It’s what we obsessive readers do — make ever-longer lists of books we want to read. Looking ahead at the publishing calendar next year, here are some titles that have piqued my interest. Some of these are out in the UK, but haven’t made it to the US yet.
The Crime of Black Dudley by Margery Allingham
Bloomsbury, January 2018
From the publisher: The Black Dudley is an ancient, remote mansion inhabited by recluse, Colonel Combe, but owned by Wyatt Petrie, a young academic who decides to revive his property with a weekend party to which he invites his friends and colleagues.It all begins with a seemingly innocent ritual-game, played in Black Dudley for generations, in which a jewelled dagger is passed between the guests in the darkness. The young visitors are intrigued and eager to play, but when the lights are restored it becomes apparent that Colonel Combe has fallen ill. Luckily for Abbershaw, among the guests is Albert Campion — a garrulous and affable party-crasher with a great knack for solving mysteries and interrogating suspects. The Crime at Black Dudley, first published in 1929, is the first novel which introduces Margery Allingham’s amiable sleuth — Albert Campion.
I love classics from the Golden Age of Crime and I am really glad Allingham is getting her due lately. Now we just need to see some reprints of Mary Robert Rinehart.
In the Shadow of Agatha Christie, edited by Leslie S. Klinger
Pegasus Books, January 2018
From the publisher: Authors who followed [these women], such as Patricia Wentworth, Dorothy Sayers, and, of course, Agatha Christie would not have thrived without the bold, fearless work of their predecessors — and the genre would be much poorer for their absence. So while Agatha Christie may still reign supreme, it is important to remember that she did not ascend that throne except on the shoulders of the women who came before her—and inspired her—and who are now removed from her shadow once and for all by this superb new anthology by Leslie S. Klinger. Featuring: Mary Fortune, Harriet Prescott Spofford, Ellen Wood, Elizabeth Corbett, C. L. Pirkis, Geraldine Bonner, Ellen Glasgow, L. T. Meade, Baroness Orczy, Augusta Großer, M. E. Graddon, Anna Katherine Green, Carolyn Wells, Susan Glashell
Speaking of writers getting their due, this collection should resurrect some names for us ravenous mystery readers.
Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Kathryn Harkup
Bloomsbury, February 2018
From the publisher: The year 1818 saw the publication of one of the most influential science-fiction stories of all time. Frankenstein: Or, Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley had a huge impact on gothic horror and science fiction genres.Making the Monster explores the science behind Shelley’s book. We can resuscitate people using defibrillators, save lives using blood transfusions, and prolong life through organ transplants–these procedures are nowadays considered almost routine. From tales of reanimated zombie kittens to electrical experiments on human cadavers, Kathryn Harkup examines the science and scientists that influenced Mary Shelley and inspired her most famous creation, Victor Frankenstein.
Harkup’s first book A is for Arsenic focused on the use of poisons in Christie novels, and culture in general. She brought first-class science to famous works of fiction so I can’t wait to see what she turns up with Frankenstein.
The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb
Atria, May 2018
From the publisher: From New York Times bestselling author Sharyn McCrumb comes this finely wrought novel set in nineteenth-century West Virginia, based on the true story of one of the strangest murder trials in American history—the case of the Greenbrier Ghost. In his forty-year career, lawyer Gardner’s most memorable case was the one in which he helped to defend a white man on trial for the murder of his young bride—a case that the prosecution based on the testimony of a ghost. Beautiful, willful Zona Heaster has always lived in the mountains of West Virginia. A month after her funeral, determined to get justice for her daughter, Mary Jane informs the county prosecutor that Zona’s ghost appeared to her, saying that she had been murdered.
I’ve heard this story so many times — testimony from beyond grave — that I am interested to see what can be done with it in novelised form.
