TBR Thursday (on a Friday) 325…

A twelfth 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, though with more winners than losers. Here’s the first batch for 2022 and the twelfth overall…

The Grell Mystery by Frank Froest

Frank Froest apparently turned his hand to mystery writing after a long and successful career in the Metropolitan Police, writing two novels and some short stories… 

The Blurb says: The latest in a new series of classic detective stories from the vaults of HarperCollins involves the murder of a notorious criminal in the home of a famous millionaire. But there are no clues, no evidence. The police are convinced that someone may have just committed the perfect crime.

The Grell Mystery was first published in 1913 and selected as one of the launch titles for the Detective Club in 1929. It was written by former Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Frank Froest, who had turned in retirement to writing successful and authentic crime novels.

“If you like a thriller with plenty of exciting incident and a clever plot you will like this first-rate detective novel by Frank Froest. Chief Inspector Foyle was confronted with the most bewildering case of his career when Goldenburg, the crook, was found foully murdered in the flat of Robert Grell, millionaire. Here was what appeared to be a perfect crime without a clue that led anywhere. But Foyle was more than a match for the arch-criminal and his masterly deduction and determination brought him a splendid triumph.”

Challenge details

Book No: 60

Subject Heading: The Long Arm of the Law

Publication Year: 1913

Martin Edwards says: “…when Heldon Foyle, Chief of the C.I.D., reflects that sometime a police officer needs to ‘put a blind eye to the telescope’ and act in a ‘technically illegal’ way so as to do justice, there can be little doubt that this reflects Froest’s own attitude.”

* * * * *

The Mystery of the Skeleton Key by Bernard Capes

Another new-to-me author and apparently this was his only venture into mystery writing…

The Blurb says: A body is discovered after a shooting party in the grounds of a country house in Hampshire. The police are called in, and a clever young detective, Sergeant Ridgway, begins to unravel a much more complicated and brutal case of murder than was first suspected. But has he met his match with Le Sage, a chess-playing Baron, who is convinced that the answers lie not in Hampshire but in Paris?

After 20 years of writing in various genres, The Skeleton Key was Bernard Capes’ crowning achievement, as he died shortly after completing the book.

Challenge details

Book No: 15

Subject Heading: The Birth of the Golden Age

Publication Year: 1919

Edwards says: “Introducing The Skeleton Key, G.K. Chesterton highlighted the quality of Capes’ writing: ‘From the first his prose had a strong element of poetry.’ Julian Symons, in his seminal study of the genre, Bloody Murder, described the book as ‘a neglected tour de force‘.”

* * * * *

The House by the River by AP Herbert

And another author I’ve never met before. Apparently Fritz Lang made a movie of this one, so that has to be some kind of recommendation…

The Blurb says: After the inquest, The Chase had plenty to talk about. Mrs. Ambrose and Mrs. Church were kept very busy. For few of The Chase had been actually present in the flesh—not because they were not interested and curious and indeed aching to be present, but because it seemed hardly decent. Since the great Nuisance Case about the noise of the Quick Boat Company’s motor-boats there had been no event of communal importance to The Chase; life had been a lamentable blank. And it was an ill-chance that the first genuine excitement, not counting the close of the Great War, should be a function which it seemed hardly decent to attend: an inquest on the dead body of a housemaid from The Chase discovered almost naked in a sack by a police-boat at Barnes.

Challenge details

Book No: 73

Subject Heading: The Psychology of Crime

Publication Year: 1920

Edwards says: “Herbert’s brisk, yet at times lyrical, narrative benefits from a series of ironic vignettes . . . The reader knows the truth about the crime, but remains uncertain as to whether justice will be done or denied – and, if it is done, by what means. 

* * * * *

Background for Murder by Shelley Smith

And another author I don’t know! Martin Edwards sure digs up some obscure ones!

The Blurb says: Dr. Maurice Royd, the head of a psychiatric hospital, is found slumped over his desk with his skull caved in. But a lack of hard evidence leaves the local police stumped. The difficulty is that there are too many people who could have murdered Dr. Royd, too many people who wished him dead. Any one of that ‘bunch of crazies’ might have yielded to the impulse to do it.

