Mystery Mystery Launch Solved!


Today is launch day for The Case of the Case of Kilcladdich, and the link is live at

Anty Boisjoly travels to the timeless source waters of Glen Glennegie to help decide the fate of his favourite whisky, but an impossible locked room murder is only one of a multitude of mysteries that try Anty’s wits and witticisms to their northern limit.

Time trickles down on the traditional tipple as Anty unravels family feuds, ruptured romance, shepherdless sheep, and a series of suspiciously surfacing secrets to sort out who killed whom and how and why and who might be next to die.

Mystery Mystery Launch


UPDATE: And here we are

The precise release date of The Case of The Case of Kilcladdich, Anty Boisjoly’s sixth locked-room, laugh-out-loud stumper, is itself a mystery.

At some point this weekend I’m clicking the ‘tally-ho’ button and waiting some unknowable period of time. Then I’ll probably go to the park with a book.

So, there’s no hype-and-suspense-building pre-order period. It’ll definitely be available by Monday. If you’d like an early warning, you can sign up for the Reliably Infrequent Anty Boisjoly Newsletter:

Anty Boisjoly Special Reserve

kilcladdic-600In Anty Boisjoly’s sixth mystery, he travels to the timeless source waters of Glen Glennegie to help decide the fate of his favourite tipple, a diplomatically delicate deed at the best of times, further complicated by not one but two impossible locked room murders.

All Anty Boisjoly Mysteries are stand-alone stumpers, but there’s usually a subtle surprise or two for those familiar with the series. In the case of the Case of the Case of Kilcladdich, we take a cheeky peeky at the tortured origins of Glen Glennegie, the primer of preference for generations of Boisjolys that makes an appearance in every book. Indeed, Anty finds himself in the northern reaches of Scotland filling his late father’s role on a jury of Glen Glennegie connoisseurs, a duty which positions him between two feuding families and rival distilleries when animosities literally explode.

The Case of the Case of Kilcladdich is scheduled for release early in the second week of May. This page will be updated the moment we have a specific day, and if you’d like to be alerted before the media gets hold of it, why not sign up for the very rare and always relevant Anty Boisjoly newsletter?

Dateline… London


Certain books — say, for example, all of them — don’t adapt well to book trailers. This includes, with brass knobs on, Anty Boisjoly Mysteries.

The conflicting concepts are the obvious problem but the greater obstacle to a compelling book trailer is probably budget, by which I mean production quality can only get so high before your book trailer looks like a movie trailer and inevitably leads to disappointment all ‘round. And up until that point pull quotes and the Adobe Premiere mist effect over a public domain image of a graveyard are going to lean so heavily on the excerpts that you have what amounts to a PowerPoint presentation with elevator music, and while PowerPoint is a great medium for quarterly reports and psychological warfare, it’s not much of an improvement over no book trailer at all.

I write books. Not movies. If I wanted to write movies I’d already be waiting tables in Santa Monica. So, this is not a book trailer. In fact, it’s the anti-book trailer, in that it’s meant to be a silly little diversion done and intended to be enjoyed in isolation from the book by which it’s inspired.

You can see it by clicking on the image, which leads to a Facebook video — there are subtitles because Facebook videos tend to auto-play in mute, so you’ll want to turn on sound for the full silliness.

Having said all that, it was tremendous fun to do and it does capture a certain Boisjolyness that just wouldn’t be there with a traditional book trailer, if traditional is a word that can be applied to a medium that began, peaked, and became out-dated in the last 18 months.

This one is for The Tale of the Tenpenny Tontine. I’m not sure why I chose that one — probably no better reason than that by which I justified this blog post — but I like it and I liked doing it. So, if you think we should (or most emphatically should not) do newsreels for the other books in the series, I hope you’ll leave a quick comment or send me a message with your vote.

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Modestly Marpley

marple-12-new-storiesMarple: Twelve New Stories has me reflecting on what it is that I’ve liked about other anthologies of this nature, most particularly Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration — they’re modest.

