Book review: Turncoat by Anthony J Quinn

I’ve stayed in Ireland for another book with Anthony J Quinn’s novel Turncoat. Cold, dreary, claustrophobic — good ingredients for a thriller. Turncoat is set in the lead up to the Good Friday Agreement that ended most of the violence of the Troubles in Ireland, and was a major step forward in the peace process. Quinn plays with traditional crime fictions forms — the opening is like a shoot ‘em up James Bond adventure that morphs into a mind bending locked room mystery before spinning around again with a noir like twist.

He felt hollow inside, unsure of anything, least of all his own thoughts and feelings, stumbling over his shadow, the ghost of a lonely detective who had somehow escaped his own execution.

Desmond Maguire is a catholic detective in the Northern Ireland police force. When he is framed by either the IRA or the republicans his tenuous grip on control fractures, helped along by his tendency to drink way too much — personal conflict plus in this story. He is the sole survivor of an ambush and seen as a second class citizen by his police peers and a turncoat in his own community.

The guts of the novel has a surreal and almost locked room mystery feel to it. Maguire flees on an involuntary pilgrimage to Lough Derg in Donegal after receiving a postcard that inspires him to go there believing he will find the answer to who framed him. The traditional Lough Derg three day pilgrimage only allows participants one meal of black tea or coffee, dry toast, oat cakes and water, and deprives them of sleep and footwear as they walk around the island in prayer. The longer Maguire is on the island the more paranoid he becomes.

During the worst days of the Troubles, Belfast kept its traitors out of sight, like the homeless drunks who froze to death in back alleyways, or the suicides who thew themselves off bridges into the dank Lagan waters. The bodies of spies and informers were usually transported to the border and left in ditches or covered in bin bags where they no longer posed a risk to anyone, and their deaths might not seem so terrible or pitiable.

The island is analogous to a miserable, claustrophobic locked room. The story plays with reality, showing Maguire’s undoing facilitated by the deprivations of the pilgrimage, excessive consumption of illicit alcohol, the other pilgrims fascination with him, and his anxiety that someone on the island is after him. He can’t tell the difference between truth and fiction — even in his own mind.

Quinn does a great job of bringing to life the confusion and suspicions that must have existed during those times in Ireland. Themes include religion, corruption, mistrust and betrayal – it is not an easy or light read, but the discomfort is compelling and leaves residual long after it ends.

Book review: Borkmann’s Point by Hakan Nesser

Borkmann’s Point is a Nordic noir police procedural set in the early 90s by Swedish author Hakan Nesser. Think Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett and you’ll get the gist of the style. The book is the second of the Van Veeteren series but can be easily read as a stand alone.

Two recent arrivals to the fishing village of Kaalbringen — an ex-con and a real estate tycoon — are murdered with an axe, and Chief inspector Van Veeteren is asked to cut short his holiday to help out on the murder investigation.

Beate Moerk sat down and put her briefcase on the sofa beside her. She was used to the question. Had expected it, in fact. People evidently had no difficulty in accepting policewomen in uniform, but coping with the fact that wearing a uniform was not a necessary part of the job seemed to be a different matter. How could a woman wear something fashionable and attractive and still carry out her police duties?

The local chief of police, Bausen is counting the days to his retirement and the rest of his team, bar one, are largely hopeless. Beate Moerk has a flair for police work, so when she disappears after a third murder, it’s down to Veeteren to solve the case.

The story is told in a steady, restrained, thoughtful pace and with a wry sense of humour. Reading Borkmann’s Point is like watching a quirky game of chess unfold.

If he’d had the ability to see into the future, if only for a few hours, it is possible that he’d have given lunch a miss without more ado. And set off for Kaalbringen as quickly as possible.

Borkmann’s Point is told through alternating points of view giving readers a deep insight into the main characters. Van Veeteren is a grouchy old cop with a predilection for doing some of his best thinking in the bath with a few bottles of brown ale and a bowl of olives. Beate is a beautiful investigator, ambivalent about her unmarried and childless state. The killer is cool and casual about stalking his victims and believes he is beyond reach and punishment — he’s just an ordinary man.

Nesser won the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy Prize for Best Crime Novel in 2004 for Borkmann’s Point. After being translated and released in English, the book was also shortlisted for the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger.

Book review: How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie

I wrote this a week ago, but decided publishing a review of a book called How to Kill your Family on Christmas Eve was in poor taste, particularly as my dad reads this blog (for the record the thought has never crossed my mind).

Kelly decided that I was her new best friend, and worse, a trophy cellmate. At breakfast, she will bustle up to me, linking arms and whispering to me as if we are in the middle of a confidential discussion. I’ve heard her talking to the other prisoners, her voice dropping to a stage whisper, as she intimates that I’ve confessed all the details of my crime to her. She wants leverage and respect from the other girls, and if anyone can provider her with it, the Morton murderer can. It is immensely tiresome.

Grace Bernard is writing her memoir from a jail cell in Limehouse prison. She was locked up for a murder she did not commit. Her memoir confesses to murders that she did commit. By age 28 she had killed six members of her own family.

Helene was kind, but she was hardly a great intellect, and had a fairly basic level of insight. Her favourite shows were all on ITV, if that makes it at all clearer.

She was raised by a single mother who died of cancer and exhaustion when Grace was a teenager. Whilst her mother was dying Grace discovered that her father was a business tycoon and owner of a well known fashion label. He had abandoned her mother and wanted nothing to do with Grace. Grace spends her remaining teenage years plotting revenge.

How to Kill Your Family is a story of class, family, betrayal, rejection and retribution. Dark and at times brutal, yet told with a hilarious wry humour.

Kelly asks if I want to talk anything over, tilting her head in what I image she thinks is a sympathetic gesture. She knows my final appeal is due any day now, and her recent forays into group therapy seem to have convinced her that she has a bright future in counselling. I have to stifle the urge to explain that the vest therapy that Harley Street has to offer wouldn’t help me much, so I doubt that Kelly’s offer of trying to contact my inner child will suddenly fix whatever she imagines might be wrong with me. Besides the fact that Kelly is an undeniable moron, I think talking is overrated.

The character of Grace is a little reminiscent of Villanelle from Killing Eve. Grace is smart, sarcastic, cunning, meticulous, judgemental and conniving. Yet despite her psychopathic tendencies and twisted view of the world, you can’t help but like her.

A great read for when you a looking for some light-hearted dark humour.

Happy New Year, may 2022 be kind to you. See you out the other side.

Grand Dames of Crime: Patricia Wentworth

Patricia Wentworth wrote 66 books. 32 of them featured Miss Maud Silver, a former governess turned private investigator who liked to quote Tennyson and the Bible, and had a keen eye for understanding human frailties. Wentworth was born Dora Amy Elles in India in 1877 and educated in London.

I told you she had an inconsequent mind. That’s putting it much too mildly. When it comes to anything like evidence, she hasn’t really got a mind at all – she just dives into a sort of lumber-room and brings out odds and ends.

The Case of William Smith

Wentworth married young in 1906 and had a daughter, then whilst she was still in her twenties her husband died and she moved to Surrey and lived there till her own death in 1961. Her first book was published under the pseudonym Patricia Wentworth in 1910, a historical fiction romance novel called A Marriage Under the Terror, a tale of love blossoming in the ashes of betrayal that won the Melrose Prize for best first novel. She wrote fifteen more romance novels and a book of verse for children, but her true talent lay in cosy mysteries.

‘I think it is right that you should know I am here in the capacity of a private enquiry agent.’
If she had announced that she was there in the capacity of a Fairy Godmother or of First Murderer, she could hardly have surprised him more. In fact, the Fairy Godmother would have seemed quite appropriate by comparison.

The Silent Pool

She met her second husband, George Oliver Turnbull, and remarried in 1920, producing another daughter. George became her scribe, writing Wentworth’s stories as she dictated them.

Fancy going out into the world under the impression that you can always have your own way! Would anything be more likely to lead to disaster?

Death at the Deep End

Miss Maud Silver’s first appearance was in 1928 in a whodunit called Grey Mask. In this novel Charles turns to Miss Silver for help after he is jilted at the alter and discovers his fiancé was mixed up in a kidnapping plot with a shadowy figure in a grey mask. Miss Silver went on many adventures in the subsequent 31 novels, working with Scotland Yard, knitting garments for her nieces and nephews, scribbling in her notebooks – a new one for each case.

Obstinacy is an impediment to the free exercise of thought. It paralyses the intelligence. Conclusions based upon preconceived ideas are valueless

Latter End

Along with the Miss Silver Series, Wentworth wrote three more series. Frank Garrett (a two book series) is the official face of the Foreign Office. Benbow Smith (a four book series) is the behind the scenes man, a spymaster with the British Foreign Office, a kind of James Bond. The series focusses on political intrigue and industrial espionage. Ernest Lamb (a three book series) is a Scotland Yard Inspector who investigates the most perplexing crimes, those embroiled in dark family histories.

The best thing that can happen to anyone who is doing wrong is to be found out. If he is not found out he will do more wrong and earn a heavier punishment.

Lonesome Road

Biliography:

Miss Silver series
• Grey Mask, 1928
• The Case Is Closed, 1937
• Lonesome Road, 1939
• Danger Point (USA: In the Balance), 1941
• The Chinese Shawl, 1943
• Miss Silver Intervenes (USA: Miss Silver Deals with Death), 1943
• The Clock Strikes Twelve, 1944
• The Key, 1944
• The Traveller Returns (USA: She Came Back), 1945
• Pilgrim’s Rest (or: Dark Threat), 1946
• Latter End, 1947
• Spotlight (USA: Wicked Uncle), 1947
• The Case of William Smith, 1948
• Eternity Ring, 1948
• The Catherine Wheel, 1949
• Miss Silver Comes to Stay, 1949
• The Brading Collection (or: Mr Brading’s Collection), 1950
• The Ivory Dagger, 1951
• Through the Wall, 1950
• Anna, Where Are You? (or: Death At Deep End), 1951
• The Watersplash, 1951
• Ladies’ Bane, 1952
• Out of the Past, 1953
• The Silent Pool, 1954
• Vanishing Point, 1953
• The Benevent Treasure, 1953
• The Gazebo (or: The Summerhouse), 1955
• The Listening Eye, 1955
• Poison in the Pen, 1955
• The Fingerprint, 1956
• The Alington Inheritance, 1958
• The Girl in the Cellar, 1961
Frank Garrett series
• Dead or Alive, 1936
• Rolling Stone, 1940
Ernest Lamb series
• The Blind Side, 1939
• Who Pays the Piper? (USA: Account Rendered), 1940
• Pursuit of a Parcel, 1942
Benbow Smith
• Fool Errant, 1929
• Danger Calling, 1931
• Walk with Care, 1933
• Down Under, 1937
Standalone
• A Marriage under the Terror, 1910
• A Child’s Rhyme Book, 1910
• A Little More Than Kin (or: More Than Kin), 1911
• The Devil’s Wind, 1912
• The Fire Within, 1913
• Simon Heriot, 1914
• Queen Anne Is Dead, 1915
• Earl or Chieftain?, 1919
• The Astonishing Adventure of Jane Smith, 1923. Serialised, Baltimore Evening Sun, 1925
• The Red Lacquer Case, 1924. Serialised, Leicester Mail, 1926
• The Annam Jewel, 1924
• The Black Cabinet, 1925
• The Dower House Mystery, 1925
• The Amazing Chance, 1926. Serialised, Dundee Evening Telegraph, 1927
• Hue and Cry, 1927
• Anne Belinda, 1927
• Will-o’-the-Wisp, 1928
• Beggar’s Choice, 1930
• The Coldstone, 1930
• Kingdom Lost, 1931
• Nothing Venture, 1932. Serialised, Dundee Courier, 1932
• What Became of Anne, 1926. Serialised, Dundee Courier, 1932
• Red Danger (USA: Red Shadow), 1932
• Seven Green Stones (USA: Outrageous Fortune), 1933
• Devil-in-the-Dark (USA: Touch And Go), 1934
• Fear by Night, 1934
• Red Stefan, 1935
• Blindfold, 1935
• Hole and Corner, 1936
• Mr Zero, 1938
• Afraid to Love, 1938. Serialised, Dundee Courier, 1932
• Run!, 1938
• Unlawful Occasions (USA: Weekend with Death), 1941
• Beneath the Hunter’s Moon, 1945
• Silence in Court, 1947
• The Pool of Dreams: Poems, 1953

Book review: 2 Sisters Detective Agency by James Patterson, Candice Fox

Candice Fox partnered with James Patterson to write this cracker of a crime novel. The two met at a cocktail party and have worked on a few books together, most notably the Harriet Blue series. 2 Sisters Detective Agency is their latest offering, a stand alone detective thriller.