Private Investigator Jacob Chaos is given the case by Scotland Yard. Now time is of the essence for Chaos as he tries to get the job done discreetly, hushing up any possibility of a scandal. But it seems there is quite a lot of funny business concerning the late Dr. Royd and digging any deeper seems to start stirring up trouble.

Before he knows it, Chaos inadvertently kick-starts a killing spree. Racing against the clock with an ever growing list of suspects, Jacob Chaos must work to unravel the twisted skeins hiding the truth and catch the audacious murderer…

Background for Murder is a classic whodunit and stark exposé of human horror in the tangled worlds of sanity and insanity.

Challenge details

Book No: 100

Subject Heading: The Way Ahead

Publication Year: 1942

Edwards says: “The story is . . . narrated by a private investigator, Jacob Chaos, in a wisecracking style influenced by the more ‘realistic’ American school of writers such as Raymond Chandler – and mental illness, abortion and sexual promiscuity are discussed more freely than in typical Golden Age mysteries. The result is a book reflecting a genre in transition…”

* * * * *

All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.
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?

41 thoughts on “TBR Thursday (on a Friday) 325…

    • I think The House by the River is the one that appeals most to me, though I love those Collins covers! We’ll see – Martin Edwards and I don’t always see eye to eye on the subject of what makes a good mystery novel… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • I love those covers too, but am not particularly enthused by any of the blurbs. We’ll see – but Martin Edwards and I don’t always see eye to eye on what makes for an entertaining mystery novel! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is an interesting group, FictionFan! I ought to explore more of the beginnings of the Golden Age than I have, so The Grell Mystery got my attention. Like you, I’m not familiar with several of these names, and I always marvel at Martin Edwards’ way of finding these ‘lost’ stories and sharing them. I really like it that the good ones then get a chance for a whole new audience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I finished The Grell Mystery last night and it is quite interesting from a historical perspective but not quite as successful as a mystery, I feel. I definitely struggle to enjoy the pre-WW1 choices more than the Golden Age ones, but it is good to see how the genre began and developed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to laugh since those covers are so typical of pulp fiction covers from back in the day. 😅
    There’s something to like about all of these books. I hope they indeed turn out to be good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I know, and I found it interesting that even back then the “lady in red” was a feature of crime fiction covers! We’ll see – Martin Edwards and I don’t always see eye to eye over what makes an entertaining mystery novel… 😉


  3. Background for Murder sounds like the best of this batch, FF. Something pretty creepy about murder and insanity, the medical field and Scotland Yard. I’ll be interested in reading your review!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have enough challenges (and reading lined up to meet them) in my life at the moment, so I’m not really tempted by any of these. Does Mike Ashley have a similar list for Classic Sci-fi? If so, I think you need to take that on as well! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Mystery of the Skeleton Key intrigues me because of the description of his pose as poetic, something unusual for this genre, don’t you think? Also, it doesn’t hurt that it’s described as a “neglected tour de force.” Sounds like it should be a winner.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, definitely unusual and it’ll be interesting to see if it works – I usually find poetic prose doesn’t work too well in this genre. But tour de force does sound good – we’ll see! One man’s tour de force sometimes turns out to be another woman’s poison… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A P Herbert is the only name that seemed familiar to me – and then I realised I was mixing it up with Frank P Herbert, the author of Dune. But, I ‘looked inside’ The House on the River on Amazon and think I could be tempted to read that one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, thanks, Margaret! The name was niggling away at me too and I now realise I was also mixing it up with Frank P Herbert! The House by the River is the one that appeals most to me too from the blurb, so fingers crossed! 😀


    • Sadly not. I hoped they would be, some of them at least, when I started the challenge but so far there’s been very little crossover. In truth I think the ones the BL are bringing out are more enjoyable than the ones on this challenge overall. And lots of them aren’t available at all except as exorbitantly-priced second-hand copies – and my enthusiasm doesn’t stretch that far! 😉


    • Yeah, I think he’d had a long career writing in other genres before he decided to write a mystery novel, so I don’t think he died young, happily. I love that these covers show that the ‘lady in red’ was a symbol for crime fiction even back then!

      Liked by 1 person

Please leave a comment - I'd love to know who's visiting and what you think...of the post, of the book, of the blog, of life, of chocolate...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.