finding murder in manchester
A recent stay at the parental home on the outskirts of Manchester afforded me the opportunity for some well-spent time in the centre of Manchester. Over four decades ago I worked at Jardine’s Bookshop in Peter’s Square - sadly closed in the mid 1980s and the block where it was housed was demolished years later to make way for a smarter high-rise building.
Trawling secondhand bookshops has long been a favourite occupation, although, sadly, the excellent Paramount Books on Shude Hill was closed. However, pleased to say that I spotted the book market nearby and spent some glorious time exploring the treasures there.
‘A bookshop is a first rate place for unobtrusive observation,’ he continued. ‘One can remain in it an indefinite time, dipping into one book after another, all over the place.’
Crime reporter and amateur detective Francis MacNab again assists Scotland Yard in this treat of a bibliomystery, set against the backdrop of London’s Charing Cross Road and the House of Commons - an MP’s detective story, Death on the Desk, has some relevance to the case! The latest release from the British Library is another great treat for GA readers - John Ferguson’s Death of Mr Dodsley, (1937), published on February 10th. He was the author of ten mysteries, including Murder on the Marsh (1930) and The Grouse Moor Mystery (1934).
I’ve certainly got ‘Death on the Desk’ - including ones I’m looking forward to reading including, Jacqueline Winspear’s The White Lady, a standalone mystery set in 1947, introducing heroine Elinor White, from the author of the wonderful Maisie Dobbs series, published in March. Another from Allison & Busby, published this month, is Christina Koning’s Murder in Dublin, the seventh in the series.
The first two in the series, The Blind Detective (aka Line of Sight), Murder in Regent’s Park (aka Game of Chance), are also being re-released. The latter two I’ve read, along with the others that will be available later in the year - wonderful covers!
Just re-released from Joffe books, are five V C Clinton-Baddeley Dr Davie books, including Death’s Bright Dart, My Foe Outstretche’d Beneath the Tree & Only a Matter of Time.
And from the attic - an apt title from the biblio-mysteries stack when seeking a ‘lost’ mystery - ha!
That's it for this week - back with more finds soon!
(Do get in touch - firstname.lastname@example.org)
V. C. Clinton-Baddeley: Death’s Bright Dart (9781804056790)
My Foe Outstretch’d Beneath the Tree (9781804056806)
Only a Matter of Time (9781804056790)
John Ferguson: Death of Mr Dodsley (9780712354721)
The Grouse Moor Murder (9781616464073)
Murder on the Marsh (9781915475183)
Christina Koning: The Blind Detective (1) (9780749029531)
Murder in Dublin (7) (9780749029838)
Murder in Regent’s Park (2) (9780749029685)
Jacqueline Winspear: The White Lady (9780749029135)
A Not-so-long goodbye to 2022
Hello and welcome to 2023! Hopefully a big first year for Cambridge Crime proper!
Having finished the second read-through a few weeks ago for our most recent GA reissue - John Ferguson’s Murder on the Marsh, I must say what a cracker it is - a slow-burner of a detective story, an ingenious brooding treat with, I believe, an incredible sense of place.
That sense of place is huge in also another book I’ve just finished - The Brutal Tide, Kate Rhodes’s latest DI Ben Kitto title. This is the best yet in a wonderfully atmospheric Scilly Isles series, where there’s much to occupy our intrepid detective - the imminent birth of his first child, contention in the community, a body on a building site and a deranged killer headed for the islands. Terrific! Earlier this summer I’d re-read the previous five in this series - the same with Nicola Upson’s Josephine Tey books, though confess I’ve not read Dear Little Corpses yet but it’s on the stack! Other re-reads have included the brilliant though underrated Rennie Airth’s Madden series, beginning with River of Darkness (1999): In the aftermath of WWI several horrific killings at a country house leave inhabitants of a small Surrey village bereft, local bobbies' believing a burglary has gone awry. As further unsavoury evidence comes to light, Scotland Yard despatches war-damaged policeman, Inspector John Madden, to investigate. A meticulously plotted masterpiece of psychological suspense.
