Let’s face it: life can’t be all about reading classic mystery after classic mystery, matching wits with Peter Wimsey and Hercule Poirot and Inspector French to solve some puzzles. Sometimes you just have to step back and . . . solve some puzzles!
Fortunately, the folks at the British Library are aware of this! They have spent the past several years stocking the shelves – both real and virtual – everywhere with beautiful new publications of long-lost mysteries from the Golden Age (actually from a bit before the Golden Age well into the Silver!) What was once a paltry meal for GAD fans has become a lavish banquet. Yet everyone knows that in between courses of larceny and murder, one must cleanse one’s palate with a refreshing sherbet.
The Library turned to Kate Jackson, blogger extraordinaire (at Cross Examining Crime), creator of the service Coffee and Crime, which is as marvelous a gift idea for mystery fans old and new that you could find, British expert on all things related to pygmy goats, and – full disclosure here – my friend. Kate has come up with exactly the “sherbet” one needs between full-course mystery novels.
It’s called The Pocket Detective. It’ an adorably small volume (4×6 inches – I measured!) so it literally fits into one’s pocket. As you can see, it has a most attractive cover. Despite its size, it is jam-packed with dozens of word puzzles to stimulate the mind and take you away from your troubles. I know this because yesterday was so long and hectic that I fell asleep on my bed – at 3:40 in the afternoon – when I got home for my dinner break! I awoke from my unplanned nap, checked the mail, and found a slim package containing I-knew-not-what! A little mystery of my own to solve! Upon opening the thing, I remembered that Kate had very kindly invited me to take a look at her new project, so I freely admit that the book was a gift and that what I am offering here amounts to a solicited opinion.
You know how you turn to the Times (London or New York, it doesn’t matter) for the crossword, and every ten years or so the theme is “Whodunit???” or “Crime Queens,” and you find that six or seven of the big clues are right up your alley in terms of your literary preference? Now imagine a puzzle book where every page is for you, dear mystery fan – where every different quiz or game contains words like “red herring” or “bloodstain” and there’s always a little gift in the end, like a bunch of letters that form an anagram of a famous mystery author.
There are puzzles, like word searches, kriss krosses, and cross outs that are, for the most part, fun word games with a lethal theme and a little puzzle at the end. Then there are games, like Odd Man Out, Spot the Titles, Who Was Killed?, and the ubiquitous crosswords, that inspire you to acquire a greater knowledge of classic mystery fiction. To be honest, it helps to be familiar with the titles currently available from the British Library. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a promotional tie-in, just as long as it’s this much fun.
I will confess that, as of this moment, I have not read many of the BL titles, although there are a good half dozen sitting at home on my TBR bookcase shelf, so I will get to them one of these days. Meanwhile, the hours of pleasure I am sure to have solving the puzzles in Kate’s book will also serve as an appetizer to the many new/old titles that await me. I imagine myself sitting on the banks of the Cherwell, under a shady old tree, with The Pocket Detective and a sharpened pencil in my hand, so immersed in the “Spot the Difference” game that I fail to notice one body after another floating by.