Classics make a comeback

On the Radar – This week’s books news starts with two previously unpublished novellas by hardboiled noir writer Dashiell Hammett, followed by a sneak peek at the early years of the classic detective Nero Wolfe who was originally written by Rex Stout. Then we head east for two mysteries with an oriental feel to them…

The Return of the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
In 1934, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released a film based on Hammett’s novel The Thin Man, which introduced us to retired PI Nick Charles and his wife Nora, a former debutante. The detective comes out of retirement when their Christmas break is interrupted by a brutal murder and a missing person’s case. Following the success of the film, Hammett was commissioned to write further stories for future films featuring the couple. The Return of the Thin Man contains two novellas which were subsequently turned into motion pictures but have previously been unpublished… until now. The couple return home to find that Nora’s family gardener has been murdered. Once again, they find themselves drawn into yet another dangerous game of cat and mouse. A must-read for fans of hard-boiled crime.
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Archie Meets Nero Wolfe by Robert Goldsborough
In 1934, Rex Stout created the Nero Wolfe mysteries and in them Wolfe’s cases are recounted by his assistant Archie Goodwin much in the same way that Watson often narrates Holmes. In total Stout wrote 33 novels and 39 short stories over a 40-year period, featuring the detective. Robert Goldsborough came to prominence in the mid-80s to 90s, with a series of pastiche novels based on Stout’s detective, the first being Murder in E Minor. Archie Meets Nero Wolfe is a prequel to the original series Stout wrote, and as the title suggests we get to find out how Nero and his assistant and chronicler came to meet. It comes out 13 November.
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Dead in the Dog by Bernard Knight
Knight is probably best known for his Crowner John mysteries, which follow the life of the former crusader knight Sir John de Wolfe after he returns from the Holy Land to Devon. Dead in the Dog makes a major shift away from the medieval period and sees Knight drawing on his experience as a Regular Army Medical Officer in Malaya during the 1950s. Newly-qualified pathologist Tom Howden isn’t all that sure why he accepted a three year commission in Her Majesty’s Far East Land Forces, but he’s about to find that Singapore is a hotbed of intrigue and scandal. Before he’s had time to settle into his new life, an English planter is attacked and suspicion quickly falls on local bandits. However, this case is more complex than anyone first thought and it will put all Tom’s skills to the test. Released as a hardback in March, it makes its Kindle debut today. At £9.00 it isn’t necessarily a cheap read but it may be one to look out for in Amazon’s Christmas/January sales.
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Vulture Peak by John Burdett
Jitpleecheep is a former Buddhist monk who now works for the Thai police, and in this fifth novel in the series he finds himself wading into the murky world of illegal organ harvesting. He gets caught in the middle of a power struggle between his decidedly iffy boss Colonel Vikorn and General Zinna, who are both aiming to be elected the next governor. It’s a high-profile case and Jitpleecheep knows there’s a lot at stake, especially as General Zinna appears to be involved. He’s after some Chinese twins known as the Vultures, who have a reputation for trading internationally in bodyparts. In a bid to catch them, Jitpleecheep sets up an elaborate sting operation, which will bring him face to face with a vision of humanity that will test his Buddist soul. He’s also having to contend with rumours that his wife is having an affair. Can he control his jealously long enough to solve the most contentious case of his career? Vulture Peak is published by Corsair and it’s out today.
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