woman with Tenacity of Purpose - Grant Allen [K]
  • 5. The Case of William Smith - Patricia Wentworth [K; rr]
  • 4. Blue Murder - Harriet Rutland [K]
  • 3. Bleeding Hooks - Harriet Rutland [K]
  • 2. Knock, Murderer, Knock! - Harriet Rutland [K]
  • 1. Ten Star Clues [Bobby Owen 15] - E. R. Punshon [K]