My Book Notes: Gallows Court, 2018 by Martin Edwards

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Head of Zeus, 2018. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 1094 KB. Print Length: 368 pages. ASIN: B079GXJPC8 eISBN: 978-1-78854-606-5. First published in the United Kingdom in 2018.

9781788546072Plot Summary: London, 1930. Sooty, sulphurous, and malign: no woman should be out on a night like this. A spate of violent deaths – the details too foul to print – has horrified the capital and the smog-bound streets are deserted. But Rachel Savernake is no ordinary woman. To Scotland Yard’s embarrassment, she solved the Chorus Girl Murder, and now she’s on the trail of another killer. Jacob Flint, manning The Clarion‘s crime desk, is looking for the scoop that will make his name. He’s certain there is more to the Miss Savernake’s amateur sleuthing than meets the eye. Flint’s pursuit of his story will mire him ever-deeper into a labyrinth of deception and corruption. Murder-by-murder, he is swept ever-closer to that ancient place of execution, where it all began and where it will finally end: Gallows Court.

My Take: Martin Edwards, in his last published novel, makes an unusual incursion in a different genre to which he has accustomed us to, coming out successfully of this challenge. Gallows Court is is fact more a thriller than a detective story. The action unfolds in London 1930, although throughout the story some fragments of a diary written back in 1919 are inserted, whose full meaning will not be known until the end. The story plot turns out difficult to summarised  for fear of revealing too much. Suffice is to say that Rachel Savernake, after the death of her father Judge Savernake, has inherited his immense wealth and has relocated herself to living in London. When the story opens, a young reporter by the name of Jacob Flint attempts to address her to ask her whether it’s unsafe for a lady to be out while a brutal killer prowls the London streets. But to his surprise, he finds out that Miss Savernake is very well informed about him. Before arriving in London last autumn, Flint learned his trade as a reporter in Yorkshire. He lodges in Amwell Street and worries that his landlady’s daughter seeks to trade her body for marriage. His ambition drove him to join The Clarion rather than a respectable newspaper. Though his editor admires his persistence, he worries about his rashness. Apparently he has a morbid taste in crime and regards Thomas Betts’ recent accident as both a misfortune and an opportunity. With The Clarion’s chief crime reporter on his death bed, he seeks a chance of making himself a name. And she ends saying: ‘Be careful what you wish for. If Wall Street can crumble, so can anything. How unfortunate if you promising career were cut short, like his.’

During the course of their encounter, Flint realises that Miss Savernake does not deny her participation in solving the Chorus Girl case and openly asks her what does she make of the latest sensation, the butchering of poor Mary-Jane Hayes in Convent Garden? The arrival of Miss Savernake car interrupts their conversation and once she settles herself in the back of her Rolls-Royce Phantom, she asks herself whether Flint might prove to be of some use to her. It might be risky, but she’d never been afraid to gamble. It was in her blood.

I’ve much enjoyed reading Gallows Court. The story is perfectly crafted, the plot is absorbing and the mystery is sufficiently complex as to capture the reader’s attention from the first pages. Intrigue and suspense continually increases as the story unfolds, and Martin Edwards seems to exercise as an illusionist showing, in front of his audience, that things are not always what they appear to be. At one point, when everything begins to make sense, the story takes a new turn leading the reader back again to an uncharted ground until it finally all fits into place. Knowing the author, it can’t came as a surprise to us to find references and winks to several authors of the Golden Age of Detection, which will undoubtedly increase our enjoyment.  If we add to all these that the main characters are well-defined, the end result is that we are in the presence of a superb novel that I highly recommended.

My Rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

Gallows Court has been reviewed, among others, at Bedford Bookshelf, Books Please, Kittling: Books, Crossexamining Crime, In Search Of the Classic Mystery Novel, Shots Magazine, My Reader’s Block, Crimepieces, Crime Squad, Clothes in Books, and Cleopatra Loves Books.

About the Author: Martin Edwards’ latest novel, Gallows Court, was published in September 2018. He is consultant to the British Library’s Crime Classics series, and has written sixteen contemporary whodunits, including The Coffin Trail, which was shortlisted for the Theakston’s Prize for best crime novel of the year. His genre study The Golden Age of Murder won the Edgar, Agatha, H.R.F. Keating and Macavity awards, while The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books has been nominated for two awards in the UK and three in the US. Editor of 38 anthologies, he has also won the CWA Short Story Dagger and the CWA Margery Allingham Prize, and been nominated for an Anthony, the CWA Dagger in the Library, the CWA John Creasey Memorial Dagger, and a CWA Gold Dagger. He is President of the Detection Club and Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, and Archivist of both organisations. He has received the Red Herring award for services to the CWA, and the Poirot award for his outstanding contribution to the crime genre. Upon finishing reading this book, I heard the news that Martin Edwards has been awarded with the 2020 CWA Diamond Dagger for “sustained excellence making significant contributions to crime writing”. Edwards joins authors recognised with the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) accolade, including Ruth Rendell, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Ian Rankin, P D James, Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, Lindsey Davis, Peter Lovesey, and John Le Carré.