Bought these beauties today in the secondhand bookshop - unfortunately no copies of Farewell, My Lovely or The Big Sleep (1939) - though a few editions of the latter already reside on my bookshelves as one of the top 5 of my 100 favourite detective stories: Oodles of complications occupy a world-weary and cynical PI Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, the first of eight hard-boiled novels featuring him. Sharp dialogue pervades this noir classic – pure gold from first scene to last word.
Only a partial catch up with Barry Maitland’s DCI Brock & DS Kolla, as after zipping through my Hamish Hamilton proof of The Marx Sisters, there was more than a slight desperation to locate copies on the loft shelves and floor of the others (and what a hunt that was!), apart from the later lot in the series, published by Allen & Unwin, (which I haven’t bought yet!). I see there’s The Russian Wife (14th in the series) due March 2023.
And the Rutledge series from Charles Todd - A Test of Wills (1996) is a cracking start to the series: In a meticulously plotted mystery set post WWI, Ian Rutledge, a shell-shocked Scotland Yard detective, is despatched by his unsupportive superiors to Warwickshire, after the shooting of a colonel, whose headless body is found where he'd been riding. All too soon suspicion falls on the fiancé of the colonel's ward who'd argued with him the previous night. Rutledge finds the unravelling of this case tougher than he'd imagined, as the goading internal voice of soldier Hamish that he'd had shot for cowardice, doesn't let up.
These are firm favourites - with many more to be savoured, twenty four in the series so far with another thirteen in the Bess Crawford series, which I’ve yet to start reading!
My top detective stories for the year:
DV Bishop: City of Vengeance
Jacqueline Bublitz: Before You Knew my Name
Ray Celestin: Sunset Swing
S A Cosby: Razorblade Tears
John Hart: The Unwilling
Abir Mukherjee: Shadows of Men
Chris Offutt: The Killing Hills
Kate Rhodes: The Brutal Tide
William Shaw: The Trawlerman
Laura Shepherd-Robinson: Daughters of Night
I wish you many happy hours of reading in 2023 - there are just too many books to look forward to - for now though, I just need to concentrate on those titles submitted for the Gold Dagger as the competition has now closed for this year! Although just re-reading the Puffin edition of Susan Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone, the first in The Dark is Rising series. Wonderful!
Cheerio for now,
The beginnings of routine
“I pursued the elusive book through several rooms and did not find it in any of them, but each time I did find at least a dozen, perhaps two dozen, perhaps two hundred, that I had never read.”
Two hundred books unread… safe to say that’s my experience (bound to have dipped into some of them…) and more, oodles more - decades of collecting providing an unwieldy though comprehensive but never complete collection - some GA becoming possibles for reissue (or not) - hence titles recently available through OREON & Galileo.
Delighted to find an encouraging extract from Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, referencing Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose - one of my 100 favourite books), philosopher, writer and book collector:
“The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an anti-library.”
Enough said - picking one up, soon absorbed - glorious!
Of course, when responding to a certain frequent question - ‘we’ve got that - want to borrow it?’ my wife might well say ‘and pass it not back when you’ve finished it!’ And the ensuing hunt sometimes fails miserably (we’ve few rooms) - and sometimes there may be good reason why it can’t be found…
Oh - some recent additions to my booky-book stacks - Revenge of the Librarians: Cartoons by Tom Gauld (9781838858216) and Remainders of the Day: More Diaries from the Bookshop, Wigtown (9781800812420) by Shaun Bythell - both glorious laugh-out-loud treats!
As for what’s next to be read - just a few out of these - have polished off the Cavanagh and the Disher - both living up to expectations!
