Sunday, April 7, 2013

Martin Edwards

Martin Edwards's many novels include The Frozen Shroud and five previous Lake District mysteries.

Recently I asked Edwards about what he was reading.  The author's reply:
In between writing novels, I like to catch up with some fun reading. Since finishing work on The Frozen Shroud, I’ve read a dozen or more of those “forgotten books” that I write about each Friday on my blog, as well as a few contemporary novels by colleagues whose work I especially enjoy.

I’m a fan of Golden Age fiction, and one of my favourite American writers of the past was Q. Patrick, also known as Patrick Quentin and Jonathan Stagge. In fact, those pseudonyms concealed a complex and fascinating set of collaborations that over the years involved two men and two women. The most famous of the quartet was Hugh Wheeler, an Englishman who spent most of his life in the States, but Murder at the ‘Varsity, also known as Murder at Cambridge, was a solo effort by another expatriate Englishman, Richard Webb. It’s a classic whodunit, written from the point of view of an American studying at Cambridge University, and the final twist is one that I never saw coming. Yet the clues were there, along with some sizeable red herrings – a good example to all writers of whodunits, of any generation!

I also enjoyed Patrick Quentin’s Puzzle for Fiends, written by Wheeler and Webb, which begins brilliantly with Peter Duluth waking up after an accident causes amnesia to find himself surrounded by a family he doesn’t recognize, and whom he soon comes to suspect of murderous plans. A terrific premise for any suspense novel, and there’s a characteristic whodunit twist thrown in by way of added value.

People say that the Golden Age books were cosy, but that generalization ignores a good many exceptions. Another Q. Patrick story, The Grindle Nightmare, is one of the darkest whodunits you’re ever likely to come across – assuming you’re lucky enough to find a copy of this book, which is as elusive as it is gripping.

Among modern books, I’ve enjoyed the latest by Ann Cleeves, whose latest Shetland-based novel is Dead Water, and Peter Lovesey’s The Tooth Tattoo, which offers a twisty investigation into a murder mystery with a musical theme. The settings – a remote Scottish island and the charming city of Bath respectively – add as much to the quality of the books as the enjoyable characterization of those contrasting cops, Jimmy Perez and Peter Diamond. I admired the work of Ann and Peter before they became friends, and to my mind, their literary virtues have plenty in common with the Q. Patrick combo. They are all wonderful storytellers, and set a fine example to any writer of detective novels. Including me, as I start to think about the seventh Lake District Mystery - and what happens now to Hannah Scarlett and Daniel Kind.
Visit Martin Edwards’s website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue