Books: Crime Classics Challenge Update

At the start of the year, I decided to take up the Crime Classics Reading Challenge, with the aim of reading at least one new Golden Age crime classic each month.

Mostly, this is so I have something specific to look for when I wander through the library, but in my clearing out of the bookshelves a month or so ago, I found a shelf-full of just such books as fit the challenge that I had forgotten I had. They will, in light of the current social situation, probably move a bit further up my reading list. There are also some Heyers, Sayers and Christies I’ve read and loved before. I’ll probably reread them too.

It’s actually just as well I found these books, now that local libraries are being closed.

Books I have read so far

Death in Captivity, by Michael Gilbert: In a POW camp in Northern Italy in the final year of WWII, the body of one of the prisoners is found in an escape tunnel being dug under the huts. How did it get there, and can the rest of them work out who did it without revealing the tunnel to the Italians?

This is a proper locked-door sort of mystery, combined with the prisoners’ continued efforts to escape back to Allied lines. I wonder how much of Gilbert’s own experiences in an Italian POW camp made it into the novel. I found this quite a thrilling sort of read, the sort where you just have to keep reading, which wasn’t entirely due to the mystery. It was also the whole escaping-from-camp thing.

Mystery in White, by J. Jefferson Farjeon: Leaving a snow-bound train, a group of strangers find refuge in an empty house fully stocked for Christmas festivities. What happened to the owners?

This one felt like it was trying too much to be a ghost story rather than a murder-mystery, but it was lacking in ghostly atmosphere, even with the empty house and Christmas setting. Which is a shame, because I know I’ve read and enjoyed one of Farjeon’s other crime novels before (though I can’t now remember the name of it).

Currently reading

A Scream in Soho, by John G. Brandon: Another WWII-set mystery, this time black-out London, with Detective Inspector McCarthy investigating among the Italian gangsters, German spies, and Austrian aristocrats.



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