Rhonda Bird is a fabulous character. A fat, pink haired attorney who wears rock band t-shirts and spends her time helping young people on the wrong side of the law. When she gets a call advising that her estranged father, Earl, is dead and she needs to return to LA to sort out his affairs, she does so reluctantly, anticipating being landed with all his debts. What she finds are two unexpected surprises.

As big as I am – 260 pounds, some of it well-earned muscle and some of it long-maintained fat – there’s no point trying to fit in with the crowd. The pink hair was just the latest shade in a rotating kaleidoscope of colors I applied to my half shaved, wavy quiff, and I always wore rock bank shirts in the courtroom under my blazer.

Earl bequeathed Rhonda his dodgy private detective agency and his fifteen year old obnoxious, black, leggy, Instagram influencer daughter, Baby, whose existence Rhonda was unaware of. Whilst Rhonda grapples with who her father was and what to do about the brat half-sister she’s been gifted, the two women find themselves in the firing line of an angry Russian criminal cartel and an awakened ex-assassin with a lust for revenge, thanks to Earl’s dodgy operations.

As you’d expect from Candice Fox, 2 Sisters Detective Agency is jam packed with bigger than life bold characters, plenty of action and laugh out loud humour.

I’m a huge Candice fan (previous reviews here, here, here, and here), and could see her fingerprints all over this story, but she doesn’t get all the accolades as the work was a collaboration. I’ve never read James Patterson before, but will do so now as I found myself pondering whilst I read the book how they worked together. Did they write alternate chapters? Did they choose characters and write one each? Did they edit each other’s work? I imagine collaborative writing adds an interesting zing to the usually solitary process. Perhaps reading some of Patterson’s work will reveal his style and enable me to tell more easily which voice is him and which is Candice.

I started reading 2 Sisters Detective Agency the day after Melbourne’s long lockdown ended and was so captured I had to drag myself away from the story to attend to the social catch ups I’d prearranged. I almost wished lockdown had been extended for a day or so to give me the excuse to just lie on the sofa and get lost in the adventure. Highly recommended.

Book review: Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart

Thought I’d lighten things up a bit this week with a cozy mystery. Cozies are an easy read that can be gobbled up without any uncomfortable feelings, whilst still offering satisfying twists and turns. Digging Up Dirt also includes a splash of simmering romance.

Nothing like the builder digging up bones to halt the work on your renovation. TV researcher Poppy McGowan needs to find out if the bones are human or animal so she can get on with finishing her house. When archaeologist, Dr Julieanne Weaver, whom Poppy doesn’t like, interferes and slaps a heritage order over the property because she thinks the bones a significant Poppy is really annoyed. But then Julieanne is found murdered onsite, face down in the excavation dressed in heels and an evening frock, and things get really complicated.

Pamela Hart is a prolific author who has written more than 35 books and successfully crosses the genre divide. She is best known for her historical fiction (The Soldiers Wife, The War Bride, A Letter from Italy and The Desert Nurse).

Hart has also penned speculative fiction (Ember and Ash)and children’s books under the name Pamela Freeman as well as being an accomplished scriptwriter for ABC kids. I’ve done a few of the online courses she has written for the Australian Writers Centre as well, which have all been of good quality. She’s no slouch!

Digging Up Dirt is Hart’s first mystery novel and it’s a fun Australian read (or listen to the audio book). 

Book review: Exit by Belinda Bauer

I used to love old British cop shows like The Bill, Inspector Morse and Taggart. British crime shows are memorable for slow-moving mystery plots and complex characters. Belinda Bauer’s crime novels are similar.

Despite sounding like a juxtaposition, Bauer’s most recent novel, Exit, is a hilarious crime thriller.

Amanda was at his shoulder now. ‘What is it?’ she said, but Felix couldn’t speak because all the words he’d ever known seemed to be whirling around inside his skull like bingo balls.
The ones he needed finally dropped slowly from his numb lips.
‘We killed the wrong man.’

Seventy-five year old widower Felix Pink is a member of the Exiteers, a secret group that supports the right to die by baring witness to the suicide of terminally ill patients then disposing of any evidence to ensure their deaths appear natural. Everything goes horribly wrong when Felix and new young Exiteer, Amanda, accidentally help the wrong patient to die.

The second voice in the story is PC Calvin Bridge, a small town policeman, and in his own eyes a failed detective. Calvin has no confidence in his own abilities. He also hoards a shameful secret past.

