The Ten

While 2018 had its few ups and many downs like any other year, it was a very good one reading-wise as I averaged my higher number of books in nearly a decade. I won’t disclose it as there’s nothing to brag about – it’s more a testimony to how anemic the previous years were than a genuine achievement – but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Another reason to rejoice is the ratio of terrific books, which was also unexpectedly high. Both factors allow me to issue a Top Ten for the first time in – well, a very long time.

Book of the Year:

Hilda Van Siller, The Widower

2. Jennie Melville, Nell Alone

3. René Reouven, Le Quidam et la Mort

4. Charlotte Jay, A Hank of Hair

5. Noël Vindry, La Fuite des Morts

6. John Dickson Carr, And So To Murder

7. Rex Stout, In The Best Families

8. Helen McCloy, Who’s Calling?

9. Edmund Crispin, The Moving Toyshop

10. Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, Miasma

Honourable mentions: 

L’Ombre sur le jardin (Gaston Boca), Le Gibet de Castérac (Jacques Thinus) The Woman in the Woods (Charity Blackstock) Murder Can Be Fun (Fredric Brown) Hours to Kill (Ursula Curtiss)

Dud of the Year: Professeur Lawrence, Embaumeur (H. de Marcley)

As usual with me, my Top Ten is a blend of the familiar and the more obscure, with the latter edging out the former for the top spots. I see many people scratching their heads over my Book of the Year as it is so obscure that I couldn’t even find a summary online. Since it thus falls upon me to provide one, let us say that it is a suburbian psychological suspense novel in the Charlotte Armstrong tradition that tells how gossip, sexual frustration, female malevolence and male cowardice combine to turn the so far peaceful and respectable life of an architect (the eponymous hero) into a nightmare. The final revelation was a shocker to me, although it was retrospectively inevitable and fairly clued. I had previously read two or three other books by Van Siller in the past and hadn’t been overly impressed, so this one came out as a complete surprise, and a good one needless to say.




14 commentaires sur “The Ten

  1. Well, I’m going to be jealous of any list that feature Noel Vindry and Rene Reouven titles I can’t read… Glad you got so much out of And So to Murder, too. After having entirely irrational reservations about it for years, I really enjoyed it when I read it this summer.

    Onwards to more enjoyment in 2019!

    Aimé par 1 personne

    1. The Vindry book would be a LRI natural except that it doesn’t contain any impossible crime, at least in the traditional sense. Its publication is thus somewhat compromised and that’s too bad as it is one of Vindry’s finest, and one of the most devilish plots I’ve ever encountered. Also it has very funny bits, which is not usually something one expects from him and is all the more welcome for that.
      As to the Reouven, I don’t know how to describe it as it’s very sui generis. The pitch will be enough to give you an idea: a dead man is found on a beach, and three local crime writers decide to offer each their own interpretation of the events that led to the murder. Each one comes up with a story and a solution that conform to their own personalities, all convincing and clever but ultimately wrong. It’s certainly Reouven’s most complex book (he reportedly had to use charts to keep track of all the elements) and definitely one of his funniest, though the latter might be its Achilles’ heel. There are so many puns, jokes and allusions to contemporary French society and political life that I don’t think a translation could do it full justice – but who knows?


  2. An interesting selection. The Van Siller book must be very good indeed if it’s better than ‘Hours To Kill’! Jennie Melville is a new name to me though having looked her up I realise I read one of her Gwendolyn Butler books recently – ‘A Coffin for a Canary’: both very impressive and very bizarre.

    Aimé par 1 personne

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