TBR Thursday 274…

A tenth batch of murder, mystery and mayhem…

This is a challenge to read all 102 (102? Yes, 102) books listed in Martin Edwards’ guide to vintage crime, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. (100? Yes, 100.) Because of all the other great vintage crime being republished at the moment, I’m going very slowly with this challenge, and they’ve proved to be a bit of a mixed bag so far. Here’s the first batch for 2021 and the tenth overall…

At the Villa Rose by AEW Mason

I’ve never come across AEW Mason before, but the blurb sounds quite appealing. An inspiration for Poirot, eh? We’ll see…

The Blurb says: Aix-les-Bains is a gorgeous place to spend a vacation, and Harry Wethermill is happy to be on its lake, enjoying his time away from it all. Just when it seems life could not get any better, he meets Celia Harland, the stunning companion to the wealthy Madame Dauvray, and falls for the girl immediately. Harry’s courtship soon takes a dark turn, however, when Madame Dauvray turns up gruesomely murdered, a fortune’s worth of jewels missing from her room, and Celia nowhere to be found.

Fortunately for Harry, he has connections to the brilliant Inspector Hanaud, a detective from the Paris Sûreté. Soon the stout sleuth is on the case, vowing to follow the truth no matter where it leads. Is Celia as innocent as Harry believes? Or does her beautiful face mask the black heart of a killer? Nothing will escape the grasp of Inspector Hanaud, one of the mystery genre’s most distinctive heroes and an inspiration for Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.

Challenge details

Book No: 8

Subject Heading: A New Era Dawns

Publication Year: 1910

Martin Edwards says: “Hanaud is a memorable creation, and his friendship with Ricardo one of the most attractive early variations on the theme of detective and admiring stooge.”

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The Cask by Freeman Wills Crofts

I’ve read a few of Crofts’ Inspector French books recently but this will be my introduction to Inspector Burnley. Their methods sound very similar…

The Blurb says: A strange container is found on the London docks, and its contents point to murder. The cask from Paris is bigger than the rest, its sides reinforced to hold the extraordinary weight within. As the longshoremen are bringing it onto the London docks, the cask slips, cracks, and spills some of its treasure: a wealth of gold sovereigns. As the workmen cram the spilled gold into their pockets, an official digs through the opened box, which is supposed to contain a statue. Beneath the gold he finds a woman’s hand—as cold as marble, but made of flesh.

He reports the body to his superiors, but when he returns, the cask has vanished. The case is given to Inspector Burnley, a methodical detective of Scotland Yard, who will confront a baffling array of clues and red herrings, alibis and outright lies as he attempts to identify the woman in the cask—and catch the man who killed her.

Challenge details

Book No: 16

Subject Heading: The Birth of the Golden Age

Publication Year: 1920

Edwards says: “The meticulous account of the detective work, coupled with the ingenuity of the construction (and deconstruction) of the alibi were to become Freeman Wills Crofts’ hallmarks, and they set his debut novel apart from the competition. Over the next twenty years, the book sold more than 100,000 copies.

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The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

Hmm… I’ve tried and failed with another of Tey’s books so, despite the intriguing blurb and its reputation as a classic, I’m a bit dubious about this one. But that means if it surprises me it can only be in a good way…

The Blurb says: Marion Sharpe and her mother seem an unlikely duo to be found on the wrong side of the law. Quiet and ordinary, they have led a peaceful and unremarkable life at their country home, The Franchise. Unremarkable that is, until the police turn up with a demure young woman on their doorstep. Not only does Betty Kane accuse them of kidnap and abuse, she can back up her claim with a detailed description of the attic room in which she was kept, right down to the crack in its round window.

But there’s something about Betty Kane’s story that doesn’t quite add up. Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard is stumped. And it takes Robert Blair, local solicitor turned amateur detective, to solve the mystery that lies at the heart of The Franchise Affair

Challenge details

Book No: 87

Subject Heading: Fiction from Fact

Publication Year: 1948

Edwards says: “The plot’s origins lay in the strange case of Elizabeth Canning, a maidservant of eighteen who disappeared for almost a month in 1853, and claimed that she had been held against her will in a hay loft. 

