Catching Up – The Crime Edition

The first in an ongoing series, where I attempt to catch up with books read but not reviewed.

Convent on Styx by Gladys Mitchell

The nuns of the Order of Companions of the Poor summon eminent psychiatrist and sleuth Dame Beatrice Lestrange Bradley to investigate a series of anonymous letters, but when she arrives the prime suspect has just been found drowned in the convent school pond, with, appropriately enough, her own massive Family Bible. Dame Beatrice leads a fine cast of eccentric characters as she gradually unravels the truth from the sniping gossip of the convent’s paying guests and the rumours of ghosts among the school children.

I am a huge fan of Gladys Mitchell and am slowly working through all of the novels. This is a very engaging story even though (or perhaps because of) Dame Beatrice not making an appearance until halfway through the story. That allows the life of the convent and the key characters to be well established before we get to the investigation. Thoroughly enjoyable. Trying to decide which one to read next.

Thirteen Guests by J Jefferson Farjeon

On a fine autumn weekend, Lord Aveling hosts a hunting party at his country house, Bragley Court. Among the guests are an actress, a journalist, an artist and a mystery novelist. The unlucky thirteenth is John Foss, injured at the local train station and brought to the house to recuperate – but John is nursing a secret of his own. Soon events take a sinister turn when a painting is mutilated, a dog stabbed, and a man strangled. Death strikes more than one of the houseguests, and the police are called.

I actually started reading this book back in 2018 but for some reason just wasn’t feeling it and set it aside. I picked it up again in February this year and really enjoyed seeing the mystery unfold at the second attempt. I do love a country house weekend murder.

Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert

Horniman, Birley and Craine is a highly respected legal firm with clients drawn from the highest in the land. When a deed box in the office is opened to reveal a corpse, the threat of scandal promises to wreak havoc on the firm’s reputation – especially as the murder looks like an inside job. The partners and staff of the firm keep a watchful and suspicious eye on their colleagues, as Inspector Hazlerigg sets out to solve the mystery of who Mr Smallbone was – and why he had to die.

I had come across Michael Gilbert’s name in my reading about the history of classic crime but hadn’t come across any of his work, so was really pleased to see the British Museum publishing what’s often been considered his best novel. I’m a sucker for legal thrillers and this is a wonderful example. Didn’t work out who the killer was but liked the solution very much. I’m definitely going to read more of Gilbert’s work.

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

You shouldn’t be here. It’s too late…’

These, heard over the phone, were the last recorded words of successful celebrity-divorce lawyer Richard Pryce, found bludgeoned to death in his bachelor pad with a bottle of wine – a 1982 Chateau Lafite worth £3,000, to be precise. Odd, considering he didn’t drink. Why this bottle? And why those words? And why was a three-digit number painted on the wall by the killer? And, most importantly, which of the man’s many, many enemies did the deed?

This is the second Daniel Hawthorne novel in which the author features as one of the main characters, acting as a sidekick to the former policeman turned private investigator. This series is really good fun, especially the references to Horowitz’s other work, especially Foyle’s War which my husband absolutely loves. Hopefully, there will be more books in this series.

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