20 Books of Summer 2020

20 Books of Summer 2019

As much as I love making New Year’s resolutions, I feel much more capable of actually keeping resolutions when the sun is shining, which is why 20 Books of Summer is one of my favorite reading challenges. And this year, a little structure is even more welcome than usual. For no very good reason, all of the books on my list this year are classic mysteries published during the same year, 1934.

Vintage Travel Poster

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

As murder stalks the corridors of a snowbound train, Hercule Poirot faces his most formidable opponent yet. An all-time classic.

The 12.30 from Croydon by Freeman Wills Crofts

For one miserly uncle, the first airplane flight of his life will be his last. This inverted mystery follows the would-be killer as they craft their plan. But even the best-laid plans can go astray, especially with Inspector French on the case.

The Puzzle of the Silver Persian by Stuart Palmer

Schoolteacher Hildegarde Withers is looking forward to starting her summer vacation by unwinding on a transatlantic ocean liner. The crossing soon becomes rocky, however, when one of her fellow passengers winds up dead in a lifeboat.

The Lesser Antilles Case by Rufus King

After the sinking of a luxurious yacht, the survivors insist it wasn’t just a shipwreck—it was murder. Only Lieutenant Valcour can solve this Caribbean mystery.

Noir 2

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

A drifter and a dissatisfied wife begin an affair so scorching that it threatens to destroy everything in its path…including the two lovers.

Criss-Cross by Don Tracy

To win back his former love, and revenge himself on the man who stole her, Johnny agrees to take part in an audacious double-cross. But who’s playing who?

Classic Detection (UK)

Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham

Albert Campion hopes to paint a portrait of a murderer as he goes head-to-head with a cunning killer in London’s art world.

The Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson

Hundreds of years ago, a hangman built Plague Court. Now some of his ancestors fear that his spirit has returned. As they gather for a seance, one of their party is murdered, in a crime so impossible that it could only have been committed by a ghost.

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers

A picturesque English village is plagued by mysterious deaths, and Lord Peter Wimsey is sure they have something to do with the bells of the local church. He must discover for whom the bell tolls, before it tolls for him.

The Ha-Ha Case by J. J. Connington

Johnnie Brandon is the life of the party on the eve of his twenty-first birthday, and why not? He will finally have full control of his inheritance. But someone wants the estate for themselves, and soon rabbits aren’t the only things being hunted at this weekend shoot.

For the Defense: Dr. Thorndyke by R. Austin Freeman

How does an innocent man become the prime suspect in two separate murders—including his own? Dr. Thorndyke must unravel a baffling question of identity.

Comic Crime

Quick Curtain by Alan Melville

Most fathers and sons would be dismayed to have their evening at the theater disrupted by murder, but not when the father is a Scotland Yard inspector and the son an ambitious reporter. This pair soon learns that the drama unfolding onstage is nothing compared to what’s going on behind the curtain.

Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard by David Frome

Though little Mr. Pinkerton always minds his own business, murder just seems to find him. Today, for example, he was simply sitting on a park bench when the women next to him began talking about poison. Even if Scotland Yard is skeptical, Mr. Pinkerton is determined to crack the case in this gentle comic mystery.

The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull

Edward just wants to be left alone with his books, but his aunt is always interfering. Wouldn’t it be nice if he could have the money without the aunt? A hilariously dark inverted mystery.

Classic Detection (US) 2

The Case of the Howling Dog by Erle Stanley Gardner

Perry Mason is used to dealing with strange requests from clients, but he’s never been asked to deal with a noisy dog. As it turns out, this seemingly mundane request is only the first stop on the way to murder.

Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout

The first Nero Wolfe novel finds the orchid-loving gourmet and his wisecracking assistant Archie Goodwin looking for possible connections between the disappearance of an Italian laborer, the sudden demise of a college president, and a poisonous snake delivered to Wolfe’s brownstone.

The Line-Up by Helen Reilly

Inspector McKee investigates the mysterious death of an elderly recluse whose blueblooded family wants the incident hushed up. Are they simply trying to avoid scandal, or are they hiding something more sinister?

The Casino Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine

As members of a wealthy family start dropping dead one by one, Philo Vance wonders if the crimes could have something to do with the casino they own. He soon learns that this family is hiding some very unusual secrets.

The Cases of Susan Dare by Mignon G. Eberhart

Not only does Susan Dare write mysteries, she solves them as well, in a series of short stories that follow her path from reluctant amateur sleuth to accomplished investigator.

The Death Wish by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

Mr. Whitestone and Mr. Delancey are neighbors. They have something else in common as well: they both wish their wives were dead. This psychological suspense novel explores what happens when that wish becomes an obsession.

 

 


11 thoughts on “20 Books of Summer 2020

    1. Murder of My Aunt is a delight; I’m really looking forward to re-reading it. I’m also curious about The Line-Up. I’ve only read later titles by Helen Reilly that do not include much police procedure, while it sounds from the title that this one might have more 1930s police details.

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    1. I had to include The Nine Tailors because I’m determined to finish it once and for all! Surely at some point they have to stop ringing bells and murder someone. I am curious as to what made this particular title such a revered classic.

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      1. I really want to like Sayers’ novels more. In the short form I really enjoy her — the Montague Egg stories, her contributions to the round-robins that I’ve read — but as soon as she starts expanding past a certain number of words I find her…hard going. And The Nine Tailors might forever be my Everest: I started it once and now frankly don’t have the energy or time to return to it 😄 So good luck with it, I’ll be especially keen to hear your thoughts when (yes, WHEN — I believe in you!) you finish it.

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      2. Thank you for your support! I do enjoy Sayers overall, but it’s pretty obvious that by the end she was no longer very interested in writing detective stories. I find it perverse that The Nine Tailors and Gaudy Night are the two Sayers books that have been enshrined as must-read classics when they are BARELY mysteries. I assume it’s part of a struggle for legitimacy, saying, “See? Mysteries can be literary, too.” Still, it doesn’t seem right to elevate titles that are least representative of the genre when there are so many excellent examples of genuine detective stories out there. If The Nine Tailors was my first experience with Sayers, or with GAD for that matter, it would probably have been my last.

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