Head of Zeus publicity page

Poisoned Pen Press publicity page

Martin Edwards Website

Audible 

Book Launch for Gallows Court by Martin Edwards 

Gallows Court: Martin Edwards talks to Crime Time

Gallows Court, de Martin Edwards

Resumen: Londres, 1930. Grisáceo, sulfuroso y maligno: ninguna mujer debería salir en una noche como esta. Una oleada de muertes violentas (cuyos detalles son demasiado horribles para publicarse) ha horrorizado a la capital y las calles llenas de smog se encuentran desiertas. Pero Rachel Savernake no es una mujer común. Para vergüenza de Scotland Yard, resolvió el asesinato de Chorus Girl, y ahora está siguiendo la pista de otro asesino. Jacob Flint, que se encarga de la mesa de homicidios de The Clarion, está buscando la primicia que le de nombre. Está seguro de que hay algo más de lo que parece en la afición investigadora de la señorita Savernake. La búsqueda de su historia por parte de Flint lo hundirá cada vez más en un laberinto de engaño y corrupción. Asesinato tras asesinato, se verá arrastrado cada vez más cerca de ese antiguo lugar de ejecución, donde todo comenzó y donde finalmente terminará: Gallows Court.

Mi opinión: Martin Edwards, en su última novela publicada, hace una incursión inusual en un género diferente al que nos ha acostumbrado, saliendo con éxito de este desafío. Gallows Court es, de hecho, más un thriller que una historia de detectives. La acción se desarrolla en Londres 1930, aunque a lo largo de la historia se insertan algunos fragmentos de un diario escrito en 1919, cuyo significado completo no se conocerá hasta el final. La trama de la historia resulta difícil de resumir por miedo a revelar demasiado. Basta decir que Rachel Savernake, después de la muerte de su padre, el juez Savernake, ha heredado su inmensa fortuna y se ha trasladado a vivir en Londres. Cuando comienza la historia, un joven periodista llamado Jacob Flint intenta dirigirse a ella para preguntarle si no es seguro que una mujer salga mientras un asesino brutal merodea por las calles de Londres. Pero para su sorpresa, descubre que la señorita Savernake está muy bien informada sobre él. Antes de llegar a Londres el otoño pasado, Flint aprendió su oficio como reportero en Yorkshire. Se aloja en la calle Amwell y le preocupa que la hija de su casera busque cambiar su cuerpo por un matrimonio. Su ambición lo llevó a unirse a The Clarion en lugar de a un periódico respetable. Aunque su editor admira su persistencia, le preocupa su imprudencia. Aparentemente tiene un gusto mórbido por el crimen y considera el reciente accidente de Thomas Betts como una desgracia y una oportunidad. Con el principal reportero de homicidios de The Clarion en su lecho de muerte, busca la oportunidad de hacerse un nombre. Y ella termina diciendo: “Ten cuidado con lo que deseas. Si Wall Street puede derrumbarse, también puede derrumbarse cualquier cosa. Qué desafortunado serías si tu prometedora carrera se viera interrumpida, como la suya“.

Durante el transcurso de su encuentro, Flint se da cuenta de que la señorita Savernake no niega su participación en la resolución del caso de Chorus Girl y abiertamente le pregunta qué piensa de la última sensación, la carnicería de la pobre Mary-Jane Hayes en Convent Garden. La llegada del auto de Miss Savernake interrumpe su conversación y una vez que se acomoda en la parte trasera de su Rolls-Royce Phantom, se pregunta si Flint podría serle a ella de alguna utilidad. Podría ser arriesgado, pero nunca había tenido miedo de jugar. Estaba en su sangre.

Me ha encantado leer Gallows Court. La historia está perfectamente elaborada, la trama es absorbente y el misterio es lo suficientemente complejo como para captar la atención del lector desde las primeras páginas. La intriga y el suspenso aumentan continuamente a medida que se desarrolla la historia, y Martin Edwards parece ejercer como un ilusionista que muestra, frente a su audiencia, que las cosas no siempre son lo que parecen ser. En un momento, cuando todo comienza a tener sentido, la historia toma un nuevo giro que lleva al lector nuevamente a un terreno desconocido hasta que finalmente todo encaja en su lugar. Conociendo al autor, no puede sorprendernos encontrar referencias y guiños a varios autores de la Edad de Oro de la novela policiaca, lo que sin duda aumentará nuestro disfrute. Si agregamos a todo esto que los personajes principales están bien definidos, el resultado final es que estamos en presencia de una excelente novela que recomiendo encarecidamente.


Mi valoración
: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: La última novela de Martin Edwards, Gallows Court, se publicó en septiembre 2018. Es consultor de la serie Crime Classics de la Biblioteca Británica, y ha escrito dieciséis whodunits contemporáneos, incluido The Coffin Trail, que fue preseleccionado para el Premio Theakston’s a la mejor novela policial del año. Su estudio del  género The Golden Age of Murder ganó los premios Edgar, Agatha, H.R.F. Keating y Macavity, mientras que The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books ha sido nominada para dos premios en el Reino Unido y tres en los Estados Unidos. Editor de 38 antologías, también ganó el CWA Short Story Dagger y el CWA Margery Allingham Prize, y ha sido nominado al Anthony, CWA Dagger in the Library, CWA John Creasey Memorial Dagger, y al CWA Gold Dagger. Es Presidente del Detection Club y preside la Crime Writers’ Association, ejerciendo de archivero en ambas organizaciones. Ha recibido el premio Red Herring por los servicios prestados a la CWA y el premio Poirot por su destacada contribución al género. Al terminar de leer este libro, escuché la noticia de que Martin Edwards ha sido galardonado con la Daga de Diamante 2020 de la CWA por la “sostenida excelencia de su significativa contribución a la novela policial”.  Edwards se une así a otros autores reconocidos con el galardón de la Asociación de Escritores de Crímenes (CWA), entre los que se incluyen Ruth Rendell, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Ian Rankin, P D James, Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, Lindsey Davis, Peter Lovesey y John Le Carré.

