TBR Thursday 334…

A thirteenth 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 second batch for 2022 and the thirteenth overall…

Calamity Town by Ellery Queen

This one just failed to win a recent People’s Choice poll, but here it is getting its day in the sun anyway. I read a few Ellery Queens back in the previous millennium, and liked rather than loved them. It’s been a long time though, so I’m keen to see how they strike me now… 

The Blurb says: Looking for trouble, Ellery Queen descends on a small town.

At the tail end of the long summer of 1940, there is nowhere in the country more charming than Wrightsville. The Depression has abated, and for the first time in years the city is booming. There is hope in Wrightsville, but Ellery Queen has come looking for death.

The mystery author is hoping for fodder for a novel, and he senses the corruption that lurks beneath the apple pie façade. He rents a house owned by the town’s first family, whose three daughters star in most of the local gossip. One is fragile, left at the altar three years ago and never recovered. Another is engaged to the city’s rising political star, an upright man who’s already boring her. And then there’s Lola, the divorced, bohemian black sheep. Together, they make a volatile combination. Once he sees the ugliness in Wrightsville, Queen sits back — waiting for the crime to come to him.

Challenge details

Book No: 93

Subject Heading: Across the Atlantic

Publication Year: 1942

Martin Edwards says: “Wrightsville life, and the passions swirling within its troubled first family, are splendidly evoked, and the literary quality and style of the novel meant that it represented a landmark in the long series of mysteries written by and starring Ellery Queen.”

* * * * *

Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman

A new author to me, but not a new story – apparently this is the book that became the classic Ealing comedy film, Kind Hearts and Coronets…

The Blurb says: Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal is a 1907 darkly comic novel written by Roy Horniman, telling the tale of the eponymous anti-hero’s campaign to cut back his family tree and inherit the aristocratic status of his hated relatives.

Told from his condemned cell, the story charts – in surprisingly lurid detail – how Rank goes from the status of poor relation, to advancing in life by killing off the six relatives standing in the way of him succeeding to his family seat.

Set against a backdrop of Edwardian snobbery, upper-class ritual, and casual antisemitism, Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal is darker than the film it went on to inspire.

It is also a fast-paced, engaging, and beautifully-rendered thriller – both disturbing and funny in equal measure.

Challenge details

Book No: 5

Subject Heading: A New Era Dawns

Publication Year: 1907

Edwards says: “Horniman devoted much of his life to vigorous campaigns for unpopular causes, and overall, it seems fair to regard his book as a condemnation of anti-Semitism, rather than some form of endorsement of it, while there is something quite modern about the book’s flourishes of irony.

* * * * *

The Floating Admiral by The Detection Club

This collaborative effort sounds like it could easily be a hot mess, but it has pretty high ratings on Goodreads and I’m hoping for a lot of fun seeing how each author approaches it…

The Blurb says: Inspector Rudge does not encounter many cases of murder in the sleepy seaside town of Whynmouth. But when an old sailor lands a rowing boat containing a fresh corpse with a stab wound to the chest, the Inspector’s investigation immediately comes up against several obstacles. The vicar, whose boat the body was found in, is clearly withholding information, and the victim’s niece has disappeared. There is clearly more to this case than meets the eye – even the identity of the victim is called into doubt. Inspector Rudge begins to wonder just how many people have contributed to this extraordinary crime and whether he will ever unravel it…

In 1931, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and ten other crime writers from the newly-formed ‘Detection Club’ collaborated in publishing a unique crime novel. In a literary game of consequences, each author would write one chapter, leaving G.K. Chesterton to write a typically paradoxical prologue and Anthony Berkeley to tie up all the loose ends. In addition, each of the authors provided their own solution in a sealed envelope, all of which appeared at the end of the book, with Agatha Christie’s ingenious conclusion acknowledged at the time to be ‘enough to make the book worth buying on its own’.

The authors of this novel are: G. K. Chesterton, Canon Victor Whitechurch, G. D. H. Cole and Margaret Cole, Henry Wade, Agatha Christie, John Rhode, Milward Kennedy, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ronald Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Edgar Jepson, Clemence Dane and Anthony Berkeley.

Challenge details

Book No: 27

Subject Heading: Play Up! Play Up! and Play the Game!