Even now, if she spotted Calvin from any distance, Shirley made a point fo glowering at him. And if she were with somebody else, she’d turn to them and say something, and then that person would glower at him too, which made him feel like a bad person – which he knew he wasn’t – so if he ever spotted Shirley before she spotted him, he always just hid.

A comedy of errors unfolds as Felix tries to find out whether he is guilty of murder or something more sinister is afoot, and Calvin finds himself doing the detective work he’s been avoiding.

According to British author Bauer, crime novels are about how the stories of our lives can be suddenly changed by the misdeeds of others. Life is a river and crime the rocks – it is when our lives hit a rock that we find out if we are life’s swimmers or sinkers. Bauer’s novels focus on survival and recovery after a calamity.

Baur has a knack for crafting original, oddball characters that endear the reader to them. Exit is a delightful, hilarious and farcical look at life and death, the invisibility of ageing, friendship, morality and loyalty.

Exit is Bauer’s ninth crime novel. I have written about the author before. See my review of The Shut Eye here

Environmental crime fiction

I woke up to a startlingly beautiful sky filled with hot air balloons this morning. After doing some writing I set out with the hound on a long walk. It is a stunning Autumn day. Already I have been squawked at by some cheeky galas and said hello to an echidna going about its day.

Now, I have stopped for a moment and I am squatting on a rock looking at the river scene in the the photos include in this blog post as I write it on my phone. The intermittent sound of birds play a tune over the background base of the swollen Yarra River waters spilling across rocks on their way to the city. It is peaceful and soothing and my mind turns to my writing.

My current manuscript is a crime fiction novel with a backdrop of the environmental movement. One of the underlying themes is climate grief and I have taken much inspiration from my local environment as well as from a period living in East Gippsland.

The idea for the story came to me during a writing workshop I attended with Angela Savage, former CEO of Writers Victoria, at the Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival (TARWF) in October 2019 and I commenced work on the manuscript in November that year (TARWF will run again this year in November and I hope to go again as it was a hoot last time – I delivered spoken word piece at their Noir at the Bar event. You can listen to that here.)

The story for my current manuscript is set in 2018, before the Victorian bushfires and the pandemic. Whilst the premise pre-dates our recent disasters, the story has certainly been shaped by them. It is a lament to Victoria’s beautiful disappearing landscapes and humanities seeming collective inability to do what needs to be done to save them from the impacts of climate change. There have been moments when I considered abandoning the endeavour, particularly after the terrible bushfires in Victoria that consumed much of the landscape in which the story is set. Instead I made some changes to include a foreboding of disasters such as the fires and the pandemic so that the story does not seem dated.

I entered the first few chapters into a competition for a Varuna Fellowship last year and was chuffed to be shortlisted. I hope to take up the opportunity for a supported residency later this year.

My writing has been interrupted a bit over the last year, but I have now crossed the half way mark of the first draft at just over 40,000 words and am feeling inspired to forge on into the home stretch so I can set myself to editing.

For now, I must continue on my walk as the hound is getting restless.

Online course reviews

Writing courses can be a great way to learn new techniques, think more deeply about your writing, and motivate you to keep putting ink on the page. Here I review a couple I have completed recently.

Kill Your Darlings: Mastering Emotional Honesty with Lee Kofman

One of the main pieces of feedback I’ve had from editors has been ‘put more emotions and/or drama into your work’. I took this online course to focus a bit of energy on that feedback.

Dr Lee Kofman, who delivers the online course, is a Russian-born Israeli-Australian author of five books and editor of two anthologies. Kofman unpacks the complex and hard task of writing with emotional honesty and helps you discover the rewards of making your writing more prolific and productive.

In the introduction to this course, Kofman suggests a writer should be ‘like a firefighter whose job it is, while everyone else is fleeing the flames, to run straight into them.’ Intellectually safe writing is easier to do, but does not engage readers as effectively – if you want to touch their hearts you have to take risks.

The exercises in this course challenge you to tap into personally emotive events to develop and challenge your writing. It covers concepts such as moral outrage, internal contradictions, sentimentality, nostalgia, emotional complexity and creating emotionally rich complex characters.

Example texts identified in the course include fiction works like Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary; Hanif Kureishi’s Something to Tell You; and memoir including Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty and Alice Pung’s Her Father’s Daughter.

KYD courses are good value, well structured short courses with a mix of audio/audiovisual, text, and exercises. Once you purchase a course it is available to you in perpetuity. The learning platform is easy to navigate, so if you are a bit of a luddite you shouldn’t have any trouble.