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (2017), by Martin Edwards

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British Library, 2017. Format: Kindle edition. File size: 500.0 KB. Print length: 357 pages. ASIN: B076KQ2BV5

story-of-classic-crime-in-100-books-martin-edwards-book-review-coverProduct details: The main aim of detective stories is to entertain, but the best cast a light on human behaviour, and display both literary ambition and accomplishment. Even unpretentious detective stories, written for unashamedly commercial reasons, can give us clues to the past, and give us insight into a long-vanished world that, for all its imperfections, continues to fascinate. This book, written by award-winning crime writer and president of the Detection Club, Martin Edwards, serves as a companion to the British Library’s internationally acclaimed series of Crime Classics. Long-forgotten stories republished in the series have won a devoted new readership, with several titles entering the bestseller charts and sales outstripping those of highly acclaimed contemporary thrillers.

My take: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books is a real gem that should have a privileged place on the bookshelves of any crime fiction aficionado. It tells the story of crime fiction during the first half of the twentieth century. As the author himself points out in his Introduction ‘the diversity of this much loved genre is breathtaking and so much greater than many critics have suggested. To illustrate this, I [Martin Edwards ] have chosen one hundred examples of books which highlight the achievements, and sometimes the limitations, of popular fiction of that era.’ It is therefore a reference book for all those who would like to initiate themselves in the reading of our favourite genre and for those enthusiasts, like myself, who wish to extend the scope of their knowledge. It also serves as a companion to the British Library’s series of Crime Classics. From the outset, Edwards wants to make it abundantly clear that ‘the main aim of detective stories is to entertain, but the best cast a light on human behaviour, and display both literary ambition and accomplishment.’ And there is another reason. ‘Even unpretentious detective stories, written for unashamedly commercial reasons, can give us clues to the past and give us insight into a long-vanished world that, for all its imperfections, continues to fascinate.’ For the purpose of this book, Edwards definition of ‘crime classic’ is a ‘novel or story collection published between 1901 and 1950. The British Library’s spans a slightly longer time frame but for the present purposes it makes sense to concentrate on the first half of the last century.’ And Edwards continues in the following terms: ‘My choice of books reflect a wish to present the genre’s development in an accessible, informative, and engaging way.’ For the purpose of a book of this characteristics, Edwards uses interchangeably the terms ‘detective stories’, ‘crime stories’ and ‘mysteries’ whose distinctions seems to him futile or even pedantic.  To conclude saying that he has not attempted to list the ‘best’ books of the period, nor is this even a selection of his own favourites. The clue of this book, as suggested in its title, is to tell a story. and he hopes that his references to scores of other books will encourage further investigations on the part of the readers. Regardless all the above, Edwards provides us the following attempt to define crime fiction:

A precise and truly satisfactory definition of the crime fiction genre continues to prove elusive, but it is safe to say that it encompasses stories in which the focus is not on the detective or on the process of detection but rather on the behaviour and psychology of the criminal.

From my side I would like to add that this book has helped me to eliminate some  misconceptions, stereotypes and prejudices that I had about some of the writers of this epoch and it has help me to discover a new world of authors and themes I was completely unaware of. It’s of interest to stress that quite a number of popular films of the time were based on some of these novels.

And, to conclude, a first paragraph I’m sure will whet your appetite:

‘It was not until several weeks after he had decided to murder his wife that Dr. Bickleigh took active steps in the matter. Murder is a serious business. The slightest mistake may be disastrous. Dr. Bickleigh had no intention of risking disaster.’ (Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles, 1931)

About the author: Martin Edwards, the current Chair of the CWA, has won the Edgar, Agatha, Macavity, and Poirot awards in the USA, and the CWA Short Story Dagger, CWA Margery Allingham Prize, and the H.R.F. Keating award in the UK. His latest Lake District Mystery is The Dungeon House. The series began with The Coffin Trail (shortlisted for the Theakston’s prize for best British crime novel) and includes The Arsenic Labyrinth(shortlisted for the Lakeland Book of the Year award). He has written eight novels about Liverpool lawyer Harry Devlin, starting with All the Lonely People; (shortlisted for the John Creasey Memorial Dagger); they are now available again as e-books.

The author of over 60 short stories, he has also edited 35 anthologies and published ten non-fiction books, including a study of crime scene investigation techniques and real life cases. A well-known critic and writer about the crime fiction genre, past and present, with The Golden Age of Murder exemplifying his knowledge of crime fiction and its authors in the 1920s and 1930s, Martin is President and Archivist of the world-famous Detection Club. He is also series consultant to British Library’s highly successful series of crime classics; his latest book is a companion to the series, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. Martin is currently also  Archivist of the Crime Writers’ Association and editor of its annual anthology. (Source: CWA)

My rating: Since this is not a work of fiction, I’m not going to give this book any rating, but needless to say that I strongly recommend it.

