TBR Thursday 191…

A sixth batch of murder, mystery and mayhem…

I’m still crawling through this challenge because of all the other vintage crime books that have come my way recently, but I’m still enjoying it!

I haven’t finished reading and reviewing all of the books from the fifth batch of MMM books, but since the British Library have sent me a review copy of another one which they’ve just reissued, I’ll have to make some changes to the priority list. So here goes for the sixth batch…

The Middle Temple Murder by J.S. Fletcher

I downloaded this one from wikisource , another great resource for finding some of these vintage crime novels. I wonder if it’s only in Britain that the word “temple” makes us think of the legal profession rather than religion?

The Blurb says: On his way home after a long night’s work, newspaper editor Frank Spargo stumbles across a crime scene on Middle Temple Lane in the heart of London’s legal district. An elderly man lies dead in an entryway, his nose bloodied. He wears an expensive suit and a fashionable gray cap, but the police find nothing of value in his pockets, and no identifying documents of any kind.

Unable to sleep, Spargo pays a visit to the mortuary in the early hours of the morning and learns that a crumpled piece of paper has been recovered from a hole in the dead man’s waistcoat. Strangely, the name and address it bears are familiar to Spargo. Succumbing to his reporter’s instincts, he vows to get the story and help Scotland Yard uncover the identities of both victim and killer.

Challenge details

Book No: 14

Subject Heading: The Birth of the Golden Age

Publication Year: 1919

Martin Edwards says: “When President Woodrow Wilson read the story while recovering from illness and heaped praise upon it, Fletcher’s American publishers made the most of the encomium. Sales of his fiction surged, and he was for a time regarded in the US as the finest crime writer to have emerged since Arthur Conan Doyle.

* * * * *

The Red Redmaynes by Eden Phillpotts

This one I found on Project Gutenberg. I can’t find a decent blurb for it anywhere, so I’ve quoted a bit of Martin Edwards’ description of it…

The Blurb says: Mark Brendon, a highly regarded young Detective Inspector from Scotland Yard, deserts London for a trout-fishing holiday on Dartmoor. Heading from Princetown towards the deep pools of Foggintor Quarry, he has a brief encounter with a beautiful young woman; later, while fishing, he passes the time of day with a red-haired man. When murder interrupts Mark’s holiday. both strangers play a central part in the investigation.

The young woman is Jenny Pendean, and it seems that her husband has been killed by her uncle – who proves to be the red-haired man, Captain Robert Redmayne. Jenny tells Brendon the story of the troubled Redmayne family, the ‘peculiar will’ left by her wealthy grandfather, and the tensions caused by her marriage to Michael Pendean, who had avoided fighting during the war. Robert Redmayne has gone missing, and Pendean’s body cannot be found.

Challenge details

Book No: 44

Subject Heading: Resorting to Murder

Publication Year: 1922

Edwards says: “…Jorge Luis Borges ranked Phillpotts with Poe, Chesterton and [William Wilkie] Collins, and included The Red Redmaynes in his never-completed list of one hundred great works of literature.”

* * * * *

Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert

Courtesy of The British Library, who have just reissued this and another two of Michael Gilbert’s books. So I hope I like him! Certainly sounds like fun…

The Blurb says: 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.

Written with style, pace and wit, this is a masterpiece by one of the finest writers of traditional British crime novels since the Second World War.

Challenge details

Book No: 67

Subject Heading: The Justice Game

Publication Year: 1950

Edwards says: “…writing Gilbert’s obituary, [HRF] Keating acknowledged his friend’s modesty, and praised him for ‘invariably illuminating sharply aspects of British life and, on occasion, digging deep into the human psyche so as to point to an unwavering moral.’

* * * * *

The Blotting Book by E.F. Benson

This one is available as a free public domain download via Amazon, though I often find the quality of them pretty poor, so may search out a different version if necessary. The blurb seems a bit spoilery, but I’m hoping it turns out it isn’t…

The Blurb says: Morris Assheton is in love and means to be married. But his happiness is spoilt when he discovers that someone has been whispering poisonous rumours about him to the girl’s father. The culprit is Mills, dastardly partner to the Assheton family’s trusted lawyer. Morris vows revenge.

When Mills’ body is discovered, brutally beaten, the ugly quarrel comes to light and suspicion naturally falls on Morris. His innocence is debated in a tense courtroom, as an eager public and press look on.

Murder mystery… Courtroom drama. This is a classic whodunnit from the author of Mapp and Lucia. Crime fiction at its best.

Challenge details

Book No: 6

Subject Heading: A New Era Dawns

Publication Year: 1908

Edwards says: “The plot is much less elaborate than those of the Golden Age of murder between the world wars, but the agreeable writing and delineation of character supply ample compensation.

* * * * *

All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.
The quotes from Martin Edwards (and the blurb for The Red Redmaynes) are from his book,
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

* * * * *

NB Please note that my giving links to free sources does not imply that I have confirmed the copyright status of any of the books, especially since this varies from country to country. If you download from any of these sites, you do so at your own risk and discretion.

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Do any of these tempt you?

