MY READINGS (AND REVISITINGS) OF 2016

Happy New Year, everyone! As a new blogger, I have only just become aware of the tradition in this community for those who blog about books to reflect on the past year in reading. Yes, let’s focus on the reading because in most other respects, for me at least, 2016 was not a keeper!

So I went to look at the bloggers I follow and consider online friends: Kate at Cross Examining Crime read 207 books last year. JJ at The Invisible Event read at least 48 books, judging by his success at Bev Hankins’ Vintage Cover Bingo, but I have a feeling he read a lot more than that. The Puzzle Doctor from In Search of the Classic Mystery reviewed 133 books. And Margot Kinberg – well, Margot is incredible! She blogs about multiple books every day, she spotlights other authors, and she manages to write her own novels as well!

I feel like a sloth in such company! Last year, I did a lot of revisiting of books, mostly by Agatha Christie. I managed to re-read and write at some length about the following: A Caribbean Mystery, After the Funeral, A Murder Is Announced, Appointment with Death, Death Comes as the End, Destination Unknown, Dumb Witness, Five Little Pigs, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, Lord Edgware Dies, Murder is Easy, Sparkling Cyanide, Taken at the Flood, The Clocks, The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side, The Murder at the Vicarage, and Third Girl.

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This gave me great pleasure, as did my musings on Ellery Queen, John Dickson Carr and others. I managed to contribute regularly to The Tuesday Night Bloggers, but my thematic entries rarely encompassed reading something anew.

I also admit that I’m equally fond of talking about films and theatre. Once – just once, folks! – I blogged about politics, and look what happened! I lost two readers, and Trump won the presidency. (Is it egocentric of me to take the credit for that disaster?) These blogs will continue – yes, even perhaps a little political conversation. I will be ever watchful over the next four years and do what I can to try to maintain sanity in our nation.

So where does that leave me as a reader? Well, I managed a mere 26 new reads, but you know what? For me, that’s good! Being a blogger has made me read a lot more than before. Being a high school drama teacher is a huge load on your time and energy. Reading and blogging has offered me much solace in times of stress and opened up a whole new community of wonderful people to listen to and discuss this tiny sub-genre of books that we all love.

In alphabetical order by author (rather than chronological order), here is what I read last year:

  1. The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa
  2. Don’t Go Out After Dark, The Spaniard’s Thumb and The Three Tiers of Fantasy by Norman Berrow
  3. Murder a la Richelieu by Anita Blackmun
  4. He Who Whispers, It Walks by Night and The Three Coffins by John Dickson Carr
  5. Death at Crane’s Court by Eilis Dillon
  6. Death Invites You, The Demon of Dartmoor, The Fourth Door, The Invisible Circle, The Picture From the Past, The Seventh Hypothesis, The Tiger’s Head and The Vampire Tree by Paul Halter
  7. Who Killed Charmian Karslake? by Annie Haynes
  8. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
  9. The Mistletoe Murder by P.D. James
  10. Alias Basil Willing and The One That Got Away by Helen McCloy
  11. The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan by Stuart Palmer
  12. Ten Star Clues by E.R. Punshon
  13. Knock, Murderer, Knock by Harriet Rutland
  14. Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey

Some thoughts:

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Paul Halter: What the heck? For someone I have railed against repeatedly, he constituted nearly a third of my new book reads last year! Bradley, Bradley, Bradley! Put it behind you, man, and start finding new fish to fry! That said, I did enjoy Death Invites You and The Demon of Dartmoor.

 

 

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John Dickson Carr: I’m going to read more Carr this year. Maybe a few re-reads, but there’s quite a bit to explore for the first time, like most of the Carter Dickson novels, The Four False Weapons, and a few stand-alones I haven’t touched (The Emperor’s Snuffbox is sitting on my shelf!) One of the few highpoints of 2016 was reading He Who Whispers for the first time. What a great book! Easily one of my top two Carr reads ever, and if I were to re-read The Crooked Hinge, I might find He Who Whispers has usurped that novel as my favorite Carr.

