The Blank Wall – Elizabeth Sanxay Holding

"The Blank Wall" by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding, 1947

“The Blank Wall” by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding, 1947

American writer Elizabeth Sanxay Holding (1889 to 1955) was a short story novelist and a popular writer of detective fiction during the 1930’s and 40’s. She was highly regarded during her time and by her peers with Raymond Chandler declaring her “the top suspense writer of them all.” She wrote romance novels during the 1920’s but switched to detective fiction and wrote 18 of those from 1929 to 1954. “The Blank Wall” was published in 1947 and adapted to film twice as “The Reckless Moment” in 1949 and in 2001  as “The Deep End” starring Tilda Swinson.

I picked this book because I have an interest in reading about the pioneers of the genre. “The Blank Wall” is a suspense story that is said to be her “masterpiece.” The length is about 230 pages in the paperback edition and it’s also available digitally by Persephone Books. “The Blank Wall” is a well written novel set during during WW2 where Americans are rationing food, gas and using the black market to obtain hard to find supplies. Continue reading

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A Blunt Instrument – Georgette Heyer

A Blunt InstrumentAfter finishing Georgette Heyer’s contemporary mystery, “Envious Casca” I wasn’t quite ready to leave her world of crime among the debt-ridden upperclass. Her voice and style is addictive when she’s good. Her characters are well drawn and her dialogue is terrific. So, anyway, I picked up “A Blunt Instrument”  which was published in 1938 and features Inspector Hannasyde and was immediately drawn in by the scene and the dialogue. This is Hannasyde’s fourth appearance in the series since his debut in “Death in the Stocks”published in 1935. Also he gets some assistance from Sergeant Hemingway (he has his own series starting with “No Wind of Blame.”)  Continue reading

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Envious Casca: Georgette Heyer

Envious CascaGeorgette Heyer (1902 to 1974) wrote only 12 mysteries in her lifetime. She’s more well-known for her Regency Romances. She published ENVIOUS CASCA in 1941. It is a locked room mystery that’s delightfully snarky and witty. It’s a comedic mystery and it features Inspector Hemingway in his second appearance since being introduced in NO WIND OF BLAME in 1939. The mystery in ENVIOUS CASCA was unoriginal but it was entertaining nonetheless because of the characters.

The story takes place at the country manor belonging to Nathaniel Herriard. He’s a rich bachelor who works in trade and is described as tyrannical and hot-tempered. His brother Joseph gets the family together for Christmas. The mood is anything but festive. The guests are composed of relatives, a playwright and a business partner. They are about the most disagreeable bunch of guests you can get together in one place. Continue reading

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Strong Poison – Dorothy L. Sayers

For the next month, I will be reading British mysteries published during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction which is defined as works published roughly between the two World Wars of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The hallmarks of these books included the style of writing, order being restored, clever detection methods and an honorable detective. Graphic violence and social commentary were kept to a minimum.*

Published March 27th 1991 by HarperCollins Publishers Paperback, 252 pages

Published March 27th 1991 by HarperCollins Publishers
Paperback, 252 pages

First up is Strong Poison: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery featuring Harriet Vane (1930). This mystery was written by Dorothy L. Sayers (1893 to 1957) who was an renowned English novelist best known for her detective stories. She was also a scholar and a playwright. Strong Poison is Lord Peter Wimsey’s sixth outing since he was introduced in Whose Body? in 1923. The story is set during the late 1920’s. The Peter Wimsey mysteries are still popular today with most if not all of her books still in print and digitized.

She is lovely, smart, and talented—and only Lord Peter can save her from the gallows

One of the first things to share about this book is the humor, which came from the story’s quirky characters. Also the murder mystery  is quite clever even though the result wasn’t all that surprising. Lord Peter Wimsey is a charming fellow. He’s described as a gentleman amateur sleuth and is the archetype of the British detective. In Strong Poison, he falls in love with a woman accused of murder. 

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