FictionFan Awards 2022 – Vintage Crime

A round of applause please…

…for this year’s nominees and winners of the annual FictionFan Awards of 2022.

For the benefit of new readers, and as a reminder for anyone who was around in previous years, here’s a quick résumé of the rules…


All nominees must be books I’ve read and reviewed between November 2021 and October 2022 regardless of publication date, but excluding re-reads. The books must have received a 5-star rating.


The categories tend to change slightly each year to better reflect what I’ve been reading during the year.

This year, there will be Honourable Mentions and a Winner in each of the following categories:


Vintage Crime

Modern Crime Fiction/Thriller

Modern Literary Fiction


Book of the Year 2022


For the winners!

I guarantee to read the author’s next book even if I have to buy it myself!

(NB If an author is unlikely to publish another book due to being dead, I will read a book from his/her back catalogue…)

For the runners-up!




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So, without further ado, here are this year’s runners-up and winner in


To keep it simple, I’m calling anything published up to 1971 Vintage, and anything after that date Modern. That way it ties in with the date I use to differentiate classic from modern in literary fiction. My enjoyment of vintage crime continues unabated, though I haven’t read quite so much new-to-me stuff this year, largely because I’ve been re-reading lots of Agatha Christie. Re-reads don’t count for the Awards though so Ms Christie will have to content herself with her unassailable position as Queen of Crime. Some of the shortlisted authors have given her stiff competition this year, though, and some have become firm favourites and regulars on the shortlist…


Post After Post-Mortem by ECR Lorac

The Surrays are a golden family, all highly intelligent and successful in their chosen fields and all happy in each other’s company. But recently the middle sister, Ruth, has been causing a little concern to her older brother, Richard, whose trained eye as a psychiatrist has noted that she seems to be struggling with stress. During a house party, Ruth is found dead in her bedroom at her parents’ home, complete with sleeping pills, farewell note and a new will, leaving little doubt that she has taken her own life. But following the inquest which returns the expected verdict Richard returns to his own home, where he finds a letter from Ruth, written on the evening of her death and delayed in the post, in which she seems quite happy and is making plans for the following week. Richard feels he must show the letter to an acquaintance of his, Inspector Macdonald of the Yard, who confirms that the letter is reason to investigate Ruth’s death more closely…

This one concentrates far more than Golden Age novels usually do on the psychology of the various characters – on the effects of success and expectations, self-discipline and the impact of feeling driven to achieve. Perhaps a little darker than some of her other books as stories that go into the psychology of crime often are, I found it absorbing and very well constructed – another great read from this talented author’s pen!

Click to see the full review

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The Flemish House by Georges Simenon

Maigret has been approached by a young woman, Anna Peeters, who wants his help. Her family is suspected of having killed another young woman, the lover of Joseph, Anna’s brother, and the mother of his child. Anna fears the local police are about to arrest them and wants Maigret to investigate separately. Since Anna has been introduced to him by an old friend, Maigret agrees, and heads to the small town of Givet on the Belgian border to look into the matter in an unofficial capacity.

This is a short one even by Maigret standards. It gives an interesting picture of a border town, looking in two directions and split between French and Belgian cultures. Maigret does more actual detection in this one than is sometimes the case, and as always Simenon’s setting is very well portrayed, with the added interest of the mixed culture. An excellent entry in this rather variable series!

Click to see the full review

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The Seat of the Scornful by John Dickson Carr

When his daughter announces she is engaged, Mr Justice Ireton insists on meeting the young man. The first meeting doesn’t go well since the judge recognises Tony Morell as someone he has come across before, in the course of his job. The second meeting goes even worse. A phonecall to the local telephone exchange begging for help brings Police Constable Weems rushing to the judge’s holiday bungalow, where he finds Morell dead and Mr Justice Ireton sitting calmly in his chair, gun in hand…

The couple of Gideon Fell novels I’ve read previously have been “impossible crimes” and the emphasis has been on the puzzle rather than the people. This one is entirely different in tone, much more of a standard mystery, and as a result I liked it far more. It still has strong aspects of the howdunit to please the puzzlers out there, but there is also a group of characters with various motives for wanting rid of Morell. Gideon Fell is also rather clearer in how he works his way to the solution of the mystery, again relying more this time on the personalities and motives of the people involved, rather than sticking entirely to the technical aspects of how the crime was done. I’m glad to have finally grown to admire Dr Fell after a fairly rocky start with this series!

Click to see the full review

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Calamity Town by Ellery Queen

When Ellery Queen comes to the small town of Wrightsville looking for inspiration for his new novel, he settles into a house known locally as Calamity House. It was originally built for Nora Wright, one of the three daughters of John F and Hermione Wright, descendants of the town’s founder and acknowledged leaders of local society. But Nora never lived there, since she was jilted three years ago by the man she had planned to marry, Jim Haight. Now, not long after Queen moves in, Jim returns and the wedding is back on. But then Nora is taken ill with all the symptoms of arsenic poisoning… and then another woman dies. Suddenly Queen finds himself with a real murder mystery on his hands and, with the help of Nora’s youngest sister Pat, sets out to investigate…

The focus is less on the crime and more on creating a picture of the Wright family and Wrightsville, and the tone is considerably slower and more literary than I anticipated. The writing is very good, especially the descriptive stuff about the town, and the depiction of how the townspeople are ready to turn on their most revered residents when scandal rears its head is perceptively and credibly done, as is the picture of the impact of the crime on the Wright family themselves. There’s some of the slickness of dialogue usually found in the “hard-boiled” school, but there’s too much warmth and affection for the major characters for it to be in any way noir-ish. Ellery Queen’s first appearance in the Awards but I suspect it won’t be the last!