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books has been reviewed at Crime Time, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, crossexaminingcrime, crimepieces, Cleopatra Loves Books, Books to the Ceiling, Tipping my Fedora, Noah’s Archives, Euro Crime, Lesa’s Book Critiques, The Rap Sheet, FictionFan’s Book Reviews,  My Reader’s Block, and Pretty Sinister Books., among others.

British Library publicity page

Poisoned Pen publicity page

GUEST POST: Martin Edwards, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books 

Martin Edwards & the Best Crime Books

La historia de los clásicos del crimen en 100 libros (2017), de Martin Edwards

Detalles del producto: El principal propósito de las historias de detectives es entretener, pero las mejores arrojan luz sobre el comportamiento humano y muestran tanto ambición literaria como éxito. Incluso las historias de detectives más modestas, escritas por razones descaradamente comerciales, pueden darnos pistas sobre el pasado y darnos una idea de un mundo hace mucho tiempo desaparecido que, a pesar de todas sus imperfecciones, nos continúa fascinando. Este libro, escrito por el galardonado escritor de crímenes y presidente del Detection Club, Martin Edwards, sirve como acompañamiento de la aclamada serie de Crime Classics de la Biblioteca Británica. Historias durante mucho tiempo olvidadas reeditadas en la serie han ganado un nuevo público de devotos, con varios títulos entrando en las listas de los libros más vendidos, superando a algunos de los thrillers contemporáneos más reconocidos.

Mi opinión: La historia de los clásicos del crimen en 100 libros es una verdadera joya que debería tener un lugar privilegiado en las estanterías de cualquier aficionado a la novela criminal. Cuenta la historia de la novela criminal durante la primera mitad del siglo XX. Como el propio autor señala en su Introducción, “la diversidad de este género tan querido es impresionante y mucho mayor de lo que muchos críticos han sugerido. Para ilustrar esto, yo [Martin Edwards] he elegido cien ejemplos de libros que destacan los logros y, a veces, las limitaciones de la novela popular de esa época.” Es, por lo tanto, un libro de referencia para todos aquellos que deseen iniciarse en la lectura de nuestro género favorito y para aquellos entusiastas, como yo, que desean ampliar el campo de su conocimiento. También sirve para acompañar la serie de Crime Classics de la Biblioteca Británica. Desde el comienzo, Edwards quiere dejar muy claro que “el objetivo principal de las historias de detectives es entretener, pero las mejores arrojan luz sobre el comportamiento humano, y muestran  ambición y logros literarios.” Y hay otra razón. “Incluso las historias de detectives sin pretensiones, escritas por razones descaradamente comerciales, pueden proporcionarnos pistas sobre el pasado y darnos una idea de un mundo desaparecido hace mucho tiempo que, a pesar de todas sus imperfecciones, nos continúa fascinando.” Para los propósitos de este libro, la definición de Edwards de ‘crimen clásico’ es una “novela o colección de cuentos publicados entre 1901 y 1950. La Biblioteca Británica abarca un marco de tiempo ligeramente más amplio, pero para el propósito presente tiene sentido concentrarse en la primera mitad del siglo pasado.’ Y Edwards continúa en los siguientes términos: “Mi elección de libros refleja el deseo de presentar el desarrollo del género de una manera accesible, informativa y atractiva.” Para el propósito de un libro de estas características, Edwards usa indistintamente los términos “historias de detectives”, “historias  criminales” y “misterios” cuyas distinciones le parecen inútiles e incluso pedantes. Para concluir, dice que no ha intentado enumerar los “mejores” libros de la época, ni es una selección de sus favoritos. La clave de este libro, como se sugiere en su título, es contar una historia. y espera que sus referencias a decenas de libros aliente nuevas investigaciones por parte de los lectores. Independientemente de todo lo anterior, Edwards nos proporciona el siguiente intento de definir novela criminal:

Una definición precisa y verdaderamente satisfactoria del género de novela criminal sigue siendo difícil de conseguir, pero puede afirmarse con seguridad que abarca historias en las que el foco no está en el detective o en el proceso de detención, sino más bien en el comportamiento y en la psicología del criminal.

Por mi parte, me gustaría añadir que este libro me ha ayudado a eliminar algunos conceptos erróneos, estereotipos y prejuicios que tenía sobre algunos de los escritores de esta época y me ha descubierto un nuevo mundo de autores y temas que desconocía por completo. Es interesante destacar que un buen número de películas populares de la época se basaron en algunas de estas novelas.

Y, para concluir, un primer párrafo, que estoy seguro, despertará su apetito:

“No fue hasta algunas semanas después de haberse decidido a matar a su mujer que el Dr. Bickleigh adoptó las medidas necesaias al respecto. El asesinato es un asunto serio. El más mínimo error puede ser desastroso. El Dr. Bickleigh no tenía la intención de arriesgarse a un fracaso. “(Malice Aforethought, de Francis Iles, 1931)

Sobre el autor: Martin Edwards, actual presidente de la CWA, ha ganado los premios Edgar, Agatha, Macavity y Poirot en los Estados Unidos, y la CWA Short Story Dagger, la CWA Margery Allingham Prize, y el premio H.R.F. Keating en el Reino Unido. Su último misterio en el Lake District es The Dungeon House. La serie comenzó con The Coffin Trail (finalista al premio Theakston a la mejor novela negra británica) e incluye The Arsenic Labyrinth (finalista al premio Lakeland Book of the Year). Ha escrito ocho novelas sobre el abogado de Liverpool Harry Devlin, que empezó con All the Lonely People; (finalista al John Creasey Memorial Dagger); disponibles ahora de nuevo en formato electrónico.

