Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jacobs on mystery writers

I found the following four tweets from author Alan Jacobs on Twitter today. They were all sent around the same time, so obviously he's been doing a bit of reading up to this point.

I've been reading a bunch of classic mysteries this summer. Verdicts forthcoming.

Preliminary verdict one: Dorothy Sayers can be very, very good and embarrassingly bad, sometimes within the space of three pages.

Preliminary verdict 2: Josephine Tey might well have been the greatest mystery writer of them all had she lived longer.

Preliminary verdict 3: Rex Stout is amazing. Why have I never read these books before? There are so many they must be uneven, but . . . wow.

I've never read Rex Stout either, but have heard he's well worth reading. Josephine Tey's books are very good: murder mysteries, but done in style, and without any sense of stereotypical writing. (One murder takes place very late in the book.) Hitchcock made a movie out of one of the Tey books, but it was quite unrecognisable: the detective who was one of the main characters in the book barely appeared in the movie.

Dorothy Sayers' murder mysteries can be quite elliptical; sometimes the story gets confusing, and sometimes it's so complicated that the reader is left hanging in mid-air. But she's brilliant, all the same.

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