On greeting – with a mixture of caution and delight – the arrival of a new Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine

February 17, 2009 at 6:40 pm (books, Magazines and newspapers, Mystery fiction)

I invariably greet the arrival of the latest issue of Deadly Pleasures with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety. Anticipation, because of the numerous books and authors that will be commended to my crime-fiction-addicted attention. Anxiety because…well, for the same reason, naturally.

There’s something especially irresistible about recommendations that come from this source. No doubt it has much to do with the great reviewers that write for George Easter’s fine publication.

atkinson That’s Kate Atkinson on the cover of the Winter 2008-2009 issue. George Easter is a big fan of this author, as are several other DP contributors. Praise was heaped on Atkinson’s novel when Will There Be Good News? which, as luck would have it, I’ve already read. As I said in a recent post, I liked this novel, but I don’t think it quite measured up to the stellar Case Histories.

For this issue, Easter asked his contributors to name their favorite mysteries of 2007 and 2008, as well as an old favorite and a surprise pick or guilty pleasure. As you can imagine, this request generated a boatload of enthusiastic recommendations. The only thing that helped me to stave off a panic response was that I had already read and enjoyed quite a few of the titles being put forth. To wit:

chameleon broken

dialogues2 fat-man

broken1 hangman

I was  especially pleased to see some of my less well known favorites praised by DP’s discerning critics:

graving Someone needs to plug Gabriel Cohen’s excellent Jack Lightner novels; thanks are due to Ted Hertel Jr., who picked The Graving Dock as one of his favorite reads of 2008.  (Red Hook is the first in this series.)

death-joyful Death and the Joyful Woman (1962) is the second entry in EllisPeters’s Inspector Felse series. The Inspector has a teen-aged son Dominic who is the focus of this novel.  But this is not yet another tale of a troubled adolescent; instead, it is one of the most poignant, deeply felt love stories that I have encountered in crime fiction. A great choice by Sally Sugarman for old favorite.

burundi Donus Roberts describes himself as “stalled on the Scandinavians.” He recommends Kjell Eriksson’s first two Ann Lindell novels, The Princess of Burundi and Cruel Stars of the Night. Although I have not read the latter, I enjoyed Burundi enough to try The Demon of Dakar, which made my short list of 2008’s best mysteries.

laidlaw I first encountered William McIlvanney‘s Laidlaw (1977)  in Crime & Mystery: The 100 Best Books, where H.R.F. Keating  describes it thus:

“Here is a magnificent multi-layered  crime novel. It was written by a poet, and indeed there are short passages that have almost  the gem-hard concentration of poems.

I loved Laidlaw, but I read it some years ago. Mike Ripley’s timely reminder has made me realize that it’s time to re-read it.

Marv Lachman laments the fact that most of Margaret Millar’s work is currently our of print.  He recommends Vanish in an Instant. I have not read that title, but I am currently almost finished with another of Millar’s books, The Listening Walls. I’ll have more to say about it in a later post, but for now, I’ll just say that I’ve had trouble tearing myself away from it in order to work on this post!

vanish walls

Millar, an award-winning writer of great distinction, was the wife of Ross MacDonald, whose real name was Kenneth Millar.

Toward the end of this section of the magazine, Donus Roberts has this to say about one of my favorite novelists:

“Long before such literary writers as Joyce Carol Oates turned to the crime novel, Graham Greene wrote about 20 crime novels that he called ‘entertainments.’ In many ways these atmospheric novels have never been surpassed.

Amen to that! My favorite among them is The Quiet American. This novel’s combustible mixture of  cynicism, inchoate longing, suspense and sudden violence has, in my reading experience, rarely if ever been equaled. Then there is the setting in what was at the time (the 1950s) called French Indochina, an exotic, mysterious, and highly dangerous land.

Michael Caine in The Quiet American

Michael Caine in The Quiet American

And yes, I love the 2002 film version, with the great Michael Caine in the role of  journalist Thomas Fowler.


Graham Greene

Graham Greene

(Handsome devil; small wonder that all the while he was examining his tormented soul, numerous women were only too eager to help assuage his pain…)


Inevitably, the DP reviewers extolled numerous books and/or authors I have yet to catch up with:

bleeding Any recommendation by Martin Edwards carries weight with me. Happily, this acclaimed novel byAndrew Taylor, this year’s Cartier Diamond Dagger recipient, is finally coming out here in March.

strattonhangman2 Would that I could say the same, alas, concerning Laura Wilson’s widely praised historical novel Stratton’s War. For  that matter, I impatiently await  the stateside publication of Martin Edwards’s own Dancing for the Hangman, which has won similar praise in recent months from UK reviewers.

canterbury Lately I’ve been hungering for a good, meaty novel of the Middle Ages, so I’ll be sure to seek out The Canterbury Papers, chosen by Bev DeWeese as an old favorite.

Certain novels and authors are repeatedly urged on us crime fiction fans by the DP reviewers. For example:

leaves Larry Gandle comes straight out with it: “Thomas H. Cook is one of the finest practitioners of suspense fiction in the world.” Some years ago I tried to read Cook’s Edgar winner The Chatham School Affair. Something about the novel put me off – I now can’t remember exactly what – and I never finished it. But the sentiment articulated by Gandle is shared by so many whose opinion I respect that I realize it’s time to give Cook another go. Red Leaves came in for especially generous praise, so that’s the one I’m going to read.

jar-city I did not care for this author’s Silence of the Grave; I was put off by what seemed to me a fatal combination of humorlessness and over-the-top histrionics. But perhaps I should take another crack at reading Iceland’s top crime novelist, as per Ali Karim’s suggestion.

Finally, there are these two oft-cited titles:

child44 tattoo

The Larsson in particular has gotten repeated raves.

So – okay, okay, I’m reading as fast as I can! But I don’t want to speed through these gems without taking time to savor their virtues. Once again, the old refrain: So many books…


Click here if you wish to subscibe to Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine.


  1. Kay said,

    Thanks for sharing this. Most interesting.

  2. The Art of the Mystery, Part One « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] with alacrity, producing a blizzard of titles that one would need several lifetimes to read. Click here to read the post I wrote back in February on this issue of Deadly Pleasures.  I was particularly […]

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