Read along with The Poisoned Martini …
Mysteries are timeless, but these tales of murder are a reflection of their times. From the 1920s to the 1950s, the mystery novel experienced what could be called its “Golden Age.”
As before with previous discussion series, “A Taste of Murder” in 2011, “Unusual Sleuths” and “Unearthing Murder” and “A Little French Murder” in 2012, and “Purr-fect Murders” currently in progress, I invite readers of The Poisoned Martini to join me online in sharing their love of mysteries. Comment on this post with some of your favorite mystery titles, of the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, and join me in reading the books selected for the series, “Murder by Decade.”
The series kicks off in May. Journey back to the Roaring Twenties with Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series. Read Murder on a Midsummer Night. The fabulous Phryne returns in her 17th adventure. While investigating the death of a man at St. Kilda, she’s asked to find out what happened to a long lost child, who could inherit an old lady’s fortune.
Says Phryne, “I must say, Jack, I have been in some awful company before—I have dined with torturers and Apaches and strict Plymouth Brethren and politicians—but I never met such vile company as those people … they were frightful.”
Then in June, read two classic James M. Cain stories, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity. In the Depression era, a drifter’s torrid affair with a married woman leads to murder in The Postman Always Rings Twice. A sensation in its day, Cain’s story inspired countless mysteries that followed, including his own, Double Indemnity.
“I drove out to Glendale to put three new truck drivers on a brewery company bond, and then I remembered this renewal over in Hollywoodland. I decided to run over there. That was how I came to this House of Death, that you’ve been reading about in the papers.” Walter Huff, insurance salesman, begins his narration of “the perfect murder.”
July brings a mystery set in wartime. James Benn’s Billy Boyle, introduces a new hero, solving mysteries during the harrowing days of World War II. Serving as Ike’s secret investigator, Billy uncovers a plot that threatens to undermine Allied operations in Norway’s northern-most province.
Finally, in August, experience A Kiss Before Dying in Ira Levin’s classic Edgar Award-winning novel. Bud Corliss, an ambitious young man, had planned so carefully to achieve wealth and position by any means necessary. The novel begins with it all falling apart. “His plans had been running so beautifully, so goddamned beautifully, and now she was going to smash them all.” One family pays the price for his ambition, but will he?
Discover these classic and historical mysteries, starting May. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out previous discussion series, “A Taste of Murder”, “Unusual Sleuths”, “Unearthing Murder”, “A Little French Murder” and “Purr-fect Murders.” Click on the series titles for the relevant book lists.
Reviews for the books in the “Murder by Decade” series will appear around the middle of the month for which they’re selected. Look for them and share your thoughts on these timeless reads!