"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

"Holy Disorders", by Edmund Crispin

Novel, 1945 Engaging, subversive and occasionally very witty detective romp, focusing on the goings on in a small cathedral city in Devon, which can’t seem to retain a share of extant organists. A book whose laconic approach, whimsical-cum-sinister settings and continuing warnings against witchcraft and Nazism place it very much ‘of its time’ and snug within its genre, although the writing sparkles and the plot’s … Continue reading "Holy Disorders", by Edmund Crispin

"Don’t Point That Thing at Me", by Kyril Bonfiglioli

Novel, 1972 Adventures of an art enthusiast and amateur gentleman sleuth, with more than a touch of Wodehouse, some very non-reconstructed 1970s views towards women and “foreigners” and briefly dark passages punctuating the sprightly overall tone of the book. The mixture of keen plotting and a brisk pace make for a compelling read, and while the book isn’t really an absolute classic, there’s more than … Continue reading "Don’t Point That Thing at Me", by Kyril Bonfiglioli

"Arab Jazz", by Karim Miské

Novel, 2015 While the settings and particularly the characters in the book are a little off-genre, this book is, essentially, a piece of detective fiction. Nothing wrong with that, and at the beginning of the book, the combination of a fairly familiar form and some more contemporary aspects combine to hook the reader. The power diminishes, to some extent, after a high number of popular … Continue reading "Arab Jazz", by Karim Miské

"The Drop", directed Michaël R Roskam

Movie, 2014 While this is a film with huge potential for failure – a slurring method acting loner, rescued dog etc. – this slow burner builds a tense and twisting plot and genuine foreboding atmosphere. There’s also a refreshing straightforward setting and story telling with no artsy tricks, crushing soundtrack or CGI, just the goings on in a bar, its assistant manager and people orbiting … Continue reading "The Drop", directed Michaël R Roskam

"A Suspension of Mercy", by Patricia Highsmith

Novel, 1965 Nail-biting suspense of little subtlety but huge impact, in which a net and circumstances draw ever tighter round a pretty unhinged, psychotic central protagonist. This is real page-turning stuff and a study in a few disintegrating personalities, where the readers’ view is continually shifted around by some deceptively read-a-long writing skirting over some pretty seismic motivations and actions. This is a novel which … Continue reading "A Suspension of Mercy", by Patricia Highsmith

"Hangman’s Holiday", by Dorothy L Sayers

Short stories, 1933 Stories concerning themselves more with the thoughts than the deeds on the part of Lord Peter Wimsey and the even more excellently named Montagu Egg. These stories are entertaining for the most part, although details which demand close attention – times of events and Monty Egg’s Salesman’s Handbook prominently feature, often derail the pace and the reader’s attention. While the plots are … Continue reading "Hangman’s Holiday", by Dorothy L Sayers