Publication Year: 1931

Edwards says: “In her introduction, Sayers explained the authors approach: “Here, the problem was made to approach as closely as possible to a problem of real detection. Except in the case of Mr Chesterton’s picturesque Prologue, which was written last, each contributor tackled the mystery presented to him in the preceding chapters without having slightest idea what solution or solutions the previous authors had in mind. 

* * * * *

The Medbury Fort Murder by George Limnelius

Another author I don’t know at all! Sounds a bit grim…

The Blurb says: The Medbury Fort Murder, first published in 1929 for the Crime Club, is a ‘golden-age’ murder mystery involving the killing of an unpopular British Army officer stationed at an out-of-the way post in England. Loathsome Lt. Lepean is found with his throat cut and his head nearly severed from his body in a locked room at the isolated Medbury Fort situated on the Thames. Lepean was not at all admired among his fellow soldiers. The arrogant, sneering soldier was a known user of women and is revealed early on to be a ruthless blackmailer. There are at least four men who had very good reason to kill Lepean, two of them were being blackmailed. Was it one of them who slew the soldier or someone else?

Challenge details

Book No: 30

Subject Heading: Miraculous Murders

Publication Year: 1929

Edwards says: “The cast of suspects is small, but Limnelius handles his narrative with aplomb, engaging the reader’s sympathy with both the hunters and the hunted. His no-nonsense treatment of sex and violence is hardly in keeping with the lazily conventional view of Golden Age fiction as ‘cosy’, and the attention he pays to characterisation is equally striking.”

* * * * *

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?

32 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 334…

  1. Oh, I am eager to see what you think of The Floating Admiral, FictionFan. This isn’t a book that gets a lot of attention, and on that score, I think it’s all the more interesting, if that makes sense. I see you also have Calamity Town here. I found it an interesting look at small town life during that time, and I’ll be interested in what you think of that aspect of it, as well as the psychological and other themes. And, of course, the mystery!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m hoping The Floating Admiral is as much fun as it looks, and I’m looking forward to revisiting Ellery Queen. I have a feeling Israel Rank might be rather unpalatable as a book, but it’ll be interesting to see what the film was based on. The Limnelius – hmm, maybe it will surprise me! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I also am rooting for Floating Admiral. Like you said, it could be great or a hot mess.
    I hope the Ellery Queen book is good. I think that was my vote in the People’s Choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was pleased to see The Floating Admiral had good ratings – I tend to trust my fellow readers more than critics!

      I knew Calamity Town would be coming up soon anyway as part of this challenge, so wasn’t too disappointed when it got squeaked out in the poll!


  3. I think The Floating Admiral sounds very interesting, so I look forward to your review. It really could go either way, but I’m betting it’ll be fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was pleased to see The Floating Admiral has good ratings on Goodreads – I tend to trust my fellow readers more than critics! I hope it’s fun – it looks as if it should be! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • I was glad to see The Floating Admiral has good ratings on Goodreads – I tend to trust my fellow readers more than critics! 😉 Hopefully we’ll both find it lives up to its reputation. 😀


    • From the way Edwards talks about it I have a feeling Israel Rank might be full of outdated attitudes that were stripped from the film, but it’ll be interesting to see how they compare! And The Floating Admiral should be entertaining… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, yes, it’s been many decades since I last read Ellery Queen too! Wonder if they’ve stood the test of time. The Floating Admiral should be entertaining just for the fun of spotting the various authors’ styles – I hope!


  4. I think this may be the first and only time I’ve ever seen you describe something as a ‘hot mess’, but it made me LOL! Calamity town interests me, because for some reason I love the idea of mystery writers solving mysteries. Actually I know why I love that – because of my obsession with Murder She Wrote 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m hoping that even if The Floating Admiral is messy, the sheer entertainment value of checking out the different styles of all the authors will carry me through! I read a few Ellery Queen books many decades ago but haven’t revisited them since. My memory of them is that I liked but didn’t love them, so it’ll be interesting to see how I get on with them now that I’ve read more vintage crime.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The Floating Admiral I found very interesting for the experiment, though a bit too chaotic to really get into it. (I think that, with a couple of exceptions, you can *really* see why some of the contributing authors stood the test of time and others didn’t). But I enjoyed my read of it for the insight it gave me into the genre, and I hope you do too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sort of prepared, I think, for it to be messy, but am hoping the sheer entertainment value of having all those authors will make it a fun read – especially since I’ve sampled most of them by now and have *opinions* on them… 😉


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