Conan Doyle for the Defense: A Sensational British Murder, the Quest for Justice, and the World’s Greatest Detective Writer by Margalit Fox
Random House, June 2018
From the publisher: In 1908 an elderly woman was brutally murdered in her Glasgow apartment. The police found a convenient but innocent suspect in Oscar Slater–a Jewish cardsharp–who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, already the world-famous creator of Sherlock Holmes, was outraged by this injustice and became obsessed with the case. Over the years he scoured trial transcripts, newspaper accounts, and police diaries, meticulously noting myriad holes and inconsistencies. Finally, in 1927, his work won Slater’s freedom.
Conan Doyle for the Defense immerses readers in the science of Edwardian crime detection, telling the story of how Conan Doyle managed to get this murder conviction overturned by employing the methods of his most famous creation. Along the way, Fox illuminates a watershed moment in the history of criminal justice when reflexive prejudice began gradually to be replaced by reason and the scientific method.
I’m familiar with the story of George Edalji’s defense and Doyle but I am less knowledgeable about this case. There is something so satisfying about fiction meeting reality.
Hame by Annalena McAfee
Vintage, July 2018
From the publisher: Commissioned to set up a museum there and to write the biography of the island’s celebrated poet and chronicler, Mhairi McPhail is slowly drawn in by the complicated life she is uncovering and writing about–the Bard of Fascaray–as she finds herself being transformed, awakened by the ferocity and power of the island. Who was the celebrated poet, Grigor McWatt, The Bard of Fascaray? What was his past? Details of his life are elusive. As Mhairi struggles to adapt to her island life and put her disappointment and troubles behind her, she begins to unearth the astonishing secret history of the poet, regarded by many as the custodian of Fascaray’s–and Scotland’s–soul.
I don’t know much about this one, and truthfully different descriptions of the same book have a varying level of interest for me. But it sounds like something different and I would like to give it a go.
French Exit by Patrick deWitt
Ecco, August 2018
From the publisher: Frances Price – tart widow, possessive mother, and Upper East Side force of nature – is in dire straits, beset by scandal and impending bankruptcy. Her adult son Malcolm is no help, mired in a permanent state of arrested development. And then there’s the Price’s aging cat, Small Frank, who Frances believes houses the spirit of her late husband, an infamously immoral litigator and world-class cad whose gruesome tabloid death rendered Frances and Malcolm social outcasts. Putting penury and pariahdom behind them, the family decides to cut their losses and head for the exit. One ocean voyage later, the curious trio land in their beloved Paris, the City of Light serving as a backdrop not for love or romance, but self destruction and economical ruin – to riotous effect.
I have loved everything I’ve read by Patrick deWitt and this sounds hysterical.
The Rogues’ Syndicate: The Maelstrom by Frank Froest
Collins Crime Club, August 2018
From the publisher: Lost in a London fog, young Jimmie Hallett is accosted by a frightened woman who hands him a package and flees. Within hours, he is being questioned about the murder of the girl’s father and a dangerous international conspiracy. Can genial detective Weir Menzies, even with all the resources of Scotland Yard behind him, succeed in outwitting a faceless gang of organised thieves and killers? Frank Froëst, the highly decorated Superintendent of Scotland Yard’s C.I.D., began his retirement from the Metropolitan Police by writing The Grell Mystery, acclaimed as the first crime novel to incorporate authentic police procedures. With George Dilnot, co-author of the story collection The Crime Club, Froëst wrote one more novel, the ambitious and thrilling The Rogues’ Syndicate, published in 1916 and also released as a silent movie, Millionaire Hallet’s Adventure.
I’ve never read Froest but I enjoy classic crime and it would be interesting to read something by a former policeman at the turn-of-the-century.
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
Melville House, September 2018
From the publisher: Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover’s paradise? Well, almost … In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.
I’ve been eyeing this one from the UK for awhile and I am happy it has found a US outlet.
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Sourcebooks Landmark, September 2018
From the publisher: At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed. Again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend. But nothing and no one are quite what they seem.
I’ve also been stalking this one from afar and can’t wait until it comes to America.
What books are you looking forward to in the new year?