Click to see the full review

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Crook o’Lune by ECR Lorac

Inspector Macdonald of Scotland Yard is looking ahead to retiring from the police and is searching for a small farm to buy, farming having been his family background. He’s staying with friends in the Lune Valley in Lancashire while he looks around, and they recommend a farm that is likely to come on the market soon, Aikengill in High Gimmerdale. The old owner is recently deceased and his heir, his nephew Gilbert Woolfall, is a businessman in Yorkshire, so the locals expect he’ll want to sell up. At the moment, he’s spending time going through his uncle’s papers – a lengthy task since his uncle was a bit of an amateur local historian. But then there’s a fire at Aikengill, in which the housekeeper dies. The local police know Macdonald of old so ask him to help them investigate and Macdonald soon determines that the fire was deliberate…

This book is full of wonderful descriptions of the landscape as Macdonald tramps o’er hill and down dale in pursuit of evidence, and we get an authentic inside look at the working lives of the sheep farmers and smallholders who farm the land. The plot is also interesting, and rests in part on the long histories of families who live in an area for generations. A second appearance in the shortlist for Lorac, because the books are so different and frankly I couldn’t choose between them!

Click to see the full review

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Black Wings Has My Angel
by Elliott Chaze

On the run after a prison-break, Tim Sunblade stops off in a cheap motel and hires himself a ten-dollar hooker. But when Virginia shows up, all lavender eyes and sinuous limbs and expensive scent, Tim sees she’s clearly used to a much classier trade. Next day he takes her along with him, telling himself he’ll drop her somewhere when he tires of her. But his fascination with her grows, to say nothing of his lust, and anyway he needs someone to help him with the big job he’s planning. Virginia has her own reasons to get away for a while and doesn’t object at all to the idea of getting rich, so Tim’s plan suits her just fine…

This is undoubtedly noir, but not quite as pitch black as some. Tim has a heart and Virginia is ambiguous enough for us not to be sure till quite late on whether she has too. This gives it a kind of emotional warmth despite their actions. Although this pair are driven by lust and money, you kinda feel they’re both deeper than that – that perhaps there are reasons they are as they are. I found myself liking them both, despite everything, and that meant I was far more interested in their fate than if I’d wholeheartedly despised them. But it’s certainly noir in that there’s no hope of a happy ending, and the sense of impending tragedy grows strongly in the latter stages.

The audiobook is perfectly narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner – he is completely believable as Tim and keeps the emotional level just right, relying on little changes in speed or emphasis to increase the tension as the story moves towards its wonderfully dark climax. I loved it – my favourite noir novel! And I loved Virginia…

She was a creature of moonlight, crazy as moonlight, all upthrusting radiance and hard silver dimples and hollows, built for one thing and only one thing and perfectly for that.

Click to see the full review

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Next week: Best Modern Crime/Thriller

36 thoughts on “FictionFan Awards 2022 – Vintage Crime

  1. I’m very happy (‘though not surprised) to see two Loracs on your list, FictionFan. It’s been such a boon to us all that her work has been ‘rediscovered’ (don’t you love that word!) and made more available. And of course, Simenon did some great work, too. The thing about vintage crime is that there are so many authors and books to explore that it’s near impossible to keep up with it all! I’m glad you had some great vintage reads.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I usually try to only have one book per author in the Awards but these Loracs are both so different and equally good, so I couldn’t choose between them! I know – between the BL books and my classic crime challenge I’ve never had time to properly explore some of the authors that have become favourites, but I’m going to make a determined effort to do so next year, rather than just jumping randomly about!


  2. I didn’t see that winner coming! I’m glad to see the Loracs, though, and the first one is on my wishlist. Maybe if I’m gifted an Amazon card for Christmas it will make it to the TBR.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it was because it was a bit different to my usual vintage reading that it stood out so much. But all of these books are great, and either of the Loracs would have been a worthy winner too – I just don’t like to be that predictable… 😉 Hope you get an Amazon card, but Santa will want to know first if you’ve been a good girl this year… 🎅

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a great title, and I absolutely love the cover too! That girl is exactly how I imagined Virginia would look. 😀 I do hope your noir lover enjoys it as much as I did – it’s softer noir than some perhaps, but that works better for me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I suspect that part of the reason Black Wings Has My Angel won is that it’s a bit different to my usual vintage reads, so it stood out from the crowd. But either of the Loracs would have been a worthy winner too!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I find the Simenons pretty variable but the deciding factor is often the setting, and I liked the border culture element of this one. Both these Loracs are great but then I’m getting very predictable in saying that! And this Carr had more characterisation than some of them, which always works better for me than a pure puzzle.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t think I’m suited for noir. The tension and dark endings are too much. Your winner reminded me of the film The Grifters, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen it, I’m not sure why. Maybe the con artist aspect?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not a big noir fan either so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. Usually I find it impossible to have any sympathy with the characters, but for some reason I liked both of these despite their bad actions. Haven’t seen The Grifters, I’m afraid!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I prefer noir movies to books too, usually – the star appeal compensates for the usual bleakness. But I actually liked both the main characters in this book despite their crimes, which is unusual for me in noir, and that made all the difference!


    • I’m loving Lorac too – every book so far has been different and I do love an author who’s willing to work beyond a formula! I don’t usually enjoy noir much because generally speaking I hate the main characters’ amorality. But somehow, despite their crimes, I developed a liking for both the main characters in Black Wings Has My Angel, and that made all the difference. Plus the narration is excellent!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow i’m a bit shocked you went with that as the winner, I thought for sure you would have settled on an ECR Lorac, especially considering she was nominated twice! I’m sure Agatha won’t mind that she’s not in the running for these awards, and you are right, everyone knows she’s the Queen anyway 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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