Thursday, July 9, 2015

Summer vintage crime!

Note: The British Library is republishing many of their Classic Crime and Spy novels, with the Poisoned Pen Press responsible for the U.S. editions. There will be twelve published this year and 2016. They will be available in trade paperback and Ebook. Many of these books have been out of print or difficult to find. Some of these Golden Age Crime writers are perhaps unknown to the American audience. Each book features stunning cover art pertinent to the era (20/30s Britain). Of note, Martin Edwards provided guidance for this project as the archivist for CWA (and for Detection Club). Two books feature short fiction edited by Edwards. I have always valued the Poisoned Pen's collection of mysteries for providing excellent reading experiences; there are over 700 titles. I am looking forward to the reissue of all the British Library Crime Classic novels. I read the following as an ARC from Netgalley, and wish to thank both publishers for bringing these works to light. Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: English mystery, cozy, mystery, British Library crime classics, 3 to 3.5 stars***
Title: Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston (1936, 2015) 314pp
Author: Charles Kingston (O'Mahoney) wrote 25 mystery novels between 1921 and 1945: Stolen Virtue (1921), many London settings (Poison in Kensington [read Dorothy Sayers review!] and The Highgate Mystery) to his last book Fear Followed On (1945). His prose is sparse with quite dry (black) humour, which might not translate well to the American audience, or this era. But they are quite atmospheric and generally easy reads.
Story Line: This story introduced Chief Insp Wake, a rather grizzled, methodical, dour individual. There are seven in this series. The unsavory cast of English eccentrics made this difficult for me to appreciate as well as dated prose and London accents. This is a drawing room mystery exposing the seedy side of London (Soho nightclubs) with a jaundiced, cynical police force, "minor Bohemian" characters and an aristocratic bourgeois without principles. In the end I didn't have much sympathy for either the idle rich or the murdered miser. It was hard to like characters that Kingston describes in such unflattering terms, with vices/ human traits. The first half sets the stage/scene with character descriptions/details which provide motive. There are fantastic details of the era, with a nice twist in the mystery solution. This is an interesting, realistic/historical look at London of the 1930s.
Read on: A Scream in Soho by John G, Brandon (also recently republished) or The Piccadilly Murder by Anthony Berkeley (1929)
Quotes: ...falling is love is like falling downstairs- you don't mean to do either. It was the crime of the year, something peculiar to London. How often had Bobbie grumblingly adverted to the fact that everyday his uncle lived he, the misunderstood heir, lost a day's income. What's the use mother, when I'll have ten thousand a year when Massey dies of overeating? ...ears that resembled cauliflowers waiting their turn to be washed... "...polygamy on the installment plan..." (Married four times)

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