Favorite newly discovered authors: It’s a tie between Harriet Rutland, based on one read, and Norman Berrow. Sadly, Rutland only wrote three mysteries, so I’m spacing them apart. Fortunately, Kate tells me that her last, Blue Murder, is also her best. I’m also glad that Berrow had the good sense to write twenty novels, and this year I will continue with my explorations into this fine New Zealand writer. I’m spacing out Helen McCloy as well, since she wrote about as many as Berrow. Of the two I read this year, one was fine (Alias Basil Willing) and the other not so good (but not without its interests). I have several McCloys on my TBR pile that I hope to get to this year.

You CAN write a pretty good pastiche in honor of classic mysteries if you set your mind to it, Sophie Hannah!: And Anthony Horowitz proved it with Magpie Murders. I really need to read more modern mystery fiction! (I’m working on it right now with The Woman in Cabin 10 – review to follow soon.) It would be even easier if modern authors could make the experience as fun as Horowitz did here.        3785646-_uy475_ss475_     51xIofKyVSL

Biggest wish for the benefit of all mankind: I wish that Ho Ling would translate more shin honkaku novels for us English-speaking folks to read! How frustrating that Japan, one of the only countries to actually revere the Golden Age of Mystery to the point that such stories continue to be written and popularized, doesn’t much care whether we readers across the oceans can access them. Can you imagine if the link between international fans of classic mysteries became the foundation for world peace? I can see it, my friends.

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Favorite classic mystery that turns out to be more of a novel but that’s okay: Miss Pym Disposes was a wonderful surprise, and I’m glad I got to read it at last. There is a murder toward the end of the book, and it is clued and gets solved, but that’s not really the point. The point is to hoist a self-proscribed new psychologist on her own petard, and while many folks come out of the experience not liking Miss Pym much (sorry, Kate), I found her fascinating, as I did the setting, characters, and situation at this woman’s physical education college. Pym is a book I can see myself re-reading more than once in my lifetime.

 

If I can find the time! Clearly, if I’m going to blog, I better get my inner reader fired up more! I’ve got a massive TBR pile compiled over the past twelve months to start digging into! I’ve also got 72 demanding followers to whom I owe so much gratitude for listening and responding to my scattered opinions. The year ended on an oddly high note for me when I learned that my blog had been mentioned by Bill Crider in his blog column in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. I devoured that esteemed publication throughout my teens, and I only recently had re-subscribed to celebrate its 75th year of existence. I feel incredibly lucky and honored to have been singled out for a mention. My sole resolution of the New Year is to make myself worthy of that notice.

Again, I wish all of you a very Happy New Year. Let’s look out for each other, shall we?

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24 thoughts on “MY READINGS (AND REVISITINGS) OF 2016

  1. Happy New Year, Brad! And I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed becoming a part of the online blogging/reading community. Your posts enrich us all. I’m also happy to know that you found some great reads and authors to explore. That’s the best part of blogging, as I see it: the chance to learn from other bloggers and get to know different authors and their works. I look forward to your posts this year, and thank you – very much! – for the kind mention! It means a lot to me.

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  2. Congrats on the Crider mention! And the two readers who stalked off in a huff because of a single moderate political post were presumably no great loss anyway.

    How frustrating that Japan, one of the only countries to actually revere the Golden Age of Mystery to the point that such stories continue to be written and popularized, doesn’t much care whether we readers across the oceans can access them.

    It’s not the fault of the Japanese! For books to appear in English translation you need anglophone publishers willing to buy the rights and publish them. A few Japanese mystery/crime books do appear here, but I agree with you that not nearly enough do so.

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    1. You’re right – it was wrong of me to blame the Japanese! We are readers whom most of the U.S. publishing world takes little stock of, while Japan seems to value classic mysteries more. It’s a tough pill to swallow, one that bears the faint whiff of bitter almonds!

