The Perfect Insider by Toshiya Ōno; dir. Mamoru Kanabe (Fuji TV, 2015) [Subtitles] An anime adaptation of Hiroshi Mori’s mystery novel in which a brilliant professor and his student solve a macabre and seemingly impossible locked room murder. Almost poetically animated in depicting its disturbing subject matter and brooding atmosphere of inner turmoil and contemplation.
The Nursing Home Murder by Ngaio Marsh (Geoffrey Bles, 1935); audiobook read by James Saxon (AudioGO, 2010) The nursing home (to the modern reader, operating theatre) murder is quite diverting once it gathers steam. Unfortunately, the first fifth of the book is groundwork. Inspector Alleyn—himself unimpeachable—is a late arrival and has to recover ground already laboriously trodden.
Enter a Murderer by Ngaio Marsh (Geoffrey Bles, 1935); audiobook read by James Saxon (BBC, 1995) Inspector Alleyn presents as an intriguing juxtaposition of acerbic professional and chummy old boy. His offsider, the journalist Nigel Bathgate, is an adequate Watson, but the mystery—an actor’s on-stage murder—loses something in being told from a blend of third-person viewpoints.
Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers (T. Fisher Unwin, 1926); audiobook read by Ian Carmichael (BBC, 1992/2009) An unhurried mystery from which the protagonist seems oddly removed. Lord Peter Wimsey is a character cut from the Wodehouse mould, yet the writing—despite its occasionally witty turn of phrase—leaves him untethered, a whimsy (as it were) without true purpose.
The Bedlam Detective by Stephen Gallagher (Crown, 2012); audiobook read by Jonathan Keeble (Oakhill, 2014) If it weren’t so effortlessly engaging, Gallagher’s historical murder mystery novel might be deemed a slow burner. Moving with a grace and eloquence befitting of the setting (England, 1912), The Bedlam Detective brings about a spiralling investigation of gentrified privilege and madness.
Cat out of Hell by Lynne Truss (Hammer, 2014) Truss has written a most singular book — as Holmes might say — combining elements of mystery, humour and the macabre to make a story that doesn’t quite work as any of these yet is easily accessible and quickly devoured. The title is unequivocal.
Boo by Neil Smith (Heinemann, 2015) Two boys strike up a friendship searching for their killer in thirteen-year-old heaven. Narrated in the first person, present tense, Boo, though neither ‘instantly charming’ nor ‘wickedly funny’ (as promised by the cover), is a well-conceived, cleverly realised post-murder mystery / coming-of-age story.
Memento dir. Christopher Nolan (2000) Christopher Nolan’s breakthrough film is a masterpiece of independent cinema, challenging viewers to follow a murder mystery backwards from crime to cause. Guy Pearce captures the forlorn determination (and occasional humour) of a man with no short-term memory piecing the clues together.
Murderland by David Pirie (ITV, 2009) Robbie Coltrane, Bel Powley and Amanda Hale star in this well-cast, well-acted murder mystery, the ending of which doesn’t quite repay the viewer’s investment. The revisiting of shared scenes to contextualise them within each character’s story and perspective is a double-edged sword.