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Darkness at Pemberley by TH White

As a child, I read and loved White’s series about King Arthur, The Once and Future King, but I had no idea he’d written a mystery novel – just the one apparently… and it sounds pretty dreadful. I really do wonder sometimes what criteria Martin Edwards used to make his selections. He describes this one as ‘preposterous’…

The Blurb says: An unpleasant don called Beedon is found shot in his locked room in St Bernard’s College, Cambridge. The corpse of an undergraduate is also discovered, and the case appears to involve murder followed by suicide. The crime is suitably ingenious, but Inspector Buller solves the case rapidly, and confronts the culprit. He is rewarded with a prompt confession – in private. The bad news is that although the villain has killed three times in quick succession, Buller is quite unable to prove his guilt.

Disheartened, Buller resigns from the police force, and travels to Derbyshire to meet two old friends. At Pemberley, he tells the lovely Elizabeth Darcy (descended from ‘the famous Elizabeth’) and her brother Charles the story of his disastrous last case. Charles has personal experience of bitter injustice, and attempts to take the law into his own hands. Buller and the Darcys find themselves menaced by a deranged yet infinitely cunning murderer…

Challenge details

Book No: 88

Subject Heading: Singletons

Publication Year: 1932

Edwards says: “…the story takes several wildly improbable turns as the characters become increasingly embroiled in what Elizabeth describes as ‘this Four-Just-Men business’. Preposterous as the story becomes, it fulfils Gollancz’s promise of originality.”

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

49 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 274…

    • I do like the blurb of The Franchise Affair, and the fact that it’s based on a real story. It was unfortunate that I didn’t get on with my first Tey, but hopefully this one will win me over!

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          • It’s irritating, I know l, but I’ve always been the glass half full type.
            Yay! That is wonderful news!
            I don’t know yet when we can get our vaccinations but I am so looking forward to not looking at other people suspiciously once we have.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Haha, I don’t find it irritating at all – I love your positive outlook! I’m usually an optimist too – though a grumpy one, sometimes… 😉

              Ugh! Must admit I felt like I’d been run over by a truck next day but fully recovered now and feeling great! I wonder how long it will be before we all feel comfortable to be in crowds and so on… a while, I’m guessing!

              Liked by 1 person

            • I would join a ‘Grumpy Optimist’s Club!
              I saw on the news that people were feeling ill the day after the vaccine. Glad your side-effects only lasted a day.
              Well, it’s a funny thing, but I’ve been out and about for work this week after a year of not visiting any of my sites. I went to a regional Victorian city today and went into my site wearing my mask but I was the only one! They aren’t mandatory except for on public transport or in shopping centres or the like in Victoria at present as we presently have no community transmission. It was a lovely surprise to see that people in the country were living life just as they were a year ago. It was also a little disconcerting and surreal, but soooo good 🙂

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            • At first it seemed surreal the other way round – that we’d all be wearing masks and looking suspiciously at anyone who coughs! But sadly that now seems normal. The main thing I’ve noticed is the lack of casual chit-chat in supermarkets and on buses and so on. I don’t think I’d noticed how much we all usually strike up conversations with total strangers, until we stopped. It’ll be nice to get back to that – shopping’s not the same without a despairing conversation on how fussy cats are about what food they’ll eat!

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            • I miss the conversations in supermarkets, too although mine are usually held in the confectionery aisle 🙂
              When I went to the hairdresser (first time in a year) I actually got teary! The hairdresser said that has been a common reaction.

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            • I still haven’t been to the hairdresser – I don’t think they’re open yet! I’ve decided that the long straggly look is very 2021 though, so I’m in the height of fashion… 😉

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  1. Well, that Pride and Prejudice mystery sounds terrible. I tried to read Death Comes to Pemberley a few years ago (it was by PD James so I assumed it would be great) and it was awful. I will be intrigued to hear what you think of it!