That’s not to say Marple: Twelve New Stories is unambitious — it’s a collection of work by twelve accomplished authors offering their take on one of the most read, known, and loved characters in fiction. But when the objective is to pay homage to the original artist and give her fans another cheeky go around then you colour within the lines, unlike, say, the torrents of Holmesian fanfic that delights in teaming the great detective with Fu Manchu, the better to take on Jack the Ripper.

In fact, the most striking feature of these stories is how calmly familiar they feel. They’re all stylistically different and, with some rare but amazingly cack-handed exceptions, they’re lyrical and likeable. Much like Christie’s original clinical prose, the narrative clicks along and reports the events and is only really noticeable when it rises above (or falls wincingly, amateurishly short of) the standard.

However (again, with a few startling exceptions), the professionalism is in the plot. The stories are quick and concise and the reader can observe the deft Christieology in a Petri dish — the meaningful detail and the absence of meaningless detail, the psychology, botany, and criminology, and the nearly always surprising and nevertheless inevitable solution.

I probably learned more about Agatha Christie’s ingenious mechanisms reading these stories than I did from the original Marples. I can’t say for the moment to what degree or precisely how this will inform and improve the next Anty Boisjoly mystery, but I look forward to finding out.

Anty’s back, and he’s brought his mum

riviera-600Anty Boisjoly travels to the Riviera to finally have that awkward ‘did you murder my father’ conversation with his mother, but instead finds himself in the ticklish position of defending her and an innocent elephant against charges of a murder that no one could have committed.

All Anty Boisjoly mysteries are stand-alone stumpers, but books one through four have hinted heavy-handedly at a lingering sub-arc involving his mother’s involvement in the death of Anty’s father. In Reckoning at the Riviera Royale we finally meet Anty’s mum whose perspective and personality explain a great deal about Anty’s unique take on reality, and that’s only the first of the surprising family revelations.

All that, of course, is in addition to another tale of impossible murder and improbable intrigue, pitting Anty against the executioner’s tight schedule as he races to exonerate an innocent elephant from a crime that no one else could have committed, either.

The plots unfold on a luxurious island in the Riviera and, exceptionally, there’s no Inspector Wittersham this time out but there’s little room for more eccentric characters among the insidious impresarios, ambitious acrobats, suspicious spinsters, cryptic critics, croupiers, con artists, cousins, and killers.

Reckoning at the Riviera Royale is on Amazon Kindle, Unlimited, and Paperback as of November 30th.

The Case of the Carnaby Castle Curse


Anty Boisjoly is back in a twisty tale of curses, crows, crypts, conspiracies, concealed corridors, and a generous overpour of locked room murder and bouyant Boisjoly banter.

The ancient curse of Carnaby Castle has begun taking victims again — either that, or someone’s very cleverly done away with the new young bride of the philandering family patriarch, and the chief suspect is none other than Carnaby, London’s finest club steward.

Anty Boisjoly’s wits and witticisms are tested to their frozen limit as he sifts the superstitions, suspicions, and age-old schisms of the mediaeval Peak District village of Hoy to sort out how it was done and by whom, and along the way he learns Carnaby’s concealed kept secret.

The Case of the Carnaby Castle Curse is available on Kindle, Unlimited, and Paperback

Like the other Anty Boisjoly adventures, this is a stand-alone, repertory story intended for those who like their twisty mysteries narrated with a little strategic silliness and boisterous banter.

Whose Body, Dorothy L Sayers, 1923

whosebodyThat which I like about Dorothy L Sayers is abundant in Whose Body and so I find myself wishing it were possible to know what it would have been like were it not the first Lord Peter Wimsey book and/or written ten years later, say about the time that she wrote Murder Must Advertise.

Sayers’ strong suit was never plotting. There are lively debates in the mystery community over which of her stories is the most clumsily over-wrought (with The Five Red Herrings typically coming first or a very close second) but even at her best she wasn’t a patch on Christie at her worst. And for me, usually, that doesn’t matter. The lyrical, astute social commentary (in particular the evisceration of the advertising industry which Sayers knew so well) of Murder Must Advertise doesn’t just compensate for the baldly absurd plot device of Wimsey pretending to be his own doppleganger and a supernaturally acrobatic harlequin, it paints over it entirely. It was days after finishing Murder Must Advertise before I realised that it was, in fact, silly.