Autor de más de 60 cuentos, también ha editado 35 antologías y ha publicado diez libros de no ficción, incluido un estudio de técnicas de investigación de escenarios criminales y de casos tomados de la vida real. Reconocido crítico y escritor sobre el pasado y el presente del género criminal, con La edad de oro del asesinato ilunstra sus conocimientos sobre novela criminal y sobre los autores de las  décadas de 1920 y 1930, Martin es presidente y encargado del archivo del mundialmente famoso Detection Club. También es el asesor de la exitosa serie de clásicos del crimen de la Biblioteca Británica  su último libro es un complemento de la serie: La historia de los clásicos del crimen en 100 libros. Martin es también en la actualidad encargado del archivo de la Crime Writers ‘Association y editor de su anuario. (Fuente: CWA)

Mi valoración: Dado que no es un trabajo de ficción, no le voy a dar ninguna valoración a este libro, pero no hace falta decir que lo recomiendo encarecidamente.

Review: The Serpent Pool (2010), by Martin Edwards

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First published in Great Britain by Allison & Busby in 2010, this paperback edition was published in 2011. ISBN: 978-0-7490-0879-6. Pages: 352. Lake District Cold-Case Mysteries #4

serpentSynopsis: The Lake District’s cold case specialist, DCI Hannah Scarlett, is determined to uncover the truth behind Bethany Friend’s apparent suicide six years ago, in the Serpent Pool. Why would Bethany, so afraid of water, drown herself? Hannah fears that her partner, bookseller Marc Amos, is keeping dark secrets, and holds the key to Bethany’s past. Hannah still carries a torch for Daniel Kind, who is researching Thomas De Quincey and the history of murder. Once Daniel and Hannah suspect connections between Bethany’s drowning and a current sequence of killings, death comes dangerously close to home. (Source: Martin Edwards website)

My take: The Serpent Pool is the fourth instalment in The Lake District series featuring historian Daniel Kind and DCI Hannah Scarlett, head of Cumbria’s Cold-Case Review Team. For an introduction to the series I would like to suggest a visit to Martin Edwards Website, here. The mystery, in this new episode, revolves around three cases which, at first sight, don’t seem to have much in common. On the one hand, the death, six year ago, of Bethany Friend whose body was discovered lying faced down in the water of the Serpent Pool. Some still believe she committed suicide, but the truth is it was shelved as an open case.  On the other hand, one of Marc Amos best customers, the real state agent George Saffel, has been stabbed to death and his body, together with his collection of old and rare books, has been burned just a few days ago. And finally, a famous lawyer, Stuart Wagg, has disappeared after a New Year’s eve party. Meanwhile Hannah Scarlett and her partner Marc Amos, some three month ago, have moved to live near the Serpent Pool. On his side, Daniel Kind has just returned from the States after his girlfriend Miranda had actually left him, and spends his time preparing a book about the history of crime, based on the life and works of Thomas De Quincey. It also happens that Daniel’s sister, Louise KInd, who was living with Stuart Wagg and, shortly before his disappearance, had just had a strong row with him. In fact, he had just told her their relationship was finished, and, for this reason, she has taken shelter at his brother’s home. Obviously, there’s no indication to assume these cases might be related.

In essence, I could repeat here point by point what I wrote before about The Arsenic Labyrinth. Mainly I would like to stress now that The Serpent Pool is a well crafted mystery, with a strong sense of place and with well-drawn characters. All these elements, make of it a highly entertaining and extremely satisfactory reading. Although it is best to read these books following its publishing order, actually they also work very well as standalone novels. I would like to encourage you to read the reviews enclosed that highlight, better than I do, the merits of this novel.  

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the author: Martin Edwards’ latest book, the ground-breaking genre study The Golden Age of Murder, won the Edgar, Agatha, Macavity, and H.R.F. Keating awards. He has published eight other non-fiction books and edited over thirty crime anthologies. He has also won the CWA Short Story Dagger, the CWA Margery Allingham Prize, and the Red Herring award, and this year (2017) he is to receive the Poirot award from Malice Domestic. Since 2015 he has been series consultant for the British Library’s Crime Classics, and this year will see the publication of his The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, as well as four anthologies he has edited for the British Library. Martin is the author of eighteen novels, including the Lake District Mysteries and the Harry Devlin series. The Coffin Trail was shortlisted for the Theakston’s Prize for Crime Novel of the Year, while All the Lonely People was nominated for the John Creasey Memorial Dagger for best first crime novel, and The Arsenic Labyrinth was shortlisted for Lakeland Book of the Year. In 2015, he was elected eighth President of the Detection Club, an office previously held by G.K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy L. Sayers. In 2017, he also became Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, and is the only person to have held both posts at the same time. He is also archivist of both the Detection Club and the CWA. (Source: CWA website)

The Serpent Pool has been reviewed at BooksPlease, Euro Crime (Karen), Euro Crime (Maxine), Mysteries in Paradise, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist…, reviewing the evidence, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

I have reviewed the three previous books in this series The Coffin Trail (#1), The Cipher Garden (#2) and The Arsenic Labyrinth (#3).

