Saturday, November 19, 2011

2012 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge: Challenge Accepted

Bev over at My Reader’s Block has got a Vintage Mystery Challenge going this year. Now, naturally, if I’d know about it and signed up, I would have won hands-down... but as it is, I think it’s a bit late for that. However, that doesn’t stop me from planning ahead— which is what I thought of doing when I saw Bev post about the upcoming 2012 Vintage Mystery Challenge. I even had a good idea for a customized theme… but nah, the more I thought of it, the less eligible books I could come up with. Most of the titles I’d had in mind were post-1960 anyhow…

“Oh, Patrick,” you might be thinking, “you’re writing about it, so obviously you came up with something! So cut it out and just tell us!” Well, it actually started with a comment Bev herself made on Les Blatt’s post about the challenge on his excellent blog, Classic Mysteries, where she gave me a few good ideas. They started to swirl around my brain, and before I knew it, I had enough titles to fill up two lists. Naturally, I no longer had any excuse to hold out.

So, without further ado, here is my first theme for the upcoming challenge. All these books make some sort of reference to the Devil or (more generally) evil in the title, which is why I’ve named it:

Devil Take the Hindmost
Evil Under the Sun – Agatha Christie
Do Evil in Return – Margaret Millar
The Black Tower (The Tower of Evil) – John Rhode
The Devil’s Elbow – Gladys Mitchell
The Devil's Steps – Arthur W. Upfield
The Devil Loves Me – Margaret Millar
The Devil in Velvet – John Dickson Carr
The Devil at Saxon Wall – Gladys Mitchell

To contrast with this list, I’ve compiled another list of books with the opposite theme—these titles refer to angels, God, religious symbols, justice, and saints, which is why I’ve given the theme the name of:

How Like An Angel
The Black Seraphim – Michael Gilbert
The Egyptian Cross Mystery – Ellery Queen
The Four Just Men – Edgar Wallace
Lament for a Maker – Michael Innes
The Lamp of God – Ellery Queen
St. Peter’s Finger – Gladys Mitchell
The Tau Cross Mystery – J. J. Connington
Thanks to the Saint – Leslie Charteris

Naturally, these listings are only tentative and might change— in particular, there’s one impossible crime novel that will find its way on the “Devil Take the Hindmost” list if I don’t get around to it before the New Year is ushered in. But that will be seen in good time…

If you want to participate in this challenge, be sure to check out the rules and instructions here!


  1. Looks like a couple of great lists, Patrick. You have some of my favorites on there - Qu8een's "The Lamp of God" is one of the most ingenious impossible crime mysteries ever, and Innes was never better than he was with "Lament for a Maker." Wallace, Lockridge, Mitchell...great choices!

  2. Oh, goody! I just knew you could come up with a good one after reading so many of your comments at Les's blog. And so many that I haven't read!

  3. Thanks for commenting, Les and Bev! "The Devil in Velvet" will be a re-read for me, but a re-read I'd be glad to indulge in. Plus it rounded up my themes nicely without my having to resort to a book that I badly want to read as soon as I can...

    Glad you both liked the list-- I particularly wanted to include Margaret Millar ("How Like an Angel" was brilliant, and though I just read it so I can't use it for the "angel" list, I was able to use it for the title) as well as Gladys Mitchell (loved "Death at the Opera", but others have distracted me from her output). I've similarly disregarded Ellery Queen-- I can hardly believe that I've yet to review one of Queen's books on the blog!

    Gilbert, Charteris, and the Lockridges will be entirely new authors to me, and I picked Gilbert's book based on a reference to it in Curt Evans' "Was Corinne's Murder Fairly Clued?".

  4. I've read the Gilbert book...pre-blogging days, so I don't have an actual review. But I do remember that I liked it.

  5. Some great choices there mate - 2012 is already looking extremely productive I would say ...

  6. You probably won't like this, but there's a title on your list that coincidently turned up next in the queue over here. Do you want to know now or curse me when the review is posted?

    By the way, good themes and selection of titles! Looking forward to your thoughts on these books. I'm thinking of creating a second miscellaneous category, but have no idea yet what the theme will be.

  7. TomCat, as long as you don't beat me to writing about an impossible crime novel I'm itching to get at, you'll be forgiven...

    Sergio, I have to agree-- I didn't join this year's challenge because I only found out about it well into the year, but I do look forward to this one...

  8. "Now, naturally, if I’d know about it and signed up, I would have won hands-down... "

    Wow, big ego already? ;^) There's no question you can complete the challenge in less than a year, but as for any type of champion I'd give the prize to someone else. We were all left in the dust of that holy terror on wheels, the manic speed reading Becky at Becky's Book Reviews who read 19 Christies, 4 Sayers, and one Marsh in nine weeks. That averages out to a little more than two and half books per day! It's damn impressive. She must have no real life or job.

    P.S. Isn't "The Lamp of God" a short story? Are you reading the entire short story collection that the story appears in?

  9. Nothing like a bit of hubris to lighten up the mood... ;)

    I believe it is a novella, but it has been published on its own, which is why I included it. Though of course I would read the entire collection while I was at it.