Vintage Crime

TalkBritish & Irish Crime Fiction

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Vintage Crime

1pamelad
Mar 21, 7:06pm

Follow the Blue Car by R.A.J. Walling

A thirties mystery by a member of the Detection club. I'd enjoyed They Liked Entwhistle, so decided to give this one a go.. Not much of a crime, and a lot of talking.

2pamelad
Edited: Mar 21, 7:16pm

The Third Eye by Ethel Lina White

This thirties crime novel is available on Gutenberg Australia. Caroline, who has been sharing a small flat with her sister and brother-in-law and feels she's in the way, finds a job as a games mistress at a girls' school. Because she is the unacademic one of a clever family, the Beloved Fool, who can't qualify as a teacher because she can't pass exams, she's lucky to find a job at all. When Caroline arrives at the school she finds that the intimidating matron is implicated in the death of the previous games mistress and has too much control over the school principal. By uncovering the matron's incompetence, Carolina puts herself at risk.

Ethel Lina White wrote The Wheel Spins on which Hitchcock's film The Lady Vanishes ( on Tubi, if you're interested) was based. It's is the best of the books of hers that I've read.

I liked The Third Eye for: the eerie atmosphere; the Silverline bus, which dominated the second half of the book; Carolina finding a job instead of moaning about being poor; the fabulous names of two other important characters, Blanche Bat a.k.a Miss Bat of Bat House, and the matron, Miss Yaxley-Moore.

3pamelad
Mar 21, 7:12pm

Murderer's Mistake by E.C.R. Lorac was first published in 1946. Like Crossed Skis, which I read last year, there are many loving descriptions of food. It's set in the countryside in Lancashire, so there is plenty of fresh milk, cream and butter, meat and fruit. Perhaps in the cities people still depended on powdered eggs and milk, and were missing fresh food. There is also much lighting of fires. In one of Angela Thirkell's books written around the same time, the characters also appreciate a good fire, and Thirkell explains that for the duration of the war there was not enough fuel, so people could never get warm.

I was not engaged by the plot, and was more interested in reading about living conditions after the war. One of the characters is a petty criminal who is part of a ring that trades in clothing coupons. Because he is a coward, he has moved from London to the north of England. Another character gives away secrets of his background during the long nights of duty as an air raid warden, when there is often not much to do but talk to ones colleagues.

Giles Hogget, a farmer, owns a cottage which the family uses for holidays in the summer time. When he visits it to check that it is in condition to survive the coming winter, he finds evidence that a stranger has been there. On checking inside he finds a number of things missing, and becomes concerned that a crime has been committed, so he writes to Inspector MacDonald in London. MacDonald finds an excuse to come to Lancashire, and ends up investigating the crime.

I would recommend this book for the descriptions of the Lancashire countryside and the details of life after the war, but not for the plot or the characters.

4pamelad
Mar 21, 7:12pm

A Toast to Tomorrow by Manning Coles

A man is discovered in the ocean, in Germany, still alive but with a damaged face and a serious head wound. He eventually recovers physically, but after many months has no idea who he is. He adopts the name of a doctor who treats him, adopts a kind elderly woman as an aunt, and finds work. he believes he is German.

This spy story is set mainly in Germany in 1938. Hitler is in power. I can't say more because it would be too easy to give away the plot, which is breathtakingly ludicrous. It romps along and, if you can suspend disbelief, is an entertaining read.

5pamelad
Mar 21, 7:13pm

Fire in the Thatch by E. C. R. Lorac

This was an unsatisfactory mystery. The murder victim was good man who had been introduced at length, so the reader was invested in him. The murderer was a madman, and in the end he shot himself. The locals spoke dialect. There were a lot of irrelevant characters who had very little to do. You could tell one woman was a tart because she wore make-up, but didn't wear tweeds.

6pamelad
Mar 21, 7:14pm

The Gilt-Edged Mystery by E. M. Channon

Alured Dalmaine is on holiday in Switzerland when he runs across his tiresome and demanding cousin who drags him off to a school concert to see her daughter in a tableau. Part of that same tableau is the lovely Helga, a young teacher at the school. She asks Dal to seek out her sister Ida, who is living near Dal with her much older husband. Ida has replied to none of Helga's letters, and Helga is worried.

On the train returning to England, Dal meets a pleasant little man, Hooper, who has received a huge legacy from a cousin he has never met. He is off to stay at a swish hotel near Dal's home, where he has invited his other cousins, all seven of them, for a free holiday. Coincidentally, two of Dal's cousins, including the one he me in Switzerland, turn out to be related to Hooper.

Two people are murdered but I won't say who in case, as I do, people like to guess who the victim will be. The plot hinges too much on coincidence, but I liked Dal and the journalist friend covering Hooper's murder. This was a pleasant, undemanding read.

7pamelad
Mar 21, 7:15pm

The Port of London Murders by Josephine Bell

This British Library Crime Classic was first published in 1938. The best things about it are the descriptions of the docks, the Thames, the fog, the crumbling houses in the poor back streets, and how welfare and the health system work. The worst things are the plot and most of the characters. The plot involves smuggling and is quite silly. I saw no need for the complication of the pink night dresses, except that the lingerie shop gave some of he characters a place to work.

8rosalita
Mar 21, 7:32pm

Great thread, Pam! Do you have a specific time frame for "vintage crime"? I am currently in the midst of reading all of Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver series, so I'll be sure to add my reviews here as well. And I'm sure I'll pick up some titles for my wishlist from your reviews as well.

9pamelad
Mar 21, 7:43pm

>8 rosalita: I was going to call it "Golden Age", but decided to make the range wider so that it could include earlier books e.g. Sherlock Holmes, and later ones e.g. Celia Fremlin that are undeservedly forgotten. How about anything up to the seventies? Or even eighties?

I am another fan of Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver mysteries.

10rosalita
Mar 21, 7:50pm

>9 pamelad: My first reaction was "oh, the '80s is too recent" and then I remembered that I am old and that was 40 years ago. How did that happen?!

Despite my disorientation, I like the idea of expanding beyond "Golden Age" very much. We could make the criteria anything published 40 or more years ago, which would be 1981 and earlier this year, 1982 next year, and so on. What do you think?

11pamelad
Mar 21, 8:22pm

>10 rosalita: Sounds good. No need to be too rigid about the forty years - a guideline only.

People younger than you and I might classify anything last century as vintage!

12rosalita
Mar 21, 8:33pm

>11 pamelad: Or even pre-2020!

13pamelad
Mar 27, 8:18pm

Fell Murder by E.C.R. Lorac

Richard Garth, the heir to the Garth family farm, has returned secretly after 25 years away. Did he kill his father, with whom he argued so bitterly many years ago? Or was it his sister, who keeps the farm running profitably despite her father's refusal to pay her a wage or buy her a bull? Perhaps it was the middle brother who returned penniless from Malaya, or the youngest brother, a sensitive young man who hates his father. Could the murderer be the local farmer who bears an old and bitter grudge? The answer is obvious, really.

As usual for Lorac, there are loving descriptions of the landscape and cursory character development. The policeman, MacDonald, is the only person with a personality. Lorac judges her characters by how hard they work on the farm.

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