Allison & Busby publicity page

Poisoned Pen Press publicity page

audible

Martin Edwards blog: Do You Write Under Your Own Name?

Martin Edwards on Twitter: @medwardsbooks

Martin Edwards Website: www.martinedwardsbooks.com 

Lake District Cold-Case Mysteries

El estanque de la serpiente, de Martin Edwards

Sinopsis: La especialista en casos por resolver del Distrito de los Lagos, la agente inspectora jefe (DCI) Hannah Scarlett, se muestra decidida a descubrir la verdad detrás del aparente suicidio de Bethany Friend hace seis años, en el Estanque de la Serpiente.  ¿Por qué Bethany, tan temerosa del agua, se pudo ahogar? Hannah teme que su compañero, el librero Marc Amos, oculte algo y pueda tener la clave del pasado de Bethany. Hannah aún continúa enamorada de Daniel Kind, quien prepara un libro sobre la historia del asesinato de Thomas De Quincey. En cuanto Daniel y Hannah sospechan que existe alguna relación entre la muerte por ahogamiento de Bethany y una ola actual de crímenes, la muerte se cierne peligrosamente sobre ellos. (Fuente: Web de Martin Edwards)

Mi opinión: El estanque de la serpiente es la cuarta entrega en la serie de la Región de los Lagos protagonizada por el historiador Daniel Kind y la agente inspectora jefe Hannah Scarlett, jefe del equipo encargado de la revisión de los casos cerrados sin resolver de la policía de Cumbria. Para una introducción a la serie quisiera sugerir una visita al sitio web de Martin Edwards, aquí. El misterio, en este nuevo episodio, gira en torno a tres casos que, a primera vista, no parecen tener mucho en común. Por un lado, la muerte, hace seis años, de Bethany Friend cuyo cuerpo fue descubierto yaciendo boca abajo en el agua del Estanque de la Serpiente. Algunos todavía creen que se suicidó, pero la verdad es que fue archivado como un caso sin resolver. Por otro lado, uno de los mejores clientes de Marc Amos, el agente inmobiliario George Saffel, ha sido asesinado a puñaladas y su cuerpo, junto con su colección de libros antiguos y raros, ha sido quemado hace apenas unos días. Y por último, un famoso abogado, Stuart Wagg, ha desaparecido después de una fiesta de Nochevieja. Mientras tanto, Hannah Scarlett y su pareja Marc Amos, hace unos tres meses, se han mudado a vivir cerca del Estanque de la Serpiente. Por su parte, Daniel Kind acaba de regresar de los Estados Unidos después de que su novia Miranda lo dejara, y dedica su tiempo a preparar un libro sobre la historia del crimen, basado en la vida y obras de Thomas De Quincey. También sucede que la hermana de Daniel, Louise KInd, que vivía con Stuart Wagg y, poco antes de su desaparición, acababa de tener una fuerte disputa con él. De hecho, acababa de decirle que su relación había terminado y, por esta razón, se ha refugiado en casa de su hermano. Obviamente, no hay ninguna indicación para suponer que estos casos podrían estar relacionados.

Básicamente, podría repetir aquí punto por punto lo que escribí antes sobre The Arsenic Labyrinth. Principalmente me gustaría destacar ahora que The Serpent Pool es un misterio bien elaborado, con un fuerte sentido del lugar y con personajes bien dibujados. Todos estos elementos, hacen de él una lectura muy entretenida y extremadamente satisfactoria. Aunque es mejor leer estos libros siguiendo su orden de publicación, en realidad también funcionan muy bien como novelas independientes. Me gustaría animarles a leer las reseñas adjuntas que destacan, mejor que yo, los méritos de esta novela.

Mi valoración: A + (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Martin Edwards es un galardonado escritor de novelas policíacas. Su primera novela, All the Lonely People, nos dio a conocer al abogado de Liverpool Harry Devlin y se publicó en 1991, ganando una nominación para el John Creasey Dagger a la mejor novela negra novel del año. En el 2012 el libro fue reeditado por Arcturus en su serie de obras clásicas de crimen y misterio, mientras que Yesterday’s Papers fue reeditado como un Arcturus Crime Classic en el 2013. Hasta la fecha, Edwards ha escrito ocho novelas sobre Devlin; la más reciente es Waterloo Sunset. The Coffin Trail fue el primero de siete libros que forman la serie del Lake District protagonizada por la inspectora Hannah Scarlett y el historiador Daniel Kind; fue seleccionada al Theakston’s Old Peculier Award a la mejor novela negra del 2006. The Arsenic Labyrinth fue finalista al Lakeland Book of the Year Award del 2008. The Hanging Woods fue seleccionada tanto para el Audible Sounds of Crime Award como para el Ebook Award en el Festival Crimefest del 2012. The Dungeon House , el último misterio de la serie Lake District fue publicado en el 2015. Edwards también ha publicado dos novelas independientes, la novela de suspense psicológico Take My Breath Away, y la muy apreciada Dancing for the Hangman, una novela policíaca histórica basada en el caso Crippen. En el 2015, Martin Edwards fue elegido octavo presidente del Detection Club, un puesto ocupado anteriormente por G.K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie y Dorothy L. Sayers. En el 2017, también se convirtió en presidente de la Crime Writers’ Association, y es la única persona que ha ocupado ambos cargos al mismo tiempo. También es archivero tanto del Detection Club como de la CWA.

