Saturday, 2 March 2013

My first foray into vintage mystery

The area of pre 1960s mystery stories is not one I can claim to know much about.  I can think of some obvious candidates (Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie) but beyond this very short list there is just blank!  Not that I don't find mystery stories enjoyable, some of my favourite Enid Blyton books are mystery series, but its just a genre I've not read much in and know little about.

It was with this in mind that I decided to join in the Vintage Mystery Challenge, hoping to extend my knowledge and hopefully find some enjoyable reads.

So wanting to get started, but not having a clue where to begin, I visited my the book stall on my local market.

I love this book stall, it has been there since I was a child and I would guess at least 50% of my book collection has come from here, most probably more.  It started out as one small unit with floor to ceiling shelves.  Then there were boxes staked in front.  Then there were teetering piles stacked on the floor.  Then they took over the neighbouring unit and order was restored for a short time.  Then the piles returned!  

I love the piles, you can spend hours looking through and still not see all the books that are there as the piles now stand a couple deep (or more in some places) against the shelves behind.  Finding a book you want in the middle of one of these piles is an adventure in itself.  Carefully support the ones above and slowly slide out?  Reconstruct the top of the pile elsewhere?  Or admit defeat and bring in the management!

The stall owner is also very friendly and helpful (not always a common occurrence in second hand book shops!), with what appears to be an encyclopaedic knowledge of literature past and present.  And if you don't have the time to spend perusing the piles (or just don't find it as enjoyable as I do!), he also has exact knowledge of his stock and where to find it at any time.

So it was here I headed with my complete lack of knowledge.  I was directed to the appropriate boxes and given a quick run down of some novels and authors from the genre that he recommended.

I had a bit of a browse, and there were some names I recognised!  However, given that one of the main reasons for joining this challenge was to broaden my knowledge I decided to limit myself to names I hadn't heard of before, at least for the first eight!

I ended up buying four paperbacks (don't judge me too harshly for not having heard of them before!)

  • The Case of the Shoplifters Shoe by Erle Stanley Gardner
  • Buried for Pleasure by Edmund Crispin
  • Traitor's Purse by Margery Allingham
  • Double Indemnity by James M Cain
I have decided to split my reading between hard copies and kindle, since I am enjoying the use of my kindle so much!  So after some online research and a trawl of Amazon, I have also chosen four stories on the kindle.

  • The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux
  • The Red House Mystery by A A Milne
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh
Here I have ignored my 'new names' idea slightly.  I have of course heard of A.A Milne, pre 1960s children's books being a subject I do know something about.  However I had no idea that he had also written a mystery book and I am very excited to give it a read.

So the eight books I am committing to for the challenge and their categories are:
  • #1. Colourful Crime: The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
  • #11. Malicious Men: A man lay dead - Ngaio Marsh
  • #16. Locked rooms: The Red House Mystery - A A Milne
  •  #24. A Mystery by Any Other Name: Traitor's Purse - Margery Allingham (The sabotage murder mystery)
  • #29. The Old Bailey: The case of the Shoplifters Shoe - Erle Stanley Gardner
  • #30. Serial Killers: Double Indemnity - James M Cain
  • #31. Killed in Translation: The Mystery of the Yellow room - Gaston Leroux
  • #35 Genuine Fakes: Buried for pleasure - Edmund Crispin (Robert Bruce Montgomery)

I hope to read more than the eight, but will commit to these for a start and see how I go!   


  1. This brings back memories of working in a library about 15 years ago and reshelving books in the crime fiction section.......

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