That’s all for now
Susan Hill Howard's End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home
Nicholas Taleb The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose
Tom Gould Revenge of the Librarians: Cartoons
Shaun Bythell Remainders of the Day: More Diaries from the Bookshop, Wigtown
John Dickson Carr The Black Spectacles
Welcome to the blog! It's been nearly three months since my ‘retirement’ from Heffers - and among the generous leaving gifts, a first edition of Baroness Orczy’s The Old Man in the Corner - an unnamed armchair detective sits in the corner of teahouse ‘solving those crimes baffling to the police’. I, too, like sitting in corners and have been doing so, reminiscing on this past year.
Similarites abound (apart from the obvious - an inability to find solutions to real crimes), there’s been a regular frequenting of nearby cafes (and hopefully nothing will change in that direction), publishers generously paying for drinks and occasional meals (enormously grateful!). I’ve always liked chatting about books, especially crime (fiction) - and in turn remain ‘fed’ by everyone’s choices too - probably why I’ve stacks of books…
Reflecting on my ‘paid hobby’ of bookselling at Heffers - and of a special memory, earlier this year, of taking in the whole length of the shop from an easy chair in the front corner window, adjacent to shelves housing books about Cambridge, and marvelling at this beautiful space (nooks and crannies - surely book-drop heaven). Indeed, once upon a time bookshelves would’ve obscured this view. It was a special evening, listening to Kate Rhodes and Sarah Vaughan in conversation, discussing Sarah’s latest book, Reputation.
Just the other day in Heffers, I removed several small posters (with permission!) attached to the side of the bookcase by my old desk on the right-hand corner of the gallery. Apart from one for the British Library mystery classic, Bernard J.Farmer’s Death of a Bookseller, published earlier this year, there was also a poster featuring favourably kind comments from reviewer Barry Forshaw on a past event - Bodies in the Bookshop, held annually each July for twenty two years, with many crime writers participating, signing books and chatting to readers. My thanks go to those colleagues who willingly helped and for Mike Ripley’s support and his regular organisation of an after event supper at a nearby restaurant - fun evenings.
In more recent years, pre-Covid, several multi-author crime evenings took place each year: in the summer - What’s Your Poison?, Murder Will Out in April and Murder under the Mistletoe - at Christmas; each event hugely enjoyable though with fewer authors attending, each of them speaking for a couple of minutes, providing a flavour of their books and then signing.
And talking of Mistletoe - there’s a Christmas Golden Age Crime list up on the site now, with an additional selection of crime fiction by contemporary authors & non-crime offerings for your perusal - by no means the full list yet! Check it out here.
And quickly back to Death of a Bookseller, I had the privilege of meeting Bernard’s daughter earlier this year. Little did I realise she was a great friend of a former colleague who encouraged my setting up and curating of a crime fiction section at Heffers in the late 1980s - small world and a lovely unexpected connection!
One from the Attic: Up in my loft study - slightly more chaotic than I’d wish at the moment, the entries for the Gold Dagger are stacked up around the desk. I stumbled across a yet-to-be-read copy of Hallam James’s Fair-Isle Jumper Mystery: The Exciting Story of a Holiday Party in Wales. Looks fun! Secondhand copies can be found for quite reasonable prices!
I've also come across another favourite I must mention here - although aimed at children (of all ages) Lane Smith’s picture book is a joyous quick read. It’s a Book is definitely a must-have for any bibliophile!
And finally, a glance at the next on my TBR pile - a stand-alone from Garry Disher The Way it is Now (Viper). I’ve really enjoyed the previous ones in the ‘Hirsch’ trilogy (a fourth, ‘Days End’ due 08/23) - set in the Australian outback - all wonderfully well-crafted police procedurals (Bitter Wash Road, Peace, Consolation). I loved them.
That's it for now - 'til next time!
Test BLOG POST
“This is Inspector Brews,” she said. “Something tragic has happened. Mr. Hay Smith has been found dead.”
“What was it? Heart attack?” he asked.
“Murder, sir,” said Brews carefully. “His head has been half blown off by an explosive bullet, or dum-dum.”
Now Mr. Sape did start, and looked horrified. “How ghastly!”
Crime expert at Heffers for 40+ years, Chair of Judges, CWA Gold Dagger and crime fiction lover.