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,
Crime expert at Heffers for 40+ years, Chair of Judges, CWA Gold Dagger and crime fiction lover.