“The Turning Point,” directed by William Dieterle

Movie, 1952 Crime drama, in which a newly appointed American police head is given a rough time and some uncomfortable home truths as he tries to sort out a local crime ring. This is a film which clips along reasonably well, except for an overlong courtroom scene. If the film’s not startlingly original, the trials and journey for the main police character give the whole … Continue reading “The Turning Point,” directed by William Dieterle

"The Small World of Sammy Lee," directed by Ken Hughes

Movie, 1963 A film which looks slight and a little kitsch despite its strip joints, thugs and poker games, but which packs a punch all the same, through the tension built around the anti-hero and the cinematography which gives a wonderful black and white, light and shade, multi-faceted portrait of Soho. Anthony Newley’s down trodden sarcastic charm suits the title role and surroundings. Some strange … Continue reading "The Small World of Sammy Lee," directed by Ken Hughes

"The Beckoning Lady", by Margery Allingham

Novel, 1955 Essentially, a country house whodunnit, but with mercantile and business characters and some fairly typical moral and other ambiguities popping up here and there. This is a soothing read which handles a large cast of characters and rather fizzles out just as things threaten to really get going. Enjoyable, though neither oddball, tense or mysterious enough to fully grip the attention. The book’s … Continue reading "The Beckoning Lady", by Margery Allingham

"Watson’s Choice," by Gladys Mitchell

Novel, 1955 Golden age detective novel, which builds an atmosphere and mystery long before a murder is committed, then proceeds to a robust, enjoyable whodunnit. A book which is light and nimble and something of a period piece – particularly noticeable in the treatment of an ‘exotic’ and very psychologically baffling Spaniard. A good example of the morals and morays of an English class, with … Continue reading "Watson’s Choice," by Gladys Mitchell

"In a Lonely Place," by Dorothy Hughes

Novel, 1947 Gripping thriller, with an unreliable narrator, stakeouts, murders and a Los Angeles full of noir and women who would comfortably fit the femme fatale trope were the narrator not so warped and wrapped up in himself. This is a book with a small number of characters and a gloomy trajectory whose mystery is hinted at then revealed in short notice, with the rest … Continue reading "In a Lonely Place," by Dorothy Hughes

"Whose Body?" by Dorothy Sayers

Novel, 1923 First Lord Peter Wimsey outing, setting up a London mystery between the wars, complete with man servants, domineering family members and a lightness of touch at times tempered with references to the darker psychological outcomes of the First World War. An entertaining read, above all, and if it’s easy to dismiss this as a genre piece, there’s much going on in the mental … Continue reading "Whose Body?" by Dorothy Sayers

"They Made Me a Criminal", directed Busby Berkeley

Movie, 1939 Boxing movie which looks tired and dated, even if the opening premise, at least, is¬†intriguing. After a while, the plot, acting and narrative all flop, leaving a pretty mundane picture with¬†a few baffling scenes which do little to carry the action forward or comment on the main plot (borrowed from an earlier film). Difficult to know who this film was aimed for, and … Continue reading "They Made Me a Criminal", directed Busby Berkeley

"Otley," by Martin Waddell

Novel, 1966 Twisting plot concerning small time antiques thief who gets embroiled in espionage and counter espionage. This is a book which spins perhaps an over-sized cast of despots a little too quickly and although well written, doesn’t quite do enough to grab and arrest the attention. A tongue in cheek, anti-establishment flavour root it in the time in which it was written. Not a … Continue reading "Otley," by Martin Waddell

"Faceless Killers" by Henning Mankell

Novel, 1991 In many ways, this is as formulaic a detective book as you could hope for; what sets it aside is the gloomy unrelenting atmosphere and sense of things breaking, from anti-hero Wallander’s appalling diet, to the sense of a terrifying new world of race and other savage crimes to the bleak weather. Even the coffee’s cold most of the time. The odd happier … Continue reading "Faceless Killers" by Henning Mankell

"The Case of the Late Pig," by Margery Allingham

Novel, 1937 Lively novel combining crime and mystery, with the familiar characters Campion and Lugg on the side of good, with an unfolding set of events and circumstances which lead to an ever-increasing sense of the inhuman and the grisly. The dead seem to come back to life, local police are found wanting in capability and there are other twists and turns en route. This … Continue reading "The Case of the Late Pig," by Margery Allingham