A Postscript on The Golden Age of Murder

It may seem that The Golden Age of Murder finish with a light pessimistic touch, when reading on page 409:

‘Books in the Golden Age style continued to be written, and enjoyed, and several new writers of talent emerged. The dominant crime novelists, however, belonged to a generation preoccupied by the challenges of life in the Atomic Era. Traditional mysteries were perceived as past their sell-by date, and people who did not care to read them were nevertheless happy to make sweeping generalizations about them which contributed to the crude stereotyping of Golden Age that persists in this day.’ 

Nothing could be further from the truth. Enough is to read the last chapter under the significant title: Murder Goes On Forever. Moreover, Martin Edwards has an article, available on his website, in response to the following question Why is the Golden Age fashionable again? And his answer is obviously yes. Among the different factors that justify his position, I find particularly interesting to emphasize that:

‘The present day has more in common with that period than some people acknowledge, and it may be that the similarities are among the factors which have sparked the Golden Age renaissance. It’s sometimes said today that trust in politics has never been lower. Well, it was exceptionally low in the Golden Age, I can assure you. Unpleasant politicians were forever getting their come-uppance.

A few titles illustrate my point:

Death in the House by Anthony Berkeley
Murder of an MP! by Robert Gore-Browne.
Death of the Home Secretary by Alan Thomas.
The Prime Minister is Dead by Helen Simpson.

And there were plenty more in the same vein.

Similarly, in these days of LIBOR-rigging, and the fiasco of the collapse of British Home Stores, it’s instructive to note how many Golden Age stories feature villainous financiers. The book which became the catalyst for the Golden Age, Trent’s Last Case by E.C. Bentley, opens with an excoriating denunciation of the money man, Sigsbee Manderson.

Slimy old Sigsbee is, of course, a super-typical Golden Age murder victim. Someone who, like an unscrupulous politician, or a dastardly blackmailer, or a rich and miserly old uncle, supplied a long list of suspects with motives for murder.

We can see, by reading Golden Age mysteries, that for all the differences between the between-the-wars society and ours, many themes are common, because they are enduring. Above all, of course, crime fiction deals with the eternal realities of human nature at moments of intense pressure.’

To conclude announcing the publication of his next book The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (Poisoned Pen Press, 1 August 2017) by Martin Edwards.

51BBz Jrd8L.SX316Book description: This book tells the story of crime fiction published during the first half of the twentieth century. The diversity of this much-loved genre is breathtaking, and so much greater than many critics have suggested. To illustrate this, the leading expert on classic crime discusses one hundred books ranging from The Hound of the Baskervilles to Strangers on a Train which highlight the entertaining plots, the literary achievements, and the social significance of vintage crime fiction. This book serves as a companion to the acclaimed British Library Crime Classics series but it tells a very diverse story. It presents the development of crime fiction-from Sherlock Holmes to the end of the golden age-in an accessible, informative and engaging style.

Readers who enjoy classic crime will make fascinating discoveries and learn about forgotten gems as well as bestselling authors. Even the most widely read connoisseurs will find books (and trivia) with which they are unfamiliar-as well as unexpected choices to debate. Classic crime is a richly varied and deeply pleasurable genre that is enjoying a world-wide renaissance as dozens of neglected novels and stories are resurrected for modern readers to enjoy. The overriding aim of this book is to provide a launch point that enables readers to embark on their own voyages of discovery. (Source: Poisoned Pen Press)

Private Notes to The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards

This blog post was intended as a private note, but I thought it might be of some interest to regular or occasional readers.

20170323_155457-1(Please, do note some quotes are not literal, though I hope I have not modified its meaning)