Whose Body is poorly plotted in a much more mundane fashion. It’s not so much a whodunnit as a how and, more obtusely, whydunnit. It’s not unoriginal — the story’s comprised of eccentric characters and locations and situations (such as a body in a bathtub, wearing only someone else’s pince-nez).

But at about the two-thirds point Wimsey knows all and the reader knows a lot — certainly the killer has been obvious for a while and the rest rather falls into place from there, but that only means that Whose Body doesn’t fit the standard cosy convention of a dénouement consisting of a gallery of suspects and a dramatic reveal as close to the end of the book as possible. The resolution, in fact, is much closer to Holmes than it is to Poirot, in that the sleuth figures it all out in a very abstract and artistic manner rather than delivering the guilty party into the hands of a grateful Inspector Lestrade, complete with concrete evidence. It feels as though the ending is far too long in coming and when it does it falls a little flat. There really were no other viable suspects and the motive turned out to be a combination of exactly what we all thought it would be and nonsense.

Sayers achieves the requisite limited cast of suspects and witnesses by simply creating a London (and Salisbury) populated by a tiny circle of people who mostly know one another. The result is a staginess that left me disengaged, unable to position the players and grasp the physics of much of what happened. 

Normally, I’d be okay with all that, because I wouldn’t have noticed it distracted, as I would have been, by Wimsey’s clever banter or Sayers’ deft narrative. But Whose Body was an early effort, and Sayers and Wimsey had yet to fully find their voices. Additionally, this particular book is the result of an unfortunate experiment with phonetic spellings, and I soon found myself translating “examinin’” and “fr’instance” “p’r’aps” into English in real time, like a UN interpreter, and that slowed me down enough to notice other cracks.

Of course, the most serious failing of Whose Body is simply that it compares poorly to the rest of the canon (maybe not The Five Red Herrings). It’s still a re-readable resource of slick, poetic, rhythmic dialogue and prose that sets a flittering pace. The narrative voice has Lord Peter Wimsey’s rudimentary personality and it charms and sets the tone for great things to come.

This is the bit where I compare my review to that which I’m currently working on. In spite of the obvious comparisons, I don’t (consciously) put much of Lord Peter Wimsey into my own Anty Boisjoly. However, I do take rather a lot of inspiration from Sayers, particularly the manner in which she infuses her narrative with the personality of her main character, and vice-versa.

Catt Out of the Bag, Clifford Witting, 1939

catt-out-of-the-bag-coverThe title of Catt Out of the Bag doesn’t start to make sense until the last, I think, twenty pages, and even then it comes as a drop in a torrent of revelations that might have been more intriguingly distributed throughout the book. I enjoyed Catt Out of the Bag for a lot of reasons unrelated to this pacing issue, thankfully, but it utterly defines the story.

John Rutherford is drafted into a regimented evening of Christmas caroling from which a mysterious member goes missing leading, initially, to an amateur investigation in partnership with the eccentric Raymond Cloud-Gledhill, and then a more official road-trip inquiry with Rutherford’s police-inspector uncle, uncovering all manner of skulduggery and, eventually, a satisfying and twisty conclusion. 

Clifford Witting is witty and bold and the effect is usually tremendously charming. The dialogue, in particular, is warm and accessible and natural and it bubbles along on top of the tale in a manner that makes it all sound over-heard at a boisterous gathering of good friends.

The story covers a great deal of ground, literally and figuratively, and introduces a delightful gallery of supporting characters that Witting draws with affectionate and absorbing detail.

However it’s made quite clear early on that Witting regretted starting out in the first person. Doubtless he’d have gone back and started over, but he’d already worked up so many clever fixes to the problem of a tale that occurs largely outside of the direct experience of the narrator that he just assumed that they’d keep on coming. It’s about the halfway point, I think, when he gives up entirely and just flat out relates a scene without bothering to pretend that it was told to him sometime later or off-stage or that this is, roughly, how he imagines it went.