Australian Writers Centre: Anatomy of a Crime: How to Write About Murder with Candice Fox

I’m a big Candice Fox fan and she’s written about fourteen crime fiction novels so she knows a bit about the genre. I love her bold characters and unpredictable, and sometimes outrageous, but still believable plots.

There is a lot of content in this course. The course has eight modules estimated to take eight hours of study time. However, if you go through all the available resources provided you can go a lot deeper and further than the estimated time to complete.

Candice’s great character writing comes to the fore in the course as she explores the psychology of crime, what makes people kill and what happens after they do. Topics covered include premeditation; types of murder crimes; writing crime scenes; looking for suspects and the killer; making the arrest; trials and prison life.

AWC produces quality content using a mix of audio, audio-visual, and practical exercises. Each course is accessible for 12 months from the date of purchase and AWC has regular specials that make them more affordable.

For other online course reviews see here and here and here.



Locked in

Melbourne’s been back in lockdown, so a post on locked-room mysteries seems appropriate.

Locked-room mysteries are a sub-genera of crime fiction in which a seemingly ‘impossible crime’ is committed. The circumstances surrounding the crime make it implausible that the perpetrator committed the offence at all, or if they did, it seems unlikely they could evade detection. The crime scene is sealed from the inside with no way out (unless they were Houdini).

These stories usually involve a closed circle of people with a limited number of suspects and a whimsical detective to keep us guessing as they investigate. The solution is always right there, if only we could lay our eyes on the sleight of hand that plays on our curiosity. They are great mysteries for lovers of puzzles and a world away from gritty police procedurals or thrillers about psychopaths and the more brutal side of humanity. They are more cosy-supernatural-gothic.

Think a group of acquaintances getting locked up together on a remote property. They are caught out when the weather turns bad, making leaving impossible and bringing communications down. Keith, who had been driving everyone mad, is found dead in the garden shed. The garden shed has no windows and is locked securely from the inside. When the group break the door down they find Kieth lying on the floor with a bullet wound to his head. Strangely there’s no gun in the shed…Lucky one of the group is also a brilliant detective.

Locked-room mysteries were hot in the Golden Age of detective fiction between the two world wars. Agatha Christie perfected the genera, but Edgar Allan Poe is credited with invention of its long form in 1841 with The Murders in the Rue Morgue, although some say John Dickson Carr pre-dated him with The Hollow Man in 1935.

Casting even further back, the style was evident in short stories. In Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op story Mike or Alec or Rufus that appeared in the January 1925 issue of Black Mask, the action takes place in an apartment building and the private investigator tries to solve the crime through interviewing suspects; Wilkie Collons’ The Moonstone (1854) is also credited as contributing to development of the sub-genre. Elements can even be found in the Old Testament story of Bel and the Dragon in which an idol who eats food offerings from a sealed room is worshiped. The stories hero Daniel, exposes the secret entrance used by the priests who are taking the food for themselves.

In a Guardian article from 2014, Adrian McKinty nominated his top ten impossible murder novels, ranging from The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868) to La Septième Hypothèse by Paul Halter (1991). Interestingly there are a lot of locked room mysteries with a French origin.

Contemporary novels in this sub-genre are dominated by women writers and include Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood (2016), The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley, They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall, The Last by Hanna Jameson, Nine Perfect Strangers by Laine Moriarty, The Last Resort by Susi Holliday, and One by One by Ruth Ware who must like four walls, a ceiling and a floor.

Locked room mysteries are concerned with psychology and relationships between people in high pressure environments. They study what can happen when we are forced to spend more time with other’s than we would choose to. When we see one another more clearly that we ever have before and it becomes claustrophobic and uncomfortable because we are cut off from the outside world. Under these conditions our masks and defenses fall away and our true selves are revealed, warts and all. The evaporation of the veneer of civility creates a perfect environment for a mysterious crime. And of course there must be a brilliant detective to keep everyone contained until they solve the case.

I hope your lockdown was less dramatic, but if you can’t get your fill of a locked-rooms in lockdown try one of these:

  • The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-room Mysteries by Otto Penzier – collection of 68 of the all time best
  • Miraculous Mysteries, edited by Martin Edwards – anthology
  • Locked Room Murders by Robert Adey – a bibliography of the problem and solution to 1,280 locked room crime novels and short stories