This blog started after I read a horrendous book called The Affair at Royalties by George Baxt, which claimed it was a satire of Agatha Christie while not understanding her work at all. Having read all her stuff multiple times, I feel qualified to comment on this. (Incidentally, that is the reason I will rarely review an Agatha Christie on this blog— I’ve read her stuff too much and I want to discover new books and authors instead of covering the same old ground.) When I looked up the book online, I was shocked to find nothing on it except a half-buried comment that praised the book. I wrote a script for a video where I mocked the novel’s failings and “At the Scene of the Crime” was born.
Ah, those were humble beginnings. I consider that video review to be one of my worst efforts, as I really got carried away. The book infuriated me and I made no attempts to disguise it, and it comes across to me as a collection of shouts instead of an intelligent review. However, the video was relatively well-received, and I was encouraged to continue—and that is how I got started with this blog, which is dedicated to mysteries.
That’s the key word: mysteries. Not psychological thrillers or romantic suspense. Not “crime noir” or novels in which a crime happens to occur. I’m talking about mysteries, where a puzzle is given to the reader and all the clues are handed over, to give the aforementioned reader every opportunity to solve the case before the author does. Of course, I don’t limit myself to books only—be it a film, TV series, radio program, or book, if it’s a mystery it’s fair game for a review.
Occasionally I may dip into the non-mystery, but I will point out what it really is instead of masquerading it as something it is not. Thus, you will occasionally see some forays into thrillers, non-fiction, and the sort— though, usually, there is some criminal connection involved somewhere.
I’d like to thank everyone who regularly visits the scene of the crime—it is because of you that I do what I do! Below, I have answered some common questions I get, but if you have any others you’d like to see answered, don’t hesitate to ask!
Well, of course! My favourite author of all-time is John Dickson Carr, master of the locked room mystery. I admire his writing style—the way he could create tension or an aura of the supernatural, the complex plots that kept twisting and turning, the elaborate locked rooms and impossible scenarios he came up with, his ingenuity, and the fairness of his plots.
I have plenty of other favourite authors as well: Edmund Crispin, Christianna Brand, Rex Stout, William DeAndrea, Bill Pronzini, Craig Rice, R. Austin Freeman, Peter Lovesey, Henry Wade, Paul Doherty, Michael Innes, and Paul Halter come to mind.
Do you have some secret organization system for your books?
Oh, it’s no secret—it’s just ridiculously complex. One of my shelves is devoted solely to John Dickson Carr. It’s divided roughly in half, with one half being stacked with John Dickson Carr titles, and the other with Carter Dickson titles. They are also sorted chronologically in their respective halves.
The others have a more complex organization system. I'll tackle just one to give you an idea of what I mean. Hardbacks and large books are at the far right, irrespective of author, but the softcovers are grouped together by author. From left to right, they are: G. K. Chesterton, Paul Halter, Georges Simenon, Fred Vargas, Jean-Pierre Alaux, Laetitia Bourgeois, Seishi Yokomizo, Akimitsu Takagi, Peter Lovesey, A. E. W. Mason, Delano Ames, Margery Allingham, Detection Club round-robins, Shizuko Natsuki, Isaac Asimov, Nicholas Meyer, Sax Rohmer, Julian Symons, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Ellis Peters, Robert Barnard, Darwin Teilhet, Earl Derr Biggers, Edgar Wallace, Anthony Gilbert, Baynard Kendrick, A. B. Cunningham, Erle Stanley Gardner, Gladys Mitchell, William DeAndrea, Christianna Brand, Leo Bruce, Patrick Quentin, Helen McCloy, Jane Haddam, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Ronald Knox, Nicholas Blake, Elizabeth Ferrars, Anthony Boucher, Henry Wade, Janwillem van de Wetering, Ngaio Marsh, Bill Pronzini, R. Austin Freeman, Anthony Berkeley, and Fredric Brown. They are grouped together either chronologically or in a visually pleasing fashion, but going into further details would be exhausting.
I will leave you to imagine the final shelves yourself. It’s not a huge or particularly impressive collection: I buy my books to read, not to collect. But it has grown considerably from the days when I had more fingers on my hands than books by John Dickson Carr…
When do you find the time to read?
Well, I’m a university student, and school is out for an entire term for me. I have done a lot of reading there to make up for the slower pace when I return to school. But since I don’t drive a car (and once I do get my licence, I won’t have much access to one anyhow), I take the bus, and I do quite a bit of reading on the trips there and back. Plus, it’s my number-one recreation after I’ve done whatever work that needs to be done. It’s a passion with me and time can be found.
I’m actually a very easy reader to please. Odd as it might sound to those who have read my negative reviews, I don’t ask for too much from my mysteries. I look for a few key things: a good story, or at least an engagingly told one; fair clueing; and an actual plot instead of lingering on character angst— something, in short, that will entertain me. That’s the bare minimum, but including good characters, atmosphere, humour, and ingenuity (to name a few) only makes the book’s stock rise higher. I have some authors I dislike (such as one Gilbert Adair), but overall, I love all sorts of mysteries and try to transfer my love of them to the page when I sit down to write a review.