Service of All the Dead by Colin Dexter (Macmillan, 1979); audiobook read by Samuel West (Macmillan, 2017) Dexter begins with a lengthy series of inciting incidents to which readers are privy but Morse isn’t. Morse then solves the mystery by mooning about irritably, his moribund thoughts kept equally inscrutable. Sans John Thaw’s embodiment, the whole effect is rather dismal. …
Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel by Richard H. Minear (The New Press, 1999) Minear provides detailed historical context through which to appreciate (or occasionally question) Theodor Geisel’s distinctive, beguilingly Seuss-esque wartime cartoons. Each drawing is presented on its own page but regrettably this is not a complete record. Many more…
Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood (McPhee Gribble, 1989); audiobook read by Stephanie Daniel (Bolinda, 2010) Greenwood evinces as no-nonsense an approach to plotting as does the irrepressible Phryne Fisher to solving mysteries and bucking societal norms. The result is a fast-moving romp through 1920s Melbourne, more worldly than Wodehouse but with a similarly delightful turn of phrase.
Sapphire & Steel, Assignment 4 by P. J. Hammond (ITV, 1981) The shortest and most coherent assignment to date, albeit still one that relies more on character and otherworldliness than conventional storytelling. Sapphire and Steel encounter a powerful disruptive force that can move in and out of photographs. The visual effects remain impressive.
Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones by David Ellis & Malcolm Hulke; dir. Gerry Mill (BBC, 1967/2020) The mostly lost Patrick Troughton story brought to life by way of animation. This one is well-acted and a nice blend of atmosphere and intrigue, albeit a tad overlong and that the antagonists insist on lumbering themselves with a moonboot-sized Achilles heel.
Peanuts Every Sunday, 1952-1955 by Charles M. Schulz (Fantagraphics, 2013) Everyone comes from somewhere and this is Peanuts before the characters grew up, both physically and emotionally (even artistically). There are nascent hints of what the future holds but even in large-format colour it’s difficult to digest Schulz’s work being this unsophisticated.
The Kidnappers Upstairs by Eileen Rosenbaum (Scholastic, 1968) The premise is not without appeal, yet the main characters remain undeveloped and the story unfolds in such a way that it is neither exciting nor fun. The ending is a study in ill-considered let-down (apparently anticipating a sequel, which never eventuated).
The Rilloby Fair Mystery by Enid Blyton (William Collins, 1950) The second ‘Barney’ mystery doesn’t really make good on its potential (in truth rather solving itself in the end) but Blyton lays down clues throughout and the children’s day-to-day adventuring makes for pleasant escapism. Blyton’s integration of animals makes the book memorable.
Soul Music by Terry Pratchett (Victor Gollancz, 1994); audiobook read by Nigel Planer (Isis, 1996) Though chock full of rock ‘n’ roll allusions and puns, Soul Music is a rarity amongst the Discworld novels in that it isn’t really about anything. Witty and imaginative and still amusing on a micro level, yes, but by Pratchett’s standards underwhelming.
The New Shoe by Arthur W. Upfield (Doubleday, 1951); audiobook read by Peter Hosking (Bolinda, 2010) A beautiful piece of Australiana and a preserved character study—both of the small coastal town and its inhabitants, and of half-caste Aboriginal detective Napoleon Bonaparte. Upfield’s prose is methodical yet poetically descriptive. Bony is a protagonist with unique methods and appeal.