CIS: Classics by Bloomsbury Reader part 2

Classic_Crime_150x150Earlier this month we looked at the five new digital reprints of classic British crime fiction, brought to you by Bloomsbury Reader our sponsor for this year’s Classsics in September. This digital imprint specialises in classic crime titles, some of which have been out of print for years. As ebooks, they’re a great introduction to crime fiction from a bygone era for modern audiences. Here we bring you five more Bloomsbury Reader publications by authors who, if not household names today, are deservedly well placed in the pantheon of great crime writers.

The Wrong Side Of The SkyThe Wrong Side of the Sky by  Gavin Lyall
Published in 1961, this was Gavin Lyall’s first book. None other than PG Wodehouse appraised it thus: “Terrific: when better novels of suspense are written, lead me to them!” Lyall did his national service between 1951 and 1953 in the RAF, and there is a a strong core of autobiography in this novel. Jack Clay is out of the RAF, and out of luck. He makes a precarious living flying an indestructible Douglas DCR ‘Dakota’ between various Mediterranean landing strips, and who cares if the cargo isn’t strictly legal? When Clay meets up with an old flying buddy, Ken Kitson, the pair become involved in helping a rich Indian aristocrat try to recover a fortune in gold, diamonds and jewels stolen from his family during the partition of India.
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The Deadly JokerThe Deadly Joker by Nicholas Blake
Nicholas Blake was none other than CS Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia. His death, on 22 November 1963, was rather overshadowed by the assassination of JFK in Dallas, but as Nicholas Blake, he is immortalised by this classic crime fiction tale. It is set in the unlikeliest named crime scene, the Dorset village of Netherplash Cantorum, during the 1950s. A new lord – a brash businessman called Ronald Paston – has taken over the manor house. He is frowned upon as he is definitely ‘new money’. Even more scandalous is that his wife Vera – described as ‘a passion flower among the pansies’ –  is from India. Meanwhile, John Waterson has retired to the village to escape the pressures of the world and, like other male villagers, is entranced by Vera. When a series of elaborate practical jokes escalates into the dreadful murder of the exotic Mrs Paston, Waterson puts aside his current writing project and, with the help of his son Sam, resolves to find out who killed her.
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The White CottageThe White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham
This was originally printed as a 1927 potboiler newspaper serial in The Daily Express, and only came to light after judicious editing by Joyce Allingham, after her sister’s death in 1966. Although Margery Allingham’s greatest fame came from books featuring Albert Campion, the first being The Crime At Black Dudley in 1929, this earlier story features a different protagonist – Jerry Challenor. It concerns the death of Eric Crowther, a man who made it his business to learn the secrets and frailties of his neighbours and used this knowledge to his own ends. When he is found shot dead, there are many suspects, but Challenor has to enlist the help of his father, none other than the distinguished Scotland Yard detective, WT Challenor. This is little more than a novella, but has cemented its place in the list of great Golden Age mysteries.
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Nine LIvesNine Lives by Bernice Rubens
Bernice Rubens lived right up until 2004, but this novel places her happily among the greats of classic British crime fiction. You may think that guitar strings are only capable of inflicting pain when they are strummed by inept teenagers, but Rubens uses the humble length of wire into a deadly weapon. Psychotherapists may get a bad press as being practitioners of a pseudo science, but when one after another of these dubious professionals is garotted with just such a musical wire then the admirable detective Inspector Wilkins remains baffled. This is not your run-of-the-mill whodunnit, as that  problem is resolved at an early stage. No, this is more of a ‘whydunnit’, and is a deliciously subtle examination of human frailty and weakness.
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A Long SilenceA Long Silence by Nicolas Freeling
Nicolas Davidson, aka Nicolas Freeling, achieved commercial success when his Van der Valk novels were adapted for British TV in the 1970s, with Barrie Foster in the starring role. Here, the detective investigates what is apparently a mundane jewel theft – after all, this is Amsterdam – but falls foul of the criminals he pursues. It contains a central shocking twist and the criminality goes well beyond jewel heists. Freeling was one of the first crime novelists to move away from the procedural and investigative nuts and bolts, and spend more time on looking at those who inhabit the disfunctional society of men and women who resort to crime and violence, as an alternative to positive relationships with their fellow men and women.
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