34 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 191…

  1. I love it that some of these lesser-known books and authors are being made available, FictionFan. This time, I think, I’m drawn to the Gilbert, as I know I like his work. The Fletcher gets my attention, too. But the truth is, I could see myself at least trying most of them. Hope you’ll enjoy.

    • It’s great! I love that you can access so many of the lesser known ones on the web, but I’m also pleased to see several publishers bringing more of them back in paper form. Oh, I’m glad to hear you rate Gilbert – I haven’t come across him, and the BL have sent me three (!), so it would be tragic if he was awful… 😉

  2. I’ve actually read 2 of these and quite fun they were too, altough a bit old-fashioned. Middle Temple Murder and Blotting Paper one.

    • Oh, good! Sometimes Martin Edwards picks them to show the development of the genre rather than because each book is great in it own right, so it’s good to know you enjoyed them. I particularly like the sound of The Middle Temple Murder…

    • Hahaha! If you put each book on a 100 foot pole, they could provide a shield and save us from global warming! Did you take careful note of all those links to free download sites… 😉

  3. I’m always drawn to a good mystery, but I think the Fletcher appeals the most of this group. Moving along now, before I’m so tempted I have to fight the urge to download…

    • I like the sound of that one too, and also Smallbone Deceased. Hahaha – didn’t you think I was specially kind to give you all those links to free download sites… 😉

    • Wikisource is a bit like Project Gutenberg, only not as extensive – it has the full texts of lots of out of copyright books that you can download in various formats, including Kindle. I think it’s part of Wikipedia, but I’m not 100% sure about that. The formatting is usually good quality.

        • I’ve only read a couple of wikisource downloads, but so far I think the formatting is much better than Gutenberg’s. The same with fadedpage.com – the couple I’ve read have been as good as any purchased Kindle book.

            • I like them too and they seem to add things regularly. I also like that on their home page they give a list of new additions so you can see at a glance if anything takes your fancy. All very bad for the TBR though… 😉

    • Haha! I don’t post the number when I do one of these Murder Mystery Mayhem posts… which is probably just as well this week. Gives me time to get some reading in before next week’s confession… 😉

  4. Gilbert is one of the very best mystery writers, in my opinion, because of his elegant prose and dry wit. I presume you also received “Death Has Deep Roots” and “Death in Captivity” from the BL. I liked those two even more than “Smallbone Deceased” which is widely (but not universally) considered to be his masterpiece.

    • Oh, that’s good to hear! Yes, those are the other two. Martin Edwards admits in his book that he doesn’t always pick them because he thinks they’re great but because they’re considered to have been influential in some way or because they show how the genre was developing. It makes for the occasional disappointment, so I’m glad to hear you rate these ones. I was hoping to get to Smallbone this weekend, but I seem to have fallen way behind schedule… I’ll be thrown off the blogosphere at this rate… 😉

  5. The mystery of the Fletcher drew me, so I’ve downloaded that one. I’ll be interested to read your review of the Gilbert too. I had to look up the temple legal association as that’s unfamiliar – so it’s based on the location of the legal buildings near a church?

    • Oh, I hope we both enjoy the Fletcher. I was hoping to read Smallbone this weekend, but I seem to be behind schedule again – next week! Yes, I believe so, though the whole district has been known as Temple for centuries now – even Shardlake worked in one of the temples – the Inner Temple, I think. So anytime the word Temple appears in a title, it’s more than likely to be a legal plot.

      On a separate note, I’ve been watching with horror the coverage of the dreadful shooting in your part of the world. I’m so sorry – I hope neither you nor anyone close to you was personally affected by it, though these awful things affect the whole nation.

      • No one close to us is directly affected, but you are right, the feeling is one of devastation that so much hurt has been caused to so many people in our ‘safe’ city community. It’s even worse that many of the people directly affected are immigrants or refugees who are likely to have escaped traumatic situations. Our hearts are broken and our city won’t feel the same. The only positive thing is that all the responses to this tragedy are affirming, compassionate and unifying. We have the right PM.

        • Your PM has been great. I hadn’t seen her before, but she’s so sincere and said all the right things to begin the process of healing. As someone from a country with more than its share of terrorism over the years, I can only say that the initial feeling of everything being different does pass, and in the medium term these things can often make communities come closer in response. I’ve been seeing some Christchurch Muslims on the news too, and their response has been so positive too – they’re shaken obviously, but you can see they do feel part of the wider society and see this as an aberration rather than as a sign of some wider racism. I wish we had such a unified society here. Thoughts with you all. 🙂

  6. We are so awash with Mayhem (and other personages hems) that what is to happen next is an utter mystery. I’m not sure I can cope with murder. This all sounds like a renaming of the four horses of the apocalypse -madness, clearly the fourth…..

    • I reckon a nice little murder is much cosier than the real world at the moment! Yep, I just saw that May has been overtaken as most popular politician… by Boris Johnson!!! I’m not sure even burying my hand in the sand is going to work for that…

    • No, I wish I was! I’m actually quite slow, but I read for maybe three hours a day on average, so I get through about two and half books a week roughly. These vintage crime books are delightfully short… 😀

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