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  3. Yeah, I’m not sure I can be bothered doing a roundup post this year; my record-keeping has been pretty lousy and I don’t want to reash everything just so my ususal four readers can read it all again. But congrats on your commitment to Halter — now find an uthor you like and read 8 books by them in a calendar year…that’ll help 2017 go better, I’ve no doubt.

    Thanks for the great discussions, posts, support, and enthusiasm you provide, Brad. Here’s to even more of that next year…!

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    1. JJ: I don’t know if you’re count me in your usual four…probably not because I don’t get out and comment as much as I’d like to [someone stole a whole bunch of my time over the past four years or so and I can’t figure out how I ever had the time to comment on all the blogs that I did…]–I wind up doing fly-bys instead. So make that your usual five readers. 🙂

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      1. Haha, thanks, Bev — with my esoteric nerdery, pretty-much-exclusively-dead authors, non-ARC policy, general obstreperousness, and inability to ride a popular cultural wave it’s fair to say that I’m kidding myself if I want to be everyone’s favourite. There’s only cause to worry when I start going for “You’ll Never Guess What I Read in This Detective Novel”-style clickbait headers, and we’re someway off of that at present… 😀

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    1. I’ve actually tried to start Bleeding Hooks TWICE and gotten distracted both times by something else. I haven’t gotten that far into it, so at some point I will start over yet again. I think the fly fishing backdrop is less interesting to me than Rutland assumed it would be! But I’ll get there. I LOVED Knock, Murderer, Knock for its characters and plot! It was funny and touching!

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  4. Happy New Year, Brad! Lovely round-up and I’m so glad you’ve joined us out here in the blogging world. You’ve jumped in with both feet and done splendid reviews over and over again (and, no, I don’t mean the same one over and over… 🙂 ).

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    1. Bev, I love being part of this world! Someday, we WILL all meet for tea! Meanwhile, one of my biggest regrets of the year – are you ready? – is that I became so overwhelmed by your massive wish list that I chickened out and bought you a Maggie Ryan novel because I loved that series so much. (I could easily re-read them if I had the time!) If you’ve already read it, believe me, my heart was in the right place! Happy holidays!

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  5. Happy New Year! Thanks for all the reviews, and I’m glad that despite the struggles with Paul Halter, you managed to enjoy Norman Berrow. I’ve just completed ‘Bishop’s Sword’, which I thought had one good solution amidst the multiple impossibilities.

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    1. I have Bishop’s Sword and Footprints of Satan to look forward to, and meanwhile I have bought my first “Michael and Fleur” mystery. I’m glad BS is worth looking forward to!

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      1. I, er, may have gone a bit Berrow-happy at the end of last year and bought, um, eight of his books. I’ve got a it of everything from his various series (and a document to help me keep track…), so it sounds like 2017 may be rather Berrow-rich between us. Happy days!

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    2. My favourite is probably the disappearance from the locked room, simple though it is. There’s some very subtle clewing and it’s worked in superbly to the plot, overturning a couple of basic expectations — very cleverly, in my humble opinion.

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      1. JJ, I’m presuming you’re still talking about ‘Bishop’s Sword’ – in which case you’re talking about the intruder that Toni heard? I thought that was reasonably good, but the only part I thought lifted the novel beyond mediocrity was the disappearance from the cave.

        I still have ‘Footprints of Satan’, ‘Three Tiers of Fantasy’ and ‘Terror in the Fog’ on my TBR shelf. I think I shall try ‘Spaniard’s Thumb’ and a non-Lancelot-Smith title next.

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      2. Whoa, whoa, whoa — mediocrity? 😯 I get that impossibilities aren’t exactly the most baffling, as I said in my review at the time, but Berrow surely has too much charm, and works the various impossibilities into his plot far too well, for this to be discarded as merely mediocre…

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      3. I would say the novel as a whole was definitely not mediocre – but primarily and mainly because of the resolution to the cave conundrum. 🙂

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  6. Click bait, JJ??? Oh dear, you don’t know how much I ponder luring folks in with my titles, given that my tastes, too, resemble the Dead Sea of literature.

    And how did you manage to make buying Berrow seem like collecting porn? I like that . . . very much.

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