"When the world falls in love
"Every song you hear seems to say
"Merry Christmas, may your
"New Year dreams come true"
There's some idealized seasonal wishing, right? It's also a song I keep hearing everywhere I go in December. Those somewhat schmaltzy lyrics remind me once again we are in the midst of our end of the year tradition involving optimistic wishing and dreams coming true. At least as those dreams and wishes relate to old murder mysteries.
Our dear friend Kate Jackson who blogs at Cross Examining Crime has initiated phase one of the two part nomination process for Best Vintage Mystery Reprint of the Year, or the ROY as we who offer up our nominees have come to call it. 2022 continued the exciting Renaissance in vintage crime fiction with an avalanche of reprint editions that immersed us in all aspects of the genre from traditional detective novels to novels of suspense. This year topped last year's list with over
160 books on the list Kate sent us.
As an annual reminder I like to tack on my personal standard in choosing these "Best of the Year" reprint candidates. The two most
important rules for what I feel merit a wise choice of a vintage reprint:
- A truly forgotten author, long out of print
- Writing and plotting that contributes substantially to the genre
Here's Nominee #1 from your opinionated maven at Pretty Sinister Books...
I discovered this book through serendipity while poring over various vintage mystery listings on Ebay. The full review was posted back in 2020 before most people even knew of Joan Cockin's existence or the three mystery novels she wrote while she was working in British foreign service.
Cockin's second mystery in her trio of novels is a thoroughly engaging traditional detective novel that invigorates the subgenre category of the "Policeman's Holiday" with wit and verve. The opening paragraph (a photo of which appeared in the tempting Ebay listing) was intriguing enough to get me to buy the book and I eagerly read the book tearing through it in a few days. You will meet her series detective Inspector Cam, his wife and children, and myriad offbeat characters as he reluctantly helps the local police solve the gruesome death of an unidentified naked corpse found ritualistically slaughtered on the altar of the local church. In addition to her satirical skewering of tourism in English seaside villages the book treats the reader to the lore and art of brass rubbing, a spurt of thefts of antiques, chicanery among antique dealers and the legends of smugglers in the Cornish town where the story takes place. We even get the bonus of a ghost story featuring a visit from Satan.
Cockin's book is literate, delightfully amusing and devilishly plotted. The crimes are all presented with fair play clueing and I thought the finale was truly unexpected if a bit outlandish. But then I love rule breaking writers of detective novels. The more outlandish a plot the more I'll love it. That Galileo has decided to reprint this excellent example of post WW2 mystery writing is cause for celebration for all devotees of the genre. It is a "must read" for anyone who cares about what makes mystery novels one of the best forms of popular entertainment.
And the best news is that Cockin's other books will follow over the next two years. Looking forward to telling you about her debut novel Curiosity Killed the Cat later this month. Also, I am eagerly awaiting the reprint edition of her third and last novel Deadly Ernest. I've never seen a copy of that in my lifetime. It's a truly rare book. One, I hope, as entertaining as Villainy at Vespers.