But this one -- the idea of Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise -- has a built in deadline of every Monday for the next 12 weeks so I think I'll be able to commit and deliver. Plus it's not strictly about reading and reviewing a single book. I can write about the setting used in a book or an author from that country or create a reading syllabus (lists are easy) of books featuring the country. A wide choice is available. It made it for a very attractive challenge. So here goes...
Stop #1 is England. Too much to choose from. Where do we go? Who do I pick? I feel I need to write about someone or some book well deserved of reading but utterly forgotten. So how about Christopher St. John Sprigg? His books have been out of print for decades, two of them are nearly impossible to find, and all of those I have read were witty, puzzling and far from your average whodunit.
|C. St. John Sprigg|
I also enjoyed The Corpse with the Sunburnt Face which for the most part takes place in West Africa. The story is a blend of the crime novel and the supernatural and plays up some black magic and African folklore elements in the story of a Britisher caught up in the activities of great Kwana festival (utterly fictional). The ending may well remind hardcore detective fiction devotees of the controversial ending of The Burning Court by John Dickson Carr.
Death of an Airman includes an impossible crime as well. It has a tendency to ramble a bit. But the detective character, an Anglican bishop, makes up for the cumbersome passages with his wit and insightful observations.
The Six Queer Deaths incorporates occult and supernatural aspects, but also reveals Sprigg's Marxist leanings. By 1935 he was avowed Communist and wrote political treatises under the pseudonym "Christopher Caudwell." He even wrote a Marxist interpretation of poetry. The story is more somber than his previous six detective novels, but still has some imaginative aspects in the plot.
Someone should reprint most of these titles in easy to afford paperback editions. Sprigg's work is entertaining and unusual. It stands out from the majority of the work in a period of the Golden Age known for formulaic stories and cardboard characters. I'd class him alongside Christianna Brand for he shares her talent for wit, an arch prose style and clever plots.
The Detective Novels of C. St. John Sprigg
Crime in Kensington (1933) aka Pass the Body
Fatality in Fleet Street (1933)*
The Perfect Alibi (1934)
Death of an Airman (1934)
The Corpse with the Sunburnt Face (1935)
Death of a Queen (1935)*
The Six Queer Things (1937)
*These two titles are the most difficult to find. I have yet to find either title anywhere.
For the complete list of posts celebrating England as Stop #1 in this Crime Fiction EuroPass Challenge go to the Mysteries in Paradise blog.