That’s not the only trace of improvisational plotting (although it’s certainly the most glaring). The introduction, eccentricities, and initial contribution of Cloud-Gledhill suggest that he was meant to be the actual sleuth but then, at some point and without clear justification, he’s swapped out for Uncle Charlton of the Yard. Later, he’s brought back to deliver an important clue, but that mainly serves to remind the reader that he used to figure quite prominently back in the happy-go-lucky days of chapters two through five.

This is where I tie my review to what I’m currently working on — I made a very deliberate decision that Anty Boisjoly would always speak in the first person because his personality drives the narrative, but it doesn’t drive the plot. I have a lot of sympathy for Witting’s discovery that it just wasn’t working for him, and that’s why I write point by point outlines and still regularly manage to paint myself into a corner.

The Tale of the Tenpenny Tontine is the most complex Anty Boisjoly story to date and the most meticulously planned — I wrote two separate, stand-alone stories that only I will ever see just for the subtexts of two of the characters — and, while I can’t know for sure, I think that gave me a particular appreciation for the hidden foundations of Catt Out of the Bag.

Having made all those presumptions, I have great respect for the patience with which Witting reveals a maelstrom of a subtext which simmers just beneath the surface of the story — it’s a bit of a journey but the payoff is immensely satisfying.

Jeeves and the Leap of Faith, Ben Schott, 2020

jeeves-and-the-leap-of-faithWith his first departure from the canon — Jeeves and the King of Clubs — Ben Schott began the transformation of Bertie Wooster from Wodehousian gadabout and loveable dope to wise-cracking playboy and international man of mystery. Now, with this next installment, Jeeves and the Leap of Faith, the process is complete and the result is the anti-Wodehouse.

The Wodehouse formula is to populate absurd situations with eccentric characters and let it all play out for laughs. The anti-Wodehouse is a series of awkward, mainly unrelated clashes of cardboard cutouts — the good guys are all suave and witty and broadmined, and the bad guys are clumsy and dim and venal — and consequently there’s little foundation for comedy. Schott paints himself into a corner in almost every scene, as did Wodehouse, but the difference is that Wodehouse could talk his way back out again. Schott just plods through the wet paint of weak pun.

This second book descends beneath comparison to Wodehouse, leaving only comparison to the first book on which, it would appear, Schott expended his entire capacity to mimic the Wodehouse style. The clumsy, overwrought wordplay that was the occasional worst that could be said about King of Clubs is the narrative mean above which Leap of Faith rarely rises.

The absence of a resolution to King of Clubs is explained, dubiously, by the fact that many of the threads are picked up again here in what appears to be the second part of a trilogy. This would be valuable information to know before beginning the series, if these disparate threads ever conspired to form a plot. Instead, the tumbling spy story which positions a simple-minded Roderick Spode on the side of the fascists and an insipid Jeeves and rehabilitated Wooster seconded to British Intelligence unfolds in a series of clumsy set-pieces, sometimes relevant, sometimes mystifyingly not. The bizarrely unfunny scene in which Wooster, posing as a vicar, fails to say grace in Latin serves as one of many examples, but in fairness neither this nor any other sequence plummets to the depths of the absurd Eulalie Soeurs diversion from book one.

Wodehouse famously and painstakingly planned his stories, and the result is a legacy of largely unimpeachable comedy. Ben Schott made his name curating miscellany, and the result is just that. Jeeves and the Leap of Faith is a scattered collection of Latin aphorisms, Wodehousian trivia, crossword clues and historical minutiae. Indeed, the inflated appendix is a chapter-by-chapter justification for this mish-mash which is absent from the story itself, and it’s in fact more entertaining.

I confess my bias here at the end so that it can be easily edited out — the idea of a clever Wooster was already done better by Wodehouse in the form of Galahad Threepwood, and the idea of a clever Wooster solving mysteries is done better, even if it’s me saying so, in the form of Anty Boisjoly.