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    • Haha, doesn’t it? I really hate books that mess with the classics, especially my beloved P&P. I’ve often looked at Death Comes to Pemberley because I used to enjoy PD James, but then I shudder and turn away – thanks for the confirmation… 😉

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  2. By something of a coincidence, I downloaded the Martin Edwards book last night, as I am in the mood for some Literary Criticism which isn’t too taxing. I don’t have your commitment to go through every book on the list, but the development of Crime Fiction should be fun to learn about. As for this week’s selection, the Tay one actually sounds quite appealing, though I would give Darkness at Pemberley a miss, why do people think slotting a couple of references to famous novels will make their own fiction work?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Despite my frequent disagreements with him over the books he’s chosen, I loved The Story of Classic Crime itself – so informative, and it puts the genre into a kind of timeline so you can see how it developed. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it! The blurb of the Tey is the most appealing to me this week too, though my previous experience of her has made me a bit wary. Darkness at Pemberley however sounds to me like a very good argument in favour of book-burning… 😀

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  3. I’m glad to see The Cask here, FictionFan. I think it’s a well-done story, with lots of patient following up of leads, etc. And I like the look it gives at the time. I wonder what you’ll think of Inspector Burnley as you read…

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    • I’m looking forward to The Cask! So far the few Crofts books I’ve read have all been good, although occasionally a little too painstaking for my taste. They’ve all been Inspector French though, so I’m looking forward to meeting Inspector Burnley… 😀

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  4. Wow! Some great stories here! I had to laugh though at Martin Edwards’s description of the T. H. White book.😄 😁 I’m still chuckling over that and imagining what your review will be like.

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    • Haha, I’m sharpening my poison pencil in preparation for Darkness at Pemberley – why on earth has he included a book that even he thinks is preposterous??? 😂

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    • That’s good to hear. I do like the blurb but having not enjoyed a previous book of hers has left me a little wary. Hopefully this one will win me over! 😀

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  5. I read Daughter of Time years ago (and enjoyed it), but had no idea it was part of a series. Based on MarinaSofia’s comment, I might have to add The Franchise Affair to the wishlist. I’m curious about the T.H. White, too. I was in college before I ever read The Once and Future King and I absolutely fell in love with it. It’s one of those I’ve been greatly tempted to read again, but feared it might disappoint the second time around. I’m not sure I have very high hopes for this mystery of his (other than to get an entertaining review out of it from you if you hate it!)

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    • It was actually Daughter of Time I tried and didn’t get along with for some reason that, I must admit, I can’t remember now. But the blurb of The Franchise Affair appeals to me so fingers crossed it’ll work better! Yes, I’ve often thought of reading The Once and Future King again but also been afraid it would spoil my memories. I still have a teddy bear called King Pellinore in its honour though! The mystery sounds dreadful though – my poison pencil is sharpened and ready to go… 😉

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  6. I don’t think, I’d want to read it, but I am quite intrigued by the blurb for Darkness at Pemberley. “Preposterous, but filled with originality” might under other circumstances be just my thing!

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    • Haha, the thing that worries me is that I’ve thought several of the books Martin Edwards has picked were pretty preposterous when he thought they were great. so I’m deeply worried about how preposterous this one must be if he’s actually calling it that! 😉

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  7. Everyone seems to think that The Franchise Affair is Tey’s best but I wasn’t that enthralled. The Cask isn’t the best either.

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    • I must admit I’m genuinely baffled by a lot of Martin Edwards’ picks – there have been some great ones for sure, but also a lot that I’ve thought were pretty mediocre or worse. The books the BL has been publishing have generally been of a much higher standard overall. So my expectations for these ones are moderate at best…

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    • Maybe the TH White will surprise me but “preposterous” isn’t a word that bodes well for a mystery novel! Not to mention messing with P&P – grrr!! 😉 But the other three all have the potential to be good reads, I think – we’ll see! 😀

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  8. Whenever I see the word ‘cask’ in a mystery/suspense/gothic type novel, all I can think of is Edgar Allen Poe. I’m guessing it was a term that was used much more often ‘back in the day’ than it is now?

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