Every year for the past 10 (!) years, Bev at My Reader’s Block has hosted a vintage mystery challenge. I love a good Golden Age mystery, so I’m always happy to participate. But this year, Bev has brought back my personal favorite iteration of the challenge — Vintage Mystery Scattergories! Challenge participants are asked to read at least eight books to fulfill eight different categories, from books set in academia to books with a number in the title to locked room/impossible crime stories. I’m choosing to do the Golden Age version of the challenge, which means all books must have been published before 1960. For more info on challenge rules, plus a complete list of all the categories, click here!
Is it too late to wish everyone a Happy New Year? I’ve been pretty behind on reviews, so I feel a bit like I’m still in 2020. However, I’ve finally posted all my reviews for the 2020 Vintage Mystery Extravaganza challenge at My Reader’s Block, so it’s time for my wrap-up post! Challenge participants were asked to read at least five books that engaged with the so-called Rules of Murder propounded by Ronald Knox and S.S. Van Dine. I participated in the Golden Age level of the challenge (all books published before 1960) and read the following 10 books:
- Nicholas Blake, A Question of Proof — breaks Rule #14, “There must be but one detective.” In this book, the investigating is split pretty evenly between the official detective, Nigel Strangeways, and his friend Michael Evans, who is trying to prove his own innocence.
- Craig Rice, Home Sweet Homicide — breaks Rule #11, “There must be no love interest.” Though the main sleuths are children, there is a prominent romantic subplot between their mother and the policeman in charge of the case.
- Patricia Wentworth, Grey Mask — breaks Rule #16, “Secret societies, camorras, mafias, et al., have no place in a detective story.” “A professional criminal must never be shouldered with the guilt of a crime in a detective story.” In this book, the villain is the leader of a criminal secret society (not a spoiler; the mystery is the identity of the criminal mastermind).
- Georgette Heyer, Detection Unlimited — complies with Rule #12, “The detective novel must have a detective in it.” The detective is a police inspector.
- Anthony Berkeley, Not to Be Taken — engages with Rule #4, “No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used.” Bev clarified that any book that uses poisons would count here, and this novel centers around a murder by poisoning.
- Ngaio Marsh, The Nursing Home Murder — breaks Rule #6, “No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.” “The culprit must be determined by logical deductions–not by accident or coincidence or unmotivated confession.” As I recall, the detective stumbles upon the true culprit by accident, and there’s no particular reason to focus on that person rather than the other suspects.
- Anthony Berkeley, The Piccadilly Murder — breaks Rule #10, “Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.” I can’t really say more without spoilers, but the solution to the mystery hangs upon two people looking very similar.
- Elizabeth Daly, Deadly Nightshade — engages with Rule #18, “A crime in a detective story must never turn out to be an accident or a suicide.” The death of a police officer in connection with the mystery appears to be an accident, but that may or may not be the case!
- Patrick Quentin, A Puzzle for Fools — breaks Rule #20, which lists a number of overused plot devices, including “the word association test for guilt.” The protagonist of this novel literally uses that exact device to narrow down his list of suspects. Fortunately, the ploy is unsuccessful.
- Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors — breaks Rule #17, “A detective novel should contain no long descriptive passages, no literary dallying with side-issues, no subtly worked-out character analyses, no ‘atmospheric’ preoccupations.” No disrespect to Sayers, but the passages on bell-ringing in this novel are certainly a side issue, and a fairly tedious one unless you happen to be a campanologist!
As always, I very much enjoyed my reading for this challenge, and I look forward to signing up for the 2021 vintage mystery challenge in the coming days!
Well, the entire month of January has gotten away from me, so I’m just now signing up for the annual Vintage Mystery Challenge hosted by Bev @ My Reader’s Block! As usual, the goal is to read Golden Age (or Silver Age, or both) mysteries within the bounds of a specific theme. And this year’s theme is delightful — it’s based on the so-called Rules of Murder concocted by Ronald Knox and S.S. Van Dine! Participants are asked to read at least five books that involve the Rules in some way. Check out the challenge post to learn more and to sign up for the challenge!
A new year means an all-new vintage mystery challenge! But before I can move on to 2020, I need to post my wrap-up for the 2019 “Just the Facts” vintage mystery challenge! Participants were asked to read at least six books, one from each category on the detective notebook.
As you can see, I managed to read 12 books, two from each category! Here’s what I read for the challenge, with links to my reviews of each book:
1. Stuart Palmer, The Penguin Pool Murder (what: animal in the title)
2. Alan Melville, Death of Anton (where: theater/circus/place of performance)
3. Ngaio Marsh, Enter a Murderer (who: professional is main sleuth)
4. Raymond Postgate, Verdict of Twelve (how: death by poison)
5. Georgette Heyer, Duplicate Death (why: author not from my country)
6. John Bude, The Cornish Coast Murder (when: during a weather event)
7. Edward Grierson, The Second Man (who: lawyer/barrister/judge)
8. Leo Bruce, Dead Man’s Shoes (why: author’s last name starts with same initial as mine)
9. Francis Duncan, Murder Has a Motive (where: set in a small village)
10. Alice Tilton, The Cut Direct (what: comic/humorous novel)
11. Edmund Crispin, The Moving Toyshop (how: two deaths by different means)
12. J. Jefferson Farjeon, Mystery in White (when: during a recognized holiday)
Of these, I really enjoyed The Penguin Pool Murder, Enter a Murderer, The Second Man, and The Cut Direct. Least favorites were Dead Man’s Shoes, The Moving Toyshop, and Mystery in White. Looking forward to reading more vintage mysteries in the coming year!
The more things change, the more they stay the same: time for another Vintage Mystery Challenge at My Readers Block! As in last year’s challenge, the goal is to read at least 6 vintage mysteries that answer the questions “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how,” according to the various categories on the Detective Notebook.
As you can see, I’ve chosen the “gold” challenge, which means the mysteries must have been originally published before 1960. My goal will be to reach the “constable” level and read 6 books — one from each category — although I may read a few more! For more information on the challenge and to sign up, click here.
I’m a few days late with this post, but the end of 2018 means the end of the 2018 Vintage Mystery Challenge at My Readers Block. The goal of the challenge was to read at least 6 vintage mysteries (published before 1960) that answer the questions “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How” Here’s what I read:
1. Ngaio Marsh, A Man Lay Dead — What (reference to a man in the title)
2. Lois Austen-Leigh, The Incredible Crime — Why (author I’ve never tried)
3. Elizabeth Daly, Unexpected Night — How (at least two deaths by different means)
4. Miles Burton, Death in the Tunnel — Where (mode of transportation)
5. Dorothy L. Sayers, Have His Carcase — Who (crime-solving duo)
6. Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep — Why (out of my comfort zone)
7. Francis Duncan, Murder for Christmas — When (set during a recognized holiday)
I enjoyed almost everything I read for this challenge, but the standouts were Death in the Tunnel (best plot), Have His Carcase (best character development), and Unexpected Night (best overall). My least favorite book of the challenge was The Incredible Crime. If you also participated in this challenge, what were your favorite (or least favorite) books?
Even though it will be summer for at least another month here, I’m SO ready for fall — that hint of chill in the air, the smell of the leaves, the jackets and scarves and cozy evenings curled up in blankets. And to get into the autumnal spirit, I’m signing up for RIP 13!
The “rule” is to read at least one book, between September 1 and October 31, that fits into at least one of the following genres: mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror, and supernatural. But the true goal is to have fun reading and share that fun with others!
With that in mind, here are some books I might read in the next two months that would qualify:
- Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (dark fantasy)
- Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (mystery)
- The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (mystery)
If you’re also doing this challenge, what are you planning to read? What are some of your favorite books from these genres? Or if dark and spooky reads aren’t your jam, what books get you in the mood for fall?
New year, new vintage mystery challenge at My Reader’s Block! This year there’s a new format: the books we read must answer the questions “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how,” based on the detective notebooks provided. As you can see, I’ll be using the Golden Age notebook, which is for mysteries published before 1960.
I’m signing up for the minimum commitment of six books, one for each question. But if I read more, maybe I’ll level up! If you’re participating in this challenge, what book(s) are you most looking forward to? I’m most excited to read Lois Austen-Leigh’s The Incredible Crime — the author is a descendant of Jane Austen!
I’m sneaking in one more post before the end of the year to wrap up my Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunt challenge, hosted by Bev at My Reader’s Block. The goal was to read at least six vintage mysteries published before 1960 (for the gold level, which is the one I participated in) and to find one of the following objects on each book’s cover:
Here are the books I read and the objects I found:
1. C.H.B. Kitchin, Death of My Aunt (1929) – curtains
2. Dorothy L. Sayers, The Five Red Herrings (1931) – painting
3. Baroness Orczy, Lady Molly of Scotland Yard (1910) – hat
4. Caryl Brahms and S.J. Simon, A Bullet in the Ballet (1937) – performer
5. Georgette Heyer, Penhallow (1942) – bottle/glass for drinking
6. J. Jefferson Farjeon, The Z Murders (1932) – train
7. Leo Bruce, Case for Three Detectives (1936) – dead body
My favorite read for this challenge was Case for Three Detectives, a spot-on parody of three of the most famous detectives of Golden Age fiction! My least favorite was Penhallow, which is relentlessly depressing and also not a good mystery. But overall, I liked what I read for this challenge and look forward to participating in the 2018 vintage mystery challenge as well!
Happy New Year, everyone! I’m so excited to get started on the 2017 Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt, but before I do that, I should probably post my 2016 wrap-up! Here’s what I read for the 2016 challenge, along with the items I “found” for the scavenger hunt:
1. Georgette Heyer, No Wind of Blame – cigarette
2. Alan Melville, Quick Curtain – performer
3. Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison – bottle of poison
4. Christopher St. John Sprigg, Death of an Airman – plane
5. Alice Tilton, Beginning with a Bash – blunt instrument
6. Georgette Heyer, Envious Casca – brunette
If you also participated in this challenge, don’t forget to add your wrap-up post here!