Death at the Opera (Gladys Mitchell, 1934)

Death at the Opera cover 1Shy mathematics teacher Calma Ferris has generously offered to fund her school’s play, a staff performance of The Mikado. As a reward, she’s chosen to play the part of the fearsome Katisha, despite being completely unsuited to the role. But she never makes it on stage. She misses her Act 1 cue, and a replacement is hastily found.

After the performance, Miss Ferris is found drowned in one of the school’s wash basins. The coroner returns a suicide verdict, but who would kill themselves by stopping up a drainpipe with modeller’s clay? But, conversely, who could possibly want to kill such an unassuming woman? The headmaster, unsatisfied with the verdict but fearing a scandal, calls in Mrs Bradley to investigate. But there’ll be two more drownings before she unmasks the culprit…

In brief: Well-observed and enjoyably waspish, with good pacing and strong clues. A relatively “normal” Mitchell mystery, and stronger for it. But be prepared for some outlandish character motivation in the final pages.

More detail, but no spoilers, below the cut.

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Solve-Along Interlude: Puzzle Doctor’s Puzzles

Puzzle Doc's PuzzlesI’m feeling a bit listless today, so how about a puzzle break? My gut feeling is that the Venn diagram of mystery lovers and puzzle lovers has a huge overlap. The Puzzle Doctor has finally capitulated to nagging on multiple fronts and begun to post about his experience at the World Puzzle Championships. I once applied to enter, many moons ago, but never got further than the application stage (and I may even have been very naughty and lied about my age, so it’s probably best I didn’t get through…) Continue reading

Solve-Along: The Skeleton in the Clock (Part 2)

Time for the second part of my Solve-Along for The Skeleton in the Clock. Part one can be found here.

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clueQuest: Plan52 (London, August 2014)

ClueQuest2I feel like I’ve spent all bank holiday carping about people more creative than me. Time for something a bit more positive: clueQuest. I played this in London a few weeks ago and it was a lot of fun. Definitely recommended. Not so recommended that I don’t have some criticisms (of course!), but it was an unusual hour well-spent and worth the money. Part of the enjoyment was due to the ingenuity of the puzzles, so I’m going to arrange this review in order of increasing spoilerness. At the request of the game staff I’m not going to spoil many specifics, but if you’re in the London area and this seems like something you’d like to do, stop reading about halfway through. Continue reading

Solve-Along: The Skeleton in the Clock (Part 1)

Skeleton Clock Cover 1Solve-Along time, I reckon.

If you haven’t read one of these before, I write up my thoughts on a mystery as I go along, and try and solve it before the end. To avoid devastating people with spoilers, I try to pick books that are very obscure or have had poor reviews. This time, it’s Carter Dickson’s The Skeleton in the Clock. Continue reading

Death in Paradise (Series 3, Episode 3, first ten minutes)

The internet has cut out, just over a fifth (12m 15s) of the way into this week’s episode of Death in Paradise. While I’m waiting for it to come back online, I’m going to make a prediction about whodunit. Not to show off, but because I think there are certain sorts of clues that really stand out, especially in dialogue, and clients are often interested in techniques for making this kind of information less (and occasionally more) prominent. Details are going to be a bit fuzzy, because I can’t go back to check them. But obviously there are going to be spoilers for the episode. Continue reading

Sister (Rosamund Lupton, 2010)

SisterA bit of a departure for me, this, but I’ve been ill and it was the first book that fell to the ground when I flailed at the bookcase. I don’t know where I got it from. I think it was recommended as part of the Richard and Judy book club, which is a sort of low-rent version of Oprah’s book club here in the UK. It’s surprisingly good, at least for the first two-thirds. Sensitively drawn but densely layered. Unfortunately it descends into implausibility in the final stretch, and the closing twist, while ambitious, doesn’t make much sense in light of what’s gone before. But worth a read.

Anyway, that’s your lot if you’re trying to avoid spoilers. After the cut I’ll be talking about the whole thing, including that final twist. Continue reading

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