  • The term ‘Golden Age of detective fiction’, was coined by John Strachey in 1939, to represent the kind of mystery books that were in vogue in Great Britain during the 1920s and 30s, that is to say, throughout the period comprised between the two World Wars. Though there’s no widespread agreement to determine how long it lasted, some scholars coincide in highlighting that the ‘phoney war’ not only marked the start of war, but it also served to anticipate the end of the Golden Age of detective fiction – barely nine months after John Strachey introduced the term. Nothing will ever be quite the same again. Even though Christie and her disciples continued to produce new books, and enjoy much success, long after that time, but most of the classic detective fiction appeared between the wars.
  • For Strachey, like so many of his contemporaries, detective fiction offered much-needed escape from grim reality and dread about what the future might hold. Knowing that his name appeared on a Nazi death list, he had a suicide pill prepared. If Germany invaded Britain, he expected to be tortured before being killed, and suicide seemed preferable. (page 390)
  • During the Golden Age the main market for commercial fiction was the libraries. … Roughly three-quarters of the borrowers were woman and woman’s tastes and interests influenced detective novelists in their work. This helps to explain the distance that existed between Golden Age fiction and thrillers aimed at a masculine readership. (page 308).
  • Mystery has shrouded the origins of the Detection Club. Julian Symons, a historian as well as a crime writer of distinction and former Club President, mistakenly wrote that the Club started in 1932. The Club itself continues to circulate a private list of members’ details giving the same date. The misunderstanding arouse because a formal constitution and rules were not adopted until 11 March 1932, but the Club effectively came into existence two years earlier, and its origins date back to 1928. (page 82)
  • The first dinners were hosted by Berkeley and his wife Peggy, and held at their home. … , and although there are no known records to identify the attendees, it is safe to assume they included Sayers, Christie, Douglas and Margaret Cole, Ronald Knox, Henry Wade, H. C. Bailey, and John Rhode. All of them lived either in London or within easy reach, and were members of the generation of detective novelists whose careers began after the end of the war. (page 83)
  • To begin with, many Detection Club members treated their novels like a game, and consciously tried to `play fair`with their readers. Before long, subversives like Berkeley found it was more exciting to break the rules.  (page 106).
  • Detection Club members were escapists, just as much as their readers. The Twenties and Thirties supplied plenty of reasons for people to yearn for a break from their everyday lives …. For readers the chance to read a mystery set somewhere unfamiliar added to the pleasure of discovering whodunit. (page 217). The cliché that detective novelists routinely ignored social and economic realities is a myth. The trouble was that many readers were not in the mood for realism. They wanted to be entertained by light-hearted films and plays, and novels set in fascinating places. (Pages 260-61). Information Received, the debut novel of Punshon’s policeman hero Booby Owen, which earned Sayers’ admiration contradicts the glib assumption of critics who claim that social comment is absent from Golden Age detective novels; innumerable other examples are to be found in Punshon’s work, and that of many of his colleagues. (page 284).
  • During the Golden Age, detective novelists usually kept their readers in the dark about the solution to the crime. The climax of the story was the revelation of whodunit, or occasionally how it was done. But there was another way to maintain suspense, … A writer could show readers the carrying out of an ingenious and apparently foolproof crime, and then describe how the detective solved the case – an ‘inverted’ detective story. (page 286). ‘Here the usual conditions are reversed: the reader knows everything, the detective knows nothing, and the interest focuses on the unexpected significance of trivial circumstances.’ (page 287). The appeal of the form has endured, and in the television age, the inverted stories of Columbo achieved enormous popularity. (page 288).
  • A myth has grown up that Golden Age detective fiction was an essentially British form of escapism in response to the First World War, an effete counterpart to the tough and realistic crime fiction produced in the United States…. Hammett’s first two crime novels appeared in 1929, and The Maltese Falcon followed as the Detection Club was becoming established. Yet the distinction often drawn between the two countries is simplistic. In the US, tough guys and traditionalists co-existed until the Second World War. (page 116).
  • The key difference between the two countries, according to the American critic Howard Haycraft, was the existence of the highly honourable company of the Detection Club. … Haycraft believed the Club gave British writers ‘one inestimable advantage denied to their American brethren’ – and to their colleagues in continental Europe, he might have added if crime fiction in translation had been as popular as it is today. (page 116). The Detection Club fostered a collegiate spirit which buttressed members’ determination to try out fresh ideas – and to keep going in the face of the disappointments which are part and parcel of a writer’s life. (page 117).
  • The quality of what she (Christie) wrote was mixed, but that was inevitable, partly because she was so prolific, but also because she was never afraid to take a risk and try something new. (page 154).
  • A. A. Milne reckoned that it the detective novel was a game, readers and writers needed to know the rules. When The Red House Mystery (1922) was reprinted in 1926, he set out half a dozen key points:
    1. The story should be written in good English.
    2. Love interest is undesirable.
    3. Both detective and villain should be amateurs.
    4. Scientific detection is `too easy`. 
    5. The reader should know as much as the detective.
    6. There should be a Watson: it is better for the detective ‘to watsonize’ than soliloquize. (page 113).
  • Berkeley believed firmly in distinguishing between detective fiction, thrillers and novels of psychological interest, and deplored the general term ‘mystery’. (page 135)
  • The question of when murder can be justified is tackled so often – and so inventively – in books by Detection Club members that it was surely debated over drinks in Gerrard Street. Christie was so fascinated by the notion that it inspired three of her finest plots. (page 331). The widespread consensus that Christie and company never questioned the status quo is widely mistaken (page 358). Read, for example, Five Little Pigs
  • The sunset of the Golden Age yielded the ultimate masterpiece of traditional detective fiction. And Then There Were None, published two months after the outbreak of war is Christie’s most stunning achievement. (page 398). ….. As in Murder on the Orient Express, Christie is using the classic whodunit form to explore how to secure justice for innocent victims when the conventional legal system fails to do its job. (page 399).
  • Yet during the Golden Age, writers who enjoyed and wrote detective fiction were as diverse, and as geographically scattered as Argentina’s Jorge Luis Borges, Australia’s Miles Franklin, Paul McGuire and Arthur Upfield (an Englishman who emigrated at the age of twenty), and Europeans such as Karel Čapek, Friedrich Glauser, Stanislas-André Steeman, and the creator of Maigret, Georges Simenon. (page 223).

See also Martin Edwards blog post at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ under the